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House of Commons Hansard #155 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 34 I have the honour to present to the House the report in both official languages of the parliamentary delegation that visited Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from October 11 to 17, 1998.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 24 petitions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of submitting a petition signed by 164 residents of the riding of Chambly, who are asking the government to legislate or regulate boat traffic on the Richelieu River, from the municipalities of Beloeil and Saint-Hilaire at one end, to the town of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours at the other end, which are all fine communities in my riding.

These 164 petitioners are primarily asking the government to regulate boat traffic with regard to speed, noise, craft condition, safety and garbage disposal.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present another petition on behalf of the citizens of Peterborough who are concerned about drinking and driving.

They pray that the Parliament of Canada will immediately amend the Criminal Code so that any crash resulting in injury constitutes reasonable and probable grounds for blood or breath testing on drivers; that the federal government provide strong support and encouragement to jurisdictions to continue to introduce administrative sanctions that are user pay, such as ignition interlocks, vehicle confiscation, graduating licenses; and that impaired driving laws are regularly reviewed for their effectiveness.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present another petition on behalf of the citizens of Peterborough who are concerned about nuclear weapons.

They request that parliament support the goal of abolition of nuclear weapons on earth by Canada, advocating the immediate de-altering of all nuclear devices; that Canada join the nations of the New Agenda Coalition; that Canada advocate within NATO that nuclear weapons have no militarily useful role; and that additional financial support be allocated to Russia to ensure the safe and secure disarmament of its nuclear arsenal.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from constituents throughout the Cariboo—Chilcotin riding.

My constituents are concerned about the prevalence of violent crimes committed by youth. They encourage parliament to enforce and encourage the enforcement of legislation already enacted so that this problem might be dealt with in a more equitable manner.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Cliff Breitkreuz Reform Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of the constituents of Yellowhead.

The petitioners come from the community of Neerlandia. They pray that parliament enact legislation such as Bill C-225 so as to define in statute that a marriage can only be entered into between a single male and a single female.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also have some petitions to present to the House today. I have three fairly large ones from my constituency.

They in fact reflect the same message that parliament enact legislation so that marriage can only be entered into between a single male and a single female.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition that asks parliament to pass the Reform health freedom amendment which is a private member's bill that would not allow the government under the Health Protection Branch to refuse sale of health products in Canada unless there was proven harm, proven side effects or proven contamination.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

moved:

That this House endorses the provincial consensus reached in Saskatoon on August 7, 1998, that the federal government must restore, via the existing provisions of the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), its contributions to front-line health-care services, starting with a payment of at least $2 billion, given that the federal government has already recorded an accumulated surplus of $10.4 billion for the first six months of the 1998-99 fiscal year.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I simply want to point out that the Bloc Quebecois leader will share his time with the hon. member for Lotbinière.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a very specific context for today's motion; for the first time in three decades the federal government has a surplus—I shall return to this point shortly—at the very same time as all the provinces, and more specifically all the people in Quebec and in Canada, are faced with serious problems in the health area.

There is a connection between the surplus accumulated by the federal government and all these social problems, those relating to employment insurance and health, in particular, and that is why we are proposing this motion.

Six months into this year, the government had already accumulated a surplus of $10.4 billion. The Minister of Finance told us so last week. Yet, one month ago, the Minister of Finance himself told us he did not foresee any surplus this year or next year, just as he had done last year and in the past five years.

This minister wants us to believe that things are going better than he predicted. In my opinion, it is impossible within three weeks for a Minister of Finance not to have noticed this $10.4 billion difference, unless he is totally incompetent. Incompetent, or cooking the books. What is more, those two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. It is possible that the minister is incompetent, and that at the same time he is hiding the truth from us.

This $10.4 billion surplus was built up in the following way. Over all those years, the employment insurance fund was building up a surplus, one which has now reached $20 billion, and seems likely to reach $7 billion this year alone.

What we do know is that it has already reached the $5.1 billion mark, that is one-half of the total surplus. This is money that has been taken from the pockets of the unemployed, money that has been taken from the provinces, since this year alone $6.3 billion has been cut from the transfer payments for health, post-secondary education and social assistance.

The government took this money as well from the pockets of the middle class, since, for the past year, that is since this government has been in office, personal income tax has increased by $20 billion—simply because personal income tax is not indexed. The government wants us to believe that it has lowered income tax, but by not indexing the tax tables, it increased taxes.

This is where the surplus comes from. The consequences for the provinces in terms of health care are enormous. For the country, it means that since 1993 cuts have totalled some $17.2 billion. In Quebec alone, the cuts represent $4.6 billion. A huge amount.

For this year—as I said earlier—the cuts total $6.3 billion, and for Quebec, $1.8 billion. In Quebec the curve is climbing. It will not be long before the proportion of federal cuts to the Canada social transfer aimed at Quebeckers reaches 30%.

Last year, the Government of Quebec had a deficit of $2.1 billion, if I remember rightly, and this year the federal government cut $1.8 billion. Had it not been for this government, there would have been no deficit.

Then there are the remarks by the Quebec Liberal leader, Jean Charest, so vigorously supported now by the federal Liberal Party. In the 1997 election campaign, in a leaders' debate and here and there across the country—and he was right to say it—he said “The problems in health care are not Harris' fault, they are not Klein's fault, they are not Rochon's fault, they are not Bouchard's fault, they are the fault of the Prime Minister of Canada”. That is what Jean Charest said.

I hope he will continue saying it now that he wants to be the great defender of Quebec's interests. He can replay this speech he used throughout Quebec in an effort to win votes. He was right them. But I would not say this applies only to Quebec. This problem is occurring everywhere in Canada.

Newfoundland, for example, is reduced to asking army doctors to replace civilian ones. Brian Tobin, “Captain Canada”, is now critical of his former colleagues in the federal government, saying “Enough health care cuts, I cannot handle any more in Newfoundland”.

He is having such a hard time that, in his economic statement yesterday or the day before in St. John's, his minister of finance gave no figures.

This is reminiscent of the health minister here, in Ottawa, who addresses health issues without showing any compassion for the victims of hepatitis C and responsibility to the provinces.

What is true in Newfoundland is also true in Manitoba. People in Manitoba now have to cross the border, to Dakota, to get treated, and they end up in some shack. In Manitoba, moving toward ambulatory care means going to the U.S. to seek medical care in some shack because of the cuts imposed by the Canadian government. So, this is also happening in Manitoba and just about everywhere else across the country. That is why the premiers signed an agreement when they met in Saskatoon.

I would point out that the premiers of all the provinces except Quebec are staunch federalists. This is not a sovereignist conspiracy. The social union agreement is predicated on something Quebec has been demanding for a long time, a principle it has been fighting for, that is the right to opt out with full compensation, in provincial areas of jurisdiction like health and education.

All premiers agreed on this. They also asked that funding for health be restored following last year's $6.3 billion cutback in transfer payments. All the premiers are calling on the government to reinvest in health care, starting with $2 billion right away.

For Quebec, $2 billion represents the wage envelope for all nursing personnel. Members can therefore well imagine the hardship caused by this bunch of irresponsible politicians. That is what lead the Prime Minister to say, when he met President Chirac in France at a time when there were demonstrations in that country: “We do not have these kinds of problems in Canada because we have found the perfect solution: we make the decisions in Ottawa and then force the provinces to implement them. We wash our hands of everything”. That is exactly what he said, and he was right.

For once, Jean Chrétien expressed himself clearly, without pepper spray and without a baseball bat. He spoke his mind.

You are giving me the sign, Mr. Speaker. I am sure it is the victory sign because that is what is coming in Quebec.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

The present government is an arrogant and cynical government that has made a surplus at the expense of the provinces and of the unemployed. It has adopted a very pernicious strategy, passing itself as the country's saviour.

It pretends to be the saviour, saying that it will solve all the problems. Of course, it created these problems. Rather than trying to solve them, could it not stay within its own jurisdiction? We have had enough saviours. We even have one in Quebec who was sent to us by Ottawa. He came as the saviour and now he is playing bogeyman. He is trying to scare people. The saviour has become the bogeyman while trying to save his own hide.

By making all these cuts, the government is playing with the lives of workers, of the unemployed and of the sick. It has shown no compassion. It is a cynical and arrogant government that has the choice of being responsible and listening to all the opposition parties that are telling it to be responsible and do something, or staying in its own bubble, like the Minister of Health who remained totally insensitive to hepatitis C victims.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is a very important opposition day, because in the speech of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, we are delivering the message sent by all Quebeckers and some Canadians.

We consulted people. People do not necessarily understand the meaning of billions of dollars for their corner of the country.

I would ask the leader of the Bloc Quebecois to comment on the cuts announced to the transfer payments. We want it reinvested in the budget. The billion dollars that that implies for Quebec could mean $34 million in the Lower St. Lawrence. It could mean hospitals in one region, services for people that will be returned, that the people are calling for, are demanding and that are justified. This is money that the federal government has taken away from the provinces, putting all the provinces in Canada in a difficult situation.

Was the Bloc Quebecois leader not speaking on behalf of the people of Quebec and of Canada on this issue when he said that the federal government must put the money back in the economy and into the health sector? If the government does not and insists on putting it on the debt, the people who have contributed to the fight against the deficit will continue to subsidize and those who did not will see their interests promoted.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, generally on opposition days the government asks the first question, when it thinks it has a good position. There is not much chance it will be asking any today. It is not putting questions to us because it is aware that it does not have a leg to stand on as far as health is concerned.

I will list a number of facts. I am sure that my colleagues from the rest of Canada, whether Reform, Conservative or NDP, will have similar comparisons to make.

Out of the $6.3 billion, there is a social transfer cut to Quebec of $1.603 billion. Most people do not have billions in their pockets. Perhaps the ship-owner minister playing around with these figures does, but certainly not the average person.

One billion represents 20% of the cost of all hospitals in Quebec. Or, it represents the closure of half the hospitals in Montreal. It also represents 370,000 people hospitalized. Or the pay of one-half of the nurses in Quebec. Or the cost of all the CLSCs; $924 million, almost a billion. Or twice the cost of all services provided to young people in Quebec, which is $500 million.

Those are the facts. They are more than just cold figures. In the speech the Minister of Finance will be giving us in February, he will surely say “I have done far better”. As if we did not know where the surplus had come from. It is unbelievable that, in three weeks, he did not notice $10.4 billion. I am sure he pays more attention to detail when his ships are involved. For this minister his ships count more than all the people of Quebec and of Canada put together.

That is why we are saying they are arrogant and cynical. They are not facing up to their responsibilities. To do so would be to expose the truth and to say “Yes, we accumulated this surplus on the backs of the most disadvantaged members of society, the unemployed, the ill. But we will present a special measure. We will immediately put $2 billion back into health and we will let the provinces administer it.” As long as it is health that is concerned, everyone will accept that.

There is no question of “Ottawa knows best”. That does not work. Every time Ottawa interferes in things that do not concern it, it does not work. We have had the experience of “flex-o-matic” ministers cutting where it hurts. Well, we do not need any more of that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in light of all the debates that have taken place in the past few months, and even years, I wonder if anyone can reason with this government and make it understand what the facts are.

On August 7, 1998, a historical consensus was achieved when all the premiers, including Quebec's Lucien Bouchard, asked the federal government to reinvest in health.

For some time now, opposition parties in this House have been doing likewise. They have constantly asked the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health to give money back to the provinces for health. But they have yet to get an answer.

During the prebudget consultations that will end in a few days, I travelled across Canada—I went to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Everywhere, the chambers of commerce, unions, administration officials and hospitals were asking for the same thing.

More specifically, what did we do in Quebec? When the Bloc Quebecois realized that this government would only allow us one day to make representations on behalf of Quebeckers, it conducted a vast prebudget consultation in which most of my party colleagues took part.

This is what we found out. Whenever the Minister of Finance opens his mouth, two or three days later he changes his tune, with the result that we never know which figures or numbers are true. It was said at that time that the budget surplus would be between $12 and $15 billion, and that these figures were supported by many respected economists in Quebec and in Canada, including those of the Mouvement Desjardins.

We consulted our people. It was not the kind of fake consultation that we often see in the rest of the country. It was a serious consultation process that led to a summary report on the opinions of the people in 26 ridings and 10 regions in Quebec. More than 2,500 people took the time to come to see us or to call our offices to say how outraged they were by the federal government's attitude.

Among those people were three provincial colleagues of mine, Jean-Guy Paré from Lotbinière, Jacques Baril from Arthabaska and Michel Morin from Nicolet—Yamaska. They took the time to contact us because they also have to deal every day with people coming to them with health problems. They took the time to tell us that they had had enough of the federal government's attitude. That goes to show that the consensus arrived at in Saskatoon is strong, real and credible to Quebeckers.

But I am not at all surprised to see our dear Liberal government act this way. The things it has done over the past year and a half speak for themselves. It is just the result of the unhealthy partisan strategy behind the throne speech made in the House in October 1997.

I will now say a few words about the credibility of the Minister of Finance. What credibility. In February 1998, when he brought down his budget, the minister announced “a zero deficit this year, 1997-98; a zero deficit next year and a zero deficit in the year 2000”. In fact, what the finance minister said really means he foresaw that his marks as an administrator for those three years would be zero. That is what this finance minister's score in administration is. Zero.

Let us now take a look at the credibility of the saviour from Sherbrooke, Jean Charest. He has a strong tendency to take after the finance minister, as evidenced by the way he announced his budget forecast a while ago; I think it was in Rimouski. On the very same afternoon he made his announcement, Liberal fiscal and financial experts were wringing their hands in desperation; it just did not make sense. He had not realized that, while he thought it was for four years, the forecast put out by Lucien Bouchard and his government, by Quebec's minister of state for economy and finance, Bernard Landry, was in fact for five years.

Some credibility. Shall we talk about his credibility? During the debate Tuesday, how did Mr. Charest respond when Premier Lucien Bouchard pointed out to him that he was $1.5 billion short in order to deliver on his promises? He was unable to say where the money would come from. He really could not say.

This means that, should the people of Quebec put their trust in this individual, he will have no problem working with the current Minister of Finance of Canada. It means that we in Quebec will be taking a step backward, that we will be the losers.

Therefore, we must impress upon Quebeckers and upon all stakeholders the importance of keeping Mr. Bouchard at the helm so we have a strong voice and so he can continue to put pressure on the Canadian government to obtain what we have a right to expect from that government.

Now we will move on to the real problems in our health care system, not those Jean Charest has been trying to bring to light since the beginning of the campaign. He goes around talking about billions of dollars, but we have no idea where that money is going to come from. In any case, I already said that he has no credibility. He is like our federal Minister of Finance. That Liberal leader speaks only about concepts. He has all the rhetoric, but no figures.

At this stage, I am pleased to move an amendment, which reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by replacing the word “a” with the following:

“an immediate”

That is the change I want to make to the main motion brought forward by the leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Debate is now on the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Progressive Conservative Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to say that our party will support the Bloc Quebecois' motion. We feel that it meets an essential need for all Canadians.

However, we should stick to the motion, because this is not the place to actively take part in a provincial election campaign. The provincial leaders are mature enough to take their responsibilities and conduct their own campaign. They too have the confidence of all Quebeckers, and they can assume their responsibilities, including Mr. Charest, who has always strongly defended Quebec's interests.

The motion is asking for a massive transfer to maintain health care, especially in Quebec. A number of Bloc Quebecois members, including myself, represent outlying areas in Quebec, where the health reform has had the most devastating impact.

There is no need to go on and on about the fact that the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, and most regions in Quebec, were greatly affected by this reform, which resulted in a significant shortfall.

In today's debate we should try to draw the attention of the Quebec government, among others, to regional needs in the health care area.

In recent years the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region has suffered a deficit in the social sector, which, of course, has resulted in a huge shortfall of over $100 million for health care. This affects all our communities, and it is with this in mind that I ask the hon. member if he intends to promote a greater decentralization of the budgets related to health care.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I got a bit carried away because I am convinced that the present government will be the best one to represent the interests of Quebec.

I am, of course, very much aware of all the problems affecting the regions, particularly the one I represent, Chaudière-Appalaches, and the one right opposite, the Quebec City region.

In recent months and in recent years, and even before I was in politics, I was already aware of the great damage being done by federal cuts to health services in the Quebec City and Chaudière—Appalaches regions.

The consensus of all political parties, including our own, and of the premiers, is that there is indeed a problem on the federal side. We must continue to fight, and we must gang up on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Health, so that health services will be equitable once and for all and meet the needs of each of the regions of Quebec.

As a result, our health sector employees, our administrators and the recipients of each of our services will finally be entitled to health services that are humane, and above all fair.