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House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages.

Citizenship Of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-16, an act respecting Canadian citizenship.

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

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-338, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of expense of tools provided as a requirement of employment).

Mr. Speaker, this bill is something that mechanics have wanted for a long time, which is the right to deduct their tools as a legitimate expense of their employment.

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

Interest ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-339, an act to amend the Interest Act (interest payable on repayment of a mortgage loan before maturity).

Mr. Speaker, once again, this is a wonderful bill which would allow consumers to pay off their mortgages ahead of time, if they have the money, and to do so without penalty. Obviously, it is very sensible.

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

Bank ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-340, an act to amend the Bank Act (bank mergers).

Mr. Speaker, this bill arises as a result of the bank merger debate of a year ago. It basically says that before any bank merger should be allowed in this country it must be debated and approved by the House of Commons. Obviously, it is a very sensible idea.

Bank ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I must compliment the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for the example he is setting with the succinct explanations of his bills.

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

Pension Ombudsman ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-341, an act to establish the office of Pension Ombudsman to investigate administrative difficulties encountered by persons in their dealings with government in respect of benefits under the Canada Pension Plan or the Old Age Security Act or tax liability on such benefits and to review the policies and practices applied in the administration and adjudication of such benefits and liabilities.

Mr. Speaker, this bill arises from the fact that we all receive a lot of representations at our offices from people having problems with the Canada pension plan and other pensions. There is a need for an ombudsman to work on behalf of the people of this country.

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

Bank ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-342, an act to amend the Bank Act, the Insurance Companies Act and the Trust and Loan Companies Act (repayment of a mortgage loan before the maturity of the loan).

Mr. Speaker, once again, people who are paying off a mortgages, if they have the money to do so, should not be penalized by a bank, an insurance company or a trust company if they want to pay off their mortgages ahead of time. This is obviously supported by the member from the Northwest Territories.

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

Credit Ombudsman ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-343, an act to establish the office of Credit Ombudsman to be an advocate for the interests of consumers and small business in credit matters and to investigate and report on the provision by financial institutions of consumer and small business credit by community and by industry in order to ensure equity in the distribution of credit resources.

Mr. Speaker, this bill would give not only the consumers of Canada but small businesses in this country an avenue in terms of problems they may be having with credit vis-a-vis the large financial institutions of the country. Again, it is a very sensible idea.

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

Proportional Representation Review ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-344, an act to provide for the study of proportional representation in federal elections and a national referendum on the recommendations that result from the study.

Mr. Speaker, this is a bill that we should adopt very quickly. It would require a study to be done on proportional representation to come up with a formula for proportional representation that is relevant to our federation, which would be put to the people in the form of a referendum. The end result would mean that every vote in this country would be equal, that there would be no such thing as a wasted vote and that the vote of the people of Canada would be mirrored in the House of Commons, which is not the case under the first past the post system.

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

Canada Pension PlanRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-345, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan (early pension entitlement for police officers and firefighters).

Mr. Speaker, we have all been lobbied by firefighters who have explained that they have a very dangerous occupation. Early death and injuries result because of toxic chemicals and the like. They are asking for the right to have early retirement so they can enjoy their pension benefits.

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

National Capital ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-346, an act to amend the National Capital Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts (federal capital).

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill I am introducing today is to amend the wording in legislation referring to the national capital to read federal capital.

We are in a federal parliament here. We are federal members of parliament, the legislation we pass is federal and will be applied by federal departments and financed by federal income tax, which everyone pays. It is both natural and obvious for a parliament as federal as ours is to sit in a capital that is of necessity federal.

Moreover, my colleague from Quebec, who supports me in this bill, commented to me that the Americans call Washington their federal capital. Let us make things the way they always ought to have been. I am convinced that everyone will be happier as a result.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour of presenting the following petition signed by dozens of concerned Canadians.

Current immigration sponsorship requirements are very high for an average person. Specifically, maintaining an adequate income to support an immigrant is excessive for the person to bear.

Therefore the petitioners call upon parliament to ask the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to review existing income requirements to allow all potential sponsors not to be unduly burdened by them and request that more than one person be allowed to sponsor the same individual and share the responsibility of financial support for the immigrant.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three sets of petitions to present today.

The first one deals with child pornography and arises out of the issue in British Columbia. The petitioners feel that the well-being and safety of children are put in jeopardy as a result of the British Columbia court decision and appeal.

They therefore ask that the government invoke the notwithstanding clause in order to set things right. I am sure all decent people will feel the same.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with immigration. This one is largely arising out of the situation with the recent boat people coming into British Columbia.

In this case the petitioners are asking that the government invoke changes to the Immigration Act to ensure that bogus refugees are dealt with swiftly and surely.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the final petition deals with child poverty.

The petitioners point out that in 1989 the House of Commons unanimously resolved to end child poverty by the year 2000 and that notwithstanding that resolve it has actually increased.

They therefore call upon parliament to use the federal budget for the year 2000 to introduce a multiyear plan to improve the well-being of Canada's children.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 9 and 31. .[Text]

Question No. 9—

Mr. Gilles Bernier:

With respect to Order in Council 1999-0957/00, approved on May 27, 1999, which dissolved Canada Post Holdings Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canada Post Corporation: (a) for what reasons was this decision taken; (b) which corporation will continue to hold Canada Post's shares in PLC Courier Holdings Inc, and Purolator Courier Ltd.; and (c) how will Canada Post continue to provide separate information on Purolator Courier's operations in its financial statements?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Order in Council 1999-0957/00 authorized Canada Post to wind-up its wholly-owned subsidiary, Canada Post Holdings Limited. Canada Post plans to act upon this authority before the end of this calendar year.

(a) Canada Post has decided to wind-up Canada Post Holdings Limited for organizational simplification and, more importantly, for normal commercial income tax management purposes. Canada Post Holdings Limited has unexpired non-capital losses that it has been carrying forward and that will begin to expire in fiscal year 2000-01. As per normal commercial practice for taxable corporations, Canada Post is permitted to wind-up Canada Post Holdings Limited so that these non-capital losses can be utilized as tax deductions by Canada Post Corporation rather than have them expire in Canada Post Holdings Limited.

(b) Canada Post Corporation will continue to hold 22.9% of the outstanding shares in PCL Holdings Inc. while 2875039 Canada Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canada Post Corporation, will hold another 72.9%. The remaining 4.2% is held privately. PCL Holdings Inc. holds 100% of Purolator Courier Ltd.

(c) Canada Post Corporation's annual report will continue to provide separate financial and operating information on Purolator Courier Ltd.

Note: As of June 23, 1999, the name of PCL Holdings Inc. has been changed to Purolator Holdings Limited.

Question No. 31—

Mr. Leon E. Benoit:

With regard to the groups consulted by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on Bill C-63 in the first session of this parliament during the period from February 1999 through to May 1999: ( a ) which of the groups received government-issued grants and/or subsidies; ( b ) what was the total grant or subsidy; ( c ) what was the reason for the grant or subsidy; and ( d ) which government department issued the grant or subsidy?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

With regard to groups consulted by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on Bill C-63 in the first session of this parliament, organizations listed below received contribution funds in fiscal year 1998-1999 through May 1999, fiscal year 1999-2000, under one or more of the following Citizenship and Immigration Canada settlement programs:

Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, LINC, which provides training in one of Canada's official languages to adult immigrants;

Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Programs, ISAP, which provides a variety of settlement services to immigrants, such as orientation, community information, interpretation-translation, para-professional counselling and employment-related services;

Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program B, ISAP-B, provides indirect services which improve the delivery of services for LINC, ISAP, or Host, such as national conventions or national publications. Proposals must involve more than one region and support national priorities;

The Host Program, which matches immigrants to Canadians who help them with various aspects of life in Canada.

Contribution agreements are signed for a total amount which covers the duration of the agreement. As the period of time for which the funding information was requested does not coincide with the periods covered by the contribution agreements, the amounts will be higher than the dollar figures for the exact period requested in the question.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

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

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from November 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, an act to amend the Municipal Grants Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-10 today. I will start by dealing with a bit of a problem that opposition members have with various bits of government legislation.

When I first came to parliament I made what is euphemistically known as my maiden speech. I am surprised feminists nowadays have not insisted we change that name. In any case, I made my speech in which I said that I was not here to oppose for opposition sake, that if the government came forward with good legislation I would be the first to congratulate it. If it came forward with legislation that had merit but could be improved, I would try to suggest constructive improvements to it. Only when it was clearly bad and virtually unfixable would I then try to oppose it very strongly.

One of the other problems we have is what to do with legislation in which there is a bit of good and a bit of bad. What do we do in that situation? Do we really congratulate them because they have actually come out with some good? Or, do we criticize them for all the things that are missing and the things that are wrong in it? In the case of the particular bill I will do both and I will do it concurrently because the merits and the deficiencies of the bill are intertwined.

Under the bill interest may now be paid by the federal government to municipalities. This is one of the good parts of the bill. However, it is only if in the opinion of the minister the payment has been unreasonably delayed. Likewise, supplementary payments can be made but only if the payment has been unreasonably delayed as defined by the minister.

Some government property is currently leased to non-government third parties. In some cases these parties do not pay their taxes. Of the hierarchy of people who get tax revenues, the ones that can least afford to be hit are the municipalities, cities, and particularly small towns.

Bill C-10 proposes that the Department of Public Works and Government Services would make payment in lieu of taxes at the end of the taxation year, provided the taxing authority has made all reasonable efforts to collect the taxes and there is no likelihood they will ever collect them, if in the opinion of the minister the necessary conditions have been met. At this point I think everyone can clearly see what kind of pattern is starting to appear.

In 1983 the Minister of Public Works and Government Services established a municipal grants review committee. Its function was to provide advice on resolution of disputes between the taxing authorities and the federal government. The advice was non-binding and thus most people felt it was meaningless. We hope that this will finally be corrected under Bill C-10. Essentially Bill C-10 puts this whole process into legislation.

However, let us look at exactly how it does so. The minister hand picks the members and appoints the chair as well. With this kind of control over the advisory panel, its recommendations are non-binding to the minister. This is really a lot of show because we can see the predominant pattern once again.

Schedule IV of the Municipal Grants Act lists corporations involved in profit oriented activities and therefore pay both property and business occupancy related payments in lieu of taxes. The joint technical committee on payment in lieu of taxes recommended that Canada Post Corporation and the Royal Canadian Mint be added to schedule IV. This recommendation has been ignored.

As we know Canada Post now has a mandate to make a profit and has indeed been making a profit. Even more notoriously the Canadian Mint has been going nose to nose against private sector companies for the minting of not only Canadian coins but foreign orders and business as well. It stands to put an Alberta company out of business because the highly subsidized Canadian Mint is going into competition with it and using the stature of being a crown corporation, on top of the subsidies it gets, to compete against this private sector company.

This certainly sends a message to those who might wonder how the minister will deal with other non-binding aspects of the bill. If he ignores this recommendation, why would anybody believe he would follow a recommendation in favour of a taxing authority in any of the other circumstances I have previously listed?

At the beginning of my speech I implied that the bill had some good points. In review, those good points are so softened by the discretionary powers of the minister to suggest that they are worthless. However these problems could be fixed and could be fixed very easily.

All we need to do is remove the discretionary power of the minister and make interest for late payments a requirement for payment of delinquent third party taxes, recommend that the recommendations of the advisory panel be binding, and include Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint in schedule IV of the Municipal Grants Act. It is that simple and that fair. I hope the government would seriously consider putting these kinds of amendments into its bill.

Sometimes it is a stretch, but I have to assume that the government actually wants to write good legislation. When we see things like Bill C-68, like the Nisga'a legislation and a lot of others, we have to wonder if in fact it wants to write good legislation. In this case I think there has been at least a half hearted effort to write something with some decency in it. Perhaps it will consider these amendments.

Also the legislation gives cause to look at another situation which is in direct conflict with the alleged intent of Bill C-10. Bill C-10 sets out certain rights for local taxing authorities which in essence are local, civil, municipal or regional governments. It also makes clear that those rights are extremely limited and given only through the discretion of the federal minister. This means they can be taken away or never even granted in the first place despite the legislation.

What a contrast this makes to the unprecedented constitutionally enshrined self-government powers of the Nisga'a under the Nisga'a treaty. The Nisga'a will have the only recognized government outside the federal and provincial governments. What a comparison when we compare Nisga'a rights against those of the small towns in my riding. Towns like Oliver, Osoyoos, Grand Forks, Trail, Castlegar and Nelson will get absolutely no guarantees of anything under this legislation. Neither will large cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto or Montreal.

The Nisga'a legislation gives powers to approximately 2,000 people living on Nisga'a lands. It gives them the ability to direct even the federal government in certain areas. They have powers in terms of such things as schooling, policing and a variety of things over which municipalities have no say whatsoever. They even have in their treaty a special provision for future potential taxing rights which no other town, city or municipality in Canada has.

Would it not be interesting if we went to the Nisga'a and said that there were a lot of payments they should be getting from the Canadian Government but we have made them discretionary and will decide on a case by case basis whether or not we think we should pay them? If we think we should not pay then we will not and they will have absolutely no say in it.

Let us compare that to what the Nisga'a actually get and what all the other towns I have listed get. These are towns like the ones that everybody in parliament represents. If the government wants to be fair it has to remove that discretionary consideration and at least give some pretence of giving something not only to small towns like those in my riding but even to the largest cities.

Right now the mayor of Toronto is talking about seceding from Ontario. The Bloc must have really loved that when he came out with that one. Toronto would secede from Ontario and set up a new province of Toronto. Heaven only knows it has enough people. I suspect that it would probably be the fourth or fifth largest populated province in Canada.

As it stands on the edge of expressing a desire to do this, even Toronto does not have the powers the government is giving to 2,000 people living on Nisga'a lands. What a comparison when we start talking about discretionary powers where the government may make some payment to a town or a municipality under Bill C-10.

I would like to end my comments by making an analogy that gives some perspective on Bill C-10. It promises certain things to municipalities and towns but in fact is only teasing with it because they may never see it.

I said the bill had good things and bad things. I would like to leave members with the picture of going out to a store and buying a great big meaty bone for a dog. That is good thing to do. The dog will be happy. Animal rights people will be happy. They will feel good about the good thing they have done. Then if they bring the bone home and use it to tease the dog by dangling it in front of it and snatching it away every time it reaches for it, that would be bad. That is exactly what the bill does.

The bill issues a potential of living up to its obligations to the municipalities, of making the payments that many of the municipalities desperately need, because they are providing services to crown owned properties inside their areas. The federal government is saying “Here is this tax. We think we will give it to you but if we think that you do not deserve it, we will not pay and there is not a damn thing you can do about it”.

The government has started with something that has a little bit of potential. I hope it has the integrity and fortitude to make the changes and turn good intentions into reality.