House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaty.


SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. The process with respect to the selection of witnesses was done in camera. Although the Reform Party has chosen to put that in the public domain, I will not go there, only to say that I have gone on record on CBC Newsworld as commenting that the House leader for the Reform Party, after the selection of witnesses, thanked me for being very fair and reasonable in terms of including a number of people from the riding of the hon. member for Skeena who wanted to be included.

To Mr. Conrad, whom he is allegedly quoting, I suspect some person from his riding, I would say that in fact we did hear from these kinds of people. There was a Mr. Barton who is a Nisga'a person who filed a number of charges in the courts. One of the courts, the court of appeal, heard the case in Kamloops and ruled against him although there were a couple of court cases wherein he brought charges against the Nisga'a people and was found seriously wanting in those charges.

I can report that he would say that if there is anyone who is grassroots it has to be Mr. Barton. We accepted him and embraced him to come before our committee in Terrace. We heard him for about an hour and a half in his testimony and we understood very clearly where he was coming from. I do not accept at all the suggestion or allegation that we are not listening to grassroots people.

The hon. member is quite right. I have spent quite a bit of time in my professional life working with folks from first nations. I think they would be quite surprised indeed to learn that the Reform Party somehow was their spokesperson.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It being 6.15 p.m. and pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, November 23, 1999, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening to follow up on a question I raised with the minister concerning agriculture in Saskatchewan.

Farmers are suffering the worst income crisis since the depression. The reason is that the cost of production far exceeds in most cases the costs and revenues they receive when they sell their products. Farmers are feeling very desperate and abandoned by the Liberal government.

We saw in the Star-Phoenix and the Leader-Post newspapers on Monday, October 25 headline stories, which by the way were during the Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar byelection, to the effect that the Minister of Finance said that there will be $900 million more provided to farmers in western Canada. When I raised the issue in the House of Commons, the Minister of Finance ducked the issue.

We have seen the Liberals, egged on by the Reform Party, cut more agriculture subsidies than has any other country in the world in the last five years. As a matter of fact the Reform Party wanted more cuts to agriculture than we have already witnessed. This has brought a great deal of hardship to our agricultural economy.

In 1995 there was the elimination of the Crow benefit. This was a transportation subsidy provided to farmers in western Canada, not for free but in exchange for billions of dollars of assets, land and mineral rights provided to the railroads so they could use that revenue and those assets to subsidize inland grain transportation to the ports.

The Liberals eliminated the Crow benefit and they supported the CPR in getting rid of all of the very high profit centres. Like the oil business, the pan-Canadian company which is now a CPR subsidiary does not contribute to rail transportation whatsoever. There is Cominco, the mining company. There is the land company from CPR. They have all made hundreds of millions of dollars of profits annually, yet the farmers are continuing to be squeezed by CPR and CNR at the encouragement of this government.

In the newspaper the other day, the minister of government services was quoted as saying “The disaster financial assistance arrangements are a good example of the co-operation and solidarity which characterize so well our Canadian society”. This is in reference to yet $100 million more going to Quebec for the ice storm. He talks about how proud he is to provide this financial help on behalf of the government to help Quebec farmers and others. Yet when it comes to the disaster of mega proportions in western Canada, the Liberal government is nowhere to be seen.

We are trying to find out today from the Minister of Finance if he was playing politics in the Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar byelection when he falsely announced $900 million more for agricultural aid. Was he misinforming farmers? Was he misleading the electorate in that byelection? What was he doing? Obviously, he did not come forward with the money. Or did he just not understand the hardship that the Liberal government and the Reform Party have inflicted upon western agriculture?

We look forward to having an answer from the Minister of Finance this evening. Will he come clean and tell the people of this country and the people of Saskatchewan why he misled them with respect to agriculture assistance?

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Elgin—Middlesex—London Ontario


Gar Knutson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, while overall the agriculture and food sector is strong and makes a significant contribution to the Canadian economy, the government knows very well that the past year has not been an easy time for many producers.

The updated projections which were released on November 2 were produced jointly with the provinces. The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food does not produce incorrect or misleading information. The $325 million upward revision between the July and November projections for 1999 is mainly the result of an increase in NISA payments, cattle and durum wheat receipts, combined with a decrease in operating costs, in particular, pesticide and fertilizer.

The farm income forecasts are not the most important issue here. Numbers are fluid and changing. Whatever the numbers turn out to be, they are just that, numbers. The real subject here is people, not income forecasts.

We know it is an extremely difficult situation for many farm families, particularly in the west. As a government we will respond to the human situation wherever that occurs.

In response to the current income situation, the government moved to the aid of Canadian farmers by introducing the agricultural income disaster assistance program. Through AIDA the Government of Canada is making available almost $1.1 billion to those farmers facing severe income declines. With provincial participation, the AIDA program would now put $1.78 billion into farmers' hands. This funding is in addition to the $1 billion that federal and provincial governments contribute each year to safety net programs.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, today in the House when I asked the government what action it would take to face up to the horrible reality that child poverty has increased by 50% since 1989 as a result of the finance minister's policy, the only reply of the Minister of Human Resources Development was that I should read the throne speech as evidence of the government's attention. I have read it many times, searched high and low, and it tells us nothing.

I would urge the minister to read the recently released National Council on Welfare report that slams her government for its inaction on poverty. The National Council on Welfare is actually appointed by the government and has produced excellent reports that document over and over the plight of poor children and their parents.

Just think of it. Since the unanimous resolution was passed in the House of Commons in 1989, there are now half a million more poor children in Canada. On every front, government policy is the reason for the growing gap between poor and wealthy Canadians. Whether it is the elimination of the Canada assistance plan in 1996, the elimination of social housing in 1993, or the broken Liberal promises on 150,000 child care spaces, or the cruel and vicious cuts to unemployment insurance that have literally driven women into poverty, the government's record is awful, just awful.

I have spoken many times in parliament about poverty. I have met with many social justice and anti-poverty and housing groups across the country. In fact I travelled across Canada in February and met firsthand with front line housing activists. I met with homeless people and people who are one paycheque away from destitution. I can say they are fed up with the government's pathetic excuses and so am I. I feel quite ill when I hear the typical message box response, the sweet words of concern, while the poor are being hammered and pepper sprayed.

So again I ask the government, when will the Liberal government stop poor bashing? When will we see a real commitment to the 1% solution for a national housing plan? When will the government use its massive resources for people, for a national child care program, for fair taxation, for housing and for healthy kids?

I implore the government, no more professed concerns. We need real substantive action to end the war on the poor. I can already hear the Liberal message box response.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario


Carolyn Parrish LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to review today the Government of Canada's housing policy.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, our national housing agency, is responsible for carrying out the government's housing policy. The policy involves improving housing affordability, accessibility and choice in housing for Canadians.

I can assure my hon. colleagues that the government understands the importance of helping Canadians meet their housing needs. Our commitment to housing is visible in communities right across the country.

For example, the Government of Canada contributes $1.9 billion to support approximately 644,000 community based housing units for seniors, people with disabilities, and low income families. This includes support for non-profit and co-op housing projects in many communities, as well as support for low income aboriginal people in cities and on reserves. My hon. colleagues are probably familiar with such housing in their own ridings.

Through CMHC's mortgage loan insurance, Canadians are able to gain access to affordable financing choices. In the past year, CMHC has helped Canadians gain access to over 475,000 homes with the use of mortgage loan insurance at no cost to the government.

Through its research activities, CMHC encourages innovation in housing design and technology, community planning, housing choice and financing to improve the quality, affordability and choice of housing available in Canada.

The government is well aware that in spite of its significant efforts in the housing field, our country is experiencing a problem with homelessness. We are working in partnership with governments, community organizations and the private sector to find solutions to this extremely complex issue.

Rest assured the government will enthusiastically support the activities of CMHC to ensure that our national housing agency can continue to carry out our housing policies in the most efficient and effective manner possible for the benefit of all Canadians.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, on May 15, 1998 and again on November 3, 1999, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs when he planned to introduce legislation to ban water exports and removals.

Today, the minister introduced Bill C-15, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. These amendments will only prohibit the removal of boundary water between Canada and the United States.

While these amendments would cover only boundary waters such as the Great Lakes and Columbia River, they would leave out most of our lakes, many water bodies, the entire province of Newfoundland and et cetera.

This is a most frustrating situation considering the fact that we are still waiting for the water export policy as well as for the comprehensive water policy as recommended by the Pearse report 15 years ago.

Then there is the question of the proposed voluntary accord. I with to congratulate the federal environment minister for taking a watershed approach that would ban the removal of water from its natural basin. Clearly, this is more comprehensive than a simple export ban as it makes ecological sense to stop bulk water removal at the source and not only at the border.

However, the Minister of the Environment intends to do so through a federal-provincial voluntary agreement to ban water removal from major drainage basins. I submit this approach ought to be broadened to all Canadian water bodies and not limited to boundary waters. I am saying this for three reasons or at least two.

First, the proposed voluntary accord would be just that, voluntary. It would not legally bind any province to protect our water resources.

Second, the proposed accord would do nothing to prohibit export initiatives undertaken by municipalities, crown agencies, corporations or even private parties. Even if the provinces wanted to ban water removals and exports, it is the federal government that has the constitutional authority to regulate trade.

Understandably, the federal government hopes that a province by province voluntary ban would treat water protection strictly as an environmental issue and that trade lawyers will not see the disguise.

However, water removals and exports are already a trade issue since there is a challenge under NAFTA brought by a water export company against the Government of Canada for compensation because of British Columbia's decision to ban water exports. Through the proposed accord, the federal government is thus asking the provinces to take their own action on banning water exports.

The government's definition of basins as Canadian is weak because basin describes a geographical feature without regard to political boundaries. The concept of basin is problematic for an accord or legislation intended to secure resources management for political institutions. This is an essential concept for any legislation that intends to withstand trade challenges that are exactly intended to transcend political boundaries.

The proposed accord will lead to a patchwork of provincial initiatives, thus making Canada more vulnerable to trade challenges. The legislation tabled today is, it seems to me, too limited in scope to provide protection to most of our water bodies.

It seems quite clear, that a meaningful protection of our water resources requires the federal government to face the reality of international trade agreements. In search of the most effective strategy to protect our water resources from exports, I would recommend: first, to enact federal legislation designed specifically for the purpose of banning bulk transboundary water removals from Canada; and second, to renegotiate international trade agreements to seek an exclusion or waiver of water from such agreements.

I look forward to the parliamentary secretary's comments.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Brome—Missisquoi Québec


Denis Paradis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, Canadians are looking to all levels of government to take action now to ensure that Canada's freshwater resources are secure as we pass into the 21st century.

The federal government recognizes the importance of this question. Last February, we announced a three point strategy to prohibit the bulk removal of water from all Canadian water basins.

I am pleased to announce that marked progress has been made in connection with the three components of our strategy.

As promised, we have today introduced in parliament some amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. The Government of Canada is therefore acting within its jurisdiction.

With these changes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will have the power to ban the bulk removal of water from boundary water basins. This means that the vast resources of the Great Lakes and other boundary waters—for example, Lakes Champlain and Memphrémagog in my own riding—will be protected from bulk removal of water under the federal legislation.

The international joint commission, responding to the joint Canada-U.S. reference on water uses in the Great Lakes, concluded in its August 1999 interim report that there is no surplus water in the Great Lakes, and recommended, pending the final report due next February, a very cautious approach to bulk removals or diversions of water. This is precisely what the federal government is doing in its strategy and amendments to the act.

We will be providing a formal response to the international joint commission soon, and the federal government has called for a Canada-wide accord to prohibit the bulk removal of water from all Canadian water basins. The Minister of the Environment plans to have the agreement of his provincial and territorial colleagues on the accord within the next weeks.

The Government of Canada has shown initiative in this affair.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 6.31 p.m.)