House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.


Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC


That this House strike a special parliamentary committee with the specific objective of considering the repercussions of the globalization of economies on governments' autonomy in preserving social cohesiveness.

Madam Speaker, I am most anxious to have an opportunity to speak to day. I have alerted my colleagues to the fact that, at the end of this hour of debate, they will have to reach a decision, one that I consider quite important.

I would remind my colleagues that during the debate I will be providing them with a copy of the letter I sent to them last Wednesday explaining the situation. The topic of today's debate is of such importance to me that, on April 20, 1998, I took the risk of laying my position as an MP on the line, in order to make the public aware of the need for a public debate on the issue addressed in today's motion.

When I carried my chair away with me, hon. members will recall that I did so in order to provoke a debate on society's ability to reduce the gap between rich and poor within a context of global markets. Hon. members are aware, moreover, that this situation seems to be getting worse. Poverty is quietly but constantly increasing, while at the same time the economy is growing without seeming to have any impact on society.

My concern about this widening gap between rich and poor is based on the threat this represents to social cohesion. I would remind hon. members that social cohesion is the feeling of solidarity that unifies all people regardless of their social and economic status.

Last Wednesday, we celebrated—although celebrated hardly seems to be the appropriate term—the tenth anniversary of parliament's choice to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. After a decade, after ten whole years, what has become of this? Poverty has not even remained at the same level; it has increased. Is it a matter of political will? I hope not, since the House has said it wanted to eliminate this poverty. Is it a matter of political power? That is the question. Are there certain phenomena that take away governments' autonomy? The question needs to be asked.

With political power being national, and the laws we pass here being national, it is high time we realized that we are living in a period of great change, as the economy is becoming a global one. This is to be expected since in recent decades, thanks to technological developments, access to transportation and telecommunications is improved, thus reducing distances and opening the door to incredible possibilities, including that of trading with the rest of the world, which is now accessible to us.

Trade and the economy are being globalized and the production of wealth is increasing. These new approaches are not, however, without consequence. There are positive aspects as well as more negative ones. Would it, for example, be realistic to think that national tax rules established by national governments are increasingly difficult to apply in a global economy? I am not the only one to think so, since the former secretary general of the OECD, Kimon Valaskakis, said the following in La Presse on October 29:

The principle of redistribution is at the very heart of ordinary social policy in a country and is expressed in fiscal terms. But since globalization, redistribution is much more difficult to put into practice. On the national level, it imposes a fairly high social cost. The need to compete forces governments to reduce their payroll taxes and thus their capacity to redistribute wealth, which in turn increases inequities rather than reducing them.

There is another vital issue and that is the fact that we have gone from an industrial economy to an economy 90% of which is controlled by speculation, distorting to some degree the global financial market as in the cases of the recent financial crises in Mexico, Asia, Brazil and Russia. There seem to be economic problems in terms of redistribution, but not in terms of the creation of wealth. Are international authorities continuing to respond to the needs of the people in these instances? Does parliament, our national authority, continue to meet the needs of the people?

In short, a lot of questions and issues remain to be analyzed, since, whether we want it or not, globalization is here and growing. And, whether we like it or we do not, we cannot ignore it.

This is why it is important to understand in order to act. Right now certain things are becoming global, while others are not, and this creates an imbalance.

Globalization may be unavoidable, but the way to achieve it is not. It is still, I hope, under the control of democracies. It is up to us to shape it, and this is why we must hold a public debate to help everyone, particularly us parliamentarians, get a better grasp of what is going on.

This is why I am in favour of establishing a process to consult civil society, a means of thinking about this whole issue. With a committee, we will have the benefit of the public's views.

I am not alone in this belief. This idea does have support. Over 50,000 people across the country—and not all from my riding—signed the petition asking that a committee be struck, asking that their elected representatives simply look at certain issues. These 50,000 people are not asking for extraordinary tax measures or for new legislation. They are asking us their elected representatives to do our job. They are asking us to reflect on the changes that we are currently experiencing. This idea is also supported by over 200 organizations across the country and also, and perhaps more importantly, by one third of the members of this House. Indeed, 100 members of parliament signed this document, asking that the request be treated as a priority item in Private Members Business.

If the signature of these members still means something in this House, it would make sense to deal with this issue in a serious fashion. I should also point out that these 100 members of parliament represent all the parties in this House.

This issue should be treated as a priority. As I said, I am not the only one who holds that view. I am not pro-Senate, like some of my colleagues, but during its study on social cohesiveness, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology acknowledged that part of the difficulty in addressing this issue is that much basic analytical and empirical work on the consequences of globalization remains to be done.

The committee has concluded that one of the next steps for political leaders is to begin to give some objective consideration to new ways of thinking and doing.

Some members will probably say that there is enough talk about globalization. I admit that it comes up frequently; in fact, at the last meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which dealt with the World Trade Organization, we discussed globalization, except that we came at it strictly from the point of view of trade and economic competitiveness.

So, yes, I think it is a good idea to discuss it from this angle. In fact, I congratulate the committee, which was relatively open to all points of view. However, in the long run, such a study must be accompanied by a more in-depth examination of the social impacts of globalization.

In my view, there cannot be one without the other. They go hand in hand. We are on the eve of a very important day, the beginning of what I would describe as another step towards globalization—the WTO talks. And yet, many people throughout the world right now, including people in Montreal, seem inclined to oppose the talks and to call for a moratorium.

I do not know who is right, but what I do know is that there is a widening gap between our political positions and what society in general thinks and, therefore, striking such a committee would be a useful means of engaging in a collective dialogue, so that we will all be on the same wavelength.

We must take this opportunity and show leadership internationally, because the possible solutions suggested by such a committee could eventually be implemented worldwide.

Besides, would the Minister of Finance, as the chairman of the new G-20, not profit from the establishment of this parliamentary committee, since he could benefit from the expertise provided by the representatives of the civil society who would come before the committee to be heard? This form of consultation is in direct agreement with the goals of the G-20 countries which, I remind the hon. members, are committed to making every effort needed to turn the benefits of globalization into increased incomes and better opportunities for their peoples.

We have a problem here today. In spite of the obvious support from the population and the parliamentarians, in spite of the fact that the motion and the issue have never been more topical, and in spite of the fact that the motion meets all the criteria for the selection of votable items, because of outdated, anachronistic, outmoded and ill adapted parliamentary procedures, Motion M-41 was not selected as a votable item on account of prerogatives related to quotas and random draw.

Clearly, if we cannot vote on the motion, it will automatically be dropped from the Order Paper. This would be like throwing it in the trash can. I do not want to put the parliamentary system on trial today, but I do know that a good many members realize that a reform of this institution would be a good thing. But this is not the issue.

What is important is that, even now, members present in the House have the opportunity to reverse this decision. We have the opportunity to correct this technical incident simply by supporting my request for unanimous consent.

I will first listen what my colleagues present here have to say. Meanwhile, I will send them a copy of the letter that I sent them last Wednesday, on the 10th anniversary of the motion on poverty. If, because of a translation problem, they were unable to understand everything I said, I hope they will read it.

During the last five minutes, when I avail myself of my right to reply, I will try to answer my colleagues and I will also ask for the unanimous consent of the House to allow two more hours of debate on this motion, because it deserves further examination. I will ask that it be deemed votable, so we can, as members of parliament, do our duty, which is to make decisions. It is sad that members of parliament sometimes deprive themselves of the power to make decisions and to vote.

In short, my goal today is not to condemn the parliamentary system. I have other colleagues, especially the member for Longueuil, who are considering that issue.

What is important is to be aware of the social changes we are experiencing. I am not the only one to say this. The Senate report says this. Petitioners say this. Parliamentarians and experts from all over say this. I could go on for another hour about all the people who have expressed support for this motion.

I want the House to prove to me that we can save face in this parliament. Prove to me that there is still democracy in this country. I want the House to prove to me that this authority, the parliament, can still respond to the current expectations and the expectations of the citizens. It is as if everyone in an olympic stadium were asking us to take an issue into consideration.

I will listen to what my colleagues have to say and then I will ask them a question.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean for raising this issue, which is of the utmost importance to all Canadians. Increasingly, the world's economy is becoming a global one. International trade is increasing in a phenomenal manner.

Never in the history of the world has foreign investment been so important, nor has it ever moved as quickly as during the 1990s. Canada being a small country with an open economy, a significant percentage of which is trade-related, it is obviously affected by this economic and financial change.

Globalization poses many challenges, one of which the hon. member rightly knows, and that is the government's capacity to promote social cohesion. Social cohesion has been a research priority of the government for some time, consistent with the need to understand well the changing world around us.

A great deal of research on this issue has already been published by the policy research initiative, PRI, a network of government departments and Canadian academics established by the government in 1996 to identify and address issues likely to affect Canadian society in the near future.

Globalization offers great opportunities for growth and prosperity for smaller economies like Canada's. They will be given access to domestic markets much larger than their own, providing a level of prosperity through export that is not attainable without trade. At the same time consumers gain access to goods and services from around the world at a lower cost than would otherwise be possible. Canada is a leader in international trade and prospers because of it. Our outward orientation as measured by two way trade and investment flows has risen dramatically.

In addition, Canada exports as well as imports large amounts of capital. For instance, in 1998 the inward and outward foreign direct investment stocks accounted for 24.2% and 26.8% of Canadian GDP respectively, a significant increase from levels only 10 years earlier. Canadians benefit from this increased capital movement as capital exports allow Canadians to get the highest returns on their investments while capital imports provide employment and fuller use of our resources.

In particular, our trade and economic integration with the United States, our largest trading partner by far, has increased dramatically. Net exports to the United States have made a very important contribution to the near 3% average annual real output growth and the over 1.3 million jobs created in Canada in the last five years. Furthermore, our continued strong trade performance is one reason the International Monetary Fund expects Canada to lead in employment growth and to have the second fastest output growth in the G-7 in 1999 and 2000.

Yet at the same time the rapidity of technological change is bringing people from all parts of the globe closer together, so much so that the competition for markets, for material and human resources and for activities relating to innovation and technology will be more and more keen.

Consequently, in order to reap the potential benefits of these new technologies and of trade in general, businesses and governments will need to be extremely competitive and to handle the challenges of the intense international competition and the pressures in favour of structural adjustment in the right way.

International harmonization of trade related policies is a key element in facilitating fair competition and promoting highly competitive and well managed firms. It underpins economic integration and helps to establish the framework needed for expanding economic relations and increased commercial opportunities.

Harmonization of policies that affect trade can be of great benefit to Canada as it promotes fairer competition and contributes to increased competitiveness in industry and greater access to foreign markets. However, pressure to harmonize policies in these areas also raises concerns about government autonomy in areas of social policy. Or, stated another way, there are some who fear that the only way we can remain competitive with countries such as the U.S. is to accept U.S. style social policies and inequalities.

Canada has continued to maintain social policies that are substantially different from those of our largest trading partner. Canada has invested more than a century in building a social infrastructure that today is considered among the best in the world. The system of social support includes universal medicare, more generous safety nets and job training support than those available in the U.S.

By protecting and improving our social programs we may attract foreign investment, not drive it away. The relatively lower cost of the Canadian medicare system in particular and features of the unemployment insurance system, together with Canada's supportive system of social services and well run cities and municipalities, have historically been a locational competitive advantage for Canada. Thus, if pressure to harmonize social policies exist, it may be on other countries to match those of Canada.

This is not to say that Canada does not face some serious structural challenges. However, it does suggest that if we approach these challenges with imagination and vision we can ensure that global economic integration does not mean sacrificing what it means to be Canadian. Developing this vision is a responsibility that the government takes very seriously.

That is why the policy research initiative, PRI, was launched in 1996 by the government. The initiative brings together over 30 federal departments and agencies, as well as a number of leading Canadian academics.

As a result, the PRI has provided parliament and Canadians in general with informed advice on a large number of multi-faceted questions, in detailed reports, public reports and minutes of meetings, all of which are available to the public via the Internet, as well as to all hon. members of this House.

Two key issues the PRI is currently looking at relating to globalization and social cohesion are what will be the effects of pressures toward regulatory convergence over time, specifically how will this affect such issues as tax and environmental policy, health care and pensions, and how the FTA and NAFTA has affected Canadian autonomy and sovereignty in particular with respect to policy making capacity.

The analysis of the impact of globalization on social cohesion has been further strengthened by the work of the social cohesion network, one of four networks established under the PRI umbrella. This virtual network of electronically linked researchers was set up to assess the state of social cohesion in Canada. This social cohesion network has found that a certain measure of social cohesion is conducive to investment, both foreign and domestic. It has also found that social cohesion can increase productivity.

The PRI has therefore established that the combined effects of globalization and our social cohesion might have a somewhat positive impact on Canada.

The PRI work is shedding light on how government can support social cohesion. In the context of the global knowledge based economy, government increasingly must make a strong effort to explain its new role as facilitator and as an enabling partner with other sectors of society and to act as a non-financial broker of ideas and unifying national projects.

Based on the evidence to date and with the continuing work, I do not believe that a standing committee on globalization, government autonomy and social cohesion is required at this time. The all party parliamentary business committee, the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs, determined that this motion should be non-votable.

I applaud the member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

He was elected at the same time I was. I congratulate him on his motion.

It is because of the reasons I have stated. Although this initiative is very important and I congratulate him, I would ask that the House not support this motion being votable.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion by the member for Lac-Saint-Jean. His motion deals with the repercussions of globalization on economies of the world and certainly the concept of preserving social cohesiveness in the countries so affected.

The hon. member does not seem to be entirely in favour of globalization in his motion. He uses as his example the motion passed in parliament in 1989 regarding the eradication of child poverty. The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives have both been in government since that date. I note that child poverty has been raised in the House and is now considered to be a more serious issue than it was even at that time.

The problem solving of those two governments has ended with them blaming others and now blaming globalization for the failure of their domestic policies on child poverty. I would hope that in the future that we will have another debate on child poverty. The Reform way of dealing with major issues like that one and social issues which have a domestic solution to them is to set out clear and concise steps that can be taken, are measurable and will result in a solution.

Many people are throwing around the term globalization. I think there is an unclear concept of what is globalization. Special interest groups, for instance the Council of Canadians, have a very closed concept of what globalization should mean. To them it seems like globalization means that Canada should have rules in the world for other nations to follow, that Canada should be able to protect its national interest and be relatively isolationist if it cannot dictate rules to other people. That way Canada would be able to protect its civil society and its concept of how the world should be run. It is the concept of government knows best, which is a detraction from free trade in the world.

My definition of globalization is simply that it is the interaction of people of different nations in all aspects of the human existence, which would include trade as one of the major components.

Globalization is neither inherently good nor bad. It is simply a fact. Globalization has been with us since the beginning of man in Africa many millions of years ago. Globalization is, as I said, most obvious in the trade of goods and services between nations. The most successful nations of the world have always been those which are successful in trading with their neighbours.

Since the second world war there have been eight rounds of world trade talks. The talks which are beginning in Seattle represent the ninth round. We can only hope that those talks will be successful.

The first half of this century saw two world wars. At that time trade and empires were built on the foundation of force. The second half of this century has seen no world wars. This is no doubt due in large part to the interaction of nations on an economic level through trade as opposed to the isolationist and self-sufficient concept which many nations have.

North Korea is the best example of the danger to the stability of a region, and ultimately to the whole world, due to its socialistic and isolationist policies. It tried very hard to be self-sufficient without trading. We saw the disaster that has had, not only on the country but on its neighbours, as it felt the need to have missiles instead of trade agreements settle disputes.

I would now like to speak specifically about the agricultural component of our trade talks that are starting in Seattle. Supply management is an important part of Canadian agriculture. Prior to the 1993 conclusion of the Uruguay round, supply management was clearly a domestic industry, not participating in the world trading scene through the use of highly restrictive import quotas. The Progressive Conservatives began the process of trading away the status quo of supply management when they negotiated the changes to import tariffs, designed to be reduced ultimately to zero. The Liberals were part of the final negotiations, and on being elected in 1993, signed the agreement. Both parties have tried to put forth the conception that they will defend supply management to the end. The Liberals in particular have stated this concept. I do not know if farmers really believe that the government's promises will be kept. The Reform Party supports supply management and is unequivocal in telling the government that it is not to reduce our tariffs at a rate faster than the U.S. and the EU reduce their protectionist measures of the supply management sector, in particular the dairy sector.

I note that this motion seems to have two components. I think that one part of the motion certainly has some merit in the idea that a committee should be struck to look at the impacts of the fur trade, for example, and the whole globalization issue and the interaction of peoples around the world. I think it would be good for parliament to have such a committee.

However, I am concerned that the real purpose of this motion is to block further gains at the next round of World Trade Organization talks. We can only look at what is happening in Seattle at this very moment. Apparently there are in the neighbourhood of 50,000 protesters at the talks who have the stated goal of disrupting and ending the talks. Certainly the David Suzuki-type environmentalists are there. The Council of Canadians with its socialist activities is going to have it its way or no way. I think the world should simply look at these groups and say “You folks have had your say, but you are not going to have your way and impose your concept of trade on the whole world”. I am sure that is where it will end and that saner heads will prevail.

It has been stated many times in the past that Canada is a trading nation. Statistics tell us that 43% of Canada's gross domestic product is earned from trade exports. In the U.S. the percentage of trade is 12% of its gross domestic product. This means that we in Canada rely to a greater extent on trade than many other nations. As a result, the Seattle talks of the World Trade Organization are of great importance.

I am certainly pleased to see that China has agreed to become part of the world trade talks and that other countries have welcomed it. As I stated earlier, the danger of not having every country involved in these talks is great.

Our farmers are currently in the middle of an income crisis. The primary cause of this crisis is the subsidies of the European Union and the United States which cause the overproduction of many commodities. European wheat farmers, for example, receive 56% of their income from government and in the U.S. it is around 38%.

Reform's position on agriculture in the next round of WTO talks, to put it succinctly, is that we want to allow Canadian farmers and the Canadian food industry to reach their full potential. We will vigorously seek to free entry of Canadian products into foreign markets. That is what we are pressing the government to do. We should accept nothing less than having subsidies in other countries reduced. That will have the effect of lowering production around the world of certain commodities, in particular export grains. With that lower production prices will go up and our farmers will have the level playing field that is so important to our economic well-being.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Madam Speaker, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to participate in the debate today. As we debate the issues of globalization here in the House of Commons, trade meetings are being held on the west coast of North America. We are at a very historic point in the evolution of our economy, our culture and our history.

Let us acknowledge what the WTO is. It is a group of faceless bureaucrats, meeting in secret, carving up the future of our country with no input from the people of Canada.

My good friend from the Reform Party laments the fact that there are 50,000 Canadians in Seattle because they know that the best interests of the people of Canada are not being represented at the table.

Why do we know that? Because we have in the back of our minds as we participate in today's debate the MAI. Right up until the 11th hour, faceless bureaucrats meeting in Europe, in secret, were about to rip apart the sovereignty of our country, along with every other country, until the people stood and said “What on earth is going on over there? Are we as a people, through our government, going to have our hands tied behind our backs when it comes to making future decisions to protect the rights and welfare of Canadians?”

The answer to that was “Absolutely”. There was a massive public reaction across the country. People who identified the issues of the MAI for the first time came out and said “We have got to get off this mad train”. Governments of the world were forced to back off. It was not led by our government, it was led by France, which said that it would not participate any further in the talks if culture was on the table. Canada never said that. At least I did not hear it.

Faceless bureaucrats damn near dealt away the future of our country in Europe just a few months ago. The people of Canada and others across the country rose up in opposition and the politicians, who can hear ballots dropping thousands of miles away, said “Hold it. We have to do a better PR exercise on this”. They backed off and they said “We will be back”, and they will be back in Seattle as of tomorrow morning with the same sort of mentality that the people rejected under the MAI.

Let us face it, when we talk about globalization we are also talking about the impact of the NAFTA. We are extending the provisions of the NAFTA to more than 100 nations. Where do the people of Canada stand on the NAFTA? Do they support the NAFTA? They opposed it under the Mulroney government. They opposed it under the Liberal government. Whenever the people of Canada have had an opportunity to register their view of the North American free trade agreement they have rejected it. Here we are, the NAFTA cheerleaders again, after the government said to the people of Canada that if it was elected it would not proceed with the NAFTA as it was currently written, and it did. The government is saying that the NAFTA deal is so good that it will include all nations of the world.

As we sit here, Sun Belt Water Inc. of southern California is suing the Canadian government for up to $10 billion because we are not interested in exporting our water to the United States. They are suing us because we agreed under the provisions of the NAFTA to such a stupid clause. Is that clause going to be in the next round of the WTO? I do not hear our minister saying that they will get rid of that clause, that they are not going to stand back and let foreign corporations sue the people of Canada because we pass legislation in their best interests.

Where is our trade minister? I know he will be anxious at the WTO to export our health care and education programs. If we export our education programs and our health care, that means we will have to open our borders to foreigners and watch their initiatives in our country. What is fair for the goose is fair for the gander. That is what our trade minister is telling us on the eve of these negotiations.

We have demonstrators from coast to coast to coast saying “We do not want to export our water”. Do we see legislation from the government to close Canada's borders to the export of our fresh water? Not a word.

What about our cultural industries? We have a long list concerning what the government has not done to protect our cultural sector.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

What are they?

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

My friend asks “What are they?” If he had the courage to ask a single person in a cultural industry, and there are hundreds of thousands, how the government has let down cultural industries, he would be listening for hours to the concerns that legitimate people have.

Our friends in the Bloc say that we have to set up a committee to look into this. It is almost too late, but let us at least go along with that notion. We will support the idea of setting up a committee to look into the impact of globalization. I say to my friends opposite, what evidence do we have of the impact of globalization? Is the world becoming a better place for most people? The answer is no. The gap between those who have and those who have not is drastically expanding, not only around the world but in our own country as well. Never before has the gap between rich and poor in Canada and the United States been greater.

Is this protecting the 1.5 million children living in poverty? The figures are increasing. There are a litany of issues. My friends opposite represent the Government of Canada, which represents the people of Canada. They represent the people of Canada in every nook and cranny of the country. Madam Speaker, that is why we are here, to represent the people of Canada. When we listen to what the people of Canada are telling us today, are they saying “Rush into the World Trade Organization, go to Seattle and hold secret meetings about our future”? They are not saying that at all, but there are some people who are saying that. The elite of the country are saying that. For large corporations, this is their day. So far they are only stuck with Mexico, Canada and the United States. Now they have the opportunity of involving 100-plus other countries in the same deal to enable priorities to take priority over the people of those countries.

Somebody has to be on the side of people. Who is representing the people of Canada? Who is representing the citizens of Canada at these talks, because our government sure as heck is not. I say that because the Liberals are such enthusiastic cheerleaders when it comes to NAFTA. They now want NAFTA to include all of North America and South America. They want to make this a hemispherical deal because it is so good. So good for whom, for the people or for the average citizen?

As we arrived at work on Parliament Hill this morning, we heard on the news that corporations now want to come in and start running private educational facilities. Americans want to come in and start opening up our universities. They are saying that if we subsidize the university and college system in this country, they will consider this to be a major trade barrier. They want us to back off the support for public education. Can anyone imagine that they would want us to back off supporting our colleges, universities and technical and vocational schools across the country.

Somebody has to speak up for the people in the country. I heard members on the other side of the House mumbling about trade this and trade that. My friend in the Reform Party says that we are a great trading nation. Of course we are a great trading nation. We are one of the greatest trading nations in the world. We have been for many decades.

I get so infuriated with the Reform Party. The Reform Party says that we have to have two things. We either have to bow down and pray on the steps of the North America trade agreement or the WTO, or we have to get down on our hands and knees and say that whatever they want they should get. The other one says that we have to build some kind of a wall around Canada.

There is a compromise. We have to protect the human rights of the people of Canada. We have to protect the environment of our government. Why would we not want to do that? Why would we not want to have decent labour laws? My friends in the Reform Party are cheerleaders for child labour if they support this deal. They are supporters of child labour because that is part of the trading situation in the world.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. While I am sure all of Canada is enjoying the theatrics of the member from Kamloops, he is absolutely misrepresenting-

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid we are falling into debate right now.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Madam Speaker, they call this passionate feeling for the people of Canada theatrics because they do not have any bloody passion in their caucus. They could not care less about the people of the country. They will sell them out, as will, make no mistake, my friends across the way.

These are the crazy guys. The other people are sort of the sheep in wolves' clothing. They say that they are concerned about education, health care and the environment, but their actions betray them. They are not. They could not care less.

Somebody in the House has to say that we have to look closely at this whole issue of globalization. What will it do to the future of our country? What will it do to our sovereignty? What will it do to the average man, woman and child in the country? We have to ask these questions.

My friend in the Bloc says that we should form a committee and look into this. I hear others saying that they are not interested in that. I know why they are not interested. It is because they know damn well that if the people of Canada find out what the WTO will actually do to the average person in the country it will not be supported. They did not support the free trade agreement. They did not support NAFTA and they do not support the way the WTO is being introduced. I do not apologize for speaking passionately in favour of supporting the people of this great country.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I have discussed with the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean, and I find it unfortunate that we are not always talking about this motion as he has moved it. People are using the conference this week in Seattle as a pretext to talk about the pros and cons of globalization.

The important thing is not whether we are for or against globalization, but that we look at the impact of globalization. That is the whole point in the motion of the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

Globalization is a very important phenomenon, and it is having major impacts on the lives of all Canadians and on all businesses in Canada.

The importance of that phenomenon cannot be overstated. The positive impact, and certainly the negative impact also, is in the tens of billions of dollars. Can we have a standing committee to assess this impact on an ongoing basis?

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade suggested greater openness as well as public consultations. So, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean went around with his form to get members to sign. He collected 100 signatures, including some from the other side. Liberal members are signing, saying “No problem. We want to encourage young people who have good ideas”. But when the time comes to seek unanimous consent, we will see what their signatures are worth. They are not worth a cent, not even a Canadian cent. And it is worth even less than an American cent.

They are saying “We want to support the young member who left with his chair last year. It is important”. But among those who signed the request from the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, not one will rise. These Liberals are not even making good their own signature. It does not look good for Seattle.

What we are saying is that people should be involved. We are in favour of globalization. Everybody is in favour of opening up Canada, but there are ways to go about it. Free trade with the United States was, for the most part, a good thing. But it had negative as well as positive effects. Do we know what they were? Are able to find solutions?

Changes were made to employment insurance. We said “Let us create a transitional job creation fund because to counteract of the negative effects of the EI reform”. Could the same be done for globalization? We are in favour of that.

The NDP member spoke about water exports. Maybe we should ask ourselves questions. Wars are waged on this planet for control over drinking water. In the negotiations, could our political sovereignty here in Canada be maintained?

We are in favour of opening up Canada to the world. We cannot live in complete isolation. It is impossible. When we are asking for openness and consultation with what is commonly referred to as civil society, we have examples.

Canada has just signed a trade agreement with China. Not with any little place in the world, but with China. Nobody in the House knows what was negotiated. We have just signed an agreement with China, the most densely populated country in the world. China needs the support of a certain number of countries to be able to join the WTO. This issue has never been debated in this House.

I asked the Minister for International Trade “Why do you not take this opportunity to talk about the environment and human rights?” He answered “No, no, no, this is a trade issue”. If trade can help to promote human rights, that would be acceptable.

There are examples like these that we find very disturbing, even though we are open to the world. No other party is more open to the world than our own. Quebecers are also very open minded. Quebec is one of the provinces most open to the world. Canada is one of the countries that is most open to the world. But we must not be dense and compromise on all kinds of issues. We have to know what is going on.

If a lot of Canadians take part in demonstrations in Seattle, it means something. It means that there is no way to show the other side of the coin in the Parliament of Canada. There is no permanent process to do so. Could it be done?

At stake are hundreds of billions of dollars in economic spinoffs everywhere. Could we have a committee? That would not cost too much, I am sure. Could we have one?

There are things that can be negotiated or settled in Seattle. Let me give an example. One of the first countries to join the WTO or GATT was Cuba. Is there free trade between Cuba and the United States? Of course not. Canadian corporations are penalized if they do business with Cuba. Some positive measures could be taken for Canada, Cuba and the United States. We could use that forum to this end.

Right now, agriculture is on the table and it is, of course, a very important issue. We have to settle this problem. At the same time, while we are open to negotiations, we should also share the information with the people we represent.

I am not talking about strategy here. On both sides of the House, there are very capable people who can deal with strategy, and that is a good thing. Perfect. But right now, we have no idea where we are headed.

Did the House get a single official report on the preliminary negotiations in Geneva? People have been arguing for three months now and have been unable to reach an agreement on the agenda for their meeting in Seattle this week.

Three months of work. How many times were we, as parliamentarians, briefed? How many times? Not once. So, members should not be surprised if some people are rather angry. And that is why they are say that they will go to Seattle and voice their disapproval of some points of view and especially of the negotiation process.

They are right, because last Friday, to give the example I mentioned earlier, the minister signed an agreement with China. Absolutely nobody here knew that an agreement was in the works. Just imagine what we will end up with in Seattle. It is not with one briefing in the morning, in Seattle, and another in the evening that we will be well informed. Certainly not.

But what will happen after Seattle? Could we put strike this committee? That would show people we represent that we take globalization very seriously. I submit that it would be easy to strike a standing committee and that it would not cost much.

What the hon. member from Lac-Saint-Jean is asking for is unanimous consent to make the motion votable. That is all. So, may our Liberals buddies on the other side sign on and honour their commitment for once, and we on this side of the House do the same, so that there will be a vote. This is what the member for Lac-Saint-Jean is asking. After that, we will see where people stand on it.

But, what message is the government sending the people of Quebec, of Ontario, and of Canada if it refuses to consider the matter through a vote or even rejects the creation of a standing committee on globalization and its effects?

It is not because they are afraid, but what message are they sending people? Either that globalization is perfect and its effects are purely positive or that the government is so afraid of having its cage rattled by the people in this country it is supposed to represent that the Liberals are saying “No, we do not want to touch that”.

It is time to act, because Canada is becoming increasingly globalized internationally. It is also time to change the committees of this House and strike a standing committee that will examine this issue routinely.

So I invite everyone to give their unanimous support to Motion M-41 by the member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, is it not wonderful to see how this simple issue is generating a rather heated debate in which various opinions are being expressed? This is good, in my opinion, because what I am proposing is a non-partisan review committee.

When I left with my seat, I did not tell my party what I was going to do, because I wanted to show members of this House that this was a non-partisan issue. We are fortunate to have here five political parties with various ideologies. Could we not benefit from that situation and get opinions and views from all these sources?

I am the youngest member in this House. Many here know that I wonder what kind of society we will have in 20 or 30 years, when I will be the same age as most members now in this House. I think we have to think about that or, at least, have a vote—this is all I am asking—because we would learn from it. In any case, we will have to think about it, perhaps a few years, but for now we must support this idea.

The issue is not whether we are for or against globalization. The issue is that we must understand it, to be able to act, play a role in the world, propose solutions at the international level. This parliament could exercise such leadership, and it would be fantastic.

This is why no member of this House should go against the will of 50,000 citizens, and possibly many more, because there are many more— This is why I am asking for the unanimous consent of the House to make Motion M-41 a votable item.

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member is asking for the unanimous consent of the House to make the motion votable. Is there unanimous consent?

Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Globalization Of EconomiesPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the item is dropped from the order paper.

The House resumed from November 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to repeal the Medical Research Council Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders



Val Meredith Reform South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian institutes of health research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.

It is not very often in the House when I compliment the government on its direction, but I must compliment the government in recognizing the need for Canadian medical and science researchers to be supported financially. It is the hope of the official opposition that the new institutes of health research will be accountable to the Canadian taxpayers who will be providing the financial resources in order for the research to take place.

Research and development has had very strange support from governments. I remember the former Conservative government made lots of promises to the people of British Columbia, particularly to the University of British Columbia with the Kaon project but it became very apparent that it was only a vote-getting promise. Other promises have been made across the country by governments maintaining that they recognize the need for research and development, but when the time comes the financial support is never there.

We are very supportive of research and development because that is how Canada will lead the way. That is how the Canadian economy will be able to compete with other nations of the world. So often and for so long we have watched our best and our brightest go elsewhere because the financial support has not been available in our country to develop and fund research projects and to put those research projects into a viable market.

We are very pleased that the government at least is recognizing the need to put financial resources into research and development, but even more so the need to be accountable to the taxpayers for that money, not only with this direction on research and development, but certainly with other government programs. What has happened is that money has gone into an area and the taxpayers have had no idea where it has gone, if the money has been well spent or if there is any benefit from that money being put there. It is quite clear that the government recognizes the need to hold these new institutes accountable to the taxpayer.

The amount of dollars will be divided between the institute development fund, which will get 20% of the earmarked dollars, and the strategic initiative fund, which will get 80% of the total budget. Both will be overseen by a body. Although the director may be appointed by the government, the other members who will be sitting on the committee will be appointed or nominated by their peers.

That is a very important step forward. There will not be more patronage positions for the government to fill. Rather, the people who will be showing leadership and who will be determining which project will be prioritized, that determination will be made by the peers of the scientific community and the medical research community. They understand and will be able to weigh the importance of the projects. They will be able to prioritize them in such a way that the taxpayers' funds will be well spent.

It is also important to note that the government is not interested in creating a new bureaucracy. The government is not interested in long term appointments to government paid salaried positions. The individuals who will serve as an advisory board will not be paid a salary. They will be paid a per diem fee for the amount of time spent in committees or the number of committee meetings they attend. Instead of having somebody on a salary of $80,000 to $125,000, we are talking about a per diem fee with expenses being covered.

I think we will get people who really want to serve the scientific community and the Canadian people. They will not be out for their own personal benefit, they will be out for the good of the whole. That is a very important step for our government to take.

It is important not to create an establishment where the majority of the dollars goes to support the bureaucracy itself. I understand that only 4% to 5% of the total funds will go toward administration. I think Canadians will uphold the government's decision. Hopefully we will see in the long run that taxpayers' dollars do not go toward an increasingly huge bureaucracy or, as we sometimes hear people call them, these little kingdoms that develop, but rather that the money will actually go into research and development.

We are very pleased the government is going in this direction. We hope in the end these appointments will prove that the system is right and that this model of an agency can be used in other areas.

The head of the institution will be appointed by the governor in council and the other members will be appointed by their peers. The names of individuals from the scientific community will be given to the individual who will be appointed to run the institute. He or she will select from the names. It is an interesting direction for the government to be going in.

We understand the agencies will be reporting twice annually. Their spending can be watched by the Canadian people. Over the years we will be able to assess whether or not they are doing the best they can, whether they are using the money wisely through the reporting process that has been put in the act.

It is important to acknowledge that the scientific community has been hard done by in years past. Most of the money which has gone into scientific research has been used for administrative purposes or for supporting bureaucracies. I think the scientists themselves are looking to the new act to free up dollars for actual research projects and that the money will go into research.

Hopefully at the end of the day not only will Canadian taxpayers be pleased with the results, but those in the scientific and medical research community will also be pleased. This will mean more money will go into research than into the bureaucracy. The appointment of members and the overseeing body will be done in an open and democratic manner which will be accountable to the people with a reporting process involved.

Years from now we look forward to seeing a strong scientific and medical research community which will lead the way internationally. Hopefully this will stop the serious brain drain of our best and our brightest.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Madam Speaker, it is, of course, with interest that I rise to speak to Bill C-13, at the request of our health critic, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve.

For the benefit of our viewers, Bill C-13 is a bill to establish institutes of health research, which will replace the Medical Research Council.

I will provide a little background. The federal government, through the Minister of Finance, plans to allocate a surplus of $65 million for the year 2000-01, plus $240 million for 2001-02, for a grand total of approximately half a billion dollars, because it includes the 2001-02 budgets already earmarked for the Medical Research Council.

The fact that the federal government, through the Minister of Finance, is investing an additional $65 million next year, and $240 million on top of that in the second year, obviously requires a very broad consensus here in the House of Commons. The member for Chicoutimi has just told me that the Progressive Conservative Party will be supporting Bill C-13. The Reform Party member just gave me her backing. Last week, the NDP health critic also came on board. This means that, with the Bloc Quebecois, support for Bill C-13 will, to all intents and purposes, be unanimous.

However, Bloc Quebecois members will be introducing a few amendments to make sure of two things: first, that Quebec will receive its fair share, and not get the short end of the stick, as it did with the automobile plants. Nineteen out of twenty in Ontario, and only one out of twenty in Quebec, and every six months, somebody talks about closing it. Quebec should get its share of this $500 million budget.

We will recall that, in research and development, Ontario traditionally gets between 50% and 60% of the overall federal R and D budget, while Quebec, with 25% of the Canadian population, only gets some 14%.

We will also have to make sure that the federal government, the government of the Prime Minister and member from Shawinigan, is not slipping us a lump of coal, that he is not firing up its steamroller and once again invading areas of provincial jurisdiction. We will keep a close eye on that.

We know that the Canadian institutes of health research will deal primarily with organizing, co-ordinating and financing. I want to focus on research co-ordination here in Canada. Our researchers should not be competing against one another, neither should our institutes, and findings that, if shared, could speed things along and benefit our ageing population should not be hidden. To this end, we quickly emphasize research into cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer and, of course, respiratory disease. The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the general thrust of Bill C-13. It is a necessity.

I should recall that, last Friday, I was invited by the president of the volunteers of the old Thetford Mines hospital, Lucien Roy, and Treasurer Remi Vachon to join a group of hospital volunteers for a social diner. On this occasion, those patients who could be “taken out”—in the words of Lucien Roy—gathered in the chapel for dinner. I had an opportunity to talk with about 30 patients, and all of them asked that more money be put into health care.

What does not impress me, but surprises me, is that this same government has made $3.4 billion worth of cuts since 1993. The same finance minister and the same health minister, who have cut $3.4 billion over less than six years in Quebec alone, now want to put $65 million into research. It certainly takes a lot of nerve.

One day, during question period, Jean Charest, when he sat in this House, at the far right, close to your chair, Madam Speaker, put a question to the Prime Minister, stating that, if Quebec had problems in the health care sector, he was primarily responsible for it. He was referring to the Prime Minister of Canada and member for Saint-Maurice.

Today, the same government is bragging about putting $65 million more into research. In Quebec alone, the shortfall for the year 1999-2000 totals $1.7 billion. For health alone, the total is $850 million for the current fiscal year. It is a lot of money.

Quebec is not the only province to experience heath care problems. Problems exist across Canada. Unfortunately, it is the finance minister's doing.

This is why hundreds and thousands of protesters rallied in Hull yesterday to speak out against what this government has done in the area of health care and social services. It has made cuts almost everywhere, including in social housing, and it did it unilaterally.

Today, to ease its conscience, it is planning to include in next year's budget a meagre $65 million more for health research. The Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice really does have nerve. He is a Quebecer willing to sacrifice Quebec to increase his popularity in the rest of Canada.

He is the one who, as you will recall, when he was the justice minister in 1982, with 74 members of his political formation, had orchestrated with Pierre Trudeau the unilateral patriation of the Constitution. He had organised all that despite all the opposition from Quebecers, including Claude Ryan, who was the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party at the time.

Fortunately, he was prevented just in time from playing this dirty trick on us when the National Assembly, where all parties were against him, and all Quebec newspaper editorials, including La Presse and Le Soleil —which are not fundamentally separatist papers—condemned the Prime Minister's plans.

It is not surprising that ministers from Quebec, including this minister here, who is the President of the Treasury Board, distanced themselves from him. I am happy to say that she distanced herself from her leader, which could only be to her credit. She is one of the few in Cabinet. Sure, there is also the Minister of Finances, but he can talk for ten minutes without saying anything.

That is what he did. Fifty per cent plus one will do it for him. That is what international law and democracy demand. Will the vote of Raymond Setlakwe, in Thetford, count for 1.2, while that of the member for Frontenac will count for just one? In democracy, it is one woman one vote and one man one vote. That is what I want to remind the House.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to address Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian institutes of health research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.

At the outset of my brief remarks I rise in qualified support of the legislation. My arguments in support of the bill are focused on improving the health of Canadians through research. Who could possibly be opposed to that premise?

My problems with the bill are based on the difference between the fundamental beliefs of the Liberal government and my beliefs as a Reform member of parliament. While our goals are the same, to improve and lengthen quality of life for all Canadians, the differences lie in how to obtain this goal.

I note that we are coming at this from two different directions. The government's approach certainly appears to be how to perpetuate and protect the existing health care industry. In other words it views it as the system. It believes that we have to hold on to and stand fast with the Canada Health Act, not look at making any changes, even though the government fully recognizes and is in agreement with opposition parties that the health care system is rapidly deteriorating. Its present form is failing Canadians and failing to address their needs in the area of health care.

In contrast to that the official opposition has said that we have to change the focus from the system and from the industry of health care to that of the patient. We have to broaden our research and the way in which we look at the whole issue of health care, with the intention of focusing on the individual, on the patient, and what is best for him or her, not on what necessarily is best for our so-called universal health care system.

When it comes to health care, currently the provinces are paying almost 90% of health care costs. Yet Ottawa continues to defend the Canada Health Act to the extent that it should dictate the terms, the levies and fines to provinces which are trying to accommodate the ongoing legacy of the government cutting billions of dollars from health over the last number of years. In the last year or two, once the government achieved a balanced budget and started to run surpluses, it put back a few billion dollars, a mere fraction of the billions that it cut from the Canada health and social transfer.

The government expects some applause from Canadians for doing that at a time when Canadians are suffering under the weight of a taxation system which has seen them as the most heavily taxed we have ever been as a society, as a country and as Canadian taxpayers in our history.

What a legacy for the Prime Minister. What a situation for Canadians to find themselves in as they go into the next millennium. We will turn that corner in about a month's time and will find that we are the most heavily taxed we have ever been in our history. At the same time Canadians are an aging population which has to rely more and more on health care and faces the reality that the health care system is failing and is deteriorating.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill today. I want to broaden the context of it. There is no point in trying to have a debate when we agree with something. What we have to do is try to focus on what we do not agree with. I have already laid out the difference in the approach of the official opposition to that of the government. I also want to talk about the so-called two tiered health care and the fearmongering on the part of the government every time the official opposition, the Reform Party of Canada, brings forward new or innovative ideas about health care and how to address the needs of Canadians in the whole area of health care.

We are immediately bombarded with the comments that we want to change it, that we want to destroy the universality of the Canadian health care system. Nothing could be further from the truth, but unfortunately that gets lost in the very heated and emotional debate we face every time we try to bring forward ideas.

I note that some of the most innovative thinking in the last while has been by the provinces. As I said earlier in my comments today, they are struggling under the weight of the cuts the government has instituted and the cuts they have had to face in administering health care to Canadians, to provincial taxpayers, their citizens.

Certainly much to the disappointment of the official opposition, when a premier or provincial health minister comes up with an innovative plan on how to address the needs of Canadians in the area of health care, instead of some co-operation from the government we see that it attacks the provinces and the individual who brings forward some innovative and new thinking on the issue.

We are all in agreement that we need more funding and more focus on research in the area of health care. We could go down a long list of debilitating and life threatening diseases that require some urgency in the area of research. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we should be concerned about priorities and how scarce tax dollars are spent.

The solicitor general announced the other day that he would institute under tremendous pressure from the official opposition a research facility at the cost of $2 million to $2.5 million to look at the whole area of drug addiction, how it relates to prisons and the prison system, how it relates to crime and recidivism rates, and why people do what they do in the area of crime if they are under the influence of drugs.

Certainly we have been pushing for a national drug strategy. We have been drawing the attention of Canadians to the fact that drugs are more rampant and readily available in prison than they are outside prison. I have to question the sanity that would go into announcing supposedly never ending research into this issue and having it headquartered in Prince Edward Island, in the minister's riding.

Why take a vitally important issue to Canadian society and denigrate it by making it into a patronage issue? He has announced that he will temporarily house the research facility until such time as a new federal building can be built, which will just happen to be in his riding, to house the 20 permanent staff members he envisions to look into the drug issue.

Unfortunately I am almost out of time. All of us, especially my colleagues in the Reform Party, in the official opposition, could go on at great length talking about the issue of priorities, how the government spends scarce tax dollars, and our concerns in that regard. I only had time to briefly highlight one issue.

With all the empty federal buildings across the country, I am sure the government could have found one, heaven knows, in areas that have serious drug problems in prisons such as the lower mainland of Vancouver or in and around Toronto. That might be a better location for a facility such as this one.

I sum up by stating that the Reform Party prime health care objective is to improve the quality and length of life of all Canadians. For that reason my Reform colleagues and I support the legislation, as I said. I must state unequivocally that we in the Reform Party do not support the government's irresponsible approach to managing Canada's health care system. The government has gutted funding for health care, yet it has increased taxes every year since coming to power. If Canadians are sick of anything, they are sick of paying more and getting less.

The bill will provide increased moneys for medical research, but will Canadians get their money's worth? I do not think so. Canada has some of the world's best research and development. However, our incredibly high level of taxation leaves Canadian companies little or no money left for research, and a substantial tax cut for Canadians, including Canadian businesses, will improve the lives of Canadians, create jobs and keep our kids at home. We often hear about the brain drain.

I believe this is in line with the wishes of Canadians who want to pay less and get more from their government, instead of the current Liberal system which is exactly the opposite; paying the highest taxes in history while facing a deteriorating national health care system. What a legacy for the Prime Minister.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Dubé Progressive Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak on Bill C-13, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act.

First of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague from New Brunswick, the member for New Brunswick Southwest, for his excellent work at the Standing Committee on Health. I also want to point out to the House that this is the first significant bill dealing with health care that has come before us during this parliament. It is incredible that this is the first bill dealing with a matter of such significance.

This reminds us of the fact that the present government is the laziest of this century. It is absolutely incredible that, today, the government is putting an emphasis on health. The Prime Minister recently reopened the constitutional debate. To him, it seems more important to debate constitutional matters than to discuss the priorities of Canadians regarding health, education and employment. This is absolutely incredible.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

The question must be clear.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Dubé Progressive Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Yes, the question must be clear and specific. I would like the government side of the House to answer clear and specific questions.

Since it took office, this government cut $17 billion from health care. It is absolutely incredible because, meanwhile, the demand for health care is increasing. We all know that the ageing of the population is increasing the demand for health care and yet the government cut some $17 billion in health care.

In the last budget, the Minister of Finance gave back some of that money, in transfers for health care, but that simply brought us back to where we were ten years ago. To have such a government in this day and age is absolutely incredible.

Canadians are furious at the Prime Minister for having revived the constitutional debate. Given the government's record in the House right now, I can assure members that Canadians want change. I can hardly wait for the next election, because then the people will have the opportunity to say exactly what they think about this government.

Let us consider the problems in the health field. During the past year, I had the privilege of being a member of the Conservative Party's committee that toured Canada to study poverty. The government has nothing to brag about when it comes to poverty, which is growing in Canada. We have seen much evidence of this. I had the opportunity to meet some university students during the tour and, believe it or not, I discovered there are soup kitchens in Canadian universities. It is absolutely incredible that there should be soup kitchens our Canadian universities.

We wonder why health costs are so high. It is because of the constant stress Canadians are under. In some regions, Canadians are looking for jobs, they are having a hard time making ends meet and they are under heavy stress as a result. And where does stress lead? Stress gets people into the hospital, sometimes for long periods of time. We also know that stress has an impact on the cardiovascular system.

I think all the hon. members in the House know only too well what this causes and what it costs. We should be focusing our efforts on this, to reduce health costs.

I totally support Bill C-13, but I think we should examine the origin of the problem and the causes of skyrocketing health costs. Again, we have an aging population in Canada. Nowadays in Canada, young families are like mine, with two young children aged six and two; there are no more families of six and more; we do not see that anymore.

So, we have an aging population, which has an impact on taxes collected. We will have to pay attention to this. We have serious problems, and we really have to focus our attention on the causes of health problems.

I want to go back to what I said a few minutes ago. I was saying that I was deeply disappointed with the government's work during this session. I honestly think this is one of the laziest governments we have seen.

It has to be the laziest government in this century. It is totally unbelievable. We are going on to the constitutional debate again when Canadians really want to hear us talk about health care. I know I want to talk about health care and I think most of the people in here want to talk about health care. I am sure most of the people on the government side want to talk about health care as well.

Unfortunately, today and for the past week in the House everyone knows what we have been talking about. Who initiated all this? I think it was our friend across the way, the Prime Minister of Canada.

It is totally unbelievable to throw gas on the fire like that. It is ironic because our party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, believes in a united Canada. This was demonstrated when Jean Charest left our party to head the federalist party in Quebec. He seems to be doing a good job there trying to bring up the popularity of federalist troops in Quebec. We saw in a poll about two weeks ago that the federalist forces in Quebec were on their way up. I think it was at 57% and the Lucien Bouchard troops were down to 30%.

We should keep an eye on the polls in the coming weeks to see what happens in Quebec. I am sure we will see a change in the polls.

Members of parliament were debating clear issues that people were concerned about. We were talking about jobs and health care. We must be getting close to an election because it seems to me that every time there is an election in the country we talk about the constitution. Believe me, we should be talking about much different things.

When I say that it has to be the laziest government in this century, I think that is why the PM is trying to hook onto this.

Let us look at what we did as a Conservative government and at the balanced budget today. Why do we have a balanced budget today? Let us take a look at what free trade did to the country. Free trade was brought in by this government. It is one of the biggest pieces of legislation this country has had in this century. That was a proactive government taking care of business.

What free trade has done for us in Canada is to raise our exports from $90 billion to $230 billion over five or six years. That is absolutely incredible. These are very fine figures indeed and I believe the government is very proud of them today.

Had the Liberal government had it its way, free trade would not be what it is today. However, the Minister of Finance must be very pleased with that $230 billion figure today. The Liberals are patting themselves on the back now about having a balanced budget. But why is it that they have that balanced budget? I think the $230 billion certainly has something to do with the fact that there is a balanced budget. Let us be realistic.

As for the GST, I was not much in favour of that as a businessman, and many people in Canada were also opposed. We saw what happened in 1993. Looking a little further, we can see that the GST will bring in $24 billion in revenues to the Government of Canada this year.

Looking at what we did as a government and what the present government has done, it is evident that the employment insurance cuts have hurt the poor, particularly women. It can be seen from last week's Statistics Canada report that the poor are the ones most affected by employment insurance reform.

I am pleased to take part in this debate, and we are going to support Bill C-13.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

November 29th, 1999 / 12:40 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.

For those who are reading through Hansard or watching on television, I will repeat that the official opposition supports the bill, which I think is taking medical research in Canada in the right direction. It is more of an arm's-length relationship between the government and the medical research business in Canada. It is very important research that I think all Canadians support. It is the type of thing we have long advocated as a necessary role for government to be involved in.

There are many things governments should not be involved with but medical research is certainly a good use of dollars. It benefits all of society and it benefits people around the world. It is a good use of our tax dollars. And I do support the bill.

I want to talk about a theme I developed the last time I was on my feet here, which was that when governments choose to head in a certain direction they basically have chosen one priority over another because almost always the bills and acts that we discuss here in parliament involve the expenditure of tax dollars.

When the government chooses to spend money on a research facility with hundreds of millions of dollars involved, it means that there is some money that cannot be spent on something else, assuming there is a finite amount of money involved. That means something else has dropped to the bottom of the priority list, which is as it has to be. Governments have to make choices. I would urge them to be a little more stringent in their choices. I would urge them to drop a few more things off their very full plate to allow for some tax relief and tax breaks for Canadian businesses and families. Be that as it may, it always involves a priority.

I draw to the attention of the House today another research facility I just became aware of this weekend that was announced by the government last week. The research facility is sort of health related. It has to do with developing research into the use of drugs in prisons, the impact they have, how they affect crime rates and all those sorts of things. It is not a bad idea to study that, although it is so rampant and so widespread I am not sure what exactly they will discover is new.

I bring this up because the announcement was made by the solicitor general that this research facility, sort of health related, sort of crime related but interrelated, would be put in his own riding in Prince Edward Island. There are a couple of million dollars involved. It is a priority of the minister to spend the money, not just on the research but on building a facility in Prince Edward Island to house it.

I asked our solicitor general critic how many federal institutions of incarceration there were in Prince Edward Island. There are no maximum or medium security facilities there. So I asked why this was put in the solicitor general's riding. What is the scoop? Why has he decided that this has to be the place?

For example, I think of the lower mainland of British Columbia which obviously is the area I am most familiar with. In the immediate area in and around my riding there is Kent maximum security prison, Mountain medium security prison, and the regional psychiatric or Matsqui prison, which does the assessments of all people who are incarcerated in the federal system for British Columbia. In other words, everybody goes through this system which is in my riding. The Sumas centre, the Elbow Lake institution and six or seven provincial institutions all are within 20 or 30 kilometres of my part of the Fraser Valley.

In addition there is the entirely vacant CFB Chilliwack base and facilities. It has been vacant since the government moved everybody out of there to Edmonton to the justice minister's riding. She enjoys that in her part of the world. The buildings sit empty. The buildings on this site are available for any federal department to use. Some of the buildings are so new that they were still being built when the place was shut down. They are brand new state of the art buildings which were built for the Canadian forces as a training facility. They are classroom type facilities and are fully wired and computer sensitive.

If I wanted to get a handle on researching drug use in prisons there would be a couple of things I would do if I were the government. This is part of the prioritization of spending. I would investigate actual prisons. I would not just conceptualize it, I would access the minimum, medium and maximum security prisons. I would want access to all the prisoners in the federal system, in other words like those at the Matsqui institution. I would check up on them following discharge to see how they were doing in the real world and see the rate of recidivism, which is alarming when drugs are involved. I would want to be aware of where those people were.

I would want to do a follow up and be close to other medical research facilities such as those at UBC. It has world class medical research facilities and is about a one hour drive from my place. I would want the facilities in a place that would cost the taxpayers the least amount of money. I would want good facilities and good use of them. As far as the drug problem is concerned, I would want to be where the action was and at the lowest cost possible to the taxpayer.

One of those places would be in the lower mainland which would meet all those criteria. The buildings and the facilities are there. If we did not like CFB Chilliwack, how about CFB Aldergrove which has also been shut down. It has facilities and land and is in the middle of all of these prisons. There is the ability to study these individuals.

The solicitor general did not bother to do that. Instead, he is going to build a brand new place in his home province because what the heck, it is a couple of million bucks for back home. I cannot think of a single other reason why he is doing this. There are no prisons or medical research facilities or a building there. There is no inmate population to study. There is no reason to build it there except for one. It is the home province of the solicitor general.

That is very unfortunate. It shows Canadians that priorities are being made based on political considerations and not on the best interests of medical research or the use of tax dollars. Neither one of those is the paramount consideration. The partisan use of tax dollars has taken precedence over the good and judicious use of limited tax dollars. That is a shame.

Every time I see a bill, like Bill C-13, that involves medical research, I am happy to support it. I think of how important the work of medical researchers is and how difficult it is for them to get funds. When I see other money being wasted, as I described, for partisan political reasons and not being given to a new and improved research facility, I wonder why that choice of priority, instead of the priority which is in the best interests of taxpayers, drug users, drug abusers and so on. We are trying to fix a problem in our penitentiary system. I do not believe that long term facility in Prince Edward Island is strategically located or will be a good use of tax dollars.

That means something else has to give. Some other priority has to come in below that. The millions of dollars that will be spent on it will not be available for other things such as medical research and community housing. It will not be available because it is being spent for political reasons.

In closing, I would like to say again that the official opposition is happy to support Bill C-13. Medical research is important to our country. I hope the government will not only encourage medical researchers to do the hard research that they must do, but that the government itself will move away from being the protector of the system and toward the protector of the health of individual Canadians.

That does not mean we throw out the Canada Health Act. It does not mean there is not a lot of good, obviously, in our Canadian public health system. However, as we move into the new millennium we have to encourage people to think outside the box on medical research, the medical system and the delivery of medical services so that all Canadians are cared for the best.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to repeal the Medical Research Council Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

This legislation stems from an announcement made initially in the budget of last February, when the health minister mentioned plans to establish a virtual network of research institutes. Then, the latest federal budget announced that an initial amount of $65 million would be earmarked for fiscal year 2000-2001, to be followed by an additional $175 million. If we add all these figures to the existing budgets for the Medical Research Council, we can see that the government's objective is to raise the total amount to close to $500 million.

The act also provides for the establishment of all that is required to manage these health research institutes, so that these facilities can be operational the beginning of April 2000.

The act includes several parts. Some clauses state the objects of the CIHRs. Others, such as clauses 6 to 11, deal with the organization of the CIHRs. Others still deal with the governing council, including its establishment. A series of other clauses include transitional measures or consequential amendments to other acts.

Of course, no one can be opposed to the idea of allocating money for research. Everyone agrees that it is extremely important to conduct health research. Various subjects have already been proposed as being worthy of study, such as aging, research into arthritis, musculoskeletal development, cancer, muscle biology, heart disease and so on.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

The flu.