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 #148 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, prior to the eruption of this extreme cost price squeeze, the only thing I was hearing from farmers or anybody else in my riding were complaints about what is happening with the rail industry.

Under the new Canada Transportation Act it is extremely easy for a railway to divest itself of a line. There is nothing to it. It only takes about six months of activity to get rid of it. This can be done regardless of what economic effect it may have on the community affected by that line.

It is done with—and I use the word advisedly—the connivance of grain companies that want to see these lines closed down so they no longer have to operate the delivery points in these more remote areas. They can force farmers to transport their grain to distant terminals. The farmer is the one who has to take the responsibility and the economic rap for the extra transportation. He gets hit twice, not only through the actual cost of hiring the transport truck to bring the grain to the terminal, but he also pays the taxes to the municipalities for the destruction of the roads that are now taking the place of the railways.

Rail freight cannot be carried in large quantities on light duty roads without creating a very severe problem. There is a double problem. There is the loss of the lines which not only affects farmers but everyone who lives in the small communities. With the loss of the rail line and the grain elevator, they probably lose a third of their tax base.

When farmers have to truck their grain anywhere from 50 to 100 miles to an elevator at a larger delivery point, they tend to do their shopping when they get there. Therefore the businesses in the small towns that have lost the elevators also suffer. We have already ended up with what we call 7-Eleven towns where some of the lines have been lost. There is nothing left of the former thriving community except the convenience store.

We are killing the agricultural community in as many ways as this government can seem to figure out. In the end, the economy of the whole country is going to suffer. I do not care what country it is, agriculture is the fundamental base on which the entire economy is built.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

Mr. Speaker, do you not just love it? Do you not love the hypocrisy of the Reform Party? It is the party that loathes the heavy hand of government, the party that loathes state intervention, the party that loathes regulation, but when it comes to rail line abandonment, which is a very legitimate issue and concern on the prairies, what does the Reform Party want? It wants state intervention. It wants more regulation. It wants more heavy handedness from the government. There is absolutely no party on the face of the earth that is more hypocritical than the Reform Party.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, speaking of slimy hypocrisy, I would like to know when this hon. member heard any member of the Reform Party not speak out against rail line abandonment or when he has failed to hear us chant and shout for continued regulation within that aspect of the rail industry?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Liberal Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the debate today. This debate is one that is very vital to the agricultural industry of this nation.

It is not just by accident that Canada ranks as one of the world's largest economies and is doing business in a very positive way throughout the world. Our success is the result of the efforts of the Canadian government, the provinces and the Canadian people all working together. Those joint efforts have made Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector an important and dynamic part of the world economy.

This same model of partnership prevails in the agricultural sector. Producers work closely with the provinces and the federal government to set directions for today's programs, those in the past and those in the future.

The federal government is providing many ways so that all regions of Canada can work in the agriculture sector. The Government of Canada works hard to balance the needs of regions and the sectors, providing support for each and every area of the country. Federal investment fosters the growth of the sector by encouraging the development of our export markets, our food supply and in developing new innovative food products. A healthy dynamic agricultural economy means jobs for Canadians.

Past federal investment in the sector tended to be governed by specific crops or market failures. Thanks to the combined efforts of farmers, provincial governments and the federal government, the farm income production system we currently have takes into account both the different needs of individual farmers and the agricultural economy as it varies across this country. The safety net agreements that we have in place result in a more market driven program. They also provide inevitable and reasonable support for commodities, producers and provinces.

It is this system of safety nets that will help stabilize incomes and reduce the need for ad hoc assistance. All provinces enjoy substantial advantages in being part of the Canadian federation especially when it comes to the agriculture and agri-food sector. While it is not easy to put dollar figures on many of these national advantages, they are every bit as valuable as federal support that goes directly to individual farmers.

By working co-operatively with provincial government partners and with our clients, the Government of Canada will ensure that the advantages of federalism continue to be fully exploited to the benefit of all Canadians.

As mentioned by my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, we do have the tools in place for farmers. We spent the better part of a decade working closely with farm leaders and our provincial colleagues to put in place an effective system of farm income.

Mr. Speaker, I should have noted at the beginning that I am splitting my time with my colleague from Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant.

Under the current safety net system, we have three components: crop insurance, the net income stabilization account, and province specific companion programs. Those tools are funded partially by farmers but a large chunk, $1 billion, comes from governments. Each and every year the federal government puts $600 million and the provinces put $400 million into that program.

In this calendar year alone, the national crop insurance program which is offered to Canadian farmers at low or no cost will provide farmers with an estimated $430 million in direct payments. The program has a participation rate of 55% to 60% nationally.

At this point I would like to take the opportunity to speak about the third component of the Canadian farm safety net system, the province specific companion programs. While crop insurance and NISA are national in scope, the $200 million in federal money devoted to companion programming supports initiatives specific to a province based on the needs and make-up of that particular province's farm sector.

The companion programs that have been put in place are generally of six types: additional producer and government contributions to enhance the NISA program; enhancements to existing crop insurance programs; whole farm income disaster programs providing government assistance to those who have major income shortfalls for reasons beyond the farmer's control; adaptation and development programs to strengthen the overall competitiveness of the farm sector; residual price support programs, available in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia; and the experimental programs, such as self-directed risk management in Ontario.

These companion programs have been very positive. They allow different provinces to experiment with new programs that lead to better production for farmers. For instance, the income based disaster programs run by British Columbia, Alberta and P.E.I. have proven so popular and effective that the national safety nets advisory committee is exploring the possibility of a national program based on similar principles. It is part of the long term review process mentioned earlier by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. I want to emphasize that no decisions have been made to this date, although I am sure it will be one of the things that comes up in tomorrow's discussions with farm leaders.

As many members know by now, the minister has called a meeting in Ottawa to discuss with our partners in the safety net system what producers are requiring, where producers see the government could provide support. The minister has also invited the provincial ministers of agriculture to deal with the current situations that are faced by our agriculture sector.

I do want to assure members of the House that the federal government is not about to implement a unilateral program within the safety net system that does not have the support of all producers and provinces throughout this country.

To conclude, the Government of Canada's approach to safety nets is a true reflection of Canada's strong federal-provincial-producer partnership in ensuring the future of Canadian agriculture. I am quite certain that the meeting tomorrow will produce outcomes that will be beneficial to those farmers who are presently feeling a great deal of difficulty. The minister will work with the provincial ministers to ensure that our goals meet the needs of the farmers, the provinces and the federal government.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Reform

Gerry Ritz Reform Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today and ask questions of my colleague.

For years and years this country has had a cheap food policy. Through this farm crisis we have not seen the price of a loaf of bread take a dip. My colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands talked about six-tenths of one cent worth of barley in a bottle of beer that is worth $1.50 on average. Food costs in Canada are one-quarter to one-third of what consumers pay in Europe. It is no wonder our farmers are going broke. We pay all the costs and subsidize the consumer as well.

I am wondering if the member would care to comment on who is going to feed Canadians when the farmers are gone. We have a 65 cent dollar here which will not buy much produce from offshore.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Liberal Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that everyone in this country does not have the morbid point of view that my colleague just raised.

I believe there is a great deal of pressure on many farmers in this country but the reality is that in many respects the government is trying to put in place quality programs. It is not doing it on a unilateral base. It is doing it in conjunction with the farm community. It is discussing these issues with farm leaders on a regular daily basis. It is discussing the issues with provincial leaders on a regular daily basis.

We are not going down a stream of the federal government not understanding the realities in every region of the country. As I tried to point out, we are trying to put in place programs and resources that will help our farm communities.

I suggest the member is correct. Canada does have an extremely low price when it comes to agricultural and food commodities. As many others, I am very interested in making sure Canadian farmers get a fair return for their dollar. I am not opposed to making certain that a fair return does come back to the farm and there is no question when we raise that.

However, I would not like to leave on record that we are looking at a monstrous unfair system either. We as a government are trying to do our best to support farm communities and make certain they have the tools to work with.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the farmers of West Nova over the past two years have suffered very difficult times living through two very dry summers. Last winter when the ice storm hit Ontario and Quebec we quickly saw that if, for example, there was no farming taking place in the Atlantic provinces, particularly in my riding of West Nova, we would have effectively been cut off from milk, produce and things of that nature.

Farming is very important in my riding and that is why I am standing up today to say that. It is so critical for farmers to receive just compensation for the hard work they do. In the past years that has not taken place.

My comments are for the minister of agriculture. I would just ask him to work together with his provincial counterparts because it is very important for the farming community to be taken care of.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Liberal Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely true. The comment made by my hon. colleague is so clear. Farmers are exposed to the elements. They are exposed to any kind of disaster that happens in nature. They do not have a guarantee at the end of the year that they will be able to harvest the crop they plant. It is a business that has a lot of risks to it which are extremely difficult to deal with at the best of times. There is no question about that.

I believe that it is a desired direction we need to go in. We need to make sure we have programs in place which help take those high risks out of it and give farmers an income they can count on for support. We have to do this in conjunction with the producer groups, the provincial governments and with anyone who will sit down and work out good policy.

My colleague does raise an important point and one that all of us have to be aware of. Farming is probably in the only business in the western world that is so uncertain because of the uncertain weather conditions. It is something we all have to consider every day.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant Ontario

Liberal

Bob Speller LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I can stand in my place today on behalf of the constituents in Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, particularly the farming community, and say that our hearts go out to the many farmers and their families suffering through this crisis which is one that is not of their own making. The opposition would have us believe through its motion that this crisis, which it is, was made primarily because of unfair subsidies and unfair trading practices of other countries. I think that does a disservice to the Canadian people. They would agree that unfair subsidies and unfair practices are a problem. They would agree that Canadian trade representatives around the world are fighting on behalf of not only Canadian farmers but Canadian businesses in this area and are doing an admirable job. Under the WTO last time we came out with a good deal for Canada, a deal which was supported by all the commodities across this country, farm commodities, and I think the opposition would agree with that.

Because of the situation in the world, the financial crisis in Russia, the Asian financial crisis, the problems in Latin America and the fact that a lot of countries around the world told their producers to get into pork, for instance, we have had a situation where there are a lot of these commodities on the market. This is the problem we need to address.

We can deal with the trade situation. We have people in place and we are working at that. How do we deal with some of the fundamental problems? I want to say to the Canadian people that this is a crisis, particularly for those in urban areas. Some people may be watching today and saying what are these farmers complaining about, they have a good life. We do in the rural areas but there are times, because of the nature of the world and because of trade, when beyond our control situations hit us. This is one of those times.

I have been here for 10 years. When the Progressive Conservative government was in and then when we came in in 1993 and took government we debated on how we deal with the WTO and the trading rules. We signed an agreement in 1993. Part of that was to deal with the situation of farm income. So we brought in NISA. I agree with those who say that NISA was never made for this situation. There was always an intention under the third line of defence to have something there for an emergency situation. Governments at both levels and the farm leadership failed in getting that through. I think we failed in the House in making sure that aspect did not go through.

I think we can rectify that if all the parties can come together and agree that we need to deal with an emergency situation. Whether it be tax cuts, like the opposition says which has some merit, and certainly we on this side have moved over the last number of budgets to cut taxes directly, or whether it be some sort of relief that would come in to these farmers or some sort of payment is debatable. We need to agree first that something definitely is needed and that we need to take action. In listening to the debate, I think we could probably get all members in the House to agree to that. It is a question of what and how we go about doing it.

I suggest that the farm leadership in the provinces and the minister when he meets with it in a couple of days come up with an emergency package to deal with the situation. I call on all members to support it.

This is not simply a problem of western Canada. Granted, places in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island will feel the heat.

I have today in the gallery a constituent, Karen Scott from Ontario, a pork producer and representative of the Brant Federation of Agriculture, who can tell members directly the impact this crisis has had on the pork industry.

I can find people all across Ontario, through Quebec, through the maritimes. This is a national problem and it takes national leadership and all the premiers.

In 1988 when we had this other crisis we had the premiers coming to Ottawa. I have not seen them yet. They came to Ottawa to lobby. I encourage them to get away from their houses within the next week and come to Ottawa to talk to the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers and let them know exactly how this crisis is impacting them.

I think there is a solution. I call on all members to join with me in working to find that solution. I can say directly that Canadian farmers are good farmers. We are fair traders. We need the help of all Canadians in this situation.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to hear the member opposite admit that his government has failed miserably on this issue. That was the best speech I have heard all day. It certainly had a ring of sincerity to it.

If and when the premiers come to Ottawa to discuss the issue and to meet with the Prime Minister and the agriculture minister, are the Prime Minister and the agriculture minister prepared to recognize that there is a crisis and in an open and honest way say that they want to solve the crisis now before spring seeding?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had hoped when I spoke that my speech would not become some sort of partisan attack on me or on our government. I could definitely get partisan in the House but I know a solution to this will not be found in trading barbs across the House.

A solution to this will be found in all people across the country coming together and saying we need to have a united front, all different commodities no matter if it is pork, dairy, supply managed or grains and oilseeds.

I hope that united front comes soon. I call on members across the way not to be partisan and to work with the government in finding a solution.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the parliamentary secretary.

He indicated that everyone is coming to Ottawa. He hoped that the provincial premiers would get out of their houses and come to Ottawa.

I do not see very much farming going on inside the House of Commons today. If the Liberal government wishes to know exactly what is going on in farming communities across the country, not just in the prairies, the meeting should be held in Strasbourg, Saskatchewan or in Upper Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia.

The ignorance of the problem by the government and the arrogance of the minister of agriculture toward the farmers is absolutely appalling.

In the last parliament the government brought in Bill C-101, the deregulation of transport. It also privatized CN and eliminated the Crow rate. These were all supported by the Reform Party.

The government must have known that when we download these responsibilities to the farmers, their income is going to drop rapidly and that is one of the major reasons why we have such a crisis today.

I thank the hon. member for mentioning the word crisis because we have not heard that from the minister of agriculture yet.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that the minister of agriculture called the meeting with his representatives and with 34 different commodity groups in Ottawa. The minister has recently had meetings in Winnipeg. He will have meetings across the country in terms of consulting with Canadian farmers and all Canadians on the future of the WTO negotiations.

This meeting was called in Ottawa. Different groups are coming here and they are coming, I know, with the knowledge that the minister of agriculture will listen to their concerns and that he will work with them to come up with a solution to this crisis.

The minister has always indicated, in fact he has indicated in the House many times, his willingness to look at the situation. He said that NISA is only a short term solution and that there needs to be more fundamental change so that farmers in this country can farm with the knowledge that these crises, these major shifts in commodity prices, will not hurt them in the future.

The minister of agriculture, as members know, has been a farmer for many years. He listens very closely to the views of farmers. I know he is greatly concerned about this crisis and will work with the farmers, the provincial ministers of agriculture, the premiers and whoever else wants to discuss and resolve this situation.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am really concerned that I must stand here today to make a speech that I, quite frankly, hoped I would never have to make. On the other hand, it is important to talk about the crisis that our farmers are facing.

There is a reason I had hoped I would never have to rise to make a speech like this. I am the member of parliament for Lakeland constituency, which is a very large rural constituency in Alberta. Agriculture is the most important industry in that constituency.

I have a farm myself. I worked to help support the farm for many years as a farm economist with the Alberta department of agriculture. In this job and in private consultations with farmers during the 1980s and early 1990s I saw things that I hope I will never see again.

I sat at the table with members of farm families whose farms were failing. This did not just happen once or twice or a dozen times. I literally met with farmers and helped them deal with situations dozens and dozens of times when I knew, often from the very start, that the end result would be that a farm family would be forced off their farm.

In many other cases I knew that the end result would be the downsizing of a farm in a way that the family never expected and never wanted.

The problem in the 1980s was caused by many of the same things that are causing the current crisis. For that reason I hoped it would never happen again. I really, really hoped that this government would recognize the problem and would deal with the situation so that we would not face this kind of crisis again.

Unfortunately, we are here today debating a motion, which I will read again:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should move immediately to defend the interests of Canadian farmers from the unfair subsidies and unfair trading practices by foreign countries, which have changed the problem of stagnant farm incomes to a full-blown farm income crisis, and in the event no immediate progress is made on this front, introduce emergency measures to provide tax relief, lower input costs, reduce user fees and address the inadequacies of the farm safety-net programs.

Here we are. We must talk about this. I think it is really important to go through what has happened in the last five years since this government has been in power, and indeed before that, to recognize clearly what has led to the situation that Canadian farmers are facing today.

I know the situation is a Canadian-wide situation, although I believe that the crisis is worse on the prairies.

It is important to look first at what has caused this situation. There are many causes for this situation. The first of course is the Asian economic problem. We recognize that as being part of the problem.

The second cause is normal market cycles, for example with hogs, which has been made even worse by the economic crisis which has spread beyond Asia.

Those things were not really preventable by Canadians and the Canadian government, but there are many things that were and those are the things we have to talk about.

We have to talk about the preventable factors that have led to this situation becoming as critical as it has. To do that we have to look at what has happened over the past five years.

When I think back to the first speech I made in the House of Commons, we were talking at that time about farm safety nets and about the farming situation. One of the things being discussed was the elimination of the Crow subsidy. The Crow subsidy was causing a lot of harm on the prairies, in particular in processing industries. Processing was not happening on the prairies, where it would have made sense. Jobs were being exported as raw commodities left the prairies.

Reform supported the elimination of the Crow benefit, but called for putting at least part of the capitalized value of the Crow benefit into a trade distortion adjustment program. We campaigned on that in 1993.

Look at what the Liberals allowed to happen. They did eliminate the Crow benefit, but instead of putting that money into something like a trade distortion adjustment program, which would have been there now to help farmers deal with this crisis, they made a $1.2 billion payout which really was done for political reasons and did farmers almost no good whatsoever.

As a result, we are in this situation with nothing to help farmers deal with the crisis.

A trade distortion adjustment program, which we campaigned on in 1993 and which was presented in this House by Reform MPs again and again after 1993, right up to the time the Crow benefit was eliminated, would have put some of the capitalized value of the Crow benefit into a fund which would have been there to deal with unfair trade practices in other countries. In other words, if commodity prices were hurt, as they are being hurt right now due to unfair trade practices on the part of Europe, the United States and Asian countries, there would have been money in this fund to help farmers deal with that situation.

We have unfair trade practices. For example, the European Economic Community has subsidies which are higher than the price we get for our alfalfa. European subsidies alone are destroying our alfalfa industry. It is very near collapse. We have nothing to help deal with this situation. That fund was not established, in spite of the pressure that was put on this government to do that. That is sad because now our farmers face a situation they should never have had to face.

If we go through the list of things that happened in the last parliament and did not happen, it is a long list and it is a sad indictment of this government. It is important to point these things out. If we do not, then this government will not do what has to be done now.

We can start with the elimination of the Crow and the fact that the money is no longer there to help anyone. Farmers face extremely high freight costs and, with low commodity prices, it is causing an unnecessary hardship on farmers. Had that fund been established, with this situation being forced on farmers, the money would have been there to help.

We can go through the list. There was the privatization of CN. We supported the privatization, but we did not support the legislation. There was nothing in it to ensure that competition would be allowed and that there would be fairness in dealing with situations involving a dispute between farmers and others and the railways.

Look at the Canadian Transportation Act. We called for the same kinds of things to be put in the act, but they were not.

In terms of cost recovery and user fees, one after another has been piled on farmers, often at costs that are much higher than need would be and no competition is allowed in terms of who can provide the services that these fees pay for. That is costing farmers a lot of money.

Tax increases on things like fuel, which affect all farm inputs, have put an undue and unnecessary burden on farmers. Tax increases across the board are one of the single biggest factors that have caused the problem we see today.

Prohibitive regulations have topped all of this off and made it extremely difficult for farmers to deal with the very difficult crisis they are facing today.

This list of indictments is something the government should take note of. I want to see the government stand in this House today to say exactly how it is going to make up for the wrongs that it has committed in the past and for the lack of action that has been shown on many issues.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

We still have five minutes for questions and comments and we will take that time after the question period.

Today is a rather special day and, with your agreement, I want to proceed to Statement by Members.

The Canadian Justice SystemStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice met for two days in Regina last week.

It comes as no surprise that public confidence in the justice system was the first item on the agenda. Even though crime rates across Canada may be dropping, fear of crime among Canadians has increased.

The message is clear. Canadians deserve a justice system that protects society, one that is administered efficiently and fairly.

Canadians deserve a system that is accountable, one that is more responsive to the needs of victims and communities.

Canadians deserve safer communities, ones that are free of crime and free of the fear of crime.

All ministers expressed their commitment to working together to establish a more effective and more equitable justice system in which Canadians can have confidence.

I think that effort deserves the support of this House.

Canadian Finals Rodeo WeekStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, next week marks the Canadian Finals Rodeo Week in Edmonton, Alberta.

To many Albertans this is real life itself. It is more than just horsing around. It is more than just roping a calf. It is more than just steer wrestling or a bucking bronco. It is more than just a lot of bull. It is where the best of the breed, men and beast, meet to compete.

It is an exciting week in Edmonton. Our city welcomes thousands of visitors during that week. They come from near and far. They come in campers and pick-up trucks and they have a wonderful week down at the coliseum.

This is serious competition. It is not just horsing around. The winners move on to compete in the world finals. It is a pretty exciting challenge for them.

The stakes are high and the money is big, just like Alberta.

I want to welcome all these people to the Canadian Finals Rodeo. I want to welcome all the contestants to cowboy country.

Good luck and good riding.

Municipal ElectionsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to mayors Peter Yeomans of Dorval Bill McMurchie of Pointe-Claire, Roy Kemp of Beaconsfield, Ann Myles of Baie-d'Urfé, and Bill Tierney of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue on their re-election.

I also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate all the municipal councillors who were elected or re-elected in these cities in the riding of Lac-Saint-Louis.

We have established on the West Island of Montreal a remarkable tradition of co-operation and harmony among the three levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal.

I look forward to continuing this close co-operation with all the mayors and their councils, as well as my National Assembly colleagues to whom I offer my warmest wishes for re-election.

May the spirit of co-operation and harmony which animates our West Island region live on and on.

Natural DisastersStatements By Members

November 3rd, 1998 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Liberal Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was with regret and dismay that all of us heard of the enormous disaster that occurred in Nicaragua and Honduras by hurricane Mitch.

At present it is estimated that up to 7,000 people may have lost their lives in flood and mud slides. The International Red Cross said yesterday that it was tripling its efforts to make sure assistance was going to those hurricane victims. In many places in Canada we can do a great deal to help in this cause.

Small villages sat where seas of mud now exist. I call upon the generosity of all Canadians to try to support organizations like the International Red Cross and church organizations which are sending relief to flood and disaster victims in Honduras and Nicaragua. Canadians should get together to help those people.

TransportationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Lavigne Liberal Verdun—Saint-Henri, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, I had the honour to present a petition on the use of the Champlain bridge landing to install an electric monorail with pneumatic suspension, which means no noise and no pollution.

I have received this petition with 6,200 names from the Comité des citoyens pour un monorail. Today, I want to recognize and congratulate these men and women for the countless hours they have put into furthering an issue they believe is not only important but also essential to the economic development of southwest Montreal and job creation in that area.

I am sure that the tenacity and patience of this committee, combined with the competence of its members, will move this project forward for the greater good of our community.

Government ExpendituresStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, according to last week's supplementary estimates the government is planning to spend billions on some interesting projects including $4 million for millennium art projects; $22 million for new chanceries in Colombia, Haiti, Venezuela and South Korea; $3.2 million for senators; and $1 million for international environmental organizations. However the government has no money for hepatitis C victims and pepper sprayed APEC protesters. It cannot even give employers and employees a break from the burden of high EI premiums.

The government's list of priorities is shameful. It is literally throwing these estimates in the faces of those who justly deserve a break. Imagine hepatitis C victims reading that there is no money for them but the Liberals have millions of dollars for senators, and employers and employees finding that there is nothing for them but there are millions for arts projects.

It is time to reject these estimates. It is time for the President of the Treasury and the Minister of Finance to go back to the drawing board and start again.

Middle EastStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the conflict in the Middle East has had a long and torturous history. Therefore it is with great satisfaction that we learn of the ground breaking peace agreement at Wye, Maryland.

The Palestinian and Israeli leaders, with the instrumental support of the United States and the moral support of King Hussein of Jordan, worked courageously to achieve the breakthrough agreement. We trust it will lead to a resolution of the conflicts and provide a better life for future generations.

We are already hearing and seeing protests from opponents to the agreement, but we can only hope that they will not be successful in undermining this achievement.

The leaders of both the Palestinians and the Israelis have been working hard for many months to find a mutually agreeable solution while constantly being under the threat of failure.

As in Northern Ireland, the agreement is an important step toward building trust between longstanding rivals. Those who are outside this conflict now have an opportunity to provide support for a peaceful resolution.

First Job FairStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today in this House to report on the first job fair, held in the West Island area of Montreal on October 30 and 31, 1998.

This job fair, with its 32 stands and 1,400 job offers, attracted more than 7,000 job seekers. I am also proud to say that 75% of the available positions were filled during the fair.

This shows the vitality of this part of the greater Montreal area and its significant and sustained economic growth. With more than 7,800 new jobs created in 1997, paying on average $32,000 a year, and the injection of $250 million in wages, there was an urgent need to bring together companies looking for workers and workers looking for jobs.

At this first job fair, our local youth employment centre rose to the challenge. I want to congratulate Gilles VanChesteing and his team at Trait d'Union for the excellent work they have done.

Remembrance DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, whilst skies rained shells and proud men died, a soldier penned prose of bitter truths. His pen spoke out from the fields of war 83 years ago. He spoke for all that have faced their soul in the finality of the theatre of war.

Whether Korea, the gulf or two world wars, he could well be speaking of all brave men that have soldiered the world for Canadian beliefs.

World War I has long been gone but John McCrae's In Flanders Fields lives on. His words are carved in the walls of the House and are enduring as the threat of future wars.

For our honourable war veterans and remebered war dead we pause to give our respect. “If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep”. Lest we forget.

Jacques ParizeauStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau is now toeing the line and supporting Lucien Bouchard's strategy, after condemning it not too long ago.

This is a remarkable about-face since, as we know, Mr. Parizeau has always been anxious to achieve Quebec's separation from the rest of Canada. But, being a real trooper, Mr. Parizeau now supports the view that winning conditions must prevail before a referendum can be held.

A referendum on Quebec's separation from the rest of Canada remains the number-one priority for the PQ, and they will go to any lengths to achieve their goal.