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House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was world.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bloc Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the name of my riding is quite a mouthful, but it is one of the loveliest regions in Quebec. The full name is Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok. These are the names of the four RCMs around the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands directly opposite.

I am pleased to take part in today's debate in the House on the distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor, mainly in the context of globalization of markets. I am also very pleased to be speaking after my colleague, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, because I know that the region he represents is experiencing some of the same things as we are in the Gaspé.

I heard my colleague mention an unemployment rate of 22% in his riding. My constituents are in pretty much the same boat, if not a little worse off. Even if I look beyond our region, the situation is the same in New Brunswick, showing the relevance and importance of the issue. Those of us from the regions must raise these issues.

People often say that the population in the regions is small, but we export. We are therefore hard hit by the globalization of markets. What tools has the Parliament of Canada put at our disposal? We do not see any. Our colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, initiated this debate, and that is what should be borne in mind.

When I speak of exporting regions, such as mine in the Gaspé, in the Magdalen Islands or in Acadie—Bathurst in New Brunswick, the crab fishery is very important. I mentioned it earlier. I think that the only person not aware of the problem is the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. We rely heavily on exports. The Japanese are our main buyers.

But what is there to help this industry if ever Asian prices were to drop? We are just as dependent on exports as the riding of my colleague, the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques. His riding would also be affected if anything were to happen to Asian pork markets. This is what we want to discuss. What are the available tools?

Second, we talk about the distribution of wealth, but what does the Parliament of Canada put at our disposal? What are the tools available to help the needy and those who are searching for work? How can we improve the situation?

In the context of globalization, what are the tools provided to fishers who rely on the TAGS program? These people need tools to cope. They export their fish, because there are not enough of us in Canada to eat it all. They would like to retrain, but to do what? These are all issues that need to be discussed.

I will conclude, for I want to give the last word to my colleague, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst. But first I want to congratulate the Ralliement madelinot-gaspésien. This organization from the Gaspe Peninsula drafted a social contract to make people think about the distribution of wealth. The hon. member for Québec referred to it in this House, and I am prepared to give a copy of this social contract from the organization to all members of the House. This group of people representing the various regions of the Gaspe Peninsula also wants to launch a debate on the distribution of wealth.

I now give the last word to the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok.

This is precisely the problem in our country. It all started with free trade and then NAFTA. In fact, the purpose of these trade agreements was to protect what we had and to improve the situation in other countries. However, the opposite is happening. This is why, two weeks ago, we had to file complaints with Canada's labour board, because these agreements were not being complied with.

So, you can imagine what will happen with the globalization of markets. Again, we have a problem in this country, and until the government takes its responsibilities and addresses these issues, there will be hungry children in Canada. In the Atlantic region, the government is prepared to close down TAGS.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am splitting my time with my colleague from Mississauga South.

I do not know why my colleague has to lose his temper. A little earlier he was speaking in the House and was worried and concerned about the fact that if the MAI were to be implemented or if globalization is to take its course workers could not go to the bathroom. I am really surprised that the debate had to come to this level of argument.

Things are not as bad as my colleagues in the NDP would have us believe. We still are considered the best country in the world in which to live. For three years in a row the United Nations has identified Canada as the best place in the world in which to live. We rank number one, ahead of the United States, Japan, Netherlands, Norway and other countries.

We still have a quality of life which is higher than any other country in the G-7 which makes it the highest quality of life in the world. It is ahead of Germany, France, the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy. Canada also has the highest level of enrolment when it comes to higher education than any other country in the G-7. Things are not as bad as my colleagues like to make them look.

I do not want to say all these things are because of the government's action. All these good things have been achieved collectively by Canadians at every level of government, municipal, provincial and federal. All those things are happening because the government was able to collect taxes from people and corporations in order to spend on our wonderful social programs which are the finest in the world.

I want my colleagues to know that money does not grow on banana trees. It is not planted in backyards. We have to work and produce in order to generate money. That money would not be in the amount we see here in Canada if it were not for corporations that are investing in research and development and in products that are selling here and more importantly are being sold abroad in markets in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the United States and elsewhere.

I hope my colleagues are not suggesting that we should close our borders, bury our heads in the sand and wish for a sunny day because it is not going to happen.

The motion before us today is trying to blame everything on globalization. There is no way out. Either governments around the world will have to move into the next century smiling and co-operating or governments will move into the next century kicking and screaming. Simply put, the world is changing. All we have to do is to look at the past few years to see the revolution and the evolution which have taken place when it comes to information technology.

Governments are scrambling to catch up. In the past few years we have been able to unleash the intelligence of our people in Canada and in the United States. That is why today we have the most sophisticated mode of communication in the world, which is the Internet. Tomorrow we will see other technologies coming on board which will eventually render governments pretty well obsolete.

My view is that the government which is the fastest to move toward not becoming obsolete in the new world order is the government that will be serving its people the best. The government that is capable of coping with what is taking place around the world and establishing standards that suit the people of the world is the government that will be meeting the needs of its people.

The multilateral agreement on investment is not the end. It is the beginning. It is the beginning of something wonderful. No member of the World Trade Organization is biting the butt or chopping the head of another member. Everything is going fairly well. We finally have a world order and rules which govern the whole world when it comes to trade between the economies of countries. We finally have a mechanism in place where if one country is in dispute with another country there is a forum where they can resolve their dispute.

When we talk about rules also governing investment there is nothing to worry about because nobody is robbing anything from anyone. All we are saying is that we want to have a level playing field all over the world when it comes to countries that presently are or eventually will be members of the World Trade Organization and the OECD.

We want to have a proper level playing field so that we know what we are talking about. Billions of Canadian taxpayers' dollars are invested abroad, in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere. We want to make sure these investments are protected.

I am not fearful. We have one of the most open economies in the world. We are not afraid of a takeover because our country is wide open for investment. We welcome investment. Investment creates jobs.

There is no fear here because simply put, with the multilateral agreement once and if it is signed, there is no need to change anything when it comes to existing Canadian laws. Canadian laws will not be affected. It will not take anything away from the Government of Canada when it comes to its ability to introduce new laws or to change existing laws, providing it treats everyone on the same basis with equality. There are exemptions. A lot of our industries are exempted.

I do not know what this is all about, trying to blame the poverty of the world on the multilateral agreement on investment or blame world poverty on globalization. Ask the people in Malaysia. They will say that thanks to investment in their country the level of income and the gross domestic product have multiplied many times over. Speak to the people in Singapore, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Latin America and elsewhere in the world. They will say one by one that thanks to trade and thanks to our investment in their countries and their investment in our country, there is a much better world. We have to bring down barriers, not build them up. Protectionism could kill an elephant.

Madam Speaker, you bet your life if this motion were ever to become votable I would be the first one to vote against it and I would not be blushing because it is a ridiculous motion. It is not a thoughtful motion.

No one has done anything substantial in order to convince me that as an elected official I should be voting for something that is against the interests of the people. A multilateral agreement on investment and globalization will work eventually in the best interests of the people.

Somebody told me a story about a company that went to India and invested in toothpaste, Colgate or whatever. As a result of that investment the quality of life of the people who work in the surrounding area has dramatically improved. As a result of that particular investment, another nail has been put into the coffin of poverty.

That is one example. There are hundreds of other examples across the land where foreign investment has helped to improve the quality of life for people in countries where they live and eventually narrowed the gap between the poor and the rich.

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5:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I wonder why my colleague from Ottawa-Centre is getting so upset. He does not need to get angry. He looks mighty serious and angry. I want to throw the ball back into his court. When I look at where the hon. member for Ottawa Centre is coming from, I understand why he is so vigorously defending the interests of the government. I am sure that he does not have the same problem in Ottawa Centre that we have in Acadie—Bathurst, which is why my predecessor, Doug Young, was shown the door.

I invite my colleague opposite to visit Newfoundland, since his government wants to abolish the TAGS program. He does not need to go outside the country to see people living in poverty and children going hungry.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this and the fact that more and more people in Atlantic Canada and in downtown Montreal can be seen begging in the streets. Even here in Ottawa, there are people begging, which we never used to see before. The same thing goes for Vancouver. This is the real problem.

It started with the Free Trade Agreement, then NAFTA and now the MIA. This is where the problem lies. We cannot bury our heads in the sand, we have to look up and see what is going on in our own country.

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5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague is from New Brunswick. I am surprised he does not have enough faith in the people of New Brunswick who with their government have changed the course of things.

I commend the Government of New Brunswick, a Liberal government that came to power at a time when there was a big gap between the rich and the poor. There was not enough economic growth in that province. In a matter of a few years the sensibility, sensitivity and vision of that Liberal government enabled it to map out a strategy whereby the province of New Brunswick was able to attract businesses and investment. I repeat investment. I know my colleague in the NDP hates the word investment. He is allergic to the word investment.

There was economic growth in New Brunswick. New Brunswick is now more equipped than ever before to meet the challenges of the next century.

The member should not look at it as a negative thing. Investment has helped his province and it will continue to help his province. He should stand and say that he wants more investment, that he wants to encourage more businesses to be established in his province, that he wants it to do more trade not only with the rest of Canada but with the rest of the world. The world is his market.

Globalization means bringing down borders. It allows us to sell to five billion people versus selling to only two million or three million people. It gives us more opportunities. There is no need for fear. The world is better today than it was yesterday or the day before.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

We have 30 seconds left for a question. The hon. member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bloc Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Madam Speaker, in the 30 seconds I have, I want to say that I agree with the comments made by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, about the astonishment shown by our colleague who lives in a more central riding.

I think it is a bit contemptuous for a member to say during today's debate that money does not grow on trees. What the people of our region are asking for is tools to work with.

I also want to remind the House that Canada was built from east, from Gaspé and New Brunswick, to west, and that we would not have a country if it were not for us.

Our industry is agonizing. We wants tools. Wake up.

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5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all, old battles must not be dragged back into this House. All there is to say is that now we are all part of a civilized society, and life in a civilized and democratic society requires everyone to work together to develop the economy of that society. The way to do so is through free trade.

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5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in this debate on the subject of elimination of poverty.

Child poverty is an issue which has seized Canada for many years. Most notably the House of Commons passed a motion to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Child poverty is a political term. That term was coined to elucidate some sympathy for a cause or an issue. Child poverty is really family poverty which is the aspect I will discuss.

A Bloc member raised the issue of the gap between the rich and the poor recently in the House.

Most Canadians would agree that in Canada we should have an environment in which we can be as successful as we possibly can be, in which we can earn economic returns based on the amount we contribute, our abilities and the opportunities we create for ourselves, and in which we can be as successful as we want to be.

In terms of narrowing the gap between rich and poor I suspect we are not so much concerned about how much rich people might be getting through their efforts. Our interest is more in terms of how we deal with those who are in need in society. Many members of this place share a value system which says that we should help those most in need first.

Just as a point of reference I would like to share with the House what an LICO is, a low income cut off. In Canada we do not formally have a poverty line. However as a reference point we use the Statistics Canada low income cut off threshold.

To give members an idea of what these numbers would be, in a city such as Ottawa one person with an income below $16,874 would be deemed to be living in poverty according to Statistics Canada. Two persons would increase to $21,092. Three persons would increase to $26,232. Four persons, for instance a mother, father and two children, with incomes below $31,753 would be living in poverty. That is a point of reference. I will not make any judgment on whether those levels of income are significant in terms of our understanding of the concept of poverty in Canada.

There are many reasons for poverty in Canada. Most would agree that one of the key elements has to do with jobs and the strength of our Canadian economy to deliver jobs for Canadians who want to work and want to earn incomes to take care of their responsibilities and to enjoy the fruits of Canada.

Canada has come through a very traumatic fiscal period over the last 25 years in which deficits increased annually. Our national debt has a substantial annual financing cost. In 1993 we had a $42 billion deficit. Obviously it was very difficult for any government to produce the kinds of initiatives that would deal with that fiscal situation and with issues such as jobs in the absence of dealing with the fiscal health of Canada. All members know that for the first time in a long time Canada will have a balanced budget for the year ended March 31, 1998.

In the budget presented to this place the finance minister outlined a number of initiatives. It was not a lot but it was a clear start with things like education of our children, ensuring accessibility to schools so that they could get the skills and the training they needed to get the jobs they needed.

We also have a scenario where the interest rates in Canada came down and have been the lowest in 10 years. We are still two or three percentage points below those in the United States. This means we are able to invest capital and that jobs are flowing from that capital investment. It means we have a very stable fiscal situation which has increased exports, and exports create jobs. In that aspect things are starting to happen but not quickly enough.

Canadians need tax breaks. They need to pay less in taxes so they have more disposable income, can continue to be consumers in the economy, generate more growth within our system and provide more jobs so that the synergy and ripple effect will take place.

Certainly poverty has to be discussed in the context of economic realities, but I want to talk about poverty in the context of social realities. The Vanier Institute of the Family stated that lone parent families represented about 12% of all families but accounted for 46% of all children living in poverty.

Lone parent situations do not very often statistically occur naturally in terms of an unmarried mother, for instance. It is about 3%. Actually the preponderance of the lone parent situation in Canada has to do with the breakdown of the family. It has to do with the fact that in Canada today 30% of all marriages end up in divorce. It has to do with the fact that we now have over a million family relationships in Canada which are common law relationships.

Common law relationships break down twice as frequently as married relationships within the first five years of such relationships. Some 60% of common law relationships break down within the first five years. Some 60% of all parental relationships, whether they be married or common law, involve children. This is one of the most significant reasons we have child poverty and so-called family poverty.

It is a very important area for us to deal with and there is no simple solution. It is very complex in terms of the social dynamics and the strength of the Canadian family. Economics have something to do with it. Stress in family life, stress in business life and stress in life generally have a great deal to do with how society is at peace with itself and how we grow and develop together. There is a complexity here that is very important.

I am working on a bit of research about children's outcomes. We know if children are healthy we have healthy families and obviously a healthy country. Healthy children are a very important part of the strategy dealing with the elimination of poverty and the narrowing of the gap between rich and poor. This means we have to understand how children develop.

One of the most significant pieces of research done in the last few years by the Carnegie Foundation was called “Starting Points”. It indicated that the quality of care in the first three years of life was the most significant determinant of the physical, mental and social health of children. Brain development occurs so rapidly during that period that the foundations for abstract reasoning, logical thinking and general logic are all established by age one.

There are many elements to this issue, but early childhood development represents an area in which we must make a major investment. We must invest in children and over the longer term we will have not only healthy children but also healthy families and clearly a healthier country.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Madam Speaker, I have listened to my colleague take a rather roundabout way before getting to the motion we have introduced today, which merely dealt with the striking of a parliamentary committee to try and seek some solutions to the poverty we have today.

He spoke of the 1989 commitment to eliminate poverty by the year 2000. It must be admitted that they have totally missed the boat. We have recently been given a figure of 1.5 million poor children in Canada.

He referred to common-law couples. I fail to see what this has to do with poverty. For me, poverty equals joblessness. Instead of talking about the deficit, he should have talked of the debt. The reason for poverty is the $600 billion in accumulated debt that has been run up in past years, because of needless national spending. This $600 billion cost us $50 billion in interest annually.

If we had $50 billion to invest in jobs every year, there would be far fewer poor people now.

I would just like to return to the opposition motion. I would like to hear whether the hon. member is really in agreement with this proposal to strike a parliamentary committee in order to find ways to eliminate poverty as quickly as possible.

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5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I understand the member's concerns and I will answer his question directly.

The member wants a parliamentary committee to assess how we can deal with the issue. In my experience as a parliamentarian, parliamentary committees do not often have the opportunity or the resources to do the job that is necessary. In fact I do not believe we require a royal commission on the family or children. I do not believe we need a parliamentary committee. I think we need to act.

Everyone in this place should understand that economics has a significant role to play in terms of eliminating child poverty. Restoring the fiscal health of the country will play an important role in improving our economy, expanding the economy, creating jobs, providing greater disposable income for Canadians and being able to deliver tax breaks to families so they have less stress in terms of their financial affairs. Those things will help.

Perhaps the member did not hear the part of my speech in which I talked about the breakdown of the Canadian family. Divorce and breakdown of common law relationships with children are causing a very significant problem in that although only 12% of families are single parent families they account for 46% of all children living in poverty. This is not an insignificant portion of the problem which the member seeks to address.

I suggest to the member that if it was simply a matter of giving money to poor people eventually we would get to the point where there would be a disincentive or no incentive to work or to contribute. In fact we would approach a level at which they would effectively have, with all of the benefits provided directly or indirectly by various levels of government, a guaranteed annual income.

A guaranteed annual income is a simple solution but it will not deal with the problems. That is why, when we deal with things such as how to help those in most need, increasing the child tax benefit by $850 million this year and another $850 million the next is a start. Is it enough? No, not at all.

It is a start. It represents and reflects the commitment of the government to restoring fiscal health to relieve Canadians over the longer term of the tax burden they are feeling and to ensuring that, most important, we invest in children who are our future and represent our best opportunity of investment for long term sustainable returns.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It being 5:30 p.m. it is my duty to inform the House that proceedings on the motion have expired.

The House will now proceed to the taking of several deferred recorded divisions.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The House resumed from April 23 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made earlier today the first recorded division deals with the motion on the business of supply.

Pursuant to the same order made earlier today the question on the amendment relating to the business of supply is deemed defeated on division.

The question then is on the main motion.

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

Division No. 129Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion defeated.

The House resumed from April 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made Wednesday, April 22, 1998, the next deferred recorded division is on the motion of the second reading stage of Bill C-39.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion, with the exception of the chief government whip, be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yea.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there agreement to proceed in such a fashion?

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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

Division No. 130Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

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

The House resumed from April 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-216, an act to amend the Access to Information Act (Crown corporations), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Access To Information ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made on Tuesday, April 21, 1998, the next deferred recorded division is on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-216 under Private Members' Business. The question is on the motion.

As is the practice, the division will be taken row by row, starting with the mover and then proceeding with those in favour of the motion sitting on the same side of the House as the mover. Then those in favour of the motion sitting on the other side of the House will be called. Those opposed to the motion will be called in the same order.

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

Division No. 131Private Members' Business

April 28th, 1998 / 6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make sure that my name was called as voting with the government on this issue.

Division No. 131Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Speaker

We did not call your name but you will be registered. I declare the motion lost.