House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Before we begin our session today I want to draw to your attention the wooden mace that is on the table. We put it here every February 3 in commemoration of when our House of Commons, that is to say all of our House of Commons for all Canadians, was destroyed in the fire. The wooden mace of course will still be our symbol. In case some of you are wondering, it is absolutely legal. I wanted you to notice it as it is a part of our tradition.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 3rd, 1998 / 10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table in both official languages the government's response to five petitions.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 18th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership and associate membership of some standing and standing joint committees.

If the House gives its consent, I move that the 18th report be concurred in.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to table a petition on behalf of the residents of my riding of Bruce—Grey and in particular the Wiarton area.

The petition reads as follows: “We, the undersigned residents of Canada, draw attention to the following: That our nation honours our common legacies through national holidays. That our natural heritage is of paramount importance to all Canadians. That our long Canadian winter is in need of a mid-winter celebration. That in many of our composite cultures February 2, the midpoint between the solstice and the vernal equinox is a traditional mid-winter festival. Therefore, your petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation declaring February 2 as a national holiday, to be known as Natural Heritage Day”.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to table two petitions today from natives, grassroots people from the Stoney reserve in Morley, Alberta.

The petitioners are calling on Parliament to enact legislation to remove employees who are non-native being paid approximately $300,000 from the tribal affairs. They feel that the financial mismanagement is contributing a great deal to the problems that are occurring on the reserve and their state of affairs. They feel that the removal of these individuals and a reduction in the cost of this thing would be of value to them.

In the second petition, the petitioners are calling on Parliament to conduct a thorough internal investigation including an extended forensic audit going back to the 1980s on the illegal, immoral and corrupt political practices and injustices which are being committed by some Nakoda Stony tribal leaders on the reserve population, especially those who have dominated since the 1960s.

The petitioners state that this assistance would be appreciated and would help immensely in initiating remedial actions and measures into the dismal affairs that exist on the Stoney reserve in Morley.

I am pleased to table these petitions this morning on behalf of these grassroots people.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, the first petition I have the honour to present is from a number of petitioners from various communities throughout British Columbia who are concerned about their future retirement. These are people who are not yet at the retirement age but who are concerned about what they are hearing about the government's intention to change the pension system. They are simply asking that a thorough review is done which I understand is now basically in the works.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition signed by petitioners from various communities throughout Alberta and British Columbia who point out a whole variety of concerns with Canada's tax system. They have some specific recommendations which I will table. By and large the petitioners are calling for a complete examination of our tax system and are proposing a major overhaul.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a number of Canadians including many Canadians from my own riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession that has not been recognized for its value to our society. They also share the view that the gravest social injustice of all time has to be the abandonment of the political system and taxation system for parents who provide care in the home.

The petitioners also agree with the National Forum on Health report stating that the Income Tax Act does not take into account the real cost of raising children even when one does it at home by oneself.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to pursue initiatives such as caregiver tax credits or income splitting to assist families who choose to provide care in the home to preschool children.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 61 will be answered today. .[Text]

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Regarding the recent relocation of the Lake Megantic Human Resources Development Centre, can the government: ( a ) describe the bidding procedure; ( b ) specify the number of bidders; and ( c ) indicate the amounts covered in each of the bids, including the services offered and the costs involved in occupying the premises concerned?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

(a) For this requirement, a partnership with the Centre Travail Québec was considered as well as one with the Société d'aide au développement de la collectivité, SADC, of Lac-Mégantic, a partner of Human Resources Development Canada, HRDC. On October 24, 1997 it was decided that the Human Resource Centre of Canada would relocate with the SADC. Public Works and Government Services Canada, PWGSC, then began a direct negotiation with the lessor of the building at 5127 Frontenac Street, Lac-Mégantic, SADC offices.

On December 12, 1997 the Human Resource Centre of Canada moved to its new address, 5127 Frontenac Street, Lac-Mégantic, where the offices of the SADC-Lac-Mégantic are located.

No tender process was held in view of the client department's requirements and the short time delay for project delivery.

(b) See answer to (a).

(c) Once it had been decided that HRDC would co-locate with SADC fit-up plans were drawn up and the landlord was informed of its responsibilities for the lease as well as for the fit-up phase of the project. Rates were discussed. However no formal offer to lease has been remitted.

A meeting will take place between the landlord's representative for the Lac-Mégantic office and the PWGSC project manager to discuss the rental rate for the premises as well as the cost of the fit-up work. Once these negotiations are completed a recommendation with the final rental rate will be submitted for approval.

In the interim HRDC is occupying the premises based on an agreement with the landlord that once the lease negotiations are completed a formal lease agreement will be drawn up and all arrears for rental payments will be made at that time.

The lease start date was January 1, 1998 for a three year term for 75 rentable square metres, 65 square metres.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 2 consideration of the motion 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

10:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise on this second day since our return to the House to speak on this bill which will, among other things, make changes to transfer payments to the provinces.

What I propose to do in this address to the House is to attempt to set out the facts relating to federal government support for health, social assistance and education.

The Liberals have made much of the announced new CHST cash floor, as it is called, the $12.5 billion to be paid to the provinces for health, social assistance and education under the Canada Health and Social Transfer.

In a press release dated December 8, 1997, the Minister of Finance stated as follows: “Governing is about choices, priorities and values. Our choice is clear: health care is a priority for this Government”.

Mr. Martin has said nothing about the fact that, since 1993, the Liberals have reduced the amount of cash transfers for health, education and social assistance by some $6.3 billion, that is, from $18.8 billion to $12.5 billion.

He is also not mentioning the fact that the Liberals reduced cash transfers to 1984 levels. These transfers, which the Conservatives had increased by $6 billion, have dropped by almost the same amount since the arrival of the Liberals.

Furthermore, Mr. Martin also neglected to say that, for seven of the ten provinces, cash transfers will continue to decrease over the next five years. Yes, you have understood correctly. Every province, except Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, will be receiving less money under these changes.

Finally, the announcement of a new floor simply means that all cash transfers to the provinces will not be further reduced. As payments are proportional to a province's population, all provinces, except Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, will be getting less over the years. In other words, the seven less well off provinces will be getting $384 million less annually between now and 2002.

Let us look back for a moment at the context in which transfer payments are made. Prior to 1996, Ottawa helped the provinces pay for health care and education under the established programs financing or EPF arrangement. Payments were proportional to the population of a province less the tax point value.

The tax points were exchanged in 1977, when Ottawa agreed to reduce its tax rates to allow the provinces to increase theirs. This formula replaced part of the cash transfers.

The per capita payments under the EPF were frozen for a five-year period that was to end in 1995. Otherwise, these payments would have increased by an amount equal to the growth of the nominal gross domestic product, less 3%. Ottawa was also helping the provinces to fund social assistance programs, through the Canada Assistance Plan, or CAP. Payments made under the CAP program amounted to 50% of eligible provincial expenditures. The increase in payments made to the richest provinces, namely Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, was capped at 5% per year, for a five-year period that was to end in 1995.

These restrictions curtailed the increase in payments, but they did not reduce their volume. Total transfers increased every year, without exception, while the Conservative Party was in office.

In 1993, the Liberals pledged to renegotiate the financial arrangements to improve funding stability. They never said anything about reducing payments by one-third before stabilizing them. In its 1994 budget, the Liberal government announced that, in 1996-97, total payments paid under the CAP and EPF programs would not exceed the 1993-94 level. This cut would replace the social reforms that were to be negotiated with the provinces.

The reforms in question never saw the light of day. The green paper was finally published after several delays and was quickly forgotten.

In the 1995 budget, the Liberal government announced that EPF and CAP would be replaced by the Canada Health and Social Transfer, or CHST, starting in 1996-97. By 1997, total payments under CHST would be cut by just under $5 billion with respect to 1995 levels. The amount to be paid each province would be announced in the 1996 budget, following discussions with the provinces.

The 1996 budget contains funding levels by province up until 2002. The calculation formula irritates the poorer provinces, because it forces them to shoulder a greater share of cuts per inhabitant.

It was also announced in the budget that the cash portion of payments would not drop below the $11 billion mark, which represents almost $8 billion less than the cash payments in effect when the government tabled its green paper.

We believe there is a better solution. We believe that health care is one of Canadians' fundamental values. It is too important a part of our way of life to be held hostage to the political and budgetary imperatives of the hour. We must adopt an approach that will ensure the future of our health care system.

First, the federal government should relinquish part of its taxation power to the provinces and territories so that they can fund their own health systems.

Second, the federal government should recognize that it is quite possible to exercise leadership with respect to health care without being paternalistic. The federal government's role should never again be linked with taxation power. We need an approach that emphasizes co-ordination and co-operation. This can be done by replacing the $12.5 billion the federal government now pays the provinces with tax points, which would be subject to equalization.

Transferring tax points simply means that the federal government will relinquish part of its taxation power to the provinces. This approach would not change the total taxes paid by Canadian taxpayers. Instead, the portion of taxes necessary to fund health care would be collected directly by the provinces and territories rather than by the federal government.

Since the value of tax points is tied to provincial economies, we would establish an equalization fund ensuring that all regions of the country are able to provide care and services of comparable quality.

We propose that there be a Canadian pact for the purpose of creating a new framework promoting health and education. As part of this pact, the federal and provincial governments would agree on common health care standards.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member may be aware of the National Forum on Health in which eminent Canadians in the health and other professional fields reviewed Canada's health care system.

The report delivered to parliament indicated that the $11.5 billion level of funding was an adequate and appropriate amount for health care funding and that the issue was not so much the amount of dollars but rather how we were spending our health care dollars. I would point that out to the member.

The member should also know or may be aware that in the province of Ontario the amount of reduction in transfers under the Canada health and social transfer was in the range of about $1.2 billion. Also the government concurrently cut personal income taxes to the tune of about $4.3 billion, a little more than three times the amount of reduction in health care funding.

Does the member believe that it is appropriate for the provinces to declare that the federal government has somehow impinged upon its ability to deliver on the health care system and at the same time reduce taxes or spend in other areas substantially more than the amounts we are talking about in terms of the reduction of transfers to the provinces?

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, to answer the hon. member's question, we visited constituents specifically in my riding who have faced the drastic cuts imposed because of the cuts in transfers.

People are on long extended waiting lists to get basic essential services, or people are dying because the health care system has been cut to a point where this type of problem exists. I have to say the cuts that have been made are drastic, are not acceptable and should not continue.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments this morning, but I have somewhat of a disagreement with respect to the approach he is taking.

The finance committee went across the country and consulted Canadians on what type of role the federal government should play specifically in health care and other such programs. Overwhelmingly Canadians said they wanted a strong role for the federal government.

The program being proposing to eliminate the cash component and go with tax points would remove the ability of the federal government to enforce the Canada Health Act. In fact we could use the word paternalistic. I would tend to disagree.

Canadians want to ensure levers are in place so that the federal government can ensure the Canada Health Act is enforced. I go back to the example of Alberta. When Alberta attempted to put in place user fees in private clinics the government held back those transfers.

The proposal the member is promoting would eliminate the role of the federal government. If the member were to put that to his constituents they would respond by saying “We want to ensure that there is a federal government to enforce the Canada Health Act”. The program the member is proposing, as was the case in the last election campaign, does not resonate with Canadians. It really has no place with respect to the Canada Health Act.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with my hon. colleague across the floor.

We agree with cutting excesses to the system. The necessities should be kept there and certainly those necessities have not been kept. I cannot agree with the hon. member's comments.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Tony Valeri Liberal Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member would agree with the fact that the finances of the country are now somewhat in order. We inherited a $42 billion deficit from the last government.

Canadians said that we should put our house in order. That is what we did. Had we not taken the measures we did, perhaps we would have been here today asking the House for further cuts. In fact today we are hoping the House will support a bill that will reinvest in the priorities of Canadians.

The member's province along with the rest of the country will begin to receive additional moneys with respect to the Canada health transfer.

Surely the hon. member, for the sake of his constituents, would support the fact that there is a reinvestment in the Canada Health Act.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way has a very selective memory when it comes to pointing out the last government's shortfall.

I would like to point out to him that the last government was the Liberal government. Come on, do not throw it back. The hon. member mentioned that now that we have a balanced budget or close to it, they are going to be reviewing. Is the hon. member saying that they will be spending more money to transfers?

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's presentation and I could not help but cast back my recollection to when the Conservatives were in government and introduced the massive transfer cuts. At that time it seemed to me that if the cuts were allowed to continue as the government had planned, we would reach a point soon where there would be actually no more transfers financially at all and there would be no opportunity for a federal government to request or expect any federal standards in health care whatsoever.

Can my hon. friend tell me if my memory is correct and that was the case and, if so, does he now stand by his previous government's decision to curtail transfers to the point where at one point in the near future there would be no financial transfer of money from Ottawa to the provinces for health care at all?