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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.

Topics

Multilateral Agreement On InvestmentRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

York West Ontario

Liberal

Sergio Marchi LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 109 it gives me great honour to table in the House of Commons, in both official languages, the government's official response to the report on the multilateral investment agreement, pursuant to the subcommittee on trade, wherein Canada's government agrees with all of the 17 recommendations.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 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 six petitions.

Competition Act, 1998Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-393, an act to amend the Competition Act, 1998 (negative option marketing).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to give first reading this morning to this bill which would amend the Competition Act to deal with negative option marketing.

The objective and the thrust of this bill is to prohibit certain financial institutions, including broadcasting and telecommunications undertakings and companies to which the Insurance Companies Act applies, from charging money to their regular clients for the provision or sale of a new service without the expressed consent of the client.

I would point out that this dovetails with a report released by Industry Canada under the office of the consumer which identifies negative option marketing as being the area in which a number of industries have targeted growth. This is simply intended to protect consumers.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, just as the Minister for International Trade is about to fly off to Paris to meet with his OECD compatriots to work hard in the next few days on the signing of the multilateral agreement on investment, I am presenting a petition on behalf of a number of my constituents who are adamantly opposed to the MAI as they presently understand it.

They believe that it is an attack on Canadian sovereignty. They believe that it will expand and entrench unprecedented rights to transnational corporations and that it will severely limit our government's ability to promote economic growth and job creation strategies. They speak to the fact that we are now in court with Ethyl Corporation of the U.S. over the fact that we tried to improve the environment of Canada and we are being sued over that.

They also mention the fact that certain clauses will be locked in for 20 years. I could read a long list, but I will not.

I believe the point is well taken that these folks do not like the MAI as they know it and are asking parliament never to sign the multilateral agreement on investment in spite of the minister's best efforts.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from a number of residents in communities throughout British Columbia who are hearing rumours about the government's intention to introduce a seniors benefit package. Knowing what the provisions were for the last package they are totally panicked.

They believe there are all sorts of hidden agendas here and are simply worried that the government is up to no good basically.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I suppose because it is tax filing time this is what initiated this last petition. A whole number of people feel that our present tax system is unfair, unjust and biased in favour of certain Canadians at the expense of others. They are simply asking for comprehensive tax reform.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of West Kootenay—Okanagan, I present the first in a series of petitions in which the petitioners draw to the attention of the House that violent crimes committed by youth are of great concern to Canadians, that the incidents of violent crime by youth would decrease if the Young Offenders Act were amended to hold young persons fully accountable for their criminal behaviour and that increased periods of incarceration could deter young people from committing criminal acts.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon parliament to significantly amend the Young Offenders Act, including but not limited to making protection of society the number one priority, reducing the minimum age from 12 to 10, allowing for the publication of violent young offenders' names, increasing the maximum three year sentence for all offences except murder to seven, increasing the penalty for first degree murder from a maximum of 10 years to 15 years, and ensuring parental responsibility.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of a number of Canadians, including Canadians from my riding of Mississauga South.

On behalf of the family, 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 which has not been recognized for its value to society.

The petitioners also agree with the National Forum on Health report which stated that the Income Tax Act discriminates against families who choose to provide care in the home to their preschool children because it does not take into account the real costs of raising children.

The petitioners therefore pray and call upon parliament to pursue tax initiatives to eliminate tax discrimination for 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, the following question will be answered today: No. 86 .[Text]

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Can the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration please provide: ( a ) the rationale and justification for the right-of-landing-fee (ROLF) as it applies to the sponsorship of family members; ( b ) the total revenue collected as a consequence of this aspect of this fee since its inception; ( c ) the location of this revenue item within the public accounts for this department; ( d ) the amount spent from this collected revenue on Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) and an item breakdown on the use of this funds; ( e ) an outline of the accounting process in place to ensure proper use and distribution of this fund for LINC; and ( f ) any studies or documentation that may identify the LINC program is not duplicating English as a Second Language (ESL) program?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

(a) The introduction of the right of landing fee, ROLF, by the government in February 1995 was in response to extensive public consultations held by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, CIC, in 1994 and to the government-wide program review exercise. During the public consultations it was recognized that, if the department was to continue to provide an acceptable level of service to immigrants in view of the government-wide commitment, a greater share of the costs should be transferred from the taxpayers to the direct beneficiaries of immigration services. Further, program review made reduction of the federal debt a priority for all government departments.

The government concluded that the acquisition of permanent residence and Canadian citizenship had tangible and intangible value to the recipient. This value was derived from access to an enhanced economic and social opportunity in Canada as well as access to a wide range of programs and services available. The right of landing fee provides partial compensation for the many rights and privileges that landed immigrant status confers.

(b) The ROLF was implemented February 28, 1995. Since its inception a net revenue, revenue minus refunds, of $458.5M has been generated.

Family class immigrants 19 years of age and over represent approximately 24% of all permanent resident landings in Canada. On this basis, total ROLF revenue derived from family class immigrants is estimated to be $110.04M.

(c) Citizenship and immigration revenue, including revenue derived from the right of landing fee is located in the public accounts, details of expenditures and revenues, volume II, part I.

(d) All revenue collected by CIC is deposited to the credit of the consolidated revenue fund, CRF. The revenue generated by the ROLF does not go directly toward the department's budget. The ROLF revenue assists to generally offset the costs throughout the immigration portfolio.

The language instruction for newcomers, LINC, was funded by $102M in fiscal year 1997-98 from CIC's contribution budget.

(e) Please see response for (d) above.

(f) Under LINC, CIC funds organizations for the provision of basic language training to adult immigrants in one of Canada's official languages. In some communities, other levels of government will fund language training options also.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

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

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

John Cummins Reform Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 28, 1997, I asked Question No. 33 and again on December 2, 1997, I asked Question No. 56. I have asked the hon. gentleman opposite on a number of occasions about the placement of these questions. The questions relate to the Oak Bay Marine Group, a company owned by Mr. Bob Wright, and a company perhaps favoured by the minister of fisheries. I wonder if the member can tell me the status of those questions.

As well, on December 1, 1997, I asked Question No. 51 which has to do with the aboriginal fisheries. Again it is another question which the minister may not be too happy to answer, but I would like to know what is happening to my question.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have once again noted Questions Nos. 33, 51 and 56. I did follow up the previous time, I assure the hon. member, and I will do so again.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed that all the remaining questions shall stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

moved:

That this House urges the government to act on the recommendation of Justice Horace Krever to compensate all victims who contracted Hepatitis C from tainted blood.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. According to Standing Order 43(2), I would like to advise the House that Reform Party members will be dividing their time during the speaking rotation today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, some victims of hepatitis C from tainted blood arrived on the Hill on Monday. They asked for a debate in the House. They asked the Prime Minister for that very thing. They sent him a letter saying “Could we please debate this? We do not think it is fair that some individuals should be compensated and others not”.

The official opposition today is providing that debate by using our opposition day, a supply day, to do that.

The victims felt frustrated and angry and in fact impotent, they told me, and I, along with other members of my party, am honoured to be able to provide that voice.

The government's decision to compensate half of the victims is based upon some rationales. I would like to go over those rationales and try to refute each one of them in turn.

The first rationale is that the timeframe, 1986 to 1990, was unique.

The second rationale is that if they compensate everyone there will be a huge precedent set.

The third rationale is that the floodgates of medical claims would open wide and it would put at risk our health care system.

The fourth rationale is that since all 13 governments in Canada signed on to this agreement it must be right.

In turn, let me address those rationales. I consider them to be debating arguments rather than principle arguments.

The timeframe of 1986 to 1990 is an arbitrary legal phoney dividing point for the following reasons. It is very evident that regulators messed up; Judge Krever said so plainly and clearly. The special new test the government said was unavailable before 1986 was developed in 1958. I have practised medicine in this country and I have used that test for much of my medical career.

The ALT test was by no means new. In fact, as it became more and more useful for determining whether or not hepatitis C was present in blood, other jurisdictions used it much earlier than 1986. For comparison, in the United States it was used in New York in 1982. It only became a regulatory thing with the U.S. in 1986 when they said that since everybody was using it they should make sure that it was a federal regulation. In 1981 a premier official of the Red Cross in Canada recommended the use of this test. It was available and was accepted before. The date is an arbitrary legal date.

I do not mean to be really harsh on this but I think that decision is despicable.

Speaking on the issue that the floodgates would open, that the floodgates would sink our medical system, a precedent is a precedent. Two main precedents have been set on this issue in Canada for other medical issues, the thalidomide tragedy and compensation for HIV. I will be specific about HIV because it is so close in time and it is from the same contaminated blood.

There was no test available in 1989 for HIV. Compensation for all HIV victims in Canada who got HIV from tainted blood was offered and accepted. Has there been a floodgate of spurious medical claims because of that? Of course not. Canadians' compassion recognized that the severe effect HIV had on those individuals was a specific medical tragedy. Hepatitis C was as well.

The health minister went on to say that other medical misadventures like breast implants or obstetrical tragedies would be under the same cloak if we were to compensate all victims of hepatitis C. That is wrong. As I said before, I have practised medicine. I had medical malpractice insurance. If I made a medical mistake, I would personally be sued for that mistake. I am thankful that never occurred over a 25 year span. This was for personal errors. If a manufacturer were to make faulty medical devices, it would be sued. The minister's argument is absolutely wrong.

Let us go to the experience in other countries. Other jurisdictions have decided to compensate all victims of hepatitis C. Ireland comes to mind. I had a chance to talk with officials from Ireland. Their plan goes back to 1996 when they started paying individuals. I asked them if there had been an outpouring of frivolous claims or claims from other areas of medical malpractice. Zero. Not one single claim. The argument provided by the minister is absolutely ludicrous. It is just a legal argument.

In Ireland the officials said that their government tried to inflate the numbers of victims to make it look as if it would be a huge expense for the Irish public. That is an interesting thing which our government is trying to do. The Hepatitis C Society of Canada has told me that its number of victims is about one-third the number the government is trying to foist on us. I do not understand this. The effect of other precedent setting compensation packages on the medical malpractice system in Canada is one big fat zero and Canadians know that. Hepatitis C compensation would do exactly the same thing.

The other argument is that since all governments have signed on to this agreement, it must be right. Every single government in Canada is implicated in this tragedy. Krever has said that the provinces as well as the federal government are responsible. The federal government takes the brunt of this responsibility sadly, but just because 13 people rob a bank, does that mean robbing a bank is right?

The arguments fall completely apart. The regulators in Canada failed. A huge human tragedy resulted. Canadians were harmed. Compensation should be paid to all those individuals.

I have an escape for the government. I believe we should always try to provide an escape clause for the government. It knows it has made an error in this. Here is how it can save face, look compassionate and say that it has listened.

A compensation package for everyone should be based upon some principles. First it should be non-adversarial. They should not have to go to the court. Second, payment should be based on showing a direct connection between hepatitis C and a blood transfusion. That involves some scientific evidence. Third, there should be the ability to return in a non-adversarial sense if the disease worsens. Finally, there should be the ability to go to court if an individual is unsatisfied with the compensation package. They should not be forced into taking a compensation package.

These principles give victims dignity and virtually all the funds go to the victims, not to lawyers.

On the issue of the Prime Minister saying that the vote coming from this supply day opposition motion is a vote of confidence, that is another feeble excuse to give his backbenchers the ability to vote as they should. Surely the Prime Minister as an experienced politician knows this. There is a very specific reference in clause 168 of Beauchesne's saying that the standing orders have completely deleted the ability of a confidence motion to follow upon the debates from a supply day motion. It is plain to see. I am going to table this so that the Prime Minister can read something he should have known.

All we ask, and this is something that is sincere and honest and open, is for the government to look at this principle. If the government is absolutely certain that there should be no compensation for any other victim of hepatitis C, let members vote freely. If the government will do that, the victims who came to Parliament Hill on Monday, those individuals who felt impotent and alone and hurt by this government decision will say that they have had the debate and their day in the House of Commons of Canada.

That is my plea. That is my wish. That is my hope. I challenge the Prime Minister to allow that to happen.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his work on this issue. Everyone in this House knows he has taken a leadership role in this issue.

Aside from the moral persuasion that we use in this House from time to time, what else can we do to convince other members on the government side that this vote has to be won?

We have to prove to Canadians that we are a compassionate country. In my opinion, this is probably the worst travesty in the history of health care in this country.

Aside from moral persuasion, what can we do in the next number of days to ensure that this very important vote is won on the floor of the House of Commons?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, moral persuasion is sometimes a powerful persuasion. The persuasion I see as the most effective is the persuasion of the victims.

We have a few days now between this debate and when the vote will take place. I simply ask the victims who have suffered to go to their MPs. I expect them to come to me with their faxes and their letters, but best is for them to look their members of parliament in the eye and express what this disease has meant to them. Look them in the eye and ask “Do you agree with giving compensation to some and no compensation to others?” When that happens I do not care what the Prime Minister says. I do not care what the Prime Minister does. An individual in their heart will have to say “I do not believe it is fair to turn some out on the street”.

The victims will keep this debate alive. The press have asked me over and over again how I will keep this debate alive. This is not for me nor is it for the member who also has had a profound interest in this issue. This is for people who have been harmed by a public system. Those victims will not go away. The government will have this hanging around its neck for the rest of this term unless it says that it made a mistake. The government does not have to lose face. We are not going to vote its members out of office for this but if they continue with this, their offices are at risk.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek a comment from the member particularly with respect to the matter of confidence.

I would like to reaffirm the interpretation the member gave to the standing orders. When considering an opposition day motion, for a decade now opposition day motions have not been procedurally speaking matters of confidence. A long time ago we changed the rules so that precisely what the Prime Minister is trying to create in the context of this opposition day motion would not occur. In days before that rule change, members would always vote according to which party they belonged to, which side of the House they belonged to because these motions were considered to be matters of confidence.

They are not matters of confidence and can only be made matters of confidence in two ways. First is by the leader of a party declaring it so and second is by the members of that party whose leader has declared it to be so abiding by that particular declaration.

I would like the hon. member's opinion on this. This is a perfect opportunity for members of the Liberal backbench to say “No, we are sorry Mr. Prime Minister but we think this should not be regarded as a matter of confidence”. It is not part of the government's platform. It is not part of the government's budget. It was not in the throne speech. It was not in all that which might be legitimate we argue might be a matter of confidence. It is an entirely separate issue on which parliament should render a judgment unhindered by the confidence convention.

I would join with the hon. member in calling upon Liberal backbenchers to seize this moment to make parliamentary history and say from here on in that we do not accept that these kinds of things will be needlessly made matters of confidence.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr Speaker, the member is quite an expert in the rules and I claim not to be such an expert.

Let me read from the rules. On December 20, 1984 the House removed references in the standing orders which described votable motions on allotted days, that is today, as questions of confidence. That was removed. They are not questions of confidence.

I commit to the Prime Minister that I and my party will not make this an issue of confidence. The government will not fall on the basis of this. It cannot fall. If the Prime Minister says it is a matter of confidence, I think he is making a grave error. I once again strongly encourage him to allow members of parliament to vote with their hearts.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to this issue. I am going to cover the issue of confidence and exactly why this government is incorrect on this issue. I am going to refer to another issue which happened in this House almost two years ago today.

The issue we have before us today is actually one of integrity, fairness and leadership. I was raised to believe that you had to pay for your mistakes and be responsible for your actions. I think such is the case for the federal government on this issue.

The issue of compensating people who have contracted the hepatitis C virus because of receiving tainted blood, further as a result of government actions, must be dealt with in a fair and just manner.

It is ironic that today we are dealing with a health minister who has failed to answer the call of the victims of hepatitis C. Two years ago that same health minister was the justice minister who was asked to come into the House on the call of some other victims. That is when the Reform Party tabled a national victims bill of rights. Of course we all know what happened to that.

That same minister stood and said “Yes, we all care about victims. We are really concerned about victims and we will do something about this. We will develop a national victims bill of rights”. Today what do we have? Nothing, zero, nil. Just a bunch of rhetoric. It is ironic that it comes from the same individual who is now the health minister.

Today we have no victims rights and we have no hepatitis victims getting compensation. Is that familiar or what? We are looking at the same instance where the heat was on the government by victims of crime all across the country. It bent, took it into the House of Commons and said something would be done. The heat went off and it was dropped. It is so typical. Canadians often wonder why they lose confidence in the people sent to Ottawa. This is exactly why.

I will read something that is very interesting about the issue of confidence. Two years ago, when I dug back into the Hansard debates, I asked a question of the very same minister who was then the justice minister on a supply day, which is rather ironic, as it is today:

Earlier today the justice minister said he was willing to support the Reform Party's efforts to develop a national victims bill of rights.

He also indicated there would be a free vote on that issue today at 6:30 p.m. Could he confirm it?

The minister's response was:

The answer of course is that when there are resolutions, as there are today involving victims rights, members of this party vote as they see fit. I already told the House this morning that I am going to be voting in favour of the resolution because I share the objectives expressed by the hon. member. I expect that other members of the government side will vote as they see fit.

This is the identical issue. It is about rights. It is a supply day. It is about confidence in a vote, and yet two years ago the same minister stood in the House and said that was no problem. Today, when faced with an even more compassionate issue as far as victims who are in varying need of health care, of compensation, the government says it is not an issue of confidence.

It is an issue of confidence and therefore we must vote together on it. I just do not understand what is with this government. It does not make sense.

Let me ask my colleagues and those watching today whether this is the expectations they have of a minister and a government. Is this what they are wanting, a flip flop as they see fit? I think not.

I guess one of these days this will come back to haunt the government. The government cannot keep changing the rules as it sees fit.

Let us talk for a moment about the practicality of the government and the minister not compensating those who have contracted hepatitis C. The first issue I think about is the multimillions of dollars that will be spent by those already victimized trying to receive compensation given to others in identical circumstances.

What kind of logic is there in this? These people are already victims. Now the government is demanding that these people get the same compensation given others by an arbitrary cut-off line. They will have to go to court and fight. Many of them cannot afford the bills.

Who gets something out of this? The lawyers will get wealthy, I am sure, all across this land. But what about the victims? It does not make sense. I would like to see members on the other side justify this in those terms. Many victims of crime call that revictimization, and I would agree with them.

Let us talk about another issue. Justice Krever spent four years looking into this issue and spent millions of dollars trying to find a fair and reasonable answer to the issue. His recommendation after four long years, which I presume the government would like to accept, is to compensate those infected with hepatitis C; not those over 40, not school children, not women, but all those who have hepatitis C. That is as simple and as clear as a bell. Does this make sense? Of course it does. Then why is there an arbitrary decision to cut a line and say that some will and some will not? Does that make sense?

Let us talk about something even closer to home for many of us. The government over the last number of years is well known to have blown multimillions of dollars out the door, billions of dollars in fact. It calls this an issue of money. The government asks if it goes down the line and compensates everybody, can it afford it.

Let us look at some other things the government says it can afford. $1.4 million over three years to the Czech municipal authorities is okay but compensating those prior to 1986 is not. $473,000 to look at an overhaul of the Czechoslovakia judicial reform is okay but compensating hepatitis C victims is not. $500,000 to reintegrate Malian soldiers back into their society is okay but compensating hepatitis C victims prior to 1986 is not. $14 million to provide Canadian built locomotives to Senegal is okay but compensating victims of hepatitis C prior to 1986 is not.

I really think the average taxpayer or the average person looks at issues like this and asks “Why is that okay but compensating those prior to 1986 is not? What kind of rationale could a government come up with to justify that?” Is it fair to Canadians? I think not.

$450,000 to establish a Lebanese parliamentary institute is okay, yet the government does not have the courage of its convictions to treat its own Canadian citizens fairly. It is quite shameful actually.

The government has compensated all AIDS tainted blood victims. The government has compensated the east coast fishermen for the loss of their fishery. In opposition the Liberal politicians before us pressured the Conservatives to compensate all thalidomide victims. Now they exclude, arbitrarily I might add, all hepatitis C victims prior to 1986.

I understand my time is up, but I do have an amendment to the motion. I move:

That the motion be amended by inserting after the word “House” the word “strongly”.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The amendment appears to be in order.