House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very very proud of my family. My father was a logger and a farmer, and I am proud of that.

The hon. member says that the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke is always talking about people. But Canada is its people. I would tell my friend: “Stay in Canada because you know that this is the greatest country of them all. Stay calm, my friend. You know very well that it is the country of all the people served by all the members of this House of Commons”. I am very surprised that he feels education is not—

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member but his time is up. The hon. member for Mississauga West.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to you on the exalted position you have been returned to.

How does one follow the oratorical splendour of the previous speaker? He neglected to tell the House that the event he was talking about last evening was his 50th birthday party. We should say happy birthday to our friend from Pembroke. I was also interested to hear him tell the House that his mother and dad had 10 children, as did mine, interestingly enough. We have a few other things in common. We are brothers. It appears we must be related.

He talked about his father. The interesting thing about my situation is that my dad was a national labour leader. I often say that having 10 children, my mother and dad were the only couple I knew who were constantly in labour together.

I find it interesting, though, returning to the issue at hand, to listen to what clearly amounts to nothing more than a feeding frenzy by the opposition.

I thought about this place over the break this summer. I thought that it would be interesting to try to bring some civility into parliament. I must admit that sometimes I have contributed to the rising temperature in some members opposite. I was shocked this morning, when I got back on my elevator to go upstairs in my apartment building, to see the member for Wild Rose coming down. My God, he is in my building and there goes the neighbourhood. Property values are apparently in serious trouble. I will have to look for alternative accommodation.

The Reform Party spent the summer, as we all know, busily bashing one another. Infighting occurred. Expulsions into the back row or oblivion or right out of caucus appeared on the front page of every journal in the country on a regular basis. Then when Reformers got tired of that they bashed poor Joe Clark. It seems that Mr. Clark has rejected their amorous attempts to bring them together in bed. All this internal combustion that has been taking place appears to be exploding. Someone has lit a match under them, I guess, and it appears to be now exploding back into this place in parliament.

As much as I really want to try to deal with the issues, it would be interesting if the opposition parties could try to do the same thing. What they are doing now is just simply, mindlessly, without any kind of proper research other than perhaps the National Post , casting aspersions.

I talked to Canadians all summer. When they watch this stuff they get confused. They ask who is right and who they should believe. Should they believe the Reform Party? We are saying we will cut taxes. The Reform Party cannot take yes for an answer. Canadians look at it and wonder if they should believe these guys in the opposition or believe the government.

I heard one thing this morning from the opposition that I agree with. The critic for finance said that Canadians deserve credit for the financial turnaround of the country, and he is absolutely right. Unfortunately he then went off into a tirade of nonsensical nonsense, if there is such a thing, a double standard, and he lost a very good point. It is the people in Canada who indeed have worked hard, who have re-elected the government because they believed in the platform that we put forward.

We put our cards on the table. We said that we would eliminate that $42 billion deficit. We said that we would reduce taxes. We have done that, regardless of what the opposition continues to say, by some $16 billion in the last budget. We will reduce taxes again in spite of what members opposite say. Over 600,000 low income Canadians have been taken off the tax rolls altogether.

Have we done enough? I do not think so. Could we ever do enough to satisfy the appetite of members opposite? I do not think so. Canadians can ask themselves one question, which is the measure of whom to believe: Are we better off as individuals Canadians than we were in 1993?

Members opposite say we are worse off. The United Nations says this is the greatest country in the world in which to live. We know that. I find it interesting that one can say it is the greatest country in the world in which to live unless one lives here. People want to complain.

I had an experience this summer when I went to Strasbourg, France, to the Council of Europe. I listened to the issues that were being debated. There were 41 countries from Europe that got together in Strasbourg at the Council of Europe, a 50 year old institution. I listened to issues they dealt with. They dealt with war, death, destruction of communities, ethnic cleansing and annihilation of entire races of people.

I am not denigrating or putting down the problems we have in the country. Some of them are extremely serious but let us take a look around the world. This country is a marvellous place. Perhaps opposition members could at least concede that this country is a marvellous place and that Canadians are not boastful people as our Prime Minister said. We are quiet, industrious and hard working as a nation. We are known for that throughout the world.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Are you quiet?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Maybe not all of us are quiet, I would agree, but we are hard working and industrious. It cannot possibly be the doom and gloom we hear opposite.

I give some credit to the member for Wild Rose for raising the very valid issue of the problems on our reserves. It puzzles me, when I hear a member from the opposite side talking about supporting the natives on our reserves and improving their quality of life, that they do not support the Nisga'a treaty. That treaty has wide support in British Columbia yet they do not support it.

I also heard them talk about people on the street. If there is one problem that is absolutely visible to people who come to this country from other parts of the world, it is the fact that we have a serious homelessness problem. We must do something about it.

It is mentioned in the throne speech, but let me add that a throne speech is a visionary document. It is not a document, unlike what the opposition would like, that simply lays out specifics about the size of a tax cut. Even though it does say there will be a multi-year tax cut based hopefully on a five year plan it cannot give the specifics. The work is yet to be done. Members opposite know full well that those specifics will appear in a budget in February, a budget for which I am quite sure they already have their negative remarks prepared. It will lay it out in detail.

The issues of homelessness and affordable housing are mentioned in the throne speech. Once again one would not or could not possibly put the specifics in a throne speech which deals with a vision of the government.

Turning to the issue of children, my close friend and brother-in-law from England once said to me that when babies start killing babies we have a serious problem. I do not want to overdramatize the issue but we have seen an explosion in the youth in all of North America. It has even occurred in western Canada. There is a reason for it and we must address the reason. It cannot be fixed overnight. There have to be stronger families, stronger opportunities for parental care and supervision, and strong leadership within families.

It is my view that a throne speech simply sets out the vision for that to occur. We want to do all these things and it is difficult to balance everything.

We believe in tax cuts. We absolutely believe in reducing the debt which is a burden for future children of the country. It is a top priority. We believe in our children and in our youth and that the plan laid out in the throne speech has very strong merits to make us the country of the next millennium.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it hurts me to say this but I would like to compliment my two Liberal colleagues on their speeches. I do so because they spoke from the heart. While I fundamentally disagree with much of what they say, they have the ability to speak from their hearts rather than from a canned speech handed to them by somebody in the lobby. I disagree with much of what they say but I appreciate the fact that they are speaking from their hearts. Perhaps they could talk to their colleagues and give us a little more entertainment in this place.

My colleague made a comment about whom people should trust or believe. People should look at the actions of the government, not at the words but at the actions and what has happened.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am really sorry to interrupt the member for Dewdney—Alouette but he used his 30 seconds to compliment them and we will go now to the member for Mississauga West.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the compliments. That is probably all I need to say. I know what his question was—

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will go now to the member for Churchill River.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the regional diversity of Canada is witnessed by everyone who travels the country, but the agricultural industry and the family farm are in crisis. Time and time again everyone points to the throne speech and says that the family farm was not discussed.

Perhaps the member could respond at some point in time to the fact that part of our family has fallen into hard times. Can he speak to this issue at all?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

October 14th, 1999 / 12:10 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, not representing a farming community obviously puts me at some disadvantage, but as national politicians we must address all these issues.

I thank the member for raising the issue. Our government must continue to support GRIP. We have to find a way to make the family farm stronger. That is part of the overall goal. One does not exclude one segment of society simply because there may not be a specific reference.

We are talking about tax cuts. I think they will help farmers. We are talking about new technology, investing in science, finding new ways to treat crops, new ways to cut costs for farmers and programs that are already in place.

I agree with the member's concern and I am confident the government will help farmers.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments. Forty-eight per cent of the farming community in the areas we have been referring to are up for bankruptcy. Quality of life is in jeopardy for these people, which is something the member would not know anything about because he thinks milk comes from a carton or that pork is manufactured in some plant.

I wish the Liberal government could visit reserves to see the squalor that exists. The Nisga'a agreement does not solve that but accountability does.

When the government came to power in 1993 it announced that one million children were living in poverty and that something had to be done. This morning it was reported that figure increased by 66%. Would the member forget trying to be a comedian and tell me how this wonderful caring Liberal government could allow the number of children in poverty to go up by 66% since it has come into power?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not consider child poverty to be a very funny issue at all. Our government has announced that we have already increased the national child credit and that we are committed to doing more in that area.

The most important thing we can do for the country is to ensure that all families, all Canadians, have equal access to opportunity; that children go to school with full bellies in the morning; and that they have proper supervision and someone to come home to at the end of the day. I have raised three boys and I have some understanding of where milk comes from, regardless of the member's denigrating remarks.

We must and we will do something about child poverty. It will be action, not words, and not the negativity I hear coming from members opposite.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I would simply like to draw to your attention the fact that my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry will be sharing his time with my colleague for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and that all colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois will be sharing time for the rest of the debate.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity of my first speech of the second session of the 36th legislature to greet the people of Beauharnois—Salaberry and to let them know that I intend to continue to represent them in this House with dignity and to behave in a manner that is fully respectful of Parliament and its members. I reiterate my commitment to continue to serve the public within this institution, a service which gives a deep and sincere meaning to my political commitment.

I would also like to greet my landlady here in the federal capital region, Mrs. Anne Allard, who has honoured me today with her presence in the Opposition gallery.

I was not much impressed by the Speech from the Throne, and even less impressed by the address in reply given yesterday by the Prime Minister. What I find objectionable in these speeches is not so much their ceremonious nature but, rather, their pretentiousness.

There is something unhealthy about a speech in which the government keeps repeating that Canada is the best country, that it is the envy of the whole world and that others dream of a country like ours. The fact is that such pretentiousness cannot hide the insecurity that characterizes this country, that compels it to make an abusive use of its flag and symbols to create an identity that it is sorely lacking.

Such insecurity probably explains why the Prime Minister likes to refer to Canada as a multicultural, postnational society, while trying to present his government as a national government.

It is not the first such paradox from the Prime Minister. This speech is indeed a paradox, given that a supposedly national government is opting for a way which, for Canada, is increasingly less respectful of federalism, an allegedly national government that is delivering, at least as regards Quebec, an increasingly less coherent speech.

Incidentally, is it not strange that, following the Mont-Tremblant conference on federalism and globalization—in which my colleagues and myself were, as can be expected, very pleased to participate—the word “federalism” is nowhere to be found in the throne speech, nor is the term “federation”, and the adjective “federal” is used only four times?

By contrast, the speech refers to national will, national strategy, national program, national child benefit, national action plan on skills and learning, national health system, national accord with the voluntary sector, and so on.

So, after the great federalist statements made in Mont-Tremblant, here we have the national ambitions in Ottawa. In Mont-Tremblant, Bloc Quebecois members were sovereignists and they still are, here in Ottawa.

National ambitions may seem quite legitimate to Canadians who want the federal government to take on a greater role in the areas of family policy, education, health, or in the voluntary sector.

As far as Quebecers are concerned, the jurisdiction of the National Assembly and of the Government of Quebec should not be limited by such intrusions and by such ambitions, because these ambitions become intrusions. Each successive government in Quebec has challenged the federal government's right to invade Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, by using its exorbitant spending power.

In this regard, the Speech from the Throne, like the latest budget speech, puts the framework agreement on social union at the centre of its national strategy, an agreement that incorporates the national will of the Liberal government.

It should no doubt be mentioned that Quebec did not sign the agreement, because the Speech from the Throne does not mention Quebec's opposition and treats Quebec's objection as empty. According to the throne speech, the agreement is, and I quote `?a commitment by governments to work together for Canadians”. It calls for “governments to report publicly on the effectiveness of social programs”. It also commits “governments to eliminating barriers that unjustifiably impede the mobility of citizens within Canada”.

But what does it matter, the framework agreement on social union, like the Constitution Act, 1982, before it, which Quebecers objected to and continue to do so, is to structure Canada of tomorrow, to provide it with a national government, to focus on health care, post-secondary education and social services.

The Bloc Quebecois will defend the interests of Quebecers here in the House of Commons, and will keep on reminding people that the framework agreement on social union, just like the 1982 Constitution, was adopted without the consent of Quebec and cannot be imposed upon it.

It will continue to demonstrate that Canada is engaged in a process of centralization that adulterates the federal regime, which can scarcely be described as such, since it is obvious that what is wanted for Canada is a single national government, one that barely tolerates the existence of another national will, that of Quebec, which remains free to choose its destiny. That freedom is making the Government of Canada more and more troubled and less and less clear.

The modest place reserved for national unity, an expression moreover that does not figure in the text of the 1999 throne speech, only thinly disguises how much the Liberal government is troubled by this question. The cause of this seems to be the continuing high level of support for sovereignty and the fact that Quebecers are keeping all of their options open as far as their political and constitutional future is concerned.

Moreover, it is aggravated by the fact that the commitment to an in-depth reform of federalism cannot be respected and that no concrete proposal for renewal has been formulated, as is clearly evident in the throne speech and the Prime Minister's address in reply, both of which indicate the total absence of a plan A, which we now realize will never see the light of day.

It also explains the laconic nature of the throne speech, which contains two very general statements, one that suggests Quebecers do not want a third referendum, and another that invents a new principle of clarity. As far as this second point is concerned, the Government of Canada, which demands clarity from others, is hiding behind a principle of clarity that the supreme court has not ruled constitutional so as to hide its own intentions.

It is leaving itself lots of leeway to interfere in Quebec's referendum process. Will it resort to legislation, a motion, or a ministerial statement? When it comes to clarity, we have seen better.

And here is a clear message to all ministers responsible for clarity, truth, interference and guardianship: they will have to answer to the Bloc Quebecois, which will proclaim loud and clear that Quebec is a sovereign nation and that, when the time comes, it will oppose any plan designed to limit its freedom to choose its own destiny.

In conclusion, I would like to quote from Jean de La Fontaine, who wrote in one of his fables:

Discussion is what many like. Opinions in the court abound. But calls to action strike great fear. Supporters then cannot be found.

Today, the government keeps talking about Plan B in an attempt to give it new life. The court of the Prime Minister of Canada and his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is overflowing with advisers pushing for confrontation with Quebec. If they do not make their intentions clear, they will no longer find any support in Quebec.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's speech was very clear and no one asked for any clarification on his excellent analysis of the situation.

Before dealing directly with the throne speech, I want to convey the following message to all farming families in my riding, in Quebec, and even in Canada: the Bloc Quebecois will not let you down. The Bloc Quebecois will continue to demand additional resources to fight organized crime efficiently and to eliminate the terror that these families are subjected to year after year by cannabis producers.

In the weeks or months to come, my colleagues from Berthier—Montcalm and Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert will propose legal measures to step up the fight against organized crime, particularly with regard to cannabis producers. We expect the government, which has a great responsibility in this regard, to take measures based on our proposals.

That being said, I will now deal with the throne speech from a public finance perspective. First, I want to correct two major blunders found in the Speech from the Throne, which I am sure are accidental, but which have left a lot of people wondering. I am convinced these are mistakes.

The two big blunders found in various parts of the throne speech are the references to tax reductions and to the government's determination to fight poverty. There appears to be two analytical and factual errors in the speech. I will take the next few minutes to set the record straight.

First of all, I practically fell off my seat when I saw in the throne speech that the government had reduced taxes by $16 billion over three years. At this rate, if we are to believe the government, in about ten years' time, Canadians will not be paying a cent in taxes.

That is what the Minister of Finance is telling us. He talked about the cumulative tax cuts he has supposedly made over the years and added them up. If we took this to its logical conclusion, in ten years not a single Canadian would be paying any personal income taxes.

It is well known that the Minister of Finance eliminates surpluses. The truth is that he has continued to cook the books. A look at the most recent Department of Finance publication shows that Quebecers and Canadians were paying $5.5 billion less in taxes in 1993-94, before the Minister of Finance and the Liberal government took office, than they are today.

In other words, by means of various hidden taxes, as well as tax tables and a fiscal structure in general that are completely unindexed, the government has increased the tax burden of Quebecers and Canadians by $5.5 billion since 1993-94. These are real figures.

As I mentioned, these figures can be found in any financial publication put out by the minister's own department.

Undeniably, there have been tax cuts. The last four years have seen a number of such cuts. Let us look at some examples of just what sort of cuts the Minister of Finance is offering.

Let us take the last budget. A significant measure in the last budget was the abolition of the 3% individual surtax.

And who will benefit from the elimination of the 3% surtax? It focuses first and foremost on those with incomes of $250,000 or higher. These are the people who have benefited from this tax reduction, from the abolition of the 3% surtax. On average, their tax savings this year will be $3,700.

Yet when one looks at those who have really been the ones responsible for putting public finances on a sounder footing, that is the middle income earners, those with annual incomes of between $30,000 and $70,000, they have saved approximately $160 in taxes this year. They are the ones who are being strangled by the lack of indexation and by other disguised taxes, and they are never the ones who get any recompense for their efforts.

Yes, there have been tax cuts. But cuts for the richest people in this country. Those who have been most responsible for putting public finances on a sounder footing have been totally forgotten.

We in the Bloc have done an analysis on people earning between $30,000 and $70,000, and we have consulted Quebeckers on the basis of that analysis. People who earn between $30,000 and $70,000 a year are the ones most responsible for putting public finances on a sounder footing, and yet they are the ones with the worst balance, in terms of tax payments.

I will offer two figures to illustrate this. Families earning between $30,000 and $70,000 in Canada constitute 27% of Canadian taxpayers. They are responsible for about 50% of personal income taxes that flow into the federal government's coffers.

Do you see the imbalance? These people make up a little over one quarter of all taxpayers, but they contribute half of all the taxes paid by individuals to Ottawa. It is for that group that the government must do something, not for those earning $250,000 or more, which include millionaire friends of the Minister of Finance.

It is in that category that the government should have taken action, but did not. The fact is that, in net terms, Canadian individuals pay $5.5 billion more in taxes than they did before the Liberal government came to office, in 1993.

The other major blunder to which I referred earlier is the fight against poverty. I read on page 7 of the throne speech that the government intends to make it easier for families to break the cycle of poverty.

I believe there is a mistake here. I think the analyses were not presented properly and the government will make corrections. How can you break the cycle of poverty when you are the one that created it?

When I see what this government did with employment insurance by excluding close to 60 per cent of those who should normally have benefited from the program, with the result that only 42 or 43% of unemployed people can now collect benefits, I can only conclude that this cycle of poverty was triggered by the government and the result is that there are now 500,000 more children living in poverty than there were when the Liberals came to office. I can only conclude that excluding the unemployed from the employment insurance program, excluding people who are experiencing hard times because they lost their jobs has resulted in an increase in the number of people living in poverty.

How can the cycle of poverty be broken when the government is the author of it and is not prepared to change the employment insurance plan.

In some instances, problems have been deliberately incorporated in the plan. Let us take, for example, the case of pregnant women, who must stop working because their health and the health of their child are at stake. Because of the problems in the plan, weeks spent on the Quebec CCST are not included in the calculation of hours and weeks worked in order to be able to enjoy special employment insurance benefits subsequently. This is a serious problem. Women are therefore going to think twice before taking precautionary time off work, thus putting their own health and the health of their child at risk.

There are a lot of problems in the system. And why do all these problems exist? Why are most of the unemployed excluded? In order to bring in a surplus of between $6 billion and $7 billion. This is despicable. Especially when the government is saying that it wants to break the cycle of poverty and then behaves in this way. This is an acceptable.

The government also cut the Canada social transfer, much of which goes to funding social assistance.

Every year, there is $4.6 billion less in the plan than there was in 1993. The government wants to break the cycle of poverty, but continues to create it and nurture it.

Finally, when we look at this government, we realize that it generates poverty. In conclusion, in examining this and having seen what the government proposed in the throne speech, we have no choice but to consider this government irresponsible. It is much better at making hollow formulae than at correcting inequality and fighting poverty with vigour.

For all these reasons, we reject this throne speech, which is worth nothing more than the paper it is written on.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Brant Ontario


Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on the Speech from the Throne. It really is our first opportunity as commoners to discuss among ourselves and debate our views on how we will see Canada in the 21st century and the new millennium.

As a member of the government side of the House and as a Canadian, I must say how proud I was of our Prime Minister yesterday. He gave a tremendous speech and allowed us to contemplate Canada today in the context of our past.

The Prime Minister reminded us that we did not discover this land, that first nations and Inuit people were here first and welcomed newcomers so many years ago. He reminded us of our French heritage, of our British heritage. He allowed us to appreciate that here in Canada out of the need to respect diversity, we are now a country that values and celebrates diversity; that out of a need to welcome immigrants we are now a country that values and welcomes immigrants and provides a safe place for refugees.

The Prime Minister allowed us to contemplate the fact that out of a need to downplay nationalistic tendencies, we now are a country that values quiet confidence and modesty. Out of a need to share wealth, we in Canada now value the sharing of wealth and generosity not only between and among citizens and between and among regions of this great country, but between Canada and other countries around the world.

We know that Canada out of a need to respect individual citizens and respect the importance of each one of us as Canadians is now a country that absolutely respects and values human rights and freedoms.

Out of the need to govern with compassion over the turbulent but wonderful history we call ours, we are now a country that values governance with compassion, governance with tolerance, governance with generosity. We indeed know that our country is a wonderful and unique federation.

To many, Canada is an experiment, but to us, Canada is a logical, practical and principled society and we are always pushing at the edges of what we know to be civilization. I am convinced that as we move into the 21st century we will continue to do that.

Another thing the Prime Minister said is that in our federation there is room for improvement and that indeed is true. But if we look at the nineties, our options to continue to improve this great country in which we live were limited. The decade of the nineties was a time of turbulence, of difficulties for citizens and for our country.

We know that unemployment rates were extraordinarily high. We know that there was a lack of confidence in Canadian institutions, including government. We know that our country's unity was being challenged. We know that we were under very significant fiscal constraints. But with the leadership of our Prime Minister and with the extraordinary will of the Canadian people we are now back in a stable form.

Unemployment is at its lowest level in nine years at 7.5%. There is an increasing respect and confidence in Canadian institutions. We know that we live in a great federation and we are continuing to appreciate that and to build on that. We got our fiscal house in order. We are governing in a balanced way. We are attacking our debt.

As Liberals we have always said that we were not interested in making cuts for the sake of making cuts. Getting our fiscal house in order was a challenge we set for ourselves so that we would allow ourselves the choices to continue to improve and build on our great federation.

On the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister identified in his speech yesterday a number of areas that we set out as our priorities as we move into the 21st century. We want to continue to build our strong federation. I would like elaborate on a couple of those aspects in my speech today.

First, Canadians now know that the government has put a priority and a focus on our children. As we reflect on the work of our country in the past decades, we know that we have found ways to support Canadian seniors with programs like the old age security, guaranteed income supplement and our partnership with the provinces with the Canada pension plan. Those are programs that Canadians know and appreciate and which seniors access. Those programs have allowed us to significantly reduce poverty among Canadian seniors.

We have programs in place to support working age Canadians, such as employment insurance and the provinces have income support. Those programs are there. Canadians are familiar with them and use them if they have to.

Since 1993 we have understood that there is a role for us to play in working with Canada's youth. The youth employment strategy was introduced. We have encouraged and supported our young people in finding that very important first job. We have encouraged them to continue with post-secondary education. We are finding ways as a country to support our youth.

In the Speech from the Throne we identified continuing ways to support Canada's youth by ensuring that they have the opportunity to travel this great nation through exchanges to get to know each other. That is critically important in a country as large as ours. We know that at earlier ages young people are able to contribute and the notion of celebrating their first works is an important priority for our government.

We have not spent a lot of time considering how we build a strong relationship with our children. It is probably because we believe that it is parents who really are the critical element in ensuring that our children are supported and nurtured. There is no question that remains paramount. It is parents who have the responsibility and the ability to raise healthy children.

But times are changing. It is very expensive to raise children. Yes, it is appropriate that we make tax cuts in support of families. The Reform Party would see that as being the only support we can provide to our children, but we know there is much more that is needed.

Research is telling us that the very early years of a child's life, zero to six, are critical. That research is now becoming more and more available to us. In the Speech from the Throne we have been directed to work together as governments, the Government of Canada with the provinces and territories, to explore this research, to understand it and to build some common values and principles as to how we can support parents and children through those very early times.

That work has already begun. We have sat at the table with the provinces and territories. We have built a document, the national children's agenda, which is now being discussed in workshops around Canada. We will look for input from Canadians on that to assess the values and principles that should guide us as we build a stronger partnership with Canadian citizens, parents and children to support early childhood development. We intend to have that work completed and to present it to Canadians by December 2000.

There is more. We know there is a direct relationship between children at risk and the income of their families. Provinces have supported families through income support measures and services for children. We know that the most important thing we can do is to find ways and means for all Canadians to have a job. That is the biggest thing we can do.

When parents, men and women, move from welfare into a job, very often that job may be low paying. It is difficult for parents to contemplate leaving welfare, where services may also be part of their support for their children, to take a low paying job. We are changing that through the national child benefit. In this system the federal government provides money to families with children for income whether they are on income support or in low wage positions.

The savings that the provinces gleaned from that additional money coming from the federal government are being reinvested in services for Canadian children, services that are available to them whether they are supported by families on income support or in low income jobs.

We are making progress. In Quebec we see the $5 a day day care approach. In Alberta we see the focus on providing health services, dental care and eye examinations for children. These are the kinds of approaches that show a flexible relationship between the Government of Canada and the provinces is working. We know it to be a good platform and we want to build on that.

In the Speech from the Throne we identified that we would make a significant additional investment in the national child benefit by July 2002. Of course everyone heard the Prime Minister yesterday. He identified this as being a priority and he has moved that date up to July 2001. That is a strong message to the people of Canada. We know that we have to support our children. We have to focus on child poverty and we have to focus on it in a way that will allow parents to get work and to contribute, in partnership with their governments.

There is another aspect to this that is tremendously important. We are starting to really understand the changing relationship between the workplace and the family. Seventy per cent of Canadian families are dual income families, mom and dad both working.

Of course that is changing the relationship between what they are able to do as parents in support of their children. That is where we step back and ask, recognizing that those early years are so important, is there not something more that we can do to help parents spend more time with their children and their infants in those very early years? We have identified that indeed there is. Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that by January 1, 2001 we would double the parental benefit for Canadian citizens. We have directly shown how important a contribution this is to building a strong Canada through our children.

The Prime Minister said that we would double the benefit, make it more flexible and more accessible. In terms of flexibility, we will focus on the parental benefit. We will not tell families which parent should stay at home. They will decide.

In terms of flexibility, we also appreciate that there are adoptive parents and that they too need to be home with their children in those early years.

In terms of accessibility, we will know that we have made changes to the employment insurance program. Wisely, we have put in place a monitoring and assessment system so that every year we receive information about how that system is working.

We are seeing in last year's monitoring and assessment report that indeed there may be an unintended effect on women. In the way that women relate to the workplace, they may not be accessing benefits in the way we expected them to do. I am looking forward to receiving this year's monitoring and assessment report to contemplate that trend, to see if indeed we have to do something to ensure there is accessibility.

I know that colleagues on this side of the House have begun to talk about it with me—the member for Essex, the member for Guelph—Wellington and others—and we will look at this.

As the Prime Minister indicated, we want to ensure that there is accessibility to this incredible and significant new plan that was announced yesterday.

With all this and a focus on children we are recognizing that it is wise for us to invest in the early years. Right now there is a cost to us in supporting prisons and youth justice systems because our children may not be getting a healthy start. For us it makes a lot more sense to put the investment in the early years. If we focus on our children the dividends will be huge.

Out of a need to invest in our children I am convinced that we will come to value children as our most valuable resource.

In the context of valuing people, let us turn to another aspect of the Speech from the Throne. We know that our economy has changed. We are in the knowledge based economy now. The challenge for us as a country is to ensure that our citizens have the ability to participate in the knowledge based economy, to be able to continue to develop and benefit from a vastly and rapidly changing economy. We will do that.

First and foremost we have to ensure that we build a tradition of lifelong learning in Canada. In the Speech from the Throne we identified that that will be a priority for us, to work with our partners, with the private sector and with the provinces to do what we can to make sure that from our very early years right through to our senior years we value and engage in lifelong learning. That means improving literacy, without question. We have a dynamic partnership with the provinces right across this country in focusing on upgrading the literacy of our citizens.

We have also built strong partnerships with the provinces in the area of labour market development. The provinces now have active measures within the agreements that we have written with most provinces and they are using them to facilitate and stimulate the capacity development of their citizens so they can participate in the new Canadian economy.

We need to do more. We need to appreciate that our economy is not a single economy, but is sectoral. There are different aspects and sectors to the diverse Canadian economy. We need to partner more effectively with the private sector and with unions to understand that, to encourage them to look at their industries, to look at the timeframes, to help smooth out the peaks and valleys, to identify their workforce requirements. We can do a better job in this regard. In fact, by doing so, instead of following the trends in the economy, we can lead the trends in the economy.

Another thing that is tremendously important is making sure that Canadians have the information they need to make decisions about employment opportunities and business opportunities. There was a recent forum for labour market ministers, attended by all provinces and territories, including Quebec, to talk about this. We agreed that it is wise for us to work together to create a platform of information that can be used locally at the community level, at the provincial level, at the national level and at the international level so that Canadians have the information they need to make the appropriate decisions for their lives and the lives of their families.

There is a third aspect in all of this that I would like to reflect upon as my time draws to an end and that is how we should build public policies in the 21st century. Without question, we have to reach out and engage others at the very beginning of the development of policies. We have to work with the private sector and with the voluntary sector. We cannot abrogate our responsibility to lead and to make important decisions, but we can find a modern way, a 21st century way, of building sustainable policies and programs that speak to all Canadians.

This is a fundamental issue. In the 21st century what we want to do is challenge ourselves to write policies that are inclusive, policies that do not inadvertently exclude people: Canadians with disabilities, aboriginal people, those from low income families. That is not the way to build appropriate responses to the needs of Canadians. Rather, from the very first instance we want to contemplate policies that speak to all Canadians, policies in which all Canadians can see themselves right from the start.

These are the challenges that we have set for ourselves. They are a reflection of our belief that we live in a wonderful country, that we have built a flexible federation, that we have something to work for, something to be proud of and something to build upon.

The Speech from the Throne, as it was presented, gives us all these opportunities. I, as a member of this side of the House and a great team, am committed to doing what I can to continue to build a great Canada, to build a Canada which is where people want to be in the 21st century, to build a Canada that we know will continue to be the greatest country in the world in which to live.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, having known this minister now for quite some time I realize that there is a lot of care and a lot of compassion in her heart. I can understand that. We have talked a lot over the years about the squalid conditions on reserves, the poverty that exists. The conditions, by the way, are not getting any better; they are getting worse in many cases.

I have continued to visit these reserves on a regular basis, right up until the time we returned to the House this month. Apparently nothing the government has done over the last six years has improved the conditions. They continually get worse and there are more and more problems.

It has also been brought to my attention that in 1993 members of the House said that we had to do something about the one million children living in poverty. Today it was reported that poverty has increased by 66%. That means we no longer have one million in poverty, we now have 1,600,000.

It was also reported this morning that for every one million children who go to school, 166,000 of them go hungry.

These are the problems that exist. They are worse today than they were in 1993 when the government took office. What has the government in mind to deal with these problems? Programs designed for the year 2001 are not going to make a lot of people happy. What is it going to do tomorrow to alleviate these problems? What measures is it going to take to eliminate these serious problems? Instead of all the fluffy talk, where is the meat? Where is the action? I want to see it.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question. Indeed, the issue of child poverty is an issue that the government takes very seriously. That is why we have already invested $1.7 billion extra per year in the national child benefit. It is that benefit that goes to children in low income families. It is that benefit that allows provinces to reinvest their savings in services for these children in the kinds of projects that the hon. member references, food, child support and all those sorts of things.

That is why, recognizing this as being a priority, in the Speech from the Throne it was announced that we are going to invest another significant amount in the child benefit.

Despite all this, I bet that side of the House will vote against these measures.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, the minister said that, in Canada, the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. This was what she told La Presse about two weeks ago. We were looking forward to some sort of corrective action in the throne speech.

Today, 40% of elderly women living on their own are living below the poverty level. Our old age pension system leaves 40% of elderly women living below the poverty level, and the throne speech offered no solution.

Then there is EI, for which 40% of unemployed workers qualify. We showed in great detail how this was unacceptable, but the throne speech is silent on the topic.

Today, all Canada's resource regions are facing terrible situations. We argued for a full year against the intensity rule for seasonal workers, among others. In resource regions, 80% of workers are affected by this rule. After 20 weeks, benefits drop to 50%, after 40 weeks, to 53%, and after 100 weeks, to 50%. All our seasonal workers have reached that point.

I would have expected the new Minister of Human Resources Development to have won out over her more hardhearted Cabinet colleagues, but it seems not.

She stated that having a job is the best way to improve one's lot. That is true, but one must have a decent income. A good example of this can be found in the United States. The unemployment level is 4%, but a lot of people are worse off now than before even if they are working.

Here in Canada we have the same situation developing, because we wanted to have an employment insurance system similar to the Americans'. More and more people have work, the unemployment rate is dropping, but the bottom line is that overall family incomes have dropped. This is not an incentive to work, but a disincentive. It tells people “Even if you work, you will not qualify, or if you do qualify, we will not give you enough weeks of benefits”. This is a direct incentive to drop out of the system and to get paid under the table, and I expected that issue to be raised in the speech.

I will conclude with the matter of parental leave. If I have understood the minister correctly, she is going to wait for the third year report evaluating the employment insurance program before deciding whether she is going to make eligibility conditions easier for women. If she does indeed wait for the third year, I have just realized why the program would come into effect only in 2001. This means we will have another year of the program we criticized back in March 1999, when we asked her predecessor a question which prompted the answer “because there are fewer people being born, a lower birth rate, so there are no problems with maternity benefits”. We have proof that, despite a 4.6% drop in the birth rate, there were 7.4% fewer recipients. There was also a 7% drop in the amount paid out.

Cannot the minister commit today to stating that the rules for eligibility, which have nothing to do with extending the length of parental leave, could very easily take effect now?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member looks at the Speech from the Throne and the commitments of the Prime Minister to double parental benefits, he will see that significant changes to the employment insurance system have been announced. Everything that he speaks about suggests that he will indeed support us in terms of the Speech from the Throne and the measures we introduced.

As the economy has changed and increased, one thing that has become clear is that poverty has been stopped this time around. Usually as the economy increases poverty returns. It ebbs. However this time it has not and that is why at this juncture in our history we must stand back and take stock. We must remember that governments have a role to play in supporting their citizens and in developing programs and policies that do not create have and have nots.

If he looks at the items itemized in the Speech from the Throne and listened to the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday and the speeches from this side of the House over the course of this debate, the hon. member will see that we understand the role we must play in ensuring that we do not create have and have nots in Canada. One of the best ways of doing it is to focus on our children, and we are committed to doing that.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Progressive Conservative Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think all of us here want the federation to work, we want the sharing of powers between the provinces and the federal government to work properly.

The problem is that everyone wants to be excessively visible. The provinces, like the federal government, want to be excessively visible, with the result that there are new programs that lack clarity, both at the provincial and federal levels.

For instance, there is currently no issue more serious than health in our country. Who would have thought that, one day, Canadians would have to travel to the United States to get medical treatment? I am convinced that the Canadian government, whose role is to ensure compliance with the Canada Health Act, did not amend that act—at least I did not see anything to that effect—to provide that Canadians will have to get medical treatment in the United States.

I want to ask the minister if she thinks—after cutting $17 billion in the social transfers to the provinces for health, education and help for the poor—that the government can do its utmost to ensure that people can get medical treatment in our country. Especially in Quebec, there are very serious problems in the hospitals' emergency services and some people have no choice but to get medical treatment outside Canada. In addition to the internal problems that we are faced with because of a lack of funding, the cuts made to transfer payments have been drastic. This is true for every sector, but I am asking the minister if there is any hope for the health sector.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is specifically asking the Government of Canada to focus on the issue of health care. I remind him that indeed we have. Some $11.5 billion were announced in the last budget to continue to support delivery of health services by the provinces.

That is the kind of partnership we in Canada believe in. That is the kind of flexible federation we know works and that is the approach we are committed to continuing.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by announcing that I will be splitting my 20 minutes with the hon. member for Vancouver East.

In the limited time I have available I would like to make a few comments on the Speech from the Throne and the state we find the government in. It is hard to pick a metaphor. Many metaphors come to mind. One thinks of the metaphor of a deer caught in the headlights. One thinks of the metaphor of an absentee landlord. One thinks of the metaphor of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. There is a long list of things for which the government stands condemned for a failure to act in a timely fashion, or in many cases a failure to act at all.

I will just go down the list, but I do not have the time to go into all of them in the detail that I would like. The first one that comes to mind is the crisis in agriculture in the country and the fact that producers in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and many other places are facing an income crisis the like of which they have never experienced before. Yet we see a government unwilling to act, pathetically trying to cram solutions to this unique crisis into programs that were developed for much less severe circumstances. The government stands condemned in terms of its inaction with respect to agriculture.

We have a crisis in the airline industry in the country, and what do we hear from the Prime Minister? We hear the Prime Minister say it is a private matter. I cannot imagine that even 10 years ago, and particularly 15 or 20 years ago, the Prime Minister of Canada would have said that the future of the Canadian airline industry—Air Canada, Canadian Airlines and the structure of the Canadian air transportation system—was a private matter. Yet that is the kind of thing the Prime Minister has said.

We have a government that has stood idly by without taking the kind of action which might ensure that not only jobs and consumers are protected but that Canadian control is protected and we do not end up in a situation in the country like we now have with the railways where basically we are owned and controlled by American shareholders.

On water exports, we have various provincial projects going ahead. The Gisborne Lake project in Newfoundland has received tentative forms of approval. Instead of acting on a motion passed by the House of Commons back in February which called for a national ban on the export of bulk water, we have nothing except the ball being thrown back and forth between various provincial capitals and this government. There has been no action yet to ban bulk water exports and no promise of such legislation in the throne speech, not a mention of it.

When it comes to the fishery on the east coast and the judgment of the supreme court with respect to the treaty rights of aboriginal people in that area, we have a government which appears to have been totally unable to have anticipated what that judgment might be or to have anticipated difference scenarios so that if the judgment came down in favour of treaty rights, as did happen, then it would have some plan in place. This is just elementary. Yet it is almost as if the Liberals were caught completely by surprise and almost as if they did not even know the supreme court was considering it.

This has been complicated. It arose in the first place because of an unwillingness on the part of the government to act on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which said that these things should be negotiated and not left to the courts. Were they negotiated? Was there action taken? Nothing. Now we have an horrendous crisis on the east coast as a result of that inaction.

On homelessness, winter is coming. Perhaps the Liberals do not know this. Perhaps so many of them go on winter holidays that they do not know that winter is coming and it gets cold in Canada. We have thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people who are homeless. Yet did we see any commitment to real money and real action in the throne speech with respect to homelessness? We have a minister of housing but we do not have a minister who is willing to do anything about homelessness, or about housing for that matter.

We have the crisis in the west coast with respect to the abuse of our refugee system and all the questions that raises. Have we seen any action yet that would maintain the integrity of our refugee system while at the same time attack and address the fact that this system is being abused? No. I do not know what the government is waiting for, and no one else seems to know.

We have had for a long time now promises of legislation to deal with new reproductive technologies and all the tremendous choices, options and I would say potential evils and dangers that lurk in that array of technologies. Did we have any mention of this in the throne speech? Is there any intention on the part of the government to deal with this? Silence. Is that all we get from the throne speech? The feeling is that if we could just hook everyone up to the Internet and send a few kids on an exchange program here and there everything will be terrific. It will not be. We have to address these issues and more.

On child poverty, soon it will be the 10th anniversary of the motion introduced by the hon. member from Oshawa, my former leader Ed Broadbent, and passed in the House. Ten years will have passed. Will child poverty have been dealt with?

The list goes on and on. People know as a result of court decisions that our child pornography laws are inadequate. We can have a debate about how we should respond to that, whether we should use the notwithstanding clause, appeal the decision or whether we should bring the law back to parliament and write a better law if the law is inadequate. Let us write a law that deals with that situation. Do we have such a law before us? Do we have even the promise of such a law before us? Not a hint, not a sniff of action on any of these fronts.

It is worth asking why there is this powerlessness, this impotence and this complete silence with respect to so many issues. If we look we will see that the underlying reality of all this is the way in which over the past 10 or 15 years, sometimes for good and well intentioned reasons and other times for less well intentioned reasons, this place, both parliament and government, has abdicated its responsibility in many ways to first the marketplace and in some other ways to the courts. The government reflects the powerlessness it has chosen by repeatedly signing agreements or adopting policies that make it incapable of dealing with a lot of the situations that we have before us.

Why in part do we have the crisis in agriculture? Because this government and governments before it have deliberately stripped the Canadian farmer of all the support systems that used to exist. Why? Because we wanted to be the international Boy Scouts of the marketplace, with all due respect to the Boy Scouts because they sometimes get maligned by being associated with the government.

The fact is the government has stripped Canadian farmers of the support systems they used to have. This started with the elimination of the Crow rate and went right on down. Then they say there is a crisis in agriculture. No wonder. Other countries have not left their producers abandoned to the marketplace in the way our country has. There it is, abandoned to the marketplace and to the judgments of the World Trade Organization and various other trade agreements.

On airlines, what we have before us is the result of deregulation and privatization. I can remember when deregulation and privatization first came in. Oh what a wonderful world it was to be with competition, healthy Canadian airlines competing with each other. It was to be a capitalist Nirvana.

At that time we said that what is happening today would happen. We are sorry to be right but the fact is that we were right. What we predicted at that time is now happening. Now we see a government so addicted to the bromides of the marketplace, to the idea that this is a private matter and who would want to interfere in the marketplace, that we stand on the brink of having our airline industry completely taken over by American interests.

The list goes on. We cannot deal with water exports because of NAFTA. We cannot deal with poverty or homelessness because that would involve interfering in the marketplace. What do we have to do for homeless people? Build them houses, for God's sake. That is what they need, but there is no market for the kind of houses poor people can afford.

We would have to do that with government money. We would have to do that outside the marketplace. What a heinous thing. What a blasphemous thing that would be because that is outside the political conversation now. That is outside the ideological universe, or rather prison, the government and parliament live in. It is about time they saw Canadians have had enough of this self-inflicted powerlessness. They want the government to do something. If that means getting out of agreements, intervening in the marketplace and acting like governments used to act, then it is high time it did that.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege of listening to the member for Winnipeg—Transcona for a number of years. Philosophically there are a number of issues we are compatible on, but he was not putting out factually correct information on four specific issues related to my community in downtown Toronto.

The first point is on the issue of homelessness. City councillor Jack Layton is having a heyday capitalizing on those 500 to 700 people who are living on the streets of Toronto which none of us like to see. The reality is that the issue is affordable shelter. Yesterday the Prime Minister spoke very specifically about an infrastructure program. I think the member and I know the people of my community will be quite satisfied in the very near future as the whole issue of affordable shelter will be central to the infrastructure plan which is unfolding.

The second issue is that of banning exports of water. The Minister of the Environment even before we had recessed for the summer break took very specific measures in the announcement banning exports of water. That is something the member obviously missed.

Another issue relates to the children's legacy. I do not think anyone in the House would deny the fact that the Prime Minister's remarks in the House last night went a long way toward moving the commitment to children forward. I think it is important that the member when he is criticizing also acknowledge some of the very specific initiatives that were taken.

Finally on the Onex deal where I have very strong views myself, we had assurances yesterday from the Minister of Transport, which I am sure the member read in the paper, that on the issue of air transportation in this country we will have a full and vigorous debate in the House. Every member will have an opportunity to put his or her views forward and will be accountable.

It is important when we are having this debate that we at least acknowledge those areas where the government has acted immediately.