House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.


Message From The Senate

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills, to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-5, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code in respect of persons with disabilities, to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act in respect of persons with disabilities and other matters and to make consequential amendments to other acts and Bill S-4, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act (maritime liability).

The House resumed from November 4 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

On debate, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis with eight minutes remaining.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we last had this debate the member for Burnaby—Douglas had a pretty bad accident. I wish him all the very best on returning to the House.

When we started the debate in which I had two minutes of speaking time, I alluded to a reference from Drs. Herbert Handin and Gerald Klerman from the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1993 in which they concluded as follows, and I will repeat the quote to put it in the context of the debate:

If those advocating legalization of assisted suicide prevail, it will be a reflection that as a culture we are turning away from efforts to improve our care of the mentally ill, the infirm and the elderly. Instead, we would be licensing the right to abuse and exploit the fears of the ill and depressed. We would be accepting the view of those who are depressed and suicidal that death is a preferred solution to the problems of illness, age, and depression.

What we are discussing here is not the act of artificially prolonging life. I believe there is a general consensus within society that medical means ought not to be used to artificially prolong the lives of those suffering so much that, to all intents and purposes, their lives no longer have any meaning.

That is not what we are discussing here. What we are discussing here is the proactive act of helping in someone's suicide or death.

We are not debating the withholding or withdrawal of life support systems but whether physicians and others should help suffering individuals to cause their own death. Where do we draw the line once we have crossed the threshold of active euthanasia or assisted suicide?

The patient is inevitably influenced by someone else whether it be a doctor, a relative or a friend. This advice, and more so the act of helping the death of another, can be influenced by so many factors, many emotional, as to become very subjective. Who are we to decide to deliberately terminate a human life? What happens if our judgment happens to have been wrong? It is then too late to change it.

I have a son Peter who is severely handicapped, intellectually handicapped. He cannot hear and almost cannot speak. Lately his kidneys collapsed. I remember meeting with a renal surgeon at the Montreal General Hospital. We were examining whether Peter should be given the same chance as somebody who is productive in society.

Some in society would look at the bottom line and say no, Peter should not have a chance to have dialysis, that it should be given to another person who is productive in society. To the tribute of Dr. Kaye, he decided Peter should be given that same chance as anybody else. Today he goes to dialysis three times a week and brings joy to the people there. He brings joy to the nurses by the fact that he accepts this imposition on him with joy. He has a smile on his face. He brightens up the place. Maybe he is not productive socially. Maybe he is not productive in dollars and cents, but he brings a lesson, which has been a huge lesson, to my own family, to me, to my wife and to our other children.

Who are we to decide? Should we decide that he who is not productive should not have dialysis and so we assist in the termination of his life? What is more, do we decide in our subjective opinion that somebody like him should be terminated earlier to avoid suffering or to avoid his having to go to dialysis considering that already his life is pretty well impaired?

Once we cross a line in the sand that gives any of us the legal authority to help terminate someone else's life, we breach a most sacred trust, the tenet of the sanctity of life.

Today some will hold that Peter should not have been born at all. We have technological instruments that tell us whether a child will have Downs Syndrome or be severely retarded before his birth, so some say he should not have the right to be part of society because he will not be productive and will be a hindrance to his family.

Thank the Lord that we never thought that way. He brought joy to us. He brought a tremendous amount of comfort to our life. He brought an example. Because of him my children are more aware of others with handicaps and of others who are weak in society. I rejoice in his life. I rejoice in the life of every person. Every person has the right to live. We as human beings, so frail and subjective, have no right to decide when a person should die, when we should extinguish a life.

I am totally against the motion. I hope it is rejected.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is in a spirit of respect and compassion that I rise today on Private Member's Business Motion M-123, moved by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas and amended by my colleague for Berthier—Montcalm last November 4.

That motion, if adopted as amended, would read as follows:

That a special committee be appointed, pursuant to Standing Order 105, to review the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide and that the Committee be instructed to report to the House.

This is not the first time in this House that I have addressed this very sensitive issue of growing concern to our fellow citizens of Quebec and of Canada. The purpose of the amendment put forward by my colleague for Berthier—Montcalm is ensure that the parliamentarians who will address this matter in committee will have all the latitude necessary for such a debate. The committee will then be able to carry out its in-depth examination without needing to concern itself about the very significant and demanding requirements that drafting a bill on this matter demands.

What we are debating here today is one of the great ethical debates in developed countries. In the recent past, and particularly these past few months with the so-called Latimer case, it is becoming clear that public opinion about assisted suicide is polarized.

Everyone remembers Sue Rodriguez' fight for the right to die with dignity. More recently, just last week in fact, a citizen of Manitoba was charged with murdering his wife in another case of assisted suicide.

The House of Commons cannot ignore such situations. It does not have the right to bury its head in the sand.

It is therefore essential that a committee look into these issues, hear what the people and stakeholders have to say, and report to the House. It will then be up to the government to legislate on the matter, while showing respect for values and for individuals.

Since the late 1960s, public attitudes about physician-assisted suicide have changed considerably. A 1968 Gallup poll showed that 43% of respondents believed a physician should be legally authorized to end a patient's life when officially instructed to do so in writing by the patient.

The increasing number of cases that have arisen in recent years dictates that we take a serious look at this issue which involves legal, ethical and moral considerations.

I believe this debate is basically about the right to dignity, the right of terminally ill patients or those with deadly diseases to decide when and how they will die.

There have been tremendous advances in medicine during the 20th century and we all expect miracles from medical research. In addition to saving many lives, medicine has extended life, holding death further at bay.

Palliative care designed to reduce suffering in terminally ill patients has greatly improved too. Everyone recognizes that unbearable pain is incompatible with the kind of respect owed to a person, with a person's right to dignity. Unfortunately, this care is not always the panacea it is made out to be. There are patients who continue to suffer not only physically, but also psychologically and emotionally.

If people are suffering from some irreversible illness which seriously affects their quality of life, they should have the right, if it is their wish, to choose when and how they want to leave this world.

However, let us be very clear: the decision must be made in an informed and competent manner. An increasing number of people are making what is called a “living will” so that, should they become sick or suffer a serious accident, they can choose not to receive care or stop treatment.

The purpose of this motion is not to deal with the advisability of euthanasia for those who do not request such a measure, or who are not in a position to make such a request or to do so in an informed manner. The decision to resort to euthanasia rests with the person. It is an extremely important decision. The decision rests with the person alone.

In this regard, the Latimer case raised major concerns among handicapped people and the groups representing them. Such concerns are understandable and legitimate. This is another reason to consider the issue of assisted suicide from every possible angle. To rule out the right to die with dignity is to negate the very real right of a person to choose how his or her life should end.

The ban on assisted suicide, as stated in section 241 of the Criminal Code, can also lead to other types of abuse. A large number of assisted suicides are conducted illegally. This situation has an adverse effect on the dignity of the person. How can we accept that an act conducted illegally, often away from close ones, in a foreign environment, could be the accepted standard in our society? I do not think this could be the case, because compassion is a value in which we all believe.

A parallel can be made with the abortion issue. Abortion was long considered a criminal act. Still, women had abortions. They had them clandestinely and in conditions that could put their life at risk. Decriminalizing abortion has had the effect of greatly improving the conditions in which these acts take place. Charlatans and quackery have disappeared. Once a woman has made her decision, she is entitled to quality care.

I hope Motion M-123 will get the support of a majority of parliamentarians. If death is part of life, if it is its hidden side, then we have a duty to ensure that conditions exist to preserve and promote people's dignity. For us, and for all our loved ones, can we really choose anything other than a gentle and humane death with dignity?

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Motion No. 123 as proposed by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas. This motion advocates that a special committee be appointed to review the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide and that a bill be brought into the House by this committee.

In the 1990s people are now able to live longer than ever before. This is in part because of the fantastic advances that have been made in medical treatment and more positive, personal enhancing lifestyles.

Unfortunately the reality of this situation is that along with prolonged longevity one can also experience a reduced quality of life, especially those afflicted with incurable and degenerative diseases. Diseases such as AIDS, Alzheimers and cancer can make the latter stages of life unendurable.

Persons with these afflictions can see their probable future before they become incapacitated. Some of them will seek assistance to die, desiring greater control over the decisions related to life or death.

In June 1995 the special Senate committee on euthanasia and assisted suicide produced a very comprehensive report. One of the prominent recommendations made within the report was that the Criminal Code be amended to clarify the practice of providing treatment for the purpose of alleviating suffering that may shorten life.

This is not an issue that has been introduced in these chambers for the very first time. Since March 27, 1991 when private member's Bill C-351 was introduced, numerous attempts have been made through the use of motions and private members' bills to bring about significant changes to the Criminal Code, changes pertaining to euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide.

Reading Hansard transcripts of those debates in the past in this House revealed that certain presenters were extremely knowledgeable about this issue, most notably the comprehensive, well researched debates made by the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Every effort in the past was destined to fail due to the fact that the concepts presented were very foreign to the cultured and conditioned minds of members present. Every attempt died on the order paper.

There is much to be gleaned from the legislative judicial accounts in Australia, Netherlands and numerous states south of the border.

I think it is appropriate that the House of Commons now examine this issue as it definitely merits further study. I can imagine no better approach than a House of Commons special committee composed of representatives of each official political party as a means of investigating this complex matter.

Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are certainly contentious, stirring deep emotions in most Canadians. These practices abroad have raised many questions regarding the importance of regulation.

There are several countries that have been utilizing some form of euthanasia. It may be possible that the experience in these countries may make us more sensitive to the benefits as well as the drawbacks of this practice.

Some of the benefits include the empowerment of individuals to decide the extent to which they can live with pain, thus allowing individuals to become more autonomous in medical treatment decision making.

The rationale here is that the extension of life, without an accompanying improvement in the quality of life, is not necessarily the desire of all patients suffering through painful, irreversible medical conditions.

In some instances, preservation of life may imply nothing more than prolonged pain and suffering. Many Canadians believe that allowing individuals to die with dignity is a reasonable proposition. There appears to be growing support among Canadian for the concept of euthanasia.

Let us look at the down side. There are concerns that legislative voluntary euthanasia can lead to involuntary euthanasia or murder as we know it.

We have heard anecdotes of shocking cases in Netherlands, for instance. In one published case, a Dutch general practitioner was called to a patient's home and, meeting her for the first time, immediately asked her to choose between hospitalization and euthanasia.

When the stunned patient could not reply because of her condition, he gave her one hour to think it over. This highlights a concern held by critics of euthanasia who fear that physicians may very well end up taking the initiative in the cessation of life without the voluntary wish of an incoherent individual.

In Netherlands although euthanasia is a criminal offence it is actually not prosecuted as long as specific guidelines are followed. These guidelines were developed following a series of court decisions. The patient must repeatedly and explicitly express the desire to die time and time again. The patient's decision must be well informed, free and enduring. The patient must be suffering from severe physical or mental pain with no prospect of relief. All other options for care must have been exhausted so that euthanasia is a last resort or the patient must have refused other available options. The euthanasia must be carried out by a qualified physician. The physician must consult at least one other physician or consult any other health care professionals. The physician must inform the local coroner that euthanasia has been carried out.

This is the present state of affairs in Netherlands after many years of debating, arguing, court cases and so forth. They have all led to the acquisition of more knowledge and understanding. The spinoff is that the general population also becomes more knowledgeable throughout this process.

During this decade Canadians have been exposed to the concepts of euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide more frequently than in any other decade in our history. Sensational court cases have made it obvious that Parliament must act. The courts should not be making the laws of the land. Members of Parliament must accept that responsibility. Our past minister of justice, the member for Etobicoke Centre, clearly stipulated this position on February 14, 1994. He also declared that it was time for an informed discussion.

The former leader of the Bloc Quebecois, Lucien Bouchard, stated: “Like many Canadians, I was asking questions. Obviously there are very deep personal questions involved and we should, all of us, in a non-partisan way try to set up a new kind of approach to it”.

As parliamentarians we must not enter the debate regarding these contentious issues in an ignorant emotional manner. It is for the purpose of increasing our knowledge and exploring this issue that I stand here today and urge all members to support Motion No. 123.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we go to the next speaker, since our rotation is a little out of order, I will give you a heads up on what is going to happen. We will go to the member for Yukon next, then the member for Elk Island, then the member for Scarborough East and the member for Pictou—Antigonish. Many people would like to speak during this debate, so if you do not need 10 minutes, do not take 10 minutes.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion to have a committee prepare a bill that would deal with physician assisted suicide. We should not force a prolonged painful dreadful death on a rational but incapacitated terminally ill human being.

People are already being assisted with their suicides, with their choice to die with dignity, but it is happening without open discussion and without any safeguards. We need to clarify the practice of any treatment that lessens suffering and may shorten life and withholding or withdrawal of treatment that would prolong life. When are these actions legally acceptable? More important, when are they ethically and morally acceptable.

My mother at 59 suffered a heart attack and became mentally incapacitated, but physically she was very strong. I remember asking the doctor why she was not getting the treatments that would help her. His reply was that she was old and was now mentally handicapped. I argued and pushed for her to have the treatments. She remained very strong physically but her life was certainly limited. My life was devoted to her care.

As time went on, another doctor asked if we should revive her if she had another heart attack. I was appalled. I never believed that I would be asked that question. I did not believe it was for me to answer that question. It was her life. I had never talked to my mother about death and I had never prepared myself to answer a question like that. I never knew what her beliefs were except that she was Catholic and it was not something she wanted.

More than anything, she loved being alive. Her way of life was different. It was limited but it was full of joy. She wanted to be with her grandchildren and she wanted to be with me. That was all that mattered and she loved it. I resented having that question asked because I felt it was wrong. It was an ethical question and if my mother had not made that choice, I was not there to make it for her.

We need to know when the interest of the individual overrides our concern for the whole of society and the implications that physician assisted suicide poses for all of us. These changes, should we make them, would not pre-empt palliative care, pain control or symptom relief. We need safeguards for the sanctity of life and we need to consider those safeguards.

Those who do not want to suffer must give informed voluntary consent that is enduring and free of coercion and they must be able to revoke that consent at any moment. They must be sound in mind, competent and unimpaired when making their decisions and their decisions must be based on complete medical knowledge of their illness. A physician cannot be compelled in any way to participate in the process and no one should ever gain in any way from a physician assisted suicide. The decision must be made by the individual, not by the family, friends, clergy, sons or daughters.

We must let a committee hear all the moral, medical, legal, ethical, religious and societal arguments and attempt to balance those with the pleas of those suffering from a terminal illness.

When I travelled throughout the Yukon in January I spoke to high school students. They were intrigued and fascinated by this question. It was immediately something important to them. A young First Nations boy knew he would do what his elders wanted, that he would not oppose them. He felt he would be wrong in opposing their wishes or the wishes of anyone who asked him for help in that way. He wanted to know more and to talk more.

I telephoned my bishop to hear what he had to say and his concerns. Where should we be going? What historical perspective do we need on this issue? Most of all we cannot leave a person to go into a vehicle, turn on the ignition and die alone and deserted without any ceremony. We cannot allow people to end their lives with indignity.

I believe it is critical to take this time to put all these questions before our countrymen and women and to come to a decision that will assist us all. Then we will not be caught out. We will be able to discuss death and we will not be afraid of it. When it comes to suicide we will be able to discuss the shame we all feel, the sense of loss or the feeling that we have somehow failed someone who no longer wants to be among us.

I support this motion.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I realize this motion is of considerable importance and great consequence.

What is this motion really about? We need to recognize it is part of a political process. Instead of a motion that asks specifically to permit euthanasia, it is legislation by degrees. It first proposes that the committee study this issue in the hopes that everybody will say yes.

Slowly we will be dragged along to accept something we recognize deep inside ourselves is wrong. I believe most Canadians deeply inside themselves know that it is wrong. I am speaking against this motion simply because I am opposed strongly to the outcome of what this motion proposes.

I want to make it very clear that the whole issue of euthanasia and the lack of it in this country has nothing to do with forcing people to undergo continued suffering and artificially prolonging life using extraordinary means. Within the legal values in our country it is already a permissible act to ask that treatment be discontinued. Any patient has the right to deny further treatment.

I also want to emphasize that in our present technological age there have been great advances made in palliative care and in pain control.

The greatest danger in walking down this road is that it is the beginning of a long road which will inevitably have serious ramifications. There is no doubt in my mind as has been experienced in The Netherlands that once we start, the pressure will increase. Elderly people will feel if not direct pressure then subtle pressure to try to save their family members from their grief.

They speak of dying with dignity. I cannot help but think of the passing away of my wife's father several years ago. He had terminal cancer. He suffered with it, yes. There was pain, yes. When I think of the term dying with dignity I think strongly of my father-in-law Mr. Dan Klassen who to the very end kept a strong faith, a strong love for his family. He told me “It is tough to say goodbye. I would like so much to be with mom and the children but I am ready to go. That account with God was settled long ago”. He died with real dignity. That is the dignity of which I speak.

In the past 30 years we have undergone a dramatic change in our thinking. We have shifted 180° from the concept of the sanctity of all human life to the bizarre notion that somehow death is benign. That is a contradictory statement. I wish we would look again at our values and our true roots. Why do we think that death is an option? Is it because we despair of any other solution to our problems?

I was deeply moved by the speech this morning of the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis. His situation is very similar to that of my family. I have spoken in the House before of my sister Marian, who next week will turn 53. She lives in an extended care centre. She was born with cerebral palsy. She cannot speak. She never has. She cannot look after herself. She cannot dress herself. She needs help with eating. She can sometimes eat on her own, but it gets rather messy. However, there are loving people in the facility who will help her clean up.

Somehow many people have come to the conclusion that it would be better for people like her to die. That is a false assumption.

The facility in which she lives is a residential cottage in which disabled people like my sister are looked after. The cottages are brightly coloured. They are named after birds. My sister is in the Swallow cottage along with 20 or 30 others.

I am going to paint a picture of the future if we continue this way of thinking. What would we say if next Tuesday on my sister's birthday a bus were to roll up to the Swallow cottage and take the 20 or 30 residents to the hospital in downtown Moose Jaw and all of those severely handicapped people would undergo one last assessment after which they would be given a lethal injection?

On Wednesday the bus would go to the Swan cottage. On Thursday the Robins would go. On Friday the residents of Owl cottage would go, and so on. There would be 20 to 30 people each day. There are 430 residents living there so it would take a whole month. How many days would pass before there would be a sufficient public outcry to stop this? Is this acceptable? I say no, no, no, a thousand times no. That is not acceptable and it is not a correct way of thinking.

Most of us, I believe, recognize that what I have proposed would be terribly wrong. The simple question I ask is, if it is wrong for all of them, how can it be right for any one of them? How badly we have slipped when we are ready to accede to the notion that the elderly, the handicapped or the suffering are not worthy of being protected.

Recent events in my home province of Saskatchewan show that there is a surprising level of support for ending the life of one who cannot speak for herself. Where are we going? In my view, if we go forward with what is proposed under the term doctor assisted suicide, we are dangerously close to the scene that I have described.

It is not possible to logically argue against it once we have accepted that basic premise. How can we persuade our young people who are contemplating suicide that death is not the answer to their problem?

I cannot say it strongly enough. This whole notion of death to end suffering, to remove a person whose quality of life is judged to be less than acceptable is based on a wrong notion of false premise. I regret that in our society today so many of us are ready and willing to set aside those strong pillars of our society that have protected us and have kept us safe for all these years. In my view, we are indeed on a very dangerous slope and slide to oblivion if we continue with this way of thinking.

There will be some who will argue why not have a committee study it. The Senate committee has engaged in a prolonged study on this. I do not believe that having a committee studying it serves any purpose at all because we are fundamentally opposed to it.

I will close by re-emphasizing my question which I want to burn into the hearts of all of the members here. If it is wrong for all of them, how can it possibly be right for any one of them?

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 1998 / 11:40 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his efforts in bringing this important issue to the floor of the House.

The Parliament of Canada is in fact the proper place for a debate of this magnitude. I was pleased to see that the late Mr. Justice Sopinka recognized that judge-made laws in areas such as this are frequently flawed and do not necessarily represent the consensus values of Canadians. The late justice recognized that the proper role of Parliament and its members is one of debate and deliberation.

In matters such as euthanasia it is very difficult for justices, no matter how learned, to properly deal with such an issue as they are frequently confined to a narrow set of facts and are limited by the laws of evidence on materiality and relevance. As a consequence, by definition they are not able to look at the big picture and are frequently in danger of making charter law which is not consistent with Canadian values.

It is a sad day when legislators yield the legislative floor to jurists. The effect is that we give up our democratic rights in order to replace them with a jurocracy.

The issue that we are dealing with today is more than merely a set of facts on individuals or a subset of individuals as compelling as those facts may be.

Members, from their own personal experience, can relate to a set of circumstances in which an individual appeared to live a prolonged life in great pain and a life of no apparent merit, meaning or purpose within our understanding. I can relate to that as immediately before the death of my father he found himself in such circumstances.

The legislation appears to be merciful. Who can be against mercy? It is called mercy killing by some. In reality, being merciful is far more difficult than merely terminating another's life. Mercy can be just as easily an act to relieve pain which may in some manner prolong life.

For the purposes of debate I will define euthanasia as a act which intentionally hastens another's life for the purpose of relieving suffering with or without the person's consent. While this topic opens up large moral questions, I will limit myself to four main points.

First, consent is almost always problematic. Second, systemic flaws inevitably result in abuse. Third, the state can never sanction the taking of life. Fourth, the relief of pain and suffering is the only appropriate response for limited resources.

The issue of consent is a troublesome one. Consent in law is very complex and vexes the medical community on a daily basis. The giving of consent must be voluntary and free of coercion. It can be revoked at any time. All circumstances are examined at the time of the giving of the consent, including those present and those not present.

In the area of health care on matters of much lesser magnitude than life or death, consent continues to be a problem of great vexation for the medical community. It is a matter of daily litigation in our courts. In my view there is no system mature enough to recognize the granting of final, irrevocable consent to terminate life. Therefore I am of the view that it is beyond the wisdom of human beings to impute consent and that the ability of the patient is impaired in some manner.

Frequently those in pain will say almost anything to be relieved of pain, including an apparent consent to terminate their lives. At best consent is temporal; at worst it is meaningless. Any person purporting to act on such a consent is imputing an intention which may or may not exist. In my view there is no form of consent that can be given or drafted on which any other person can rely.

This brings me to my next point, the use and abuse to which consent could be put. I have operated in the justice system in Ontario for the past 22 years. It has its flaws and it certainly is underfunded. I would argue that it is among the best justice systems in the world.

In spite of their heroic efforts and equally heroic efforts of legislators to draft procedurally sound laws, it has been shown to have a number of obvious weaknesses. These weaknesses have manifested themselves in a number of ways. Victims have felt it necessary to organize themselves so that their story does not get lost. Caveat, MADD and such organizations exemplify flaws in the justice system. Evidence disappears with disturbing regularity. Witnesses contradict themselves and each other. This is as good as the system gets in the world. It is far from perfect in matters of criminality, let alone matters of life and death.

A few years ago parliament saw fit to abolish capital punishment. As a consequence Messrs. Marshall, Morin and Millgard are with us today. The state chose not to participate in the taking of life because it recognized its own limitations and flaws. It is my submission that no system can ever be devised that could possibly prevent the wrongful taking of life.

A simple example is our health care system which continues to be underfunded and under tremendous strain. We are under continuous pressure to free up resources. It is quite clear that one can talk oneself into a position that one is merciful by ending Mrs. Jones' life. My submission is that that will make the difficulties of 1997-98 look like child's play.

My final point is to address the root motivation that brings forth the legislation. It is very difficult for decent human beings to watch people suffer, especially the ones we love.

I am told by competent health care professionals that a great deal of pain related suffering can be alleviated by proper pain therapies. In my view it would be the proper direction of this legislature to encourage the medical profession to explore areas of pain alleviation.

In summary, Mr. Justice Sopinka was right. This is a matter for the House, not a matter for supreme court justices. We should not be driven by a particularly egregious set of facts because bad facts make bad law.

Consent in matters of life and death is almost impossible to give and notoriously unreliable. No system, no matter how carefully devised, will be free of abuse and misuse. The state should not be involved in the sanctioning of the taking of life. Relief of pain and suffering needs to be better researched and better practised.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on behalf of my colleagues in the Progressive Conservative Party on this very decisive and emotional issue. It is one that is obviously of great importance to all Canadians and certainly, listening to the comments in the House, of great importance to all members.

I should note from the outset that the Progressive Conservative caucus has decided that each individual member should reflect on his or her own conscience. As well, each and every member should reflect on the views put forward by their constituents. As such, our party will be voting on this motion accordingly.

While in the parliamentary sense our caucus has opted for a free vote approach among members, there is nothing free about the consequences of the motion put forward. Although the motion merely deals with the convening of a special committee to examine the Criminal Code provisions dealing with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, the long term consequences are something that all members of this place, regardless of political affiliation, will consider when reviewing such a motion.

Canadians from coast to coast, particularly those in the medical profession, are in need of direction. Indeed most Canadians sadly face at some time or another the devastating tragedy of death whether by terminal illness, accident, age or infirmity.

I commend the member for Burnaby—Douglas for his hard work and dedication to the issue. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the member's stand, one cannot help but respect the strength and passion the member brings to the House in this debate.

I also welcome the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas back to the House after his very serious accident over the holidays. One thing I have come to learn in the short time I have been in the Chamber is that this place is a more lively and open forum with the participation of the member for Burnaby—Douglas. Indeed it would have been a shame had this debate taken place without his presence. In any event, I wish the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas good health and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

As previously mentioned, recent court cases have highlighted the fact that euthanasia is on the minds of many Canadians. Unfortunately specific case references can be misleading because they are fact specific. As the hon. member opposite noted bad facts do make for bad law. Regardless of whether one supports or opposes the motion, in my view the very heart of euthanasia beats with the question of life itself.

When we look to the issue of abortion the question frequently posed is when does life begin. As we look at this issue the question we pose is simply when does life truly end. The questions may be simple; the answers certainly are not.

Canadian society among many societies in the world has not been able to reach a clear consensus. The continued advances made in medical technology pose new questions on issues of life and death. We need only to look at the developing controversy surrounding the issue of human cloning to know this to be true. It is very difficult to predict what the coming years may bring if technology continues to advance at this pace.

Creating life, as ending it, inevitably prompts an atmosphere of controversy. Those two inevitabilities provoke a moral and legal debate of mammoth proportions. As many in the House know and acknowledge, a Senate committee recently examined the question of euthanasia. While consensus was not reached on the core issue itself, two conclusions were reached that we should keep in mind during this debate.

First is an increased need for long term palliative care in Canada going unmet by the current health care system. Second, both medical practitioners and personal care givers need better guidance and protection so that they do not contravene sections of the Criminal Code.

While I read and consider what medical advice can achieve today compared to a hundred years ago I cannot help but be truly amazed that the advances made in technology have literally changed the rules of life and death. For example, medical practitioners are able to treat pneumonia for a person suffering from terminal cancer. Kidney failure or heart attack is no longer fatal at times when met with appropriate medical interventions. Should we now allow those same medical advances to alleviate the suffering of terminally ill through the acceleration of death?

Let us consider the arguments of euthanasia proponents. They point to a dramatically improving ability of providing palliative care to persons suffering from long term afflictions. With respect to the advances of medical and medicine technology, these advocates would say that we as a society must stop asking the question of what can be done medically and start asking instead with the query of what should be done.

Medical ethics make the distinction between active and passive euthanasia. I cite the basis upon which the North American Medical Association distinguishes the two. This statement is taken from the medical association:

The intentional termination of the life of one human being by another—is contrary to that for which the medical profession stands—The cessation of the employment of extraordinary means to prolong the life of a body when there is irrefutable evidence that biological death is imminent is the decision of the patient and

or his immediate family.

There are others who clearly reject the clear-cut distinction between active and passive euthanasia. These individuals would claim that whether treatment is withdrawn to cause death or treatment is applied to cause death the result is inevitable and the same.

Philosopher James Rachels wrote the following to support this view:

Fixing the cause of death may be very important from a legal point of view, for it may determine whether criminal charges are brought against a doctor. But I do not think that this motion can be used to show a moral difference between active and passive euthanasia.

The application of society's standards on individual questions of life and death will always be difficult ones, especially without clear answers to the questions of life and death. We are never left to forget the question of the rights of the individuals versus the rights of society.

Euthanasia proponents contend that individuals have the right to decide their destinies, including the right to end their lives in the event of terminal illness. Furthermore, they would have the Criminal Code make allowances for terminally ill patients who request euthanasia.

It is indeed difficult to ignore the pleas of those afflicted with debilitating diseases. Certainly persons in the House and Canadians throughout the land do not in any way want to see individuals suffer. That principle however is paramount.

For those who strongly oppose any form of euthanasia and the sanctity of life the questions of viability and of ensuring that consent is voluntary are extremely important. They believe that allowing for active euthanasia will lead to abuses. This is again a grave concern. To die with dignity, certainly the last wish we all have, will protect society and is nevertheless the cornerstone of the Criminal Code of Canada.

I am pleased to speak on this issue. I should note again that the Progressive Conservative caucus will be releasing its members from party lines to vote their conscience.

EuthanasiaPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders


Brant Ontario


Jane Stewart Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-28, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Children's Special Allowances Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Employment Insurance Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act, the Old Age Security Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act, the Tax Rebate Discounting Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Western Grain Transition Payments Act and certain acts related to the Income Tax Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders


Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak on behalf of the government in support of Bill C-28. This legislation has many parts, as you so clearly outlined a few seconds ago, but its actions are bound by a single consistent dynamic: a strong economy, a strong society.

The relationship between a strong society and a strong economy was highlighted in last fall's federal economic and fiscal update. It has been at the heart of our government's action agenda from the beginning of its first mandate.

We committed ourselves to a historic turnaround in Canada's federal finances because we understood that sustained deficit reduction was the key to lower interest rates and higher economic growth. We also understood, and made quite clear, that lower rates and higher growth are not ends in themselves. Instead, they were the best way to achieve the real bottom line benefits which Canadians deserve, more jobs and the national resources to make strategic social investments where and when needed.

As we near a new millennium Canadians are even closer to the threshold of a major change in our economic history, the day the federal government is deficit free. This progress, coming faster than we originally dared hope, is indeed delivering benefits we always expected. It has created the conditions for lower interest rates and sustained economic growth and these have set the stage for further milestones.

Last year 363,000 new jobs were created. That is the best record since 1994. In December the unemployment rate was the lowest in seven years. This is one important human aspect of the rewards which come from faster than expected fiscal progress.

Another vital dimension is reflected in today's legislation. We are now in a position where we can make key social investments, investments which respond directly and concretely to the concerns of Canadians. Just as important, we can make these investments without jeopardizing our continued advance to a balanced budget.

The most significant part of this legislation clearly is the measure to increase the cash floor of funding to the provinces under the Canada health and social transfer. Bill C-28 increases the guaranteed amount of federal cash funding—funding for health care, post-secondary education and social assistance and services—from $11 billion to $12.5 billion a year through to the year 2002-03. It starts applying this higher cash floor one year earlier than originally slated.

This means the provinces will receive close to an extra $7 billion in cash over six years. That is by far the largest new spending commitment we have made since first coming to office.

The CHST measure represents by far the most financially substantive measure in Bill C-28 and the one ultimately affecting the lives of most Canadians.

Before I get into the specifics of that measure, let me address the other parts of this wide ranging bill and, in particular, the two tax measures that also reflect our commitment to strengthening Canadian society.

First, Bill C-28 follows through on our 1997 budget pledge to help and encourage Canadians to save for the post-secondary education of children. Under this legislation we are increasing the amount that Canadians can invest in a registered education savings plan from $2,000 to $4,000 a year for each student beneficiary.

As well, Bill C-28 will allow someone who has contributed to an RESP but who then sees the intended student not go on to post-secondary education to transfer the income from the plan to an RRSP. This will reduce the risk and the disincentive that parents may face that the benefits of the RESP investment could be completely forfeited if their child chooses not to pursue higher education.

Indeed education is the equalizer, the instrument by which a level playing field can be created for all Canadians to help them compete in a fast paced changing economy. This important change will continue to support the task of improving access to post-secondary education for our youth.

Bill C-28 also takes important steps to encourage and support charitable giving by Canadians. It increases the amount of donations for which the charitable credit can generally be claimed to 75% of net income from the previous 50% mark. This 75% limit will apply equally to all charities, eliminating the previous advantage enjoyed by donations to the crown and crown foundations.

The legislation also reduces the income inclusion rate on capital gains arising from certain donations such as stocks, shares and bonds from 75% to 37.5%. This was an area where the existing tax law in Canada was much less generous than in the U.S. Now, with Bill C-28, Canadian charities will enjoy an equal footing with those in the United States.

Each of these three measures which affect the CHST, registered education savings plans and charitable giving provides concrete bottom line support in areas that contribute to the individual well-being of millions of Canadians and to our nation as a whole.

Using the resources of a strong economy to ensure a secure and compassionate society is a key obligation of government. However, we must not put aside our work to maintain and expand that economic strength. One of the foundations of a well-functioning economy is an effective, fair and transparent tax system, a system that allows companies and individuals to focus on the work of building and growing their companies or personal endeavours through real value added, not through manipulation of tax rules.

That is why Bill C-28 includes a range of technical tax measures, including rules relating to transfer pricing. These rules are based on international standards established by the OECD and will ensure that when goods are transferred cross border between elements of a multinational corporation, the pricing involved is based on the principle of arm's length dealings. In other words, companies will not be able to avoid or manipulate taxes by setting a transfer price that is artificial or arbitrary.

Rules that restrict the transferability of losses between affiliated persons will ensure that the federal tax base is not eroded by, for example, one company selling its tax losses to another unaffiliated company.

Also included are rules that apply when a corporation becomes or ceases to be exempt from income tax. This ensures that a tax exempt crown corporation is not able to store up tax deduction and credits if it does not need them and then use them to reduce its taxable income and tax payable after it has been privatized and becomes taxable.

Finally, it includes a measure that ensures that there will be no tax penalty for Canadians receiving disability benefits should the insurance company paying the benefits become insolvent and an employer takes on the responsibility for paying those benefits.

I should point out that these technical provisions of Bill C-28 regarding taxation were made public long ago through draft legislation and ways and means motions. As a result they have been closely scrutinized by private sector experts. The legislation before us truly reflects the revisions and improvements brought to us by such consultation and expert commentary.

I am confident that these sections of Bill C-28 carry the support and acceptance of the sectors involved and deserve the same support from this House.

Let me return to the subject of the CHST as it is undoubtedly the part of this legislation which touches most broadly on the public interest.

It has been claimed by some, and will likely be said again during the debate in this House, that Canada's provinces have contributed an unfair share to federal deficit reduction. The opposition parties may get up today to belittle the enrichment to the CHST floor that Bill C-28 provides, arguing that we are merely restoring some of the funds that we have taken away. Let us be clear. The fact is that as we launched our deficit reduction strategy a contribution from virtually all areas of federal spending was the only way to get Canada's financial house in order.

Reductions were made in transfers to provinces under the CHST when it took effect for 1996-97. This action was not unfair. It was very necessary. It is because we took the necessary action when we did that we can now say that the era of cuts is over. If we had not taken the tough action that we did, today's legislation might be very different.

Rather than providing renewed funding for key social programs, we might be coming before this House to ask for new cuts and additional restrictions. We do not have to look very far. The Ontario government is today looking for billions of dollars more out of its education programs to finance its premature tax cuts and increased spending. Because we did what had to be done, when it had to be done, we have been able to achieve the federal fiscal success that is beginning to pay real dividends, dividends of solid benefits to each province and all Canadian citizens.

Remember it was the strong majority of Canadians who demanded that the deficit problem be resolved. They have supported our action plan. Without their support our success would not have been possible.

No objective observer can question what had to be done. The hard truth is provincial transfers represent about 20% of all our federal program spending. That is one dollar in every five. There was simply no way we could meet out deficit commitment to Canadians without touching transfers. We worked hard to make these cuts as fair as possible. This deficit cutting exercise was transparent. It was done in consultation with Canadians and their provincial governments. We gave provinces a full year's notice of our plans so that they had time to adjust their priorities and programs.

There is another aspect of the CHST that demonstrates our commitment to fairness and to positive partnership with the provinces. In response to the provinces' request for flexibility we restructured the previous system with its separate targeted components into a single Canada health and social transfer. This addressed the longstanding provincial concern that the inflexible conditions associated with the previous transfer systems did not allow them to meet specific regional needs and opportunities. We instituted the CHST to deliver greater flexibility while still firmly upholding the principles of the Canada Health Act.

Mr. Speaker, you do not bring down a $42 billion deficit by nibbling at the margins. This government tried to be as fair as possible and that meant hitting ourselves harder than we cut anyone else. Let us look at the facts. And as I said earlier, the opposition parties will soon get up to talk about how we have not cut any spending.

In 1996-97 total provincial entitlements including the CHST and equalization amounted to $35.7 billion. That was a drop of $1.7 billion or 4.5% since 1993-94. I had better repeat that just so we are very clear. The facts are that in 1996-97 total provincial entitlements including the CHST and equalization amounted to $35.7 billion. That was a drop of $1.7 billion or 4.5% since 1993-94.

In contrast, our own program spending declined $6.9 billion over the same period. That is 12.5%, more than double the transfer ratio. Some provinces and some in this House may try to give a different set of numbers. That is because they refuse to recognize that tax points are an important component of the total provincial entitlement.

These tax points have been provided to the provinces over the years. They mean real money in their hands and a real loss of money to the federal government. In fact this year alone the value of tax points we have ceded to the provinces is nearly $13 billion. That is why the total support to the provinces under CHST today exceeds $25 billion.

An interesting point which needs to be made over and over again is that the value of these tax points will grow as the economy strengthens. That is why the total value of the CHST to provinces is slated to increase 2.5% annually on average. This means that the CHST is projected to reach more than $28 billion by 2002-03.

There are two final points I want to offer concerning the enrichment of the CHST under this legislation.

First, the cash floor it sets is $12.5 billion. This was not devised by some bureaucrats in the back room. This was not a figure that was pulled out of the air. It is the precise amount recommended by the National Forum on Health.

Some hon. members may remember that in last fall's economic update the Minister of Finance said that the increase in cash floor would mean an extra $6 billion for the provinces. Today, as I said earlier, this cumulative gain will be nearly $7 billion.

Some may be wondering where the extra money came from. The fact is that transfer payment schedules are re-estimated twice a year as economic data moves from the realm of preliminary estimates to final results. What this does is it again highlights the benefits of the tax point component of the CHST. It is because economic growth has been stronger than originally projected that the tax point portion of the CHST is worth more.

When the discussion surrounding CHST occurs in the House, I hope that members will continue to articulate the importance of the tax point portion of the transfer because the tax point portion will continue to increase as the economy grows. We have just seen that in a very tangible way by an additional $1 billion flowing through the CHST because of the increase in economic activity.

Under the previous circumstances, before Bill C-28, before the cash floor was put in, the increase in tax points would have triggered a reduction in the cash portion of the federal funding that provinces would receive. Because this legislation sets the $12.5 billion cash floor, it cannot drop. The provinces get to keep the extra dividend. That is the source of the additional $1 billion.

This legislation guarantees that the future growth in the tax point component of the CHST will not see the cash portion decline below $12.5 billion over the next five years. In other words, at least $12.5 billion in federal funds will be there each and every year. It will be there to help provinces provide the national health care system which is cherished by Canadians. It will be there to support the post-secondary education that gives young Canadians new opportunities for the future. And it will be there to support social assistance so Canadians in need will not be abandoned or betrayed.

Canada's fiscal progress has been won by the hard work and the shared commitment of the vast majority of Canadians. Now that this progress is making possible renewed investment in key social areas, it is only proper that such a dividend go where it does the most good, toward helping the most Canadians. Surely the Canada health and social transfer honours that criteria. Just as surely, Bill C-28 deserves the support of each and every hon. member of this House.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to rise today to speak to Bill C-28. I wish a Happy New Year to you, Mr. Speaker, to all those who are watching and to my colleagues across the way.

Sadly I cannot support Bill C-28. I am disappointed that the government would bring in a tepid housekeeping bill as its first order of business when real action is demanded in the country today. In case my friends across the way have forgotten, we have a debt of $600 billion. We have taxes that are far higher, 56% higher than the taxes of our trading partners around the world.

My friend alluded to another problem just a minute ago. The government has cut so dramatically in areas like hospitals and higher education that many people are suffering today. Instead of cutting into the government operations, as my friend suggested they did, they really took the broad axe to hospital beds and education instead.

I am disappointed this is the first piece of legislation. The government could have made a better effort.

My friends across the way will undoubtedly be just about dislocating their own shoulders from patting themselves on the back because we are now in a position where we have a balanced budget in our country. Reformers are certainly supporters of a balanced budget. That is one of the reasons the Reform Party came into being in the first place 10 years ago. We have been pushing the government hard on this issue, but we disagree completely with how the government achieved it.

I mentioned how the government has cut deeply, how it has cut transfers to the provinces for hospital beds and for higher education by 35%. However when it came to trimming its own spending, the cut was around 13% despite the fact that in 1995 the finance minister told the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City that when he made his cuts they would fall disproportionately on government operations. That is unfortunately not the case.

My friends across the way feel that we can break out the champagne since we have a balanced budget now. However, I want to bring us back to reality by quoting from a couple of articles printed recently in the Ottawa


. An article written by Nicholas Patterson on December 6 states:

Our standard of living and prosperity, compared to other countries, has dropped like a stone from third highest in the world to twelfth in less than a decade. So says the World Bank, the leading global economic monitoring agency, using the yardstick of national per capita income, the universally accepted measure of economic success. And, Canada is the only one of 13 major industrial countries to experience an absolute decline in its real standard of living, an event unprecedented for our country since the depression.

He goes on to say:

Worse still, our “true” level of unemployment, at an eye-popping 18%, is almost two and a half times worse than the U.S., when discouraged unemployed workers and involuntary part time workers are included. This is because in a healthy economy like the U.S. with virtually full employment and emerging labour shortages there are relatively few such workers since anyone who wants a job can generally find one. Thus the failure of the Canadian economy is a good deal worse than it first appears.

There is a more recent article and this comes from the government itself, from an internal study done by the industry department. This is from the Ottawa


of Friday, January 30:

But an internal study compiled by the industry department raises serious doubts about whether Canada has much to brag about.

Here are some of the findings:

There is a worsening national income gap between Canada and the U.S., with Americans now 25% richer than Canadians.

As the U.S. economy gets richer, it pays workers better. On average, American manufacturing workers get paid $1 per hour more than their Canadian counterparts. The salary gap is particularly pronounced in occupations requiring high skills, with U.S. engineers, computer scientists and architects earning on average nearly $11,000 more than their Canadian counterparts in 1993.

I can speak from personal experience having sat on a plane not too long ago with a bureaucrat from Revenue Canada who was at a job fair in Toronto. He said that they were losing somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 people a month from Revenue Canada in the high tech industry to go not only to the private sector but outside the country for precisely the reasons that are outlined in this article.

Again, taxes and debt are absolutely killing prospects for many bright young Canadians in this country. Unfortunately, my friend across the way did not draw attention to this. The same article goes on to say:

Not so long ago, Canadians were among the world's biggest savers, but now they salt away a smaller share of their incomes and hold more personal debt than do Americans. As of the end of March 1997, Canadians were saving about 2% of their incomes, down from close to 12% in 1989.

What a huge drop. The U.S. savings rate has held steady at around 6%. The article goes on to say that the U.S. economy has grown 5% faster than Canada's during the 1990s. It goes on to say that in the vast services portion of the economy, and even in natural resources and agriculture, American companies are growing faster while Canadian companies are losing ground.

We have a dollar that is now worth what, 68 cents, if we are lucky. And we cannot keep with the Americans when it comes to natural resources. Here is a country that is blessed with unbelievable natural resources, but our industries cannot keep up even with the 68 cent dollar.

My friends opposite want to paint a rosy picture. I do not buy it for a moment. The government's own study goes on to say that in total the Canadian manufacturing industries have been calculated to be only 70% as productive as their U.S. counterparts. It goes on to say that Canadian workers are now one quarter less productive than American workers.

I do not think that is any reason to break out the champagne. I think it is ridiculous that the government somehow thinks it defeated all the economic monsters out there. We have a balanced budget. That is all. We still have a debt of $600 billion.

To help balance the budget, the government raised taxes 37 times, including the massive tax increase that came in on January 1, the CPP tax hike. I am not as excited as my friends across the way about their progress with respect to the economy in this country.

Just a day or two ago I saw an article in the

Globe and Mail

concerning how the country's economy had gone soft in November. We saw a drop in GDP. People are concerned that perhaps the government has put on its rose coloured glasses.

In light of all these problems, I call on my colleagues in the House to join me in making a couple of new year resolutions. We are at the beginning of the parliamentary new year so we can make a couple of new year resolutions. The first one is that we should resolve to give Canadians back control over their own lives. We do that by controlling the size and reach of governments. Let us resolve to give Canadians back some control.

The second resolution I would make, which relates pretty closely to the first one, is to support the family budget by ensuring that we control the size and appetite of the federal budget.

In addressing the first resolution, giving Canadians back control over their lives, I simply point out that Canadians today work six months out of the year simply to pay their taxes; 48 cents of every dollar they earn now goes to pay taxes. Right away Canadians have lost a substantial amount of control over their own lives. Half their income is gone which leaves them with fewer options. They have to do all the things that families want to do with 52 cent dollars. If they want to put their kids through university they have to do it with a 52 cent dollar. If they want to go on vacation it is with a 52 cent dollar unless they go to the United States in which case it is probably a 25 cent dollar.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

An hon. member

After tax.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

12:30 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Yes, after tax. If they want to put the kids in ballet or in hockey they have to do it with 52 cent dollars. This makes it extraordinarily difficult. Sometimes people have to sacrifice these things and often they do. Since 1990 disposable incomes in Canada have fallen by $3,000 for the average family of four. This makes it extraordinarily hard for people to live their lives as they want to do.

I point to another example of where I feel the government has taken over too much control of the lives of Canadians. The most timely one is the Canada pension plan. For the last 30 years the government decided it would look after pensions for Canadians. Over the last 30 years governments knew the Canada pension plan was going off the rails. In fact when it was set up it was doomed to fail. For 30 years the Conservative and Liberal governments did nothing. In the meantime a liability of almost $600 billion was run up.

All this is coming to light and the government's only solution is to keep control of a plan which it has absolutely botched. It is now asking all working Canadians to pay another $700 a year as a reward for the job they have done for the government to provide them with the same pensions they were getting before, $8,800 a year. Actually it is a little less than they were getting before.

It is time for the government to begin giving up some control. Let us let workers control the money they now have to give to government. Some young entrepreneur who is just entering the workforce today will have to pay $3,200 a year for the next 45 or 47 years, until they are 65 years old, to get a pension of $8,800. That is so ridiculous it hardly deserves comment. Unfortunately that is what is happening. The government refuses to consider any of the options.

Around the world countries such as Australia, the U.K. and the United States are moving toward the idea of a personalized RRSP type system. They are giving workers control over their own lives. People are building up huge retirement accounts for themselves and for their families. However our power hungry government steadfastly refuses to do so. I do not know what else to attribute it to. The government refuses to allow Canadians to retain control over their own income. I do not understand why. I do not understand why the government never considered looking at some of the other options when it was investigating all this a couple of years ago.

Government members went across the country to talk with Canadians about what government should do about the $600 billion liability. They only met with 270 Canadians who were told “Your only option is to fix the plan as it now is”. That was the only option offered. That is ridiculous.

If there is to be a consultative process in a modern democracy, government should be willing to consider all options. Sadly that was not done and Canadians are now saddled with an unbelievably unfair tax hike that will hurt young Canadians more than anybody. It will drive a wedge between generations in years to come.

What is the solution to the problem of government grabbing more and more control and getting bigger and bigger? The solution is obvious. We should simply return to the tradition of limited government which we had for close to the first 100 years of Confederation. Until 1965 the level of Canada's taxes compared to the economy was only 27.7%. The G-7 average was 27.6%. We were almost exactly on par. The 1996 statistics indicate that Canada's taxes as a percentage of the size of the economy represent 43%. The G-7 average is 36%.

Not only have we grown tremendously relative to how much we taxed people in 1965. We have also grown tremendously compared to our trading partners in the G-7. We are about 25% higher than them in terms of the total economy. Our income taxes are 56% higher than those of our G-7 trading partners.

We should return to the tradition we had of limited government, a government that lives within its means, does a few things well that only the federal government can do and should do, and a government that allows the provinces, municipalities, individuals, families and charities to do all the rest. Does it not make sense for the federal government to focus on the things only it can do?

It would have benefits well beyond saving a few dollars. Maybe we would have a government that was actually effective at delivering some of the essential services which only the federal government can deliver.

Imagine if the federal government took all the bureaucrats who occupy the buildings in downtown Ottawa and focused them on fixing the criminal justice system. We might even have a criminal justice system in which Canadians have confidence.

Imagine if we focused some of the savings on equipping our Canadian military? The Reform Party raised the issue, before the House rose for the Christmas recess, of a soldier in Bosnia who suffered head injuries when a vehicle rolled over because we could not supply him with a helmet. I cannot believe it.

The federal government should focus on fixing the Canadian military and providing the equipment that is needed. Our soldiers did an outstanding job in helping Quebeckers and Ontarians during the recent ice storm. Let us give them the equipment to do the job when they go overseas to Bosnia or Haiti or wherever they are sent. That is the sort of thing the federal government should focus on. If it did those things instead of getting into all these other things it would have the money to do so.

My friend across the way is saying we need the money. Of course we need money. However, instead of spending $24 million on a flag program at the same time that hospital beds were being cut, maybe the government should have taken a look at the priorities of Canadians.

One solution in giving Canadians more control over their lives is simply to return to our tradition of limited government, a government which lives within its means, a government which does not spent more than it takes in.

Our party would invoke balanced budget legislation to ensure that legislators keep their promises and live within their means so that we do not saddle future generations with huge amounts of debt either through CPP or through the debt the federal government has already built up.

My second point is that it is time to support the family budget by controlling the appetite of the federal budget. There are three steps in doing so. The first step is that we have to freeze spending at its current levels and reallocate spending within those levels, within the hundred billion dollar budget.

If we did that, what would happen very quickly is that money that goes toward flag programs would get put into health care. Money that goes to building golf courses, which is something the government actually does, believe it or not, would go into things like research and development. If spending were reallocated into things Canadians really care about, people would be forever thankful to the federal government for finally doing the things they care about.

If the government focused on fixing the criminal justice system and doing those sorts of things instead of getting into fuzzy, ill defined projects, Canadians would be quite grateful.

The second step is to secure our future by paying down debt. My friends across the way proposed in the election campaign last year, in the throne speech and recently in the prebudget report of the finance committee that they would like to see 50% of any surpluses spent on new spending. That shocked me. I could not believe it when I heard it.

We are just emerging from a deficit we have had for 27 years. We have a debt of $600 billion. The average family pays $6,000 a year in tax just to pay their share of interest on the debt. It is unbelievable. My friends across the way want to start spending again. I cannot believe how imprudent, how foolhardy that approach is. It is absolutely ridiculous.

We need a plan to pay down the debt. The government does not have a plan. The Reform Party has come up with a plan. If we took half the surpluses we will soon be running and devoted them toward paying down debt, we would very quickly be in a situation where we would have reduced our debt to GDP ratio from over 70% down now to about 20% by 2016.

In the process of doing so, when we get down to about 45% of GDP mark we would probably start to recapture our triple


credit rating and interest costs would start going down. When we get down to about 20% of GDP, or a real cut of around $240 billion in overall debt, there would be a savings every year of about $20 billion in interest payments Canadians are currently making. That $20 billion could go back into hospitals, research and development, or possibly be used to deal with the huge unfunded liability in the Canada pension plan. A lot could be done with that $20 billion.

I must point out to my friends across the way how imprudent they are. We have a debt of $600 billion. We have a global marketplace and a global environment. We have things like an Asian crisis that help spike interest rates or cause all kinds of volatility. Unfortunately the government in its wisdom does not think it is a problem. It would rather take any surpluses and devote them to new spending.

My final point is that we must create an environment for prosperity and opportunity. We should not be driving up taxes evermore. Our income tax is 56% higher than the G-7 average, according to a report from the government's industry department. We are 25% less wealthy than our American colleagues across the boarder.

The Reform Party would take the other half of the surplus and devote it to lowering taxes. That would do more for the average Canadian then all the fuzzy headed social programs the government is embarking on, the 31 new programs it announced in the throne speech.

My other point is that my friends across the way have made a history in this country with the claim that they are more compassionate. I will address that head on. I wonder how compassionate it is to allow a family of four with an income of $32,000 to pay $3,000 in federal income tax. How compassionate is it to allow a single mother with one child, a waitress who makes $15,000, to pay over $1,300 in income tax?

Canada is the stingiest of all G-7 trading partners in how we treat low income Canadians with respect to basic exemptions. We are the stingiest. That is unbelievable to me. We always hear about Canada's tolerance and compassion. Where is the tolerance and compassion in that? Let us elevate all those people. Let us lift them off the tax rolls by bringing in tax relief that will allow those people to not pay any federal income tax.

I have raised the following issue in the House before and it deserves mention again. We have talked about people like Alice Strelaf, an older lady who lives in Abbotsford. She wrote to us because she was concerned about her personal situation. She had an income of about $18,000. She had to mortgage her home in order to pay income tax. She had to turn down the heat in her house so she could somehow get by. She is paying thousands of dollars in taxes every year. That is ridiculous.

There is a lot the government can do to help people. It can break that ridiculous promise it made in the election campaign and devote more of that money to paying down the debt on one hand and to lowering taxes on the other.

Bill C-28 is insubstantial stuff. It does not address the real issues that Canadians are concerned about. From an unemployment rate of 8.6% to staggering taxes to record high debt, those things need to be addressed. We need to address what would happen to the strength of the dollar if we suddenly started to pay down debt. It would go up dramatically. We need to deal with those issues and not the insubstantial housekeeping stuff the government seems to think is so important.

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12:45 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, before I begin to speak to Bill C-28, I would ask your permission to pay special tribute to the people of my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot who, with courage and determination and always a smile, endured—and some of them are still enduring— the hardships of the ice storm in the past month.

I would say to them that I and my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois—I see the member for Drummond is here—will support them to the end. We will support them in their difficulties, as we have since the start of this disaster, and we will continue to ensure that they are treated properly. I refer, among other things, to the promise made by the Minister of Human Resources Development to eliminate the qualifying period and to not collect overpayments from the victims of the storm. I am talking as well about the various programs for small and medium size businesses, the very small businesses and the self-employed.

I can assure you that my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and I will work tirelessly to ensure that these people and companies obtain satisfaction when they need the full support and all the efforts of the members of the Bloc Quebecois.

A famous Quebec legislator has always said that, when an omnibus bill is presented in Parliament—

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

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Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

I would ask my Liberal colleague for a little more respect, because we have important things to say to his government and especially to the Minister of Finance.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

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12:45 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, could you ask my Liberal colleague to show a little respect, please?

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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I ask the hon. member to please listen to the debate.

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12:50 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you for your comment, Madam Speaker.

As I was saying, a great Quebec legislator always said that, when a government introduced an omnibus bill in the House, you had better watch out. You had better read between the lines, and watch out for the tiniest, apparently minor provisions, because they might be what we call “fast ones”.

So it is with Bill C-28 before us. Setting aside the fact that it provides for cumulative cuts of $42 billion up until 2003 in provincial transfer payments for social assistance, post-secondary education and health—my colleagues, the hon. members for Drummond and Lotbinière will be speaking about this a bit later on—setting aside these outrageous provisions introduced by the Minister of Finance a few years back, which were made somewhat more palatable by the $6 billion reduction in cuts already announced, a careful look at this 464 page omnibus bill reveals a little surprise.

What is this provision we find troublesome? It can be found in paragraphs 241(1) and (2). Clause 241 proposes amendments to the tax treatment of profits generated by offshore subsidiaries involved in international shipping, and these tax changes, retroactive to 1995, could mean that a certain number of individuals among the richest taxpayers in Canada could benefit from tax deductions that would be possible only if Bill C-28 were passed.

We suspect that clause 241 very clearly represents an apparent conflict of interest, and we will show why over the next few minutes. It is an apparent conflict of interest that could be very, very serious.

To go right back to the beginning of the story, prior to 1972, the federal government had become aware that the richest taxpayers in Canada were taking advantage of their position to hire specialists, including taxation specialists who were earning a pretty penny providing this type of advice, and dummy corporations were being set up outside the country, dormant corporations as they are called, holding corporate shares, particularly in the area of international shipping.

Prior to 1972, the government looked into the situation thoroughly, and found that these offshore companies were being set up in what are considered tax havens, countries such as Liberia, Bermuda and Barbados. Tax havens are places where corporate taxes are very low, or in the case of Liberia, non-existent.

So they became aware that some rich Canadian taxpayers were setting up these dummy companies in countries considered tax havens, investing in them shares of foreign companies directly involved in maritime shipping. In 1972, therefore, the federal government decided to reform the corporate taxation system to some extent. This was in response to the Carter report and part of the overall movement to make the Canadian taxation system more equitable. In 1972, the federal government reformed the provisions concerning investment or stock administration companies handling shares of foreign corporations located abroad.

It stated that, in future, Canadian owners of foreign corporations, with no production activity and merely administering the shares of other foreign corporations involved in maritime shipping, ought to pay annual taxes, the present level of which is around 38%. This tax was to be paid annually to Revenue Canada. So all dividends on shares held by foreign investment companies and owned by Canadians, were to be taxed by Revenue Canada, in other words any interest or dividends paid, and so on.

This sort of income has been called foreign accrual property income, or FAPI, as the tax people know it.

So, as of today, any interest income drawn from this sort of bogus company must be included in the income of the Canadian resident and taxed at the current rate of approximately 38%. This applied from 1972 to date. Right up to today these businesses have been paying tax annually. They are obliged to do so.

Let us take a 1998 example. A Canadian business opens a subsidiary abroad in a country considered a tax haven, such as Liberia or Barbados. In Liberia, the business is set up to manage the stock portfolio of a foreign resident and the stocks are those of a marine transportation business located in another foreign country, also a tax haven.

When the shipping company pays dividends to the second company, which simply manages the shares it owns in the first company, the dividends are taxed by Revenue Canada.

Bill C-28 changes the rules for international marine transportation. Now, even though the business is nothing more than a bogus company abroad which holds the stocks of businesses involved in international marine transportation in foreign countries, the dividends paid to it will no longer be taxed annually by Revenue Canada so long as they are not returned to Canada by the mother company in Canada, and I am quoting the explanatory notes in C-28 for clause 241. Paragraph 250(6)—of the current legislation—is amended to ensure that holding shares in marine shipping subsidiary is considered as equivalent to operating a shipping business. The corporation itself must meet the principal business criteria or hold throughout the year shares of one or more subsidiary wholly-owned corporations.

In other words, at present and until Bill C-28 is passed, any bogus corporation owned by a Canadian citizen abroad, in a country considered to be a tax haven, is required to pay taxes to the Government of Canada on an annual basis. With the new provision in Bill C-28 amending section 250 of the Income Tax Act, this corporation would not be required to pay taxes to Revenue Canada as long as the Canadian corporation's dividends have not been repatriated to Canada. This is a way for shipping corporations involved in international traffic to save tens of millions of dollars in taxes owed to the Canadian government.

I must point out that the bill provides for this provision to be retroactive to 1995. Taxpayers seldom benefit from retroactive measures. The government usually proposes retroactive measures when it stands to gain, but this measure, retroactive to 1995, where international shipping corporations will not be required to pay taxes on an annual basis, benefits about 10 or 11 corporations right now.

Let us take one of these 10 or 11 Canadian corporations that most Quebec and Canadian taxpayers are familiar with for having seen its ships, which are registered in Liberia, on the St. Lawrence River and near the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Let us take Canada Steamship Lines Inc. as an example.

Canada Steamship Lines Inc. deals in international shipping. It is a Canadian corporation owned by the CSL group. This Canadian corporation owns abroad, namely in Bermuda, another corporation which manages equity holdings known as CSL Self Unloader Investment Limited.

What this corporation does is hold shares in approximately eight corporations in Liberia, Bermuda and Barbados, which operate ships and are involved in shipping.

The first company, CSL Self Unloader Investment, which is based in Bermuda, collects the dividends paid by these eight companies through transportation activities. The dividends collected by Bermuda's CSL Self Unloader Investment are currently taxed on an annual basis by the Canadian government, because the business is deemed to be Canadian and must thus pay taxes to the Canadian government.

What would happen under Bill C-28? Under clause 241 of Bill C-28, Canada Steamship Lines, in Bermuda, which manages the investments, including the portfolios of companies that are truly in the transportation business, would no longer have to pay taxes to the Canadian government. The change would be retroactive to 1995, which means that if CSL Self Unloader Investment, in Bermuda, has already paid taxes to the Canadian government, it would get a tax refund. The company is currently taxed at about 38% on the dividends and other securities in its portfolio, which it manages for the Canada Steamship Lines group based in Canada.

Clause 241 of Bill C-28 proposes a major change to a tax system that has been in place since 1972. It is a change that applies specifically to Canadian shipping companies. As you know, this means only about ten Canadian companies, which are all members of the Canadian Ship Owners Association. Out of these ten companies, there may be two or three that can benefit from the new provisions and save millions in taxes, retroactively to 1995. One of them is Canada Steamship Lines.

Need I tell you who owns Canada Steamship Lines? It is the finance minister, the man behind Bill C-28 and its sponsor. Given what I have just said, one has to wonder.

First, and this is a question to the government: who asked for such a specific change, a change that would affect at the most ten Canadian shipping companies? The possibilities are tremendous for two or three of them, Canada Steamship Lines in particular. Who called for these amendments? Not the Canadian Lake Carriers Association, because we were speaking with its vice-president, Mr. Lanteigne, only this morning, and he told us it was the first he had heard of it. They were not the ones calling for these amendments.

So who asked for a specific amendment, which is so advantageous for international shipping and potentially very advantageous for the Minister of Finance?

The second question is how much of a tax saving would this new provision in clause 241 of Bill C-28 represent for the few shipping corporations involved in international shipping? Of these corporations, how much would Canada Steamship Lines, owned 100% by the present Minister of Finance, pocket in tax savings if Bill C-28 were passed? We know that the Minister of Finance has been the sole owner of the Canadian arm of Canada Steamship Lines since 1988. How much would this corporation pocket with Bill C-28 and the provisions in clause 241?

Then there is the next question, which we are entitled to ask as taxpayers, as citizens of this country, as the government, as lawmakers. If the Minister of Finance is the man behind a bill in which he also has a stake and stands to benefit from substantial tax savings through a corporation in which he holds shares, is that not a conflict of interest, or an apparent conflict of interest, which is questionable from a public and ethical point of view?

Those are the five questions that really concern the opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, and that appear on half a page of the 464 pages introduced by the Minister of Finance at the very end in what is called “certain Acts related to the Income Tax Act”. Buried in this 464-page bill is a two-paragraph provision that makes us suspect an actual or apparent conflict of interest involving the legislator—the Minister of Finance—and the principal shareholder of Canada Steamship Lines—who is also the Minister of Finance.

Until we get answers to these five questions, clear and unambiguous answers from the government and the Minister of Finance, we in the Bloc Quebecois will fight with our last drop of energy what appears to be a conflict of interest, what appears to be an unfair advantage to a very small portion of Canada's population, the richest Canadians, with the Minister of Finance as one of their prime representatives.

Rest assured that, because of this provision—and many others as well, but we will await the answers to the five questions—we will vigorously oppose the passage of Bill C-28 and strive to obtain answers to our questions, which are fundamental and related to a short provision that benefits certain people who are in conflict of interest.

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1:05 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I join my colleagues in wishing you a Happy New Year. It is great to be back after the recess, and we are back right into it with this tax bill, Bill C-28. Mr. Speaker, I suspect that over the holidays you read this bill carefully just as the rest of us did. It is a very complicated bill but a very important one which sends an interesting signal.

I listened with interest to my friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance when he made his presentation today on Bill C-28. He began with an interesting comment. He said that Bill C-28 is being introduced today under the umbrella of a prosperous, dynamic and strong economy. I wonder where he has been in the last six or seven weeks. He obviously has not been in Canada but in some other country.

Just today the financial pages talk about how the increasing interest rates will cut off any hint of economic recovery. The papers talk about the widening gap between the rich and the poor in Canada. They point out that 42% of young families today are living in poverty. Think of that. As Parliament resumes its work today, 42% of young families in Canada are starting out their lives in poverty. Two out of five young families start their lives out in poverty. The papers say that 400,000 young people in Canada do not even have jobs period. Many more have two or three crummy part time jobs as they try to make a go of it but there are 400,000 young people without jobs at all.

Today's papers talk about the student debt load. They say that for those students who are in debt, which is now about half of all students, the average debt load at the end of this year will be about $25,000. What a wonderful way to start off in life. You graduate, you seek out a job to begin your career and the folks in the program who are here with us today will know what I am talking about. A $25,000 debt load is a huge albatross. It is like walking around with a big rock on your shoulders the minute you step out into the workforce.

The papers go on to tell us that the unemployment rate is about 9%. This is the 88th consecutive month that the rate has been 9% or worse. The papers talk about the dollar which is at historic lows, a reflection of what other people think of Canada in real terms. They want to get their money out of here and buy American dollars. They look around and say that this does not look too good. Our dollar is at historic lows.

Bankruptcies are now running at just under 10,000 a month. These are bankruptcies, when all else fails and you have to declare bankruptcy. There are 10,000 a month, year after year, month after month.

Then there is this whole merger mania. I noticed that not too many people talked about the merger mania that has taken over. Our two great big banks want to become one monster mega bank. This is going to be helpful to Canadian consumers and the small business entrepreneurs?

When my friendly parliamentary secretary says the economy is strong, I wonder where the hell he has been. He sure has not been in this country. He is obviously talking of some foreign country and I am not sure which one. He is on the finance committee as have been the other speakers.

When the finance committee toured Canada prior to Christmas, we did not hear glory reports from people about the strong economy. We heard stories of misery and of pain. There were people before those very formal hearings with tears running down their faces because they had to describe the kind of torment they were living in trying to raise their families with no jobs and no hope of a job.

We in this place should be embarrassed. All of us should be standing up and saying we are embarrassed that we have allowed the economy of the strongest most dynamic country in the world to end up in this bloody mess. For the minister to say it is great news, that everything is fine reminds me of the worst drunk, the person who suffers from mega alcoholism and tells people time and time again “I do not have drinking problem”. We have some serious problems.

As my leader said the other day, it is sort of like a

Titanic economy. Remember when the old Titanic

went down, two-thirds of all those folks in first class passage got off in lifeboats. They got preferential treatment and they did okay. But two-thirds of the people who were in the steerage compartments were actually locked down below so they could not get to the deck. They drowned. They were not rescued.

It is a


economy. Some people are doing very well naturally. I can imagine how Mr. Matthew Barrett of the Bank of Montreal is feeling these days. He has pulled off the con of a lifetime. He has told the Minister of Finance “I do not care, I know you will cave in”. He knows full well that in spite of all the talk the Minister of Finance is doing about being concerned about this and that and we should feel challenged by this, the government will cave in and will give those banks the old nod. After all, it just signed the WTO financial agreement that facilitates this process. It facilitates the merger takeover business.

I want to start off my comments today on Bill C-28 by saying we are not enthusiastic about this legislation. I am not going to stand here and say there is nothing good in this legislation. Some provisions are very helpful to a lot of Canadian families.

For example there are the changes to the RESP to assist families to provide for their children's education. It does reflect the fact that the present government has abandoned much of its traditional support for education. We have been encouraged by some recent comments, but by and large it reflects the fact that the government has backed out of funding universities and colleges and the research facilities across this country, as has been done in the past. We now have simply transferred our debt issue into the hands of those families trying to afford their children's education.

It is easy to solve the debt load, to stand up and say we are almost deficit free, that we have won this war against the deficit when it is simply handed off to students so they have $25,000 in debt. It is handed off to our families, to the jobless, to the provinces so they have to shut down provincial health care systems and so on. It is easy, but have we really solved the thing? That is the question. RESP is a good step but it reflects the government's abandonment of education to a certain extent.

Increasing the encouragement for charitable giving is a good step. But let us also acknowledge the fact that again the government has essentially abandoned huge sectors of the economy that traditionally have looked to the federal government for leadership and for support. I am thinking particularly of the cultural industry or the granting agencies like the Medical Research Council. They have traditionally expected that Canada would provide global leadership on things like supporting pure research in those areas. This has not only a job benefit but it encourages those people who are in those fields to stay in Canada and work for future generations.

The rules relating to transfer of pricing are long overdue and are a positive step. The tax loss transfers from crown corporations will be helpful in building more fairness into the system. The minor support for the folks who are disabled is a good step.

The real irritant in the legislation is the CHST mentioned by the parliamentary secretary, the transfer payments for health care and education. Somehow in his convoluted mumbo-jumbo he tried to give the impression that the government was actually increasing spending and support in the areas of education and health care.

That is a bit like going down the street and being mugged. The robber sticks you up and says “Hand over your money”. You hand over $100 which is all you have in your wallet. Then he asks where you are from and you say “Alberta”. He says “Shucks, you have to get back there. Here is 10 bucks back for your bus fare”. You are supposed to be delighted that the robber gave you 10 bucks after stealing 100 from you.

That is what these folks have done. They have taken billions and billions and billions of dollars out of the transfers to provinces for health care and education and now say they will establish a floor of $12.5 billion. Somehow we are supposed to be joyful at the news. It is a bit of a con job, a smokescreen, a magic act that I do not think anyone will believe. I could not believe my hon. friend actually had the courage to say it but he did.

Let us be clear that after years of cutting, cutting and cutting, almost to the point of destroying our a universal health care system, the government is putting on a ceiling. Every cloud has a silver lining. If there is a good side to the issue I suppose it is the fact that the government has at least put a bottom line on cash transfers. We remember the way it was going, that in a few years there would be no cash transfers and the federal government would not have any leverage at all in terms of national standards for health care.

There is an element of encouragement here. At least there will be a bottom line below which we will not go in terms of transfers to the provinces for health care. This would be helpful in the future to allow us to ensure once again that we do not have a patchwork health care system across the country and that health care is the same from coast to coast. Under the present system that would not take place.

The parliamentary secretary said we had to remember that with tax points revenues will grow as the economy grows. The economy will grow stronger in some parts of Canada than it will in others. That means our patchwork quilt health care system will be emphasized. It will be better in some provinces where there will be better access to health care compared to other provinces.

That is not what Canada is all about. That is not what a country is all about. We do not want a different health care system between the provinces and the territories. We have to guard against that.

I quote from someone with whom we are all extremely familiar, Mr. Tom Kent, a senior policy aid to Lester Pearson when he was in opposition and later when he became prime minister. He was really the inspiration and brains behind the federal Liberal Party's shift toward a more active role in social policies in the 1960s. He was one of the major proponents of the health care system that distinguishes our country from the United States and from most countries in the world by having the kind of health care system we have developed over the years.

What did he have to say? Tom Kent made a blistering critique of the Liberal government's betrayal of medicare. It went on and on and on. He accused the federal government of putting medicare at a crucial crossroads by neglecting to properly fund it. The slashing of transfer payments for provincial social programs like medicare from $19.3 billion annually down to now $12.5 billion has placed medicare at a crucial crossroads.

Never before has it been attacked by such a senior and well respected person from Liberal history. He went on at some length. I could quote at some length all the comments he made the other day.

Tom Kent, a person we all respect for his sophistication, knowledge, views and dedication to the country, the health care system and the Liberal Party, publicly criticized the Liberal government of today by saying that what it was doing was absolutely wrong. He said that hopefully this would stimulate a debate which would move the Liberal Party back toward a more social reformist stance. Then he would be very delighted.

Let us get the facts on the table. When the government says that it is restoring funding for health care, we are a long way from what it needs to be. We have to take strong steps in that direction.

I want to comment on the speeches made by the Reform Party members who have spoken on the legislation. It should change its name to the party of surgeons because it loves cuts. It wants to cut even more. I cannot imagine that anyone who has talked to a citizen in the last week would say that we need more cuts to social programs or that we need to cut back even more.