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House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, could you ask those two individuals to be quiet so that I may finish speaking?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sure all hon. members wish to extend courtesies one to another. In the course of debate there are sometimes a few words thrown back and forth, but please let us just get on with the debate.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Furthermore, this is an unprecedented encroachment on a provincial jurisdiction, where Quebec has had the right to opt out, with compensation, since 1964. This encroachment by the federal government is especially unjustified since Quebec has its own student financial assistance program, and one which works just fine.

In fact, Quebec provides assistance to 170,000 students each year. In Quebec, tuition fees are approximately $1,700 a year and the average student debt is $11,000. Elsewhere in Canada, tuition fees are about $3,200 a year and the average student debt as high as $25,000. If the federal government is serious about supporting education, it should give this money back to the provinces to help them improve their current systems.

With respect to research and development, the government announced that the funding for granting councils will be reduced to its 1994 level.

It should be pointed out that, at that time, in 1994, we were already behind and Canada was spending half as much as the average OECD country. In building for the 21st century, this is an area where the federal government should invest more, if our student are to benefit from the expertise of faculty members engaged in research and modern research facilities.

The tax cuts announced by the government are welcome while they remain minimal, amounting to something between $100 and $250 depending on income.

So, while it is giving $7 billion back to taxpayers over three years, the government will take an additional $10 billion from taxpayers because the tax tables are not indexed. Where exactly do taxpayers come out ahead?

The government is still refusing to totally reform taxes to lighten the burden on the middle classes and SMBs and to put an end to tax loopholes. While taxpayers pay heavy taxes, companies enjoy many tax shelters and strategies permitting them to put off paying their taxes for a long time.

Bill C-28, introduced by the Minister of Finance, will allow foreign-based shipping companies to evade Canadian taxes. Family trusts continue to deprive the tax system of millions of dollars, thanks to the complicity of the Department of Revenue.

The minister announced nothing for francophone and Acadian communities. This indicates a total lack of political will, obvious in any case in the latest census where Statistics Canada has created a Canadian/Canadien status devoid of any reference to ethno-linguistic origins.

This political decision keeps three million people of francophone origin out of the statistics and prevents researchers from studying the phenomena of assimilation and the socio-economic problems of the francophone communities in the country. In denying there is any problem, the government justifies its inaction in the areas of access to education, health care, government services and cultural growth in francophone communities.

While the need for French language resources is desperate, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is cutting $22 million from official languages instruction programs.

In cultural terms, this budget offers nothing new. It contains four initiatives that had already been announced: the continuation of the Canadian television and cable production fund, the restoration of the Canada Council's level of funding, a program to help the publishing industry and increased funding for amateur sport. The government also announced, without any details, a program to provide help for the insurance costs of travelling exhibitions.

We support these spending initiatives, but they are totally inadequate, since they give back just a fraction of the money cut in the cultural sector during the Liberal government's last mandate. Yet, spending in this sector greatly promotes job creation. Indeed, studies have shown that creating a job in this sector costs only half as much as it does in the industrial sector.

The government announced it will pursue its program to connect schools and communities to the Internet. However, it has not proposed any funding initiative for multimedia, nor any loan guarantee to create a content that would affirm the presence of Canada's francophone and anglophone cultures on this network.

Yet, this was a commitment made in the second red book, and the Information Highway Advisory Council recommended that $50 million be invested in such a fund. Canada's information highway must not be developed without including cultural and educational components.

The budget makes no mention of funding for both networks of the CBC. We are led to the conclusion that the cuts scheduled for this year will indeed be made.

Nothing is done either for the National Film Board which, following cuts of $45 million, had to virtually abandon its assistance to independent film making, something which particularly jeopardizes the careers of the young film and video makers who represent the future of their industry.

The budget is also silent on another issue, namely the promise to earmark $10 million for works of art designed to celebrate the new millennium.

As regards the sports and cultural events that may lose their tobacco sponsorship, the Quebec government took the lead by pledging to hand over part of the increase in tobacco taxes. As for the federal government, it has not included any support measure, and the Minister of Finance said that tax money is not allocated to any specific item. Therefore, we should expect nothing on that score.

The Minister of Heritage will need to find ways of supporting the periodicals and scientific and cultural periodicals which are being seriously threatened by the reduced postal subsidy and the changes in the applicable rules. In this area, there is a particular threat to specialized French language periodicals, given their limited market.

In spite of these omissions in cultural funding, the Minister of Heritage managed to find $20 million for her propaganda agency, the Canada Information Office.

I could go on, but I will conclude by repeating what many experts have said in the last few days, namely that this budget totally lacks vision.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member for Rimouski—Mitis has to do with the allegation that has been made by the member and other members from the Bloc Quebecois about the federal incursion into the provincial sphere.

As the hon. member would I am sure know, our constitution provides for a federal spending power in areas where the federal government feels that a national priority exists.

It is very clear that when we are dealing with training and higher education in a global economy, if anything is a national priority, that is a national priority.

My question for the hon. member is why is it appropriate for the Government of Quebec to set up quasi embassies all over the world in flagrant disregard for our constitution which provides for a federal responsibility in the area of foreign affairs? Why is the member prepared to criticize the federal government in an area that is clearly within the federal government's responsibility? Why the double standard there?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a word in both our languages that begins with the letter h , followed by a y , which I am not allowed to say but which describes very well the behaviour of the Liberal government since it has been in office.

It got elected on a platform and has done absolutely nothing—

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that everyone knows she wanted to say hypocritical, which is unparliamentary.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Verchères, on a point of order.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Bourassa has a very poor grasp of French, because my colleague was referring to a word containing the letters h and y . And, to my knowledge, hypocrite has an i near the end.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

You do not know how to spell.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Ha, ha.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

You certainly have your long-suffering Chair in a bad position here. The hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis, please sum up.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government members must get one thing straight. They were elected on a platform and they have done absolutely nothing to implement it. They found a great platform, the one belonging to the Conservatives, and they carried on with it.

They made breathtaking cuts in social programs, including post-secondary education, which affects Quebec's CEGEPs and universities, and all Canadian universities. In this sector alone, cuts totalled $10 billion, $3 billion of which were in Quebec.

They have seriously weakened the universities. They have made cuts to the granting councils, thus also taking away our research dollars. Now they are congratulating themselves. What they are not saying is that there are $30 billion in cuts still coming. With great fanfare they are announcing a fund that will not take effect until 2000.

It is this government's policy to announce things well in advance and count on people having poor memories.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Broadview—Greenwood has 60 seconds and there will be a 60-second response.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, 60 seconds. The member for Rimouski—Mitis always manages to make sure that she can generate positive controversy wherever she is in the world.

My question to the hon. friend has to do with the Canadian Unity Information Office. The member mentioned that she thought that the $25 million for the Canadian Unity Information Office was simply propaganda.

I personally feel that the budget for the Canadian Unity Information Office should be 10 times that because I believe that promoting Canada, especially during a time when there is great strain on the fabric of the nation, is a useful and important thing for the minister of heritage to do.

My question to the member is what other instruments do we have in this government to promote national unity? What other instruments would she recommend to promote national unity other than the Canadian Unity Information Office?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, but he is confusing the Unity Office with the Information Office. The Unity Office comes under the responsibility of the Prime Minister or the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, while the Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible for propaganda.

But to answer his question more directly, what is needed in this House is for people to show us some respect and stop interrupting us all the time. What is needed is for people to stop provoking us with the Canadian flag. It should be used appropriately. People should be more open-minded and respectful toward Quebeckers and toward members in the House, because we were elected democratically like everyone else. We have a job to do, and if they keep on like this, it will not bring about unity, but rather give us one more reason to leave.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will wait until the wind goes down.

I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore.

I am very happy to finally see that a balanced budget has arrived. Canadians have been adding to the nation's mortgage for 27 years and now, because of our collective efforts, we are actually starting to pay it off and to pay off the debt. I will admit that it will take quite a few years to do this, but at least it is a start and we are now out of the blocks.

Before I comment on the initiatives contained in this budget, I want to briefly point out that we have not forgotten about job creation. In fact, the focus of this budget is on jobs, future jobs. We already have a proven track record of job creation and now we want it to continue by increasing access to the knowledge and skills required in the new economy.

Over the last four years, the number of jobs have grown by over one million. From 1997 alone, 372,000 new jobs were created, all of them full time and in the private sector. The unemployment rate fell to below 9% in December, and while that is not near a satisfactory number, the improving trend is clear and it will continue well into the future.

The federal government cannot ignore global pressures. Canada is part of a fast changing, competitive, interdependent world economy, an economy that is increasingly knowledge based, but this is not only because of the new high skill jobs in the high tech industries. There has already been a steady rise of skill requirements in all sectors of the economy and in most types of jobs.

We know not all Canadians are in a position to access the knowledge and skills they will need throughout their lifetime to find and to keep good jobs. Barriers, most often financial barriers, reduce access to post-secondary education for many. That is why this government has created this education budget. This budget is about enhancing the equality of opportunity in gaining the knowledge and skills for today and tomorrow.

The centrepiece of our increased support is the Canadian millennium scholarship foundation. Through an initial endowment of $2.5 million, the arm's length foundation will provide scholarships to over 100,000 students each year over 10 years, starting in the year 2000.

However, the most important aspect—and I know this is important to all Canadians and indeed to all Prince Edward Islanders—is that Canadians of all ages, studying full time or part time in publicly funded universities, community colleges, vocational or technical institutions and CEGEPs, will be eligible for these scholarships.

Moreover, the foundation will have the authority and the discretion to include privately funded institutions. This has a much broader scope than any existing support.

In recognition that many students' needs are not fully met by scholarships and student loans, the government is also introducing Canada study grants. Beginning in 1998-99, grants will go to over 25,000 needy full and and part time students who have children or other dependants.

Student debt has become a very heavy burden for many Canadians.

Last December federal and provincial first ministers agreed that something must be done to reduce the financial burden on students. They asked the federal government to take action in this budget and it is.

First, all students will get tax relief, a 17% federal credit for interest paid on their student loans. Second, we are increasing the income threshold used to qualify for interest relief on Canada student loans by 9%, making more graduates eligible. Third, we are introducing graduated interest relief which will extend assistance to more graduates further up the income scale.

Fourth, for individuals who have used 30 months of interest relief we will ask the lending institutions to extend the loan repayment period to 15 years. Fifth, if after extending the repayment period to 15 years a borrower remains in financial difficulty, there will be an extended interest relief period. Finally, for the minority of graduates who still remain in financial difficulties after taking advantage of these measures, we will reduce their student loan principal by as much as half.

Together these new interest relief measures will help up to 100,000 more borrowers and over 12,000 borrowers a year will benefit from debt reduction when this measure is fully phased in.

Many Canadians who are already in the workforce want to take time away from work to upgrade their skills through full time study. We have introduced measures to help them overcome financial barriers. Beginning in January of next year Canadians will be able to make tax free withdrawals from their RRSPs for lifelong learning.

To preserve the role of the RRSPs in providing retirement income, the amounts withdrawn will have to be repaid over a 10 year period. In many respects this plan resembles a successful homebuyers plan.

Canadians oftentimes study part time to upgrade their knowledge and skills. We are proposing two new measures to help them. Beginning this year the education credit will be extended to part time students. This will benefit 250,000 Canadians.

In addition, for the first time parents studying part time will now be able to deduct their child care expenses. Currently only full time students are eligible. This new measure will benefit some 50,000 part time students.

Any long range plan to acquire knowledge and skills for the next century must look ahead to the students of tomorrow. The best way to help ensure children's future is to save for their education today. We want to establish a new partnership to help parents save for their children's future. That is why we are introducing the Canada education savings grant to make registered education savings plans even more attractive. Beginning in January we will provide a grant of 20% on the first $2,000 up to a maximum annual grant of $400 per child.

I want to point out that this does not take much to save for a child's education. For example, if a family contributes $25 every two weeks for a total of $650 a year for 15 years, their child will have $4,700 available each year for a four year period of education. Of that amount almost $800 a year would be as a direct result of a Canada education savings grant.

The Canadian opportunity strategy also addresses the urgent problem of youth unemployment. The actions we are taking will give young Canadians the job experience they need and provide support for those who have dropped out of school and face particularly tough challenges. First, the budget provides—

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, you still have three minutes left of your time. I am sorry to interrupt you now but it is two o'clock. We will go to statements by members. The hon. member for Charleswood—Assiniboine.

William Ormond MitchellStatements By Members

February 26th, 1998 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate a life well lived and a life that resonated the values of Canadians to the world.

I speak of William Ormond Mitchell, a Canadian literary icon who passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

When I worked in television I had the honour of interviewing Mr. Mitchell. I remember his earthy charm, sincere warmth and salty wit. Moreover, W. O. Mitchell possessed the rare ability to write about his perceptive insights into the human condition. He was indeed a product of his prairie environment, genuine and true to himself and the world around him.

Although he will be missed, W. O. Mitchell has left Canadians with a better sense of who they are and for that legacy he will be long remembered.

On behalf of all members I convey condolences to his family.

Grammy AwardsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada came out a winner last night at the Grammy awards in New York. We can all be proud of the outstanding achievements of our talented artists.

British Columbia's Sarah McLachlan came away with two awards. Bryan Adams was nominated for best male duet. Ottawa's Alanis Morrisette won best long term video. Montreal's Céline Dion was nominated for best duet. Daniel Lanois won for best album in contemporary folk.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Our nation has literally thousands of talented artists: the Tragically Hip from Kingston, the wonderful fiddler Natalie McMaster from Nova Scotia, Leahy from Ontario, Terri Clark and Paul Brandt from Alberta, the Buicks from Calgary, the Great Big Sea, Lorena McKinnet and her beautiful voice, as well as the wonderful Susan Aglukark.

On behalf of all of us in the House and on behalf of the Reform Party we congratulate the winners of last night and the winners to be from our great pool of talented artists in Canada.

Winter OlympicsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, at this very moment the city of Edmonton is honouring all its Olympic athletes. At this time I would ask all members of the House to join with me in congratulating Pierre Lueders for his gold medal bobsled run, Judy Diduck and Fiona Smith for women's ice hockey, Kevin Quintilla for biathlon, Ian Danney for bobsleigh, Jaime Fortier for women's cross-country skiing, and Curtis Joseph for men's ice hockey.

The stunning victory of Pierre Lueders is ever more remarkable in that he won a gold medal in his first ever world cup race in 1992. Now, just four years and 24 world cup medals later, Mr. Lueders has become the second Canadian bobsled driver to bring home Olympic gold.

Congratulations to all our Olympic athletes.

OceansStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to remind members of the House and all Canadians that 1998 is the international year of the ocean.

This is not only a year of celebration but also a year to raise public awareness about the role oceans play in our daily lives, even for those Canadians who live far from coastlines.

More than 70% of our planet's surface is covered by water and what we do inland makes a difference to the oceans' health.

Oceans regulate the world's climate and provide more oxygen than the rain forests.

Despite the importance of the oceans to every living being on the planet, they are often taken for granted.

By celebrating the international year of the ocean we can learn more about the three oceans that surround us and include all our communities in efforts to protect them.

We must raise awareness of the importance of this natural resource by involving municipalities, governments, youth groups, neighbours and friends.

It is encouraging that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has taken a leading role on ocean related issues and that the department is seeking collaboration with oceans stakeholders toward the development of Canada's oceans strategy. The goal is to have a strategy in place by the year 2000.

EmploymentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Mercier Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Lower Laurentians is a disaster-stricken area, hit by job losses in various industries.

After the problems with Kenworth and the transfer of international flights out of Mirabel, now the GM plant in Boisbriand has not only undergone further downsizing but it may well close down because the models produced there do not sell.

Years ago, Ottawa gave this company a $110 million grant to create and maintain jobs. Now these jobs created at public expense are seriously threatened. Their loss would be disastrous for the region.

GM will be investing $14 billion in its plants as part of a worldwide re-equipment plan. But not one cent was earmarked for Quebec, even though refurbishing the assembly line would enable the plant to build different models.

The public is expecting the federal government to look into this issue, which causes much anguish and on which the future of our region depends, and to make representations to GM before it is too late.

CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a very decent nation, capable of understanding, of diplomacy and of compromise. We are a very accomplished nation.

It was a Canadian who discovered insulin. It was a Canadian who invented the telephone. It was a Canadian who conceived of the emergency forces, not for war but for peace.

It was a Canadian who won two gold medals for speed skating in the Olympics.

This is not enough. We must continue to make every yesterday a vibrant and beautiful dream of happiness and every tomorrow a magnificent vision of hope. We must continue to make our voice heard clearly, distinctly and bravely.

Canada is a rare illustration that people from different backgrounds can live, learn and work alike, proud of our noble heritage, enriched by our diversity of talents and ennobled by our unity of vision. This is our responsibility. Let us—

CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Kitchener Centre.