House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tribunal.


Canada Evidence ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Evidence ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Just for the edification of those in the public galleries and watching on television, in order to proceed to the next order of business, which is timed to begin at 5.30 p.m., we have unanimous consent to see the clock as 5.30 p.m. We have not magically done it. What we have done is said we are going to continue on with the business of the House by going directly to Private Members' Business.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to report stage at second reading and to the third reading stage of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I therefore give notice that a minister of the crown will propose, at the next sitting of the House, a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stages.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House will now proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake a review of the Federal Department of Transport's role in the Charlotte County Ports Inc. quarry project.

Mr. Speaker, this is a continuation of debate that we have had in this House on this particular project. I think the last time we spoke in this House on this project was in December when the marine privatization bill was before this House.

I guess it would not be an overstatement for me to say that I am upset with this quarry project in the province of New Brunswick and some of the inconsistencies that have been exercised on behalf of the governments involved.

I am going to attempt to be as fair as I can to the federal government. To a large extent, the government's involvement up to this point has been marginal. I think it has been marginal for a number reasons, the biggest one being that the provincial government has never basically kept the Department of Transport abreast of what has been actually happening in that area.

To provide the House with an overview of what has been happening, the Saint Croix River is an international heritage river. It was designated a heritage river by the Government of Canada back in the early 1990s. A plan was submitted by the province of New Brunswick to ensure that this heritage river designation was in place. I was part of the process of designating that river a heritage river.

Now what we have is a group of individuals from the United States coming up with a plan to create one of the most offensive environmental undertakings that one could imagine on that river. They have basically been given a blank cheque by the province of New Brunswick to do so. Again, there has been a lot of debate in New Brunswick on this very project. In the summer months of 1997 it was front page news in all the provincial newspapers in New Brunswick for a number of weeks.

Recently I wrote a letter to the premier of New Brunswick stating some of our concerns, my concern as a member of Parliament and the concerns of others who are doing business in that area. Landowners and a group of international citizens called the Saint Croix River citizens committee have taken offence to what the government in the province of New Brunswick wants to do there.

This story goes back a number of years to when a company from Nova Scotia, related by the way to the leader of the NDP, the L.E. Shaw group of companies, a very reputable company I might add, proposed doing a similar type of business, a quarrying business on the banks of the Saint Croix River in the Bayside Ports area. The company, Shaw Industries Limited, is a very respected company. At the time, it stated that if the citizens of the area were against this type of project happening it would abandon all plans for that type of development. Mr. Ken Hardy, speaking on behalf of the company, stated publicly that it was no the way they did business. If the people in the area did not want this type of development he was not going to do it. He kept his word.

The company in question, the Shaw company, originally had to spend $250,000 to develop a plan for this quarry. It had to go through a public tendering process, a call for tenders, to come up with a plan for this. So there was a public involvement or a public tendering process so that all companies in Canada could bid on that project.

However, when the Shaw company decided not to do the deal, aside from the fact that it honoured its commitment to not do the deal if the people were against it, it also could not secure markets in the United States. This can be verified by the Shaw group. The United States aggregate market is a very tough market to break into. The company could never penetrate the U.S. market for aggregate materials. It also had the problem, if it had proceeded, that it did not have a market. However, it did not proceed because it was sensitive to the public outcry.

What we have now is a company from the New York-New Jersey waterfront entertaining doing the same thing. Lo and behold, it did not have to go through any public tendering process. It did not have to submit a proposal. It was invited to come up and take a look at the project by none other than the former minister of economic development in the province of New Brunswick, Al Lacey, obviously a former cabinet minister in the government of Frank McKenna. He was a minister at the time the Shaw group proposed doing this. He was looking for business interests. His job was to secure business interests. He was a paid lobbyist on behalf of the group out of New York and New Jersey. He went down there with a magnificent plan for these people to move into Canada and do a piece of business.

Lo and behold he was successful at bringing them into New Brunswick without having to publicly tender or submit proposals on anything. Those doors were all knocked down for the Waterman group. They simply came and said what they would do. Mr. Al Lacey was to lead their cause. Obviously they would get the type of co-operation they needed from the province of New Brunswick, and they have.

What is disturbing to the folks living along that international body of water on both sides is that the proponents lied publicly about what they want to do. I mentioned this in the House before. This is where Transport Canada, led by the former minister, had a proposal to take over, to assume ownership of that port and that quarrying facility. It was a document that the premier of the province of New Brunswick actually denied existed.

The chief spokesman for the company, Al Lacey, the paid lobbyist, a former minister of the crown in the province of New Brunswick, lied publicly. He lied to the media. He lied to business interests. He lied to me as member of Parliament on their true intentions of taking over that port. Lo and behold lies will eventually catch up with you. We know that.

A 40 page document was leaked to me indicating step by step, inch by inch, how the group would take over the port, the group out of New York and New Jersey, and owned by a man by the name of Randy Waterman. When that document surfaced they all scurried like rats trying to get away from it, but they could not. They were videotaped on national television lying through their teeth on what were their true intentions.

The government continued its sort of conspiracy of silence. There is no transparency at all in this process. It simply pursued the course it was intent on pursuing and not deviating from to make sure that this group out of New York and New Jersey, led by Mr. Waterman and represented by Mr. Al Lacey, would get their way.

They lied on their intention to take over the port. Their 40 page document amounts to nothing more than what I call economic blackmail. I will table it in the House for all to examine. They state that unless they get full and complete ownership of the port they will abandon their plan to take over the port. That amounts to economic blackmail.

The local people were absolutely outraged when that secret document surfaced, indicating that they wanted to take over the port. It did not end there. What has happened in the meantime is that they went after the provincial government. They said that maybe they would not abandon their plans to assume ownership of the port if they struck a better deal. The better deal was to give them the land. They would do the job and compete with other American interests located in other parts of North America.

They have actually achieved what I call the ultimate in economic blackmail. Now the province is entertaining selling them the lands. The lands in question are not federal lands. They would be provincial lands that would be handed over to the company for a 40 year project. In other words, the life of this project would be 40 years.

This sounds quite bizarre but it is accurate. Two weeks of mining this aggregate at the price they would be receiving for the aggregate in the United States would actually pay for the cost of the entire package of land on which they want to do the 40 year deal. That is absolutely bizarre. This is better than giving them the land. They are selling it to them at what we would consider a bargain basement price. It is a deal made in heaven for these people.

How do these people get their foot in the doors of government in the province of New Brunswick? It still has a democratic process where things like this have to be debated and talked out in a public forum. There was a complete conspiracy of silence in the province of New Brunswick.

The minister of economic development refused to provide me with information. He does not correspond with a member of Parliament representing people living in that area. A brick wall has been put up between the government of the province of New Brunswick and me and the citizens group representing citizens up and down both sides of that international water. There is something wrong in the process when that happens.

Who are these people? That is a big question. I had serious discussions with the FBI and the RCMP. There are a lot of unanswered questions about these companies as represented by Mr. Randy Waterman and owned by Mr. Randy Waterman. They are big and they are powerful. They operate out of New York and New Jersey. That should tell us something.

They basically have a cartel. They actually control the aggregate business in the east coast of the United States. It is impossible for foreign interests to import aggregate into the United States. Hence, the inability of the Shaw group to establish markets there.

We have a fellow by the name of Al Lacey. I would not consider Al to be a stupid man. He is certainly not stupid. He heard the bells and whistles and immediately said he knew a group that could do this deal. They can establish markets. They can make this thing profitable but they happen to live outside Canada. They happen to be one of those families down in the United States that have been very successful in the aggregate business.

The worst of all deals possible is taking place at the moment in the province of New Brunswick because its government does not care about transparency when it comes to business with individuals, in many cases individuals of ill repute. If we look at the legacy of the government of the province of New Brunswick in the last 10 years, a number of deals have gone flat, have gone belly up, because it had not done its homework. The FBI and other police officials in the area have suspicions about these people and what their true motives might be in Canada.

I suggested that the premier of the province of New Brunswick should undertake a full scale investigation which the citizens committee has demanded from day one. The government has been reluctant to do that. I do not think it wants to know the truth. The people in that area demand to know what is going on. They deserve full and complete transparency in that entire piece of business.

It is incumbent upon the Government of Canada, the Department of Transport and the minister to say there are a lot of unanswered questions, some of which were recently brought to their attention, that need to be complied with. As I said at the outset, I do not think the province of New Brunswick has been full and complete in the information provided to the minister and the department.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario


Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is important that I address the matter raised by the hon. member for Charlotte.

In my nine years of serving the constituents of Hamilton West in the House of Commons I have never heard a more self-serving speech than the one just enunciated by the member for Charlotte, than the previous questions asked and the past speech made by the hon. member.

This reminds me to ask the hon. member how his relationship is after his recent foray into the role of mudslinger. His constituents should know via the news media in the New Brunswick area that the member for Charlotte has cast a lot of innuendo around this project. He has degraded the personal and business ethics of respected individuals who have taken an interest in developing this port improvement project at Bayside.

The project responded to a request from the province of New Brunswick. It would have created much needed jobs and economic activity in New Brunswick. It has received environmental approval.

I was halfway expecting the member for Charlotte to apologize today to the federal government, to the province, to the companies and to the individuals he brought into disrepute. I expected him to ultimately admit his conflict of interest in the matter and to explain to his constituents and people across the country that his home is situated on a piece of land located next to the port property he is so concerned about. Imagine that. No conflict there. Regrettably the hon. member chose not to withdraw his motion today. That is why I have to say what I have said here today.

Let us address the motion by the hon. member who is so concerned about the involvement of Transport Canada in a quarry development project adjacent to the port of Bayside, New Brunswick. The entire quarry project as proposed by Charlotte County Ports Limited would be situated on land owned by the province of New Brunswick and not by Transport Canada. Approvals for such development fall under the jurisdiction of the province of New Brunswick and not the federal government.

The only involvement by the government is that Transport Canada is presently the owner of an adjacent facility that could be utilized for shipping the quarry products to international markets. In that regard Transport Canada has accepted for consideration an application for a remission of rates on the applicable wharfage tariff. That is as far as our involvement goes.

Transport Canada received a request to lease a section of land that would permit the stone to be loaded directly on to ships for transportation to market. Regulations require that such requests be submitted to the department for consideration.

Both these requests have been reviewed in the context that they would expand the existing private-public partnership and would ultimately benefit the port through substantially increased revenues and the creation of badly needed additional outside storage area.

However, due to the significant divestiture process being made under the national marine policy, the request for the lease has been put on hold. The application for a remission of rates has been denied as it did not meet the criteria specified in the remission of or substitution of rate regulations.

Transport Canada is currently negotiating the transfer of the Bayside port facilities under the national marine policy and its divestiture program. The national marine policy will ensure Canada has the modern marine transportation it needs to compete in the 21st century. It will help to ensure that shippers have access to safe marine transportation, that the service levels reflect realistic demand and that the users who pay have more say in the future of their port.

In the past Canada's port system was heavily subsidized by Canadian taxpayers. It suffered from overcapacity and too much bureaucracy. Under the national marine policy the government will no longer dictate port operations or local business decisions. At the same time the Government of Canada will continue in a regulatory role its commitment to a safe marine transportation system and a clean environment.

The Government of Canada is commercializing public ports using criteria applied coast to coast. National ports, such as Vancouver port, will be managed by Canada port authorities, or CPAs as we call them, made up of representatives nominated by user groups and governments.

A second category of ports, regional and local ports, like the port of Bayside, is being transferred to provincial governments, municipal authorities, community organizations or other groups.

The Port of Bayside Steering Committee Inc. has established a local group representing the community and the port users. This steering committee is presently negotiating with Transport Canada for the transfer of ownership and management of all the port facilities.

Given that Transport Canada officials believe that negotiations with the potential new port operator can be concluded quickly, the Minister of Transport will not pursue any further action on the two requests from Charlotte County Ports.

Once the port has been transferred, the new port owner will be in a better position to make decisions, such as the setting of wharfage fees as well as other decisions that will shape the port's future.

In closing, I must reiterate that Transport Canada's involvement in this proposed project is very minimal. I think we heard that from the hon. member when he first spoke. It is limited to being the existing owners of an adjacent facility that could be used to export the material.

Given that decisions on the port's future will be left up to local operators, I cannot support the member's motion.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we are today reduced to debating one isolated example of insider lobbying in a proposed divestiture deal because the problem is pervasive. It almost invariably accompanies any sort of privatization negotiations in this country.

That is why Reformers temper our firm belief in the benefits of privatization with a demand that safeguards be legislated which are applicable to all privatization deals, not only to control lobbying, but to prevent the improper disposal of public assets to clients or cronies of powerful politicians.

Last summer Doug Young's successor as defence minister criticized Somalia inquiry commissioner Peter Desbarats for writing a book on his experiences with the inquiry. Apparently the minister found it unseemly that Mr. Desbarats would profit from information gained, as the minister put it, “at public expense and as part of the performance of a public duty”.

Yet scarcely a month after leaving office Mr. Young was doing exactly that. He was selling his experience. On the night of his electoral defeat a reporter asked Doug Young what his plans were and he said “I can tell you one thing. I am not going on EI”.

Indeed, Mr. Young and fellow defeated New Brunswick Liberal Paul Zed set up shop in Ottawa under the name of Summa Strategies Canada Inc. as Sparks Street lobbyists. Between the two of them they have racked up an impressive number of clients.

This is very interesting. When they were in power, neither Young nor Zed had anything good to say about lobbyists. In fact they declared war on the profession. Canadians were assured that the Liberals would just say no to lobbyists. The current Prime Minister said that during his tenure nobody would need to hire a lobbyist to press for access to his government.

Young denounced the Conservative government's Pearson airport contract as the work of lobbyists. With a bit of deeper digging they found some Liberals in the pile and they backed away from that.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario


Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to understand how it is that this member's intervention has anything to do with private member's Motion No. 282.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It sounded to me like the hon. member was reciting a chronology of events which was discussed by the two members who spoke previously in this debate. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. member. He may not be addressing the motion directly, but I am sure he is about to. As I said, the point of his debate has been similar to the points raised by other hon. members in the debate already, so I am reluctant to intervene.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your intervention. I assure you I am leading to the heart of the matter.

Once the government's hearings on lobbying got started, the complexity of the lobbying activities became very apparent. Then despite all the strong words promising to clean up the system, the Lobbyists Registration Act failed to live up to expectations. Once installed on the other side of the House, the Liberals decided that not all lobbying was a bad thing. The final legislation avoided issues such as restricting frequency of contacts or limiting fund raising activities.

As I mentioned earlier, Young is prohibited for two years from meeting with officials in the departments of defence and human resources development because he presided over them during his last year in government. He is however free to lobby officials in other departments, including transport where he spent most of his tenure here in the last Parliament.

The rules also prevent Mr. Young from discussing the business of his clients with any minister who handles the same portfolio that he or she held as Young's cabinet colleague. Therefore, the industry and finance ministers are off limits but there is nothing to stop Mr. Young from approaching the ministers of transport or trade on behalf of a client.

Young is also restricted to giving advice on matters already in the public domain. Theoretically he cannot make use of specific knowledge of programs or policies he might possess by virtue of previous positions.

Of course, none of these restrictions apply to Mr. Zed because he served as a mere parliamentary secretary in the last government and he is available for front man.

One of Summa Strategies' first clients was very familiar to Mr. Young, CNR which he privatized in 1995. The president and CEO of CN, Paul Tellier, was the former Clerk of the Privy Council, one of the most powerful people in Ottawa. I cannot help but wonder what he could possibly learn or gain from hiring Mr. Young. Other Summa Strategies clients include the RCMP, the Prince Rupert Grain Company, and SNC-Lavalin.

Interestingly, a company called Defence Remediation Inc. which is a land mine clearing company is listed as a client of Summa Strategies. I guess it will have to wait until June 1999 before Doug Young with all his department of defence expertise can represent it personally. Right now he can only deal with transport matters.

Let us talk about Charlotte County Ports Inc., a front company which wants to acquire control of one of the few profitable local ports in Canada, Bayside port, on behalf of a very muscular New Jersey based supplier of construction aggregate. The only thing Canadian about Charlotte County Ports aside from its registration is another ex-politician, a former New Brunswick Liberal cabinet minister.

To digress momentarily, it is impossible to talk about Doug Young's post-parliamentary activities without touching on the very smelly Maritime Road Development Corporation's New Brunswick highway deal. In this instance, he was not representing a client but a consortium which he himself was the head of, at least until he realized that a former federal minister cannot work for a company or project that had been directly affected by his decisions as minister until two years after leaving office.

Because MRDC will be collecting tolls on a stretch of highway built under the 1995 federal-provincial highway agreement which Young oversaw as transport minister, he changed hats. Instead of being president, he is now chairman of the board since January 22. Obviously switching positions is not the answer.

Nevertheless, the federal ethics commissioner does not believe that Mr. Young's highway activities violate the code of ethics because Ottawa is not in charge of the project. Just as it does not own the land surrounding Bayside port, because Ottawa is not in charge of the project and did not select the contractors who would build it. I feel a lot better.

The term lobbying comes from the lobby outside the House of Commons in the British parliament buildings. It was there that interested parties and petitioners would try to capture the attention of members of Parliament before they went in to cast their votes.

It is a sign of the diminishing role of Canadian members of Parliament that we do not find any lobbyists in this lobby. Everyone in Canada knows perfectly well that the real government decisions take place far from the House of Commons so lobbyists concentrate on people in the PMO, key cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats.

If nothing else, the large number of lobbying firms in this town, even though they do not ever appear in the lobby, is a testament to how far our system has moved away from control by the ordinary citizens. The influence on public servants is particularly disturbing as they are out of the public eye and not subject to elections.

Firms like Summa make their money by trading on knowledge and contacts of their principals about the inner workings of government. They tend to be providing advice to clients and opening doors or making representations on their behalf.

The question we must ask ourselves which should make the government squirm is could Doug Young and Paul Zed be successful lobbyists if the Liberals had not won the election? What exactly do they have to sell?

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I could say ditto and you would have heard much of what I am going to say, but there is a saying that it takes three times to make a bad habit and twelve repetitions to break it. I think we are going to need 12 times a lot to break the bad habits that the Liberals have gotten into.

I rise today to support the private member's motion:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake a review of the federal Department of Transport's role in the Charlotte County Ports Inc. quarry project.

During the debate on C-9, I listened with great interest to the speech from the member for Charlotte on the Bayside port in New Brunswick. I have actually had the opportunity to be there and it is a beautiful area.

The Bayside port is a small port on the Saint Croix River, an international body of tidal waters. It is very well situated for shipping with close access to U.S. markets. It is one of Canada's most profitable ports but the Canadian government wants to privatize the ports. The Bayside port makes a significant contribution to the continuing regional and economic growth in New Brunswick. It is a vital element in the communities in southwestern New Brunswick.

I find it somewhat insulting to have the parliamentary secretary suggest that the area where the port is located has no real aspect in this whole deal of the Charlotte quarry.

The member for Charlotte has made interesting remarks during his speeches concerning the group from New York and New Jersey wanting to take over the Bayside port. No point getting into that because we should not be worrying about what the Americans do. What we need to worry about is what our government is not doing. It is not protecting Canadians.

Let us go back to 1994 when the quarry project was first proposed by L.E. Shaw. That company had to drop its plans because it could not break into the sand and gravel market in the U.S. The only way to get into that business if one wants to ship to the U.S. is to be owned by the Americans. Surprise.

Now we have an American company, a large American conglomerate whose plans are to take over the Canadian port. This by itself is something but add the fact that this American company hired two former members of this House, one of them being the former transport minister, to lobby the federal government to allow the transfer of the Bayside port into their hands, and now we really have something.

This is why I am supporting this motion. Doug Young as former transport minister initiated the national marine policy which calls for the divestiture of our Canadian ports. Now that he has put the privatization process in place, he and ex-MP Paul Zed are going to personally profit from it.

Calling for a review of Transport Canada's role in the Charlotte County Ports Inc. quarry project is reasonable when a former transport minister is involved in lobbying his ancient colleagues in Ottawa or his Liberal friends in power in New Brunswick.

There has been a lack of transparency in the quarry project. Were other companies allowed to bid? Have there been independent environmental studies? The people of New Brunswick deserve better than this.

On June 2 last year the voters of Acadie—Bathurst decided not to send Doug Young back to Parliament. That should tell the government something. When the voters in someone's own area know enough not to put him back here, nobody should be listening to him.

But it seems, as the

Globe and Mail

put it, Doug Young has remained in the power game. The knowledge he got while at Transport Canada is proving to be very profitable for him because the Bayside Ports situation is not the only situation. While transport minister Doug Young finalized the privatization of Canadian National railway, guess who was his first client at the consulting firm, as the House heard from my colleague from the Reform Party: Paul Tellier, chairman and chief executive officer of CN.

That is not all. In 1995 Doug Young, while he was in the federal cabinet, made a deal with the province of New Brunswick, a federal-provincial highway agreement. Have I got a deal for you. Now Doug Young heads the international consortium Maritime Road Development Corp. which was awarded a contract to build a four lane divided highway in southern New Brunswick. The province of New Brunswick will then lease the road from the private owners and travellers will have to pay tolls on the 195 kilometre stretch, including the 23 kilometre section built as part of the highway agreement signed by Doug Young in 1995.

During the next 30 years it is estimated New Brunswick taxpayers and the travelling public will pay out $2.6 billion in lease payments and tolls. They are going to pay tolls to a company headed by Doug Young, former transport minister, to drive on a section of highway that was funded by the federal and provincial governments.

It is hard to believe this is not a conflict of interest. Doug Young will be benefiting at the expense of New Brunswickers. We could have read in the newspaper that the present Minister of Transport has asked the deputy minister to begin discussions with provincial counterparts to find ways of protecting future public investments in highways when they are transferred to private hands. If that is not reason enough to question Doug Young's credibility, nothing is. I commend the Minister of Transport for his action but we need to go further.

Let us go back to the member for Charlotte's motion. That lack of transparency in the Charlotte County Ports Inc. quarry project is also often lacking in the public partnership deals. The New Brunswick minister of justice acknowledged the need for both government and business to understand these transactions require greater transparency in order to ensure public trust as well as guard the public interest. That is a very important point because politicians do not have public trust.

The New Brunswick auditor general's report called for a halt to these projects until there is genuine analysis of the real benefit to the province's citizens from this approach to the delivery of government services.

The federal government should take note of these words of caution too, as there are more and more public and private partnerships happening. Just last evening I met with people in Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Labrador regarding the alternative service delivery in the privatizing of that base. I heard concerns from that community very similar to the questionable actions in my aforementioned statement.

To conclude, I reiterate my support for the member's motion. There has not been enough transparency in the Charlotte County Ports Inc. quarry project and I believe a review would be advisable.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we carry on with debate, I apologize to the hon. member for Churchill again for missing her constituency.

Since there is no further debate, as is customary in Private Members' Business on a non-votable motion, the member raising the motion is given five minutes to rebut. But it is clearly understood that when the member has his five minutes that is the end of the debate.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. speaker, I appreciate the members who spoke on behalf of my motion. I do want to take the parliamentary secretary to task for some of the things he said. I can understand, coming from the Hamilton harbour area, how he might have dredged up some of his remarks. It would not be uncommon. The member has engaged in that type of activity many times in this House.

In his remarks it was only when he deviated from the written word prepared by the minister's department that he got in trouble. When he speaks off the top of his head and he has to speak on his own, he always gets in trouble.

I am going to take him to task on some of the things he said in this House which are not accurate. He buys into every single thing the people from New York and New Jersey have said about this project. Shame on him.

I think it is time he did his own investigative work on this project. What he talked about is the number of jobs that would be created in this deal. Do you know what it would be? Five jobs, as indicated by the first spokesman for the group as represented by the Randy Waterman interests. His name was Wayne Lockhart. In a public meeting he said to a citizens group there would be five jobs. Why? Because it is not labour intensive. It is done by the use of the biggest equipment known to mankind, so there are not a lot of jobs.

That was not good enough. How are five jobs going to get the interest of any community? How is a community going to get excited over five jobs given the fact that they could decimate a pristine historic river? They went back to the drawing board. When they presented their papers to the province of New Brunswick for submission for the project, the five jobs had suddenly grown to 50 jobs on the same project.

This is where the parliamentary secretary should have done his work. The investigation of any quarry site, any aggregate site, based on the amount of volume they are going to do out of this quarry, in North America would be five jobs. They used an exaggerated number of jobs to gain the attention of the province of New Brunswick.

When the loudmouth from Hamilton speaks and claims that I have a conflict of interest because I live in the area, he is absolutely correct. I carried this fight on long before I arrived in this House. I am working on behalf of my constituents. I am not going to lay over and play dead because of the big boys from New York and New Jersey.

I do not know where this guy is getting his information, but I will tell members one thing. It is not coming from the citizens of the area that I represent. He is being fed information directly out of New York and New Jersey to support their case. There is a direct funnel into the heart of the government of the province of New Brunswick via Al Lacey, a former member of the crown.

In this particular case, as the Reform member mentioned, Doug Young, a paid lobbyist, is on the record as working on behalf of these people. A former minister of the crown actually was the architect for the privatization act. If he is going to speak about the project, if he is going to speak about individuals, he should get his facts right.

The environmental process used in the province of New Brunswick is a flawed process. The citizens of the area asked for a full scale independent environmental assessment of the project. That is all they asked for.

What do they have? They have an in-house process that actually flies in the face of scientific information provided. In fact, the citizens of the area hired two certified geologists to examine the area in question. Do members know what they found? Three fault lines in the area, two of which run through the very businesses in the area, which the province of New Brunswick or the proponents of the project have never declared publicly. Why? Because they would upset the very businesses in the area, one being owned by Moore Clark, one being owned by a company called Woodstock Cold Storage, and others.

It is documented by two certified geologists that this project would endanger those very businesses and the infrastructure in the area, information absolutely overlooked by the parliamentary secretary and all the environmentalists on the payroll of the province of New Brunswick.

That tells me there is something wrong when the transparency we are asking for is not evident anywhere in the process. It is absolutely bizarre.

Charlotte County PortsPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There being no other members rising for the debate and the motion not being designated a votable item, the time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved

Charlotte County PortsAdjournment Proceedings

5:40 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, literary critic Northrop Frye stated: “If Canadian universities are underfunded so badly they can no longer function effectively, Canada would disappear overnight from modern history and become again what it was at first, a blank area of natural resources to be exploited by more advanced countries”.

Our youth deserve a quality, accessible educational system. I will soon be visiting students in my riding at Sir John A. Macdonald high school and I wish I could bring them encouraging news about the future of education.

Our youth are increasingly faced with a deteriorating, less accessible education system. It is a crisis that the people in my riding of Halifax West, people throughout Nova Scotia and people across the country will increasingly suffer from.

This is not a mysterious complex problem with unknown elaborate solutions. This Liberal government has cut federal funding from post-secondary education by $1.5 billion since 1995 alone. The average student debt is $25,000. Shame on this government for trying to dig the country out of debt by dumping the problem on to the backs of our youth.

The Liberal government cannot hide the truth from Canadians, that it is pushing for the privatization of our post-secondary institutions.

I asked the Minister of Finance about this. I informed him that Human Resources Development Canada predicts that by the year 2000 45% of new jobs will require 16 years of education. I also referred him to a government study which shows that since 1980 public transfers for education have been cut in half, from $6.44 for each dollar of student fees in 1980 to less than $3 in 1995.

Perhaps the government thinks that youth today are more wealthy than the youth of the early 1980s. If so, I invite the Minister of Finance and his staff in Halifax to show me where these hoards of youth with excess wealth are hiding.

The minister, in his response to my question, began talking about how parents could save more through RESPs. Then he went on to talk about tax credits to help pay tuition. Again I wish to refer the minister to all of the people in my riding without work who, whether parents or children, cannot bear the thought of mounting $25,000 in student debt.

The youth of Halifax West deserve the opportunity to learn and to develop skills to build a future, as do all the youth of Canada. We cannot afford to risk their future or ours by wasting their talents or by creating more financial barriers to education.

I wish to go on record as challenging the Minister of Finance and the Liberal government to adopt the following principles.

Accessibility should be a new national standard in higher education.

Post-secondary education is a right, not a privilege for the declining number of people who can actually afford it.

The principles of accessibility and affordability should guide any reforms.

Student aid should be based on need rather than merit.

A national system of grants for post-secondary education should be a priority.

Tuition fees should be frozen.

It is high time to move to a system involving grants for post-secondary education and to ensure that eligibility for grants is based solely on need and not the short term demands of mega corporations which are increasingly driving our research and development.

As a first step of goodwill toward the future of our youth, and thus of the country, the government should immediately commit to reinvest in education, starting with this year's drastic and hurtful cut of $550 million.

This reinvestment should be over and above the Canada millennium scholarship fund, which itself should be based on need.

The youth and their families of Halifax West and the rest of Canada deserve no less. It is time to say yes to Canada—

Charlotte County PortsAdjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance.

Charlotte County PortsAdjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the government's commitment to the economic future of Canadians is clear. Assistance to those who need it in order to prepare for the jobs of the future is the linchpin of our policy.

This year provinces will receive $25.2 billion under the Canada health and social transfer, which covers federal contributions to post-secondary education.

As promised in the recent election, the government will increase cash transfers to the provinces so that over the 1997-98 to 2002-03 period provinces will receive nearly $7 billion in extra cash compared to the previously projected levels. This was only possible because the government had already taken tough decisions on the deficit and the Minister of Finance had met the targets set out in successive budgets.

The 1996-97 budget increased tax assistance to higher education. The measures included the extension of the tuition tax credit, enriched treatment of registered education savings plans, and allowed single parents attending school to claim the child care expense deduction.

By 1998 the average post-secondary student will receive about $1,200 in combined federal-provincial tax assistance each year, in effect an increase of 30% from the $900 received before these measures were put in place.

These are significant changes. In the Chamber hon. members recently heard the Prime Minister announce the creation of the Canada millennium scholarship fund. The fund will provide assistance to Canadians pursuing education and skills upgrading. We will be giving a helping hand to low and middle income Canadians who are eager to meet the challenges of the 21st century labour market.

As I said in the opening remarks, the government's commitment is quite clear. The measures that we have and will put in place will give Canadians the tools to build a better future. We are certainly committed to ensure that Canadians and young people have an opportunity to improve their skills and access to education. We have committed to that before. We will continue to do so as we move forward.

Charlotte County PortsAdjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, on December 1, 1997 I asked the President of the Treasury Board whether the government would settle the pay equity dispute fairly, once and for all, or signal to the public that pay equity dead.

Under federal jurisdiction section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act provides that it is discriminatory practice for an employer to establish or maintain differences in wages between male and female employees who perform work of equal value.

In 1984 the Public Service Alliance of Canada filed a pay equity complaint on behalf of its members. They are still waiting for their money in 1998. We have all had the honour of listening to every excuse imaginable as to why it has not been done.

In the past 14 years the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Treasury Board have been through four years of joint union-management pay equity study, almost six years of hearings before a Canadian human rights tribunal and months of fruitless negotiations.

In the 1993 federal election the Liberals promised that if elected they would stop the stalling tactics of the Conservative government and work on an acceptable solution. I guess that was just another one of those promises the electors need to forget once the polling stations close.

The Liberals' idea of a solution was to continue the stalling tactics before the human rights tribunal. When that did not work they put some money on the table. The money is an amount which only partially closes the wage gap between male and female salaries for work of equal value. They are hoping that time will be on their side and that their employees will be forced to wait so long for pay equity that they will agree to any amount.

There is a perception that big business and the wealthy can tie things up in court through appeals for so long that it either breaks the small business or an average person runs out of money or dies. I do not think Canadians ever expected this to be the tactic of our government.

We see it with the Singer workers in Quebec. Government members do not care that they will be in their graves before that is settled. If they did they would have resolved it by now. We are still seeing it with the workers affected by the human rights decision.

Did Mr. Mulroney have as much trouble getting his money? Did the government wait 14 years to pay $474 million in cancellation fees to get out of the EH-101 helicopter deal? Will it take 14 years to finalize the Pearson International pay up? I think not. Why are they being paid and not the workers? Because government workers are ordinary Canadians, low and middle income Canadians.

In December the President of the Treasury Board misrepresented facts. At the same time that PSAC representatives were meeting with Treasury Board officials to continue the talks on pay equity, the President of the Treasury Board was conducting a press conference announcing that the negotiations were to end.

The government did not want to find a way to settle the dispute. The offer put forward by the Treasury Board fails to comply with the Canadian Human Rights Act and pay equity guidelines.

Have we reached a point where we have to go to the Department of Justice to encourage the government to comply with the law? Can Canadians trust that the government will comply with the decision of the human rights commission and pay the people all they are owed now?

Charlotte County PortsAdjournment Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario


Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it is time to set the record straight. We have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to pay equity. We have made a firm offer of $1.3 billion to settle this longstanding dispute.

The union hides behind a smokescreen of rhetoric and refuses to have its members vote on this offer. The union leadership demands are in excess of $5 billion. The PSAC leadership says that it cannot in good conscience present the offer to its members. We believe its members should have an opportunity to decide on their own what is a fair and equitable settlement.

The government has the responsibility to protect and balance the interest of all Canadians. As such we must ensure that pay equity payments respond to legal requirements. The government is firmly committed to a principle of pay equity and wants to have a fair and equitable solution to this dispute with PSAC.

Treasury Board has shown considerable flexibility in its negotiations. In April we tabled an offer valued at $843 million. In August we enhanced it to $1.3 billion in a further effort to reach a negotiated settlement with PSAC. The government believes a negotiated settlement will be in the best interest of all parties and would end the uncertainty for employees.

The tribunal decision will most likely leave some issues unresolved which will require further discussion with PSAC. This means further delays. It may require that the parties file for judicial review on the decision.

Negotiations allow the employer and PSAC to resolve this matter and show that it must be accomplished to resolve these issues. A joint resolution would get the cheques in the hands of employees sooner and would be in everyone's best interest.

Give the workers a vote. Let us not hide behind rhetoric. Let the workers decide now.

Charlotte County PortsAdjournment Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 5.52 p.m.)