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House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mai.

Topics

Division No. 93Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Division No. 93Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members present will vote yes to this motion.

Division No. 93Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bloc Quebecois members will be voting yea.

Division No. 93Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, members of the NDP vote yes on this motion.

Division No. 93Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Progressive Conservative Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, members of our party will be voting in favour of the motion.

Division No. 93Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will make that unanimous. I vote yes.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 94Government Orders

February 23rd, 1998 / 6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That on Thursday, February 26, 1998, notwithstanding any standing order:

  1. The House shall meet at 8.30 a.m. for the purpose of considering Government Orders.

  2. The daily routine of business, members' statements and oral questions shall take place at the usual times.

  3. Any questions required to be put on that day pursuant to Standing Order 84 shall be put no later than 4.45 p.m.

  4. The House shall then adjourn immediately after the question referred to in part 3 above is decided.

(Motion agreed to)

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

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister in December drew attention to the fact that yet another report graphically portrayed the tragedy of a million and a half Canadian children living in poverty in Canada.

There have been too many reports from the Canadian Association of Food Banks, the Canadian Council on Social Development, Campaign 2000 and others. All of these reports point to the same thing, that the Liberal government has failed to address poverty.

In fact, the situation is much worse than when this House passed a resolution unanimously in 1989 to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. The only thing that the Liberal government has offered and has announced about four times is the national child tax benefit.

But even the child tax benefit is woefully inadequate. The $850 million promised for the child tax benefit will not in any way compensate for the regressive policies of the Liberal government, nor the cutbacks in funding for social assistance of 40%.

As the benefit has been proposed, people on welfare will receive no additional funds. While the funds will initially be distributed to every child below a specified income level, provincial governments will deduct that amount from current welfare payments. This means that welfare poor children and their families will gain absolutely nothing from the government plan.

Despite government assurances that no child will be worse off under the plan, anti-poverty activists have real concerns regarding the implications and the messages that this segregation of working poor from welfare poor entails.

Without a commitment to a comprehensive anti-poverty agenda, the national child benefit is a band-aid solution that actually acts to depress wages and further marginalize poor people. Children are poor because their parents are poor. Eliminating child and family poverty will require a comprehensive strategy that must include other essentials such as job creation, housing, child care, training and post-secondary education.

The lack of affordable child care is a particular concern because the benefit is structured to push low income mothers into the workforce without providing funding for quality child care options.

The federal government has consistently put child care on the back burner despite promises to the contrary. There is no discussion and no plans that we have seen about strengthening child care as a complement to the child benefit.

We call on the government to review its child tax benefit and to acknowledge and recognize that this benefit is woefully inadequate and will not in any way compensate or substitute for the cutbacks that we have experienced.

If the government is committed to eliminating poverty in this country and helping poor children and their families, then we must at the very least ensure that this child tax benefit has adequate funds, is fully indexed and also applies to families on welfare.

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time but the second time in the last week that I have been asked to speak on behalf of the government as it relates to child poverty based on a question that the member from Vancouver East has asked.

I am quite frankly appalled that the member continues to suggest that this government and in fact all governments in Canada do not think that child poverty is a priority. Two years ago this June governments of all persuasions, not only Liberal, Conservative but in fact NDP governments, came together at a premiers' conference, with the Prime Minister chairing that particular conference, and made it very clear that the number one priority of Canadians was child poverty and that we would put in place in a partnership kind of scenario, certain programs that would help children and, of course, help their families at the same time.

We started that off with an $850 million down payment on a program that is going to be one of the most far-reaching programs that this generation has ever seen. I cannot for the life of me understand why this member continues to suggest that not just this government but all governments are not committed to this very important issue.

Let me emphasize that this particular question is one which we have taken very seriously. The Campaign 2000 organization, which we all know, of course, is not a Conservative think tank, has said this is the first time that both levels of government have acknowledged the need for a plan to jointly address child poverty. I again emphasize a plan.

Yes, of course there are problems. We are working toward it. We are going to put programs in place and we will see them roll out as that plan starts to unfold in the weeks and months and years to come.

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on this motion to adjourn, when we know that tomorrow is an important day, budget day. On the eve of the budget, I think it is appropriate for two opposition MPs to raise the issue of the battle against poverty.

Despite what this government may say, the present situation in Canada is far from rosy in this connection. Poverty is increasing, and as I asked on November 25, 1997, of all those billions that are surplus in the employment insurance fund, is there not some way the government could make a special effort to get some of it back into the pockets of the unemployed during the time they are without work?

Let us never lose sight of the fact that, when there is talk of child poverty, it is very rare for poor children not to have poor parents, and the most important issue is to ensure that parents have enough money to live on.

We know that the employment insurance program can be self-financing and make an acceptable surplus with premiums of $2 per $100 of insurable earnings, as compared to the current rate of $2.70 per $100. Could the government not provide in tomorrow's budget for a reasonable premium reduction and use part of the 70 cents difference to improve the quality of life of those who find themselves without work?

Would that not be a good way for the government to really fight poverty with the main tool at its disposal, namely the EI fund?

Another point I wanted to make about the November 25, 1997 question is this. The minister's response at the time was “We are following this reform very closely”. He was referring to the tabling, early in 1998, of a report evaluating the reform for 1997.

The report was tabled last week or the week before, and it does not contain any recommendation. On the one hand, the minister claims to be following the reform closely and promises that, if changes are needed, they will put everything on the table, but on the other hand, he tables a report for the entire year 1997, which does not include a single recommendation.

Will the minister decide to leave evaluation of the reform up to people who are capable of making concrete, short-term recommendations to him, because those now covered by the Employment Insurance Act, who are watching their benefits shrink and the number of weeks dwindle, or who are not eligible for benefits at all, cannot wait for the 1999 report, which will tell us that in 1998 they have still not managed to find the figures?

Members of all the parties on the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities would certainly be able to come up with all kinds of examples and amendments to the act in order to make it more humane as quickly as possible, and ensure an acceptable minimum income for all unemployed workers.

Will the government take the opportunity offered by tomorrow's budget to put solutions on the table and finally ensure that its reform is fair?

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I find it very humorous. Those of us who were in this House in the last Parliament debated the EI changes in a very significant way. The committee—and my colleague from Malpeque was there—spent a lot of time talking about what the changes would mean. Of course when we implement changes of this magnitude, the largest changes in the last 25 years, there is going to be a period of adjustment. There will be a time when there are some unknowns.

In the legislation we committed ourselves to five separate reports, to monitor the system as it unfolds before Canadians to see if it has the right kind of effect on workers, if it has the right kind of effect on training and if it has the right component of insurance. There are both passive and active measures. This legislation is different from what we saw in the previous unemployment insurance legislation.

The first monitoring report which was tabled in Parliament last month obviously suggested very strongly that it was a preliminary report. Most of the information which the hon. member talked about cannot be forthcoming from the new legislation because it has just been implemented. We cannot get the data because people have not been under the new system long enough for us to make a judgment.

What that member and other members opposite are doing is basically playing with rhetoric, with words, because until we see the second, third, fourth and fifth monitoring reports and get the real data we will not be able to make a factual analysis of whether in fact the new EI changes are working or not working.

I want to make this very clear. The commitment of the government is very clear on this issue. If there is a need for changes, if the monitoring shows that there are certain areas which are not working properly and require modification, this government is prepared to make those changes. That is the obligation and the commitment of this government.

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Reform

Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question originally had to do with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the military in Haiti. I would like to tell the House right off the bat that this question has absolutely nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the safety of the RCMP members stationed there on the peacekeeping mission. Actually, I believe that it is now a training mission.

In any event, the two areas we were dealing with after the military left had to do with the physical safety of members of the RCMP as they carried out their training duties and their work with the local police forces.

Haiti is a relatively unstable country. It is still working out its democratic institutions.

A couple of recent events come to mind. For example, a police chief was reportedly killed in the area with a machete. Apparently he was beheaded. That indicates that the level of violence to which I am referring is present.

At the time of my question and at the time of committee meetings on the RCMP superannuation act, one of the assistant commissioners stated that the RCMP did have some concerns and that they were sending a medical officer to Haiti to look into the situation and ensure that members of the force were being properly taken care of.

If a member of the RCMP is injured we want to ensure that they have the care required, similar to what they would receive in Canada.

My question to the parliamentary secretary is twofold. Are the members of the RCMP in Haiti sufficiently safe in their duties, having due regard to the local situation? This also includes other countries which might have military support in Haiti. Second, if a member of the RCMP is injured, either slightly or seriously, can the parliamentary secretary confirm that there will be adequate care given to that member?

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Perth—Middlesex Ontario

Liberal

John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the concerns expressed by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

We are very proud of the quality of the people who were sent to Haiti by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and with the way they co-operate and work as part of the full team with Canadian armed forces personnel.

Canada has had a large number of people serve in Haiti and the police have certainly received all kinds of praise during their tour because of their excellent instruction and the models they have presented to the Haitian police.

In terms of the numbers of people who were there, we had 650 Canadian forces personnel and more than 50 members of the Canadian civilian police, mainly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When we left we did leave some protection. We left the Bisons, the armoured personnel carriers, so that when they paroled they would not be fully exposed. They would give them protection while patrolling from one town to another or within the cities of Haiti.

The main accomplishment of the military components was to establish some form of stability. It was not perfect when we left but it will take a long time before we ever get the Haitians to conform to the kinds of patterns that we would like to see. The modelling was never there. The kinds of rules and respect for the rule of law were not instilled in the civilian population. As a consequence, our police and our soldiers going in as peacekeepers had to play a lot of it as they saw it and use common sense.

They performed indispensable functions in monitoring and training national police forces. They played a major role through the assistance of local police forces in restoring civil order and contributing to the building of confidence and security between the parties and the local populations. That was what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police did.

With the 46 members of the police force there we have not had a major incident. They have looked after themselves well and have been well protected in due course.

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to focus my attention this evening on the government's failed strategy of quiet diplomacy to resolve the Pacific salmon treaty dispute and the recent resignation of Canada's tough talking and well respected chief negotiator, Yves Fortier.

Throughout the dispute, Mr. Fortier has forcefully and eloquently articulated the concerns of Canadian fishermen. He has asserted three points over and over again which the Prime Minister and the minister of fisheries have failed to listen to.

Mr. Fortier's three points were that the Americans were overfishing Canadian salmon stocks which violates the equity principle of the treaty, that the Canada-U.S. stakeholder process is doomed to fail because U.S. states and Indian or aboriginal tribes have no interest in agreeing in a reduction of a catch of Canadian bound salmon, and that the U.S. and Canadian governments must resolve the dispute at the senior political level, a tete-a-tete between the Prime Minister and president. It is time to call in the so-called A team.

The report of special envoys Ruckelshaus and Strangway backs Mr. Fortier on these three points. Why did Mr. Fortier resign if the Ruckelshaus-Strangway report vindicated everything that he had been saying for the past four years as Canada's chief negotiator?

In his letter of resignation, Mr. Fortier outlined two paths the Canadian government could take to resolve the dispute. Ottawa could demand international arbitration and lobby Washington vigorously to impose a compromise on U.S. stakeholders, or Ottawa could weaken its demands and essentially sell out the fishermen to calm the waters between Ottawa and Washington.

Is it true that Mr. Fortier resigned because Ottawa decided on the second path, to sacrifice Canadian fishermen for the sake of warmer relations with Washington? Rumours are circulating on the west coast that the U.S. state department refused to continue negotiations if Mr. Fortier remained as Canada's chief negotiator. Could the minister confirm that the state department did ask for Mr. Fortier's resignation and, if it did, why did the Canadian government capitulate to American demands?

As the Canadian government calms the waters between Ottawa and Washington through quiet diplomacy, a storm is brewing off the B.C. coast. This summer the estimated average catch will only be 50 to 100 sockeye per boat on the north coast. There is also a major crisis with Skeena River coho, stocks that the Alaskans have been overfishing for years. There is a desperate situation developing in the B.C. coastal communities.

When will the Prime Minister demand that President Clinton sit down to resolve the dispute? When will the government assert itself to protect the interests of Canadian fishermen and demand that the Americans put conservation first?

Last summer the minister of fisheries talked of quiet diplomacy, that he could do nothing to stop American fishing except talk nice. As a result Canadian fishermen became desperate, backed into a corner by Alaskan overfishing and disastrous federal fishing policies that have left many almost bankrupt. These fishermen then engaged in some gumboot diplomacy of their own, blockading the U.S. ferry Malaspina to stop the overfishing.

When will the government learn that selling out Canadian fishermen to placate Washington will only cause more conflict and more pain for B.C. coastal communities and salmon fishermen?

When will the Prime Minister find the backbone to stand up to President Clinton and demand his country live up to its obligations under the international treaty?

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am not surprised by some of the comments of the member opposite. He should know full well that the government is standing behind B.C. fishermen in their quest for a settlement. However I am little surprised by the slant he is taking in terms of being very selective in the points he picked out of Mr. Fortier's letter.

Read in its entirety, however, the letter is a clear description of the history of the Pacific salmon dispute and what needs to be done in the future.

Throughout the letter Mr. Fortier's sense of dedication and commitment shine through. After five years as chief negotiator on this difficult issue, it is not surprising that he expresses frustration with past experiences. Unfortunately those statements have been taken out of context. It is important to quote some of the other statements made in Mr. Fortier's letter.

He describes Canada's position in past negotiations as “clear and forceful yet flexible and fair” and Canadian demands as “valid, justified, reasonable and practicable”. He describes how Canada only agreed to a stakeholder process after negotiating a formal framework which required a commitment by the United States to resolve through government to government negotiations all issues left unresolved by stakeholders.

Mr. Fortier refers to this as “another significant victory for Canada, one that afforded us certain opportunities”. It is those opportunities that the Government of Canada now hopes to capitalize on.

Mr. Fortier describes the Ruckelshaus-Strangway report as “the most recent positive development for Canada”. He states that we have made progress and the government has been provided the tools with which to achieve the benefits that are its due under the treaty.

Finally it should be pointed out that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are now leading consultations aimed at developing an effective negotiating process. The Government of Canada intends to stand behind B.C. fisherman and ensure that there is a negotiated settlement to this process.

Business Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.23 p.m.)