House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.


Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria Liberalfor the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

moved 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

10:05 a.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-10, the payments in lieu of taxes act. I am speaking on behalf of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services in support of this important legislation which will go a long way toward strengthening the relationship between the federal government and municipalities across Canada. As a former municipal politician, it is a real pleasure for me to speak to this bill in the House.

Before I address the legislation I would like to congratulate the minister for his dedicated and constructive approach to this issue. His efforts to improve the fairness, equity and predictability of federal payments in lieu of taxes are truly commendable. In particular, I underline the minister's decision to directly involve local officials in developing these changes to the Municipal Grants Act and program. An obvious sensitivity to the opinions of municipal politicians by the minister is reflective of his own years in municipal politics.

In his speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in June of 1998, the minister made it clear that municipal input was absolutely essential if we were to find the best possible structure for municipal payments in lieu of taxes. He also made a commitment at that time to hear the voices of those who represent Canadians at the municipal level.

Throughout the summer of 1998 the minister presided over 11 round table discussions in major centres from coast to coast to obtain firsthand views on the municipal grants program and to gather advice on how to make it work better for local communities and citizens. These meetings gave mayors, municipal officials and appraisal professionals the opportunity to have a direct say in modernizing Canada's payment in lieu of taxes system.

I know for a fact that the minister's round tables were greatly appreciated by municipal officials. His face to face meetings were a gesture of solidarity between the two levels of government, a sign of respect and a clear recognition of the challenging work undertaken by municipal governments.

The minister's undertaking and the enthusiastic participation of municipal officials demonstrate that much can be achieved through dialogue and co-operation. Indeed, the minister's consultation tour has led directly to some important changes in the way the renamed and reformed municipal payments program will be managed.

Two examples come to mind. First, the minister has undertaken to establish a municipal payments program advisory council of stakeholder representatives to give advice on administrative and policy issues relating to the management of the program. This advisory council will carry on the constructive dialogue initiated by the round table consultations.

As we learned during those discussions, issues that arise must not be be allowed to simmer for years until they begin to adversely affect relations between governments, as has happened in the past. They must be dealt with expeditiously and the advisory council will play an important role in this regard.

The second ministerial initiative is the decision to engage national professional appraisal associations to draft best practices for unique types of properties. As the minister has noted, problems often arise when federal and municipal appraisers cannot agree on the value of certain types of federal properties such as penitentiaries and airports. There are simply no equivalent assets in the private sector against which these properties can be compared.

By developing best practices through a co-operative process involving municipal and federal stakeholders the government will ensure consistency in the treatment of these properties across Canada. We will also avoid unnecessary and acrimonious disagreements with municipal officials and improve the predictability of payments to municipalities. These administrative issues can be addressed without legislation; however, some of the changes included in the package proposed by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services do require amendments to the Municipal Grants Act, which is the purpose of Bill C-10.

During their meetings with the minister, municipal officials made it clear that the Government of Canada must behave in a manner similar to other property owners. This is what Bill C-10 aims to achieve. The underlying objective of the proposed legislation is to make federal payments in lieu of taxes as much like the taxes levied against private landowners as is possible, while still recognizing the government's exemption from local taxation under the Constitution Act, 1867.

Complicating this balancing act is the need to account for the uniqueness of certain types of federal properties, as I mentioned a moment ago.

The way the government has pursued these objectives is by strengthening the principles of fairness and equity that have guided the municipal grants program since its inception some 50 years ago. Let me give the House some examples.

Bill C-10 will require the federal government to pay a supplementary amount equivalent to interest when payments in lieu of taxes are unreasonably delayed. It will make the disputes resolution process more accessible to municipal governments and make the objectivity of the disputes advisory committee more apparent.

Bill C-10 will empower the minister to make payments in lieu of taxes on tenanted federal property when these tenants default on their tax obligations. Under the current regime municipal governments often have little recourse when a tenant in a federal property defaults on taxes.

The proposed legislation will also remove limitations on payments in lieu of taxes to first nations governments. It will change the reference in the legislation from the word “grants” to the word “payments” in lieu of taxes. This change will reflect the fact that the government receives valuable direct and indirect services from local governments for its payments in lieu of taxes.

Bill C-10 will expand the definition of federal property contained in the legislation to put the government on a more level playing field with taxable property owners.

In his speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities the minister also indicated that a primary goal of the consultation and reform exercise would be to improve the predictability of payments in lieu of taxes. I might add on a personal note, as a former school board chair, that knowing how much money we could budget for each year was a very important issue with which we had great trouble.

Again, several measures in Bill C-10 are designed to achieve this goal. For example, the government has undertaken to make payments according to the municipally established schedule, assuming information from assessment and taxation authorities is received on a timely basis, equivalent to that accorded other taxpayers. As mentioned earlier, the government will pay supplementary amounts equivalent to interest when these payments are delayed.

The government will also work with assessment authorities to attempt to finalize federal property values prior to the close of the assessment roll. This will reduce the number of disputes and improve predictability for municipalities when they set their tax rates and when they set their budgets.

The government will be working with tax appraisal professionals to arrive at an acceptable and balanced means of valuing certain types of property. The government will also clarify the process to be followed when a taxing authority is unwilling or unable to provide a service to federal property which it customarily provides to taxable property.

This is the first comprehensive review of the municipal payments program in 20 years.

Given this fact, I am pleased to inform hon. members that these proposed changes will have a minimal impact on the cost of the program. In fact, the cost increase will amount to less than 1% of a $400 million program, a total of about $1.7 additional millions, which will be distributed among departments.

As elected representatives, we are all mindful of the need to control the cost of government. However, I believe the movement of the federal government toward a more equitable position in relation to taxable property owners will provide more protection from large increases in costs by aligning the government with the common interests of the taxable community.

Let me reiterate that Bill C-10 strengthens the fairness, equity and predictability of federal payments in lieu of taxes. It achieves a balance between ensuring that Canada pays its fair share of the cost of municipal services while protecting the broader interests of all Canadian taxpayers. It deserves the support of hon. members on both sides of the House and I would ask them to join me in supporting the bill.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to express to the House my pleasure in being able to rise to the discussion on this particular bill.

It is, in many respects, a very good bill. As has been pointed out by the hon. parliamentary secretary, it follows the 11 round table discussions where representatives got together from all the provinces and a variety of municipalities, large and small, and had their input into this particular bill. While the bill does in many ways meet some of the discussions that took place and some of the requests they made, there are some areas where the bill falls short and where the suggestions made were not accepted.

I want to address the House in a way that suggests we ought to look at this not as a fait accompli or something that is finished but rather as something that is in the process of being put together.

We will have to recognize that it does improve the equality, fairness, equity and predictability of payments to municipalities and other taxing authorities in terms of the taxes that might otherwise be paid by people who own property in those particular taxing authority jurisdictions.

It gives the minister the right and power to pay those taxes and to make those payments in lieu of taxes, and also to make payments in case those taxes are late for whatever reason that might be. It also adds to the provisions of the act a predictability factor in the sense that very often the assessment authority does not have its final number complete. The government has always had the practice in the past of withholding at least 5% of that amount. That will now be brought forward. If it is not, then the interest, or the amount of interest that might have been calculated out of that amount, will be paid. That is a good provision within the bill.

The bill also allows the federal government to collect from third parties if they do not pay their rent or taxes to make sure that the proper taxing authority gets that particular payment. That is a desirable thing as well.

It establishes an advisory panel, or council as the hon. parliamentary secretary has indicated, which is designed to resolve disputes between taxing authorities and paying authorities, in this case the Government of Canada. At the same time as it does that, the advisory panel also has absolutely no teeth connected with it. This then raises some concerns that we have.

The first concern is that the advisory panel really has no teeth. It may make recommendations at the point of the assessment. It may make recommendations about whether the payment was late and was unreasonably withheld at the usual time or on the amount of money that should be paid. It can make recommendations but there is absolutely no provision in the bill that suggests that the minister may not unreasonably withhold approval of these recommendations. As a consequence, the minister's discretion is complete. He or she may accept the recommendations, amend them, reject them or simply ignore them. The interesting thing is that the panel has no real authority.

The panel is also to help resolve issues with regard to disputes when it comes to crown corporations, especially agents of the crown corporations that really exist for the creation of profit for the Government of Canada. In this case too, the panel may make recommendations but there is absolutely no obligation on the part of the corporation to accept those recommendations. The corporation may amend them, reject them or simply accept them, but it is totally at the discretion of the corporation to do so. I think that is a shortcoming within the bill.

The other point within the bill is that the minister's discretion is so complete that the apparent willingness or direction from the municipalities and taxing authority is that he actually pay these amounts and that he do so at a predictable time and so on. This discretion is totally his. As a consequence, he has an authority that no other property taxpayer in Canada has. When we get our tax notices, we must pay our taxes. If we do not pay them we get taken to court and our property is eventually confiscated. The minister has total and complete authority and discretion as to what he will and what he will not do. I think that is a shortcoming.

The other aspect to the bill is that it totally ignores the recommendations from the committee. This was a joint technical committee on payments in lieu of taxes. This particular group made a representation to the minister saying that when it comes to schedule 4, these are agent crown corporations which are supposed to make money, should all be included under schedule 4, and that is what schedule 4 actually says. Specifically they recommended that Canada Post and the Royal Mint be added to schedule 4.

Since then, we have had the amendment of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Act. The act clearly indicates that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation may make a profit and that the profit ought to accrue and will accrue to the shareholder, which is the Government of Canada, and it should be paying a business tax when and if the taxing authority taxes businesses that are in the business of making profit. There is this a very startling omission in the bill by not including under schedule 4 these corporations.

Some may wonder why it matters. It matters a lot because there are taxes here that are due and should be paid, and payment should have been made in lieu of those taxes. This is particularly evident when one looks at that particular list of corporations. Under schedule 4, we find the Business Development of Canada, which is clearly a profit making corporation and these others should be added in exactly the same way as that one is.

We want to be very careful how we examine the bill because we need to recognize that the bill has within it some very, very positive things, but it also has some negative things in it and we need to recognize what they are.

One area in which I have a special concern has to do with clause 3(6). This clause reads as follows:

“For the purposes of the definition “federal property ” in subsection (1), federal property does not include

(d) any Indian reserve, or any land referred to in any of paragraphs (c) to (e) of the definition “taxing authority” in subsection 40 2(1), except for the part

(i) that is occupied for residential purposes by an employee of Her Majesty in right of Canada who would not, but for that employment, live on that reserve or land, or

(ii) that is occupied by a minister of the Crown;

That sounds very good, particularly when one reads the explanatory notes as to the purpose of this particular change in the bill. The purpose is:

To ensure that First Nations governments have the same access to federal payments in lieu of taxes as do other “taxing authorities”.

When the First Nation government is granted the status of a “taxing authority” as defined in section 2(1) of the Municipal Grants Act, they are entitled to the same payments in lieu of taxes as “federal property” as all other taxing authorities.

Under subsection 2(3)(c)(ii) of the current Act, the definition of “federal property” on Indian reserves is limited to property occupied by departments for providing service to the off-Reserve population, a restriction that does not exists for other taxing authorities.

That seems fair and equitable and really sounds great, but let us take a closer look at the Municipal Grants Act definition of taxing authority. I want to warn our observers that this will be a significant bit of reading and may very well cause some of them to ask themselves exactly what is going on here.

I will read the definition of taxing authority from the Municipal Grants Act. It states:

“taxing authority” means

(a) any municipality, province, municipal or provincial board, commission, corporation or other authority that levies and collects a real property tax or a frontage or area tax pursuant to an Act of the legislature of a province,

(b) any council of a band within the meaning of the Indian Act that levies and collects a real property tax or a frontage or area tax pursuant to an Act of Parliament,

(c) any band within the meaning of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, chapter 18 of the Statutes of Canada, 1984, that levies and collects a tax on interests in Category IA land or Category IA-N land as defined in that Act,

I will quote from subsection(2):

(2) For the purposes of the definition “taxing authority” in subsection (1), where one authority collects a real property tax or a frontage or area tax that is levied by another authority, the authority that collects the tax shall be deemed to be the authority that levies and collects the tax.

(3) For the purposes of the definition “federal property” in subsection (1), federal property does not include

(a) any structure or work that is not a building designed primarily for the shelter of people, living things, plant or personal property or, for greater certainty, any structure, work, machinery or equipment included in Schedule II,

(b) any real property developed and used as a park and situated within an area defined as “urban” by Statistics Canada, as of the most recent census of the population of Canada taken by Statistics Canada, other than any real property acquired pursuant to the National Parks Act or the Historic Sites and Monuments Act or any real property that is occupied or used as a park and has been prescribed to be included in the definition “federal property” pursuant to paragraph 9(1)(d),

(c) any Indian reserve, except for that part of the reserve (i) that is occupied for residential purposes by an employee of Her Majesty in right of Canada who would not, but for that employment, live on that reserve and that is prescribed

The act makes some changes in this area but the real issue goes back to the first part of this, which states:

any council of a band within the meaning of the Indian Act that levies and collects a real property tax or a frontage or area tax pursuant to an Act of Parliament,

(c) any band within the meaning of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, chapter 18 of the Statutes of Canada

The issue here is whether Bill C-9, which numerically precedes Bill C-10, creates a new kind of taxing authority, a taxing authority that is the result of amendments to the Constitution of Canada. I would suggest to the House that to change the Constitution of Canada is not something that can happen in a piece of legislation in the House.

However it appears as if Bill C-9 creates under the Nisga'a treaty a level of government that is not recognized in the Constitution of Canada. The Constitution of Canada clearly recognizes the federal government, provincial government and municipal government. That is where it ends. Somehow another level of government has been created under Bill C-9 which, according to the act that I just read with regard to a taxing authority, leads into some difficulties.

Some may ask what the complication is. I ask, what other level of government can override provincial and federal laws? There is not one. Under Bill C-9 and the Nisga'a treaty it is possible that a new kind of government structure can override federal and provincial laws. It is clearly stated that it does so in 14 areas. It says that the Nisga'a government can override federal and provincial laws in 14 areas.

I will read those areas into the record: Nisga'a citizenship; structure, administration, management and operation of Nisga'a government; Nisga'a lands and assets; regulation, licensing and prohibition of businesses, professions and trades; preservation, promotion and development of Nisga'a language and culture; direct taxation of Nisga'a citizens; adoption; child and family services; preschool to grade 12 education; advanced education; organization and structure of health care delivery; authorization and licensing of aboriginal healers; Nisga'a annual fishing plans for harvest and the sale of fish and aquatic plants; and Nisga'a wildlife and migratory birds entitlement.

Those are areas in which the federal and provincial governments may make laws and the particular government structure created under Bill C-9 allows this group to override these provisions. How can that be when the constitution clearly does not recognize this form of government?

This bill allows payment in lieu of taxes to a government that is neither fiscally nor democratically accountable. That is the other part of Bill C-9 which I take strong exception to. We would think that this was a simple matter but it is anything but simple.

Bill C-9 creates three levels of government within the Nisga'a treaty. There is the central Nisga'a Lisims, then four village governments and three urban local governments. Most of the individual Nisga'a will be dependent upon that government structure. It is as if this government is somehow going to be independent and able to provide and have the resources to allow its citizens to make a living and create the kind of successful and healthy environment for themselves and their families.

From the provisions of that particular treaty, it is pretty clear that that is very doubtful. There will be a concentration of power in this group of government structures at three different levels. The Nisga'a citizens will be largely dependent on either the government largesse or will be employed by certain government corporations. It is concentrating power into a small group and giving it big powers.

Gordon Gibson is a very strong scholar of democratic processes. He was the leader of the Liberal Party in British Columbia and is now a fellow of the Fraser Institute in British Columbia. He has done a lot of research on the business of power and how democracy actually allocates power to certain groups. He made the observation: “Small governments with large powers may acquire the ability to control the citizens rather than vice versa”.

That is absolutely critical to the success of a democratic system of government. The people ought to be in control of the government, not the other way around. That is an abuse of the basic principles and philosophies of a democratic form of government.

I suggest that not only has a new form of government been created under the Nisga'a treaty, but it has also created power in that group which really is too great in order to manage in a truly democratic fashion.

There is another significant part. This particular government will not be spending its own money. It will be sitting there spreading largesse to its citizens, but it will not be money collected from the citizens given back to them in one program or another. No, it will be money collected from taxpayers across Canada. That is the money it will be spending.

Some people argue that it is not really all that much. The minister of Indian affairs told us it would only cost us $500 million. It is pretty clear that is the absolute minimum amount and if we analyse what some of the costs will be, it will be closer to $1.3 billion. Talk about a change. We should take cognizance of that.

Another point to recognize is that with the new government created under Nisga'a, the act does not allow non-Nisga'a people to vote for that government. They can pay taxes to it. That government has the right to assess their property and force them to pay taxes but in no way are they represented on the group that actually makes the decisions about how their property should be assessed, how much the mill rate should be and the payment that should be made. These are serious shortcomings and should not be allowed.

We need to recognize that there are some very serious problems. A taxing authority has been created. Is this really a taxing authority in terms of the provisions and definition in the Municipal Grants Act as currently written, and the Constitution of Canada itself which overrides all these considerations? What ought to be done?

There ought to be some equality created. The kind of government structure that exists within the Nisga'a and the government structure that exists in other provinces and municipalities ought to be the same. The rules governing the election of these people ought to be the same. Everybody ought to be allowed to vote for those people who will ultimately decide how the money will be spent, how they will be taxed and things of that sort.

The equality principle is absolutely fundamental in order for us as democratic citizens to feel that we have some equal opportunity to influence what is happening in government. Instead of doing that, Bill C-9 builds another brick in the wall of separation between ethnic groups. For that reason I have some serious difficulties with it. But that is only one part of it.

The other part is that there is no equality among Canadians generally, and even among those people who live on the Nisga'a lands. There are those who are Nisga'a and those who are not. There is also a lack of accountability. There is no clear statement about how this group shall be accountable.

We can read the provisions of the treaty and say some of that is provided for. I will read some of things that should be provided for, and to a degree are, but not completely or enough.

With the procedures and processes for the election of local aboriginal governments on reserves whether it be Nisga'a or elsewhere, the services of Elections Canada should be made available to deal with allegations of vote rigging and intimidation. That provision is missing. It is important that Elections Canada have something to say about that.

The fiscal accounting procedures of local aboriginal governments, including the provision of the services of the Auditor General of Canada to ensure fiscal responsibility, should be made available and should apply in this case.

The direction of a greater portion of Indian affairs funding, or Nisga'a funding, should go directly to aboriginal persons on the reserves. Then local aboriginal governments would have to tax it from its own people in order to get access. That would put the purse strings of local aboriginal governments in the hands of the people to whom the governments should be accountable. This is the essence of responsible government that non-aboriginals have enjoyed for 150 years, but which our aboriginal people are still waiting for on reserves.

We need to have democracy. We need to have equality. We need to have accountability. We all need those things. For some reason, those fundamental principles are missing in Bill C-9 in the Nisga'a treaty.

Now we are creating a situation where we put into doubt all of those things. What are our children and our grandchildren going to think? What are people going to think 14 years from now? It is serious stuff.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In fairness to the member for Kelowna who very cleverly and I thought with great ingenuity managed to bring the Nisga'a treaty into the Municipal Governments Act, my signal was that it might be time to make that linkage again.

Perhaps I was alone, but I am sure other members were wondering what bill was being debated. As I said earlier this week, the responsibility rests with the member not to challenge the Chair on relevance. I thought that the member for Kelowna had done a very good job in linking the two, but once that link has been severed, it is the responsibility of the member to bring it back again.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, with pleasure I will bring it back to Bill C-10.

Bill C-10 clearly indicates that it is to meet three principles: equality, fairness and predictability. Those are the three principles that are supposed to be evident in Bill C-10. To a degree they are in Bill C-10, but to a degree they are not. It is the degree to which they are not that I wish to address and illustrate through the provisions of the Nisga'a treaty. It is a very practical example of how this works.

I want to go further than that and indicate clearly how we would establish the business of becoming accountable and more equal in terms of the treatment of people, not only of Nisga'a but of all people across Canada, in particular people of ethnic origin that might be called aboriginal.

The Reform Party's ultimate goal is that all people be full and equal participants in Canadian citizenship, indistinguishable in law and treatment from other Canadians. What could be more fair than that kind of a statement with regard to Bill C-10 which talks about taxation and payment in lieu of taxes?

The Reform Party maintains also that any form of Indian self-government will be a delegated form of government, and all land within the borders of Canada will remain part of Canada. The laws of Canada and the charters, including the Canadian constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, will apply to Indian government. Any laws enacted by Indian governments must conform with the laws of Canada.

That is precisely the point we want to make. This is another law that should be applied in detail here.

The Reform Party also supports that the Auditor General of Canada has full authority to review the management of federal funds by Indian governments and all governments. We want that to happen.

The Reform Party supports the right of individuals living on reserves and eligible for government benefits to choose and receive those benefits either directly from the federal government or through the Indian government. That is a very significant issue and deals directly with payment in lieu of taxes. Why would the government make payment in lieu of taxes if it was not to make sure that the people got the necessary services from government and the taxing authority?

I want to ask specifically whether or not this issue is a significant one for us to consider in great detail.

I wish to draw to the attention of the House exactly where some of the people sit with regard to this issue.

Eighty-nine per cent of the people in British Columbia believe that they did not have an adequate opportunity to provide input into the Nisga'a treaty. Ninety-two per cent believe that they should have the right to vote on the principles of the treaty. The respondents want their member of parliament to vote against the treaty.

This includes Vancouver Centre at 81.5%, Vancouver South at 92.2%, Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam at 94%, Richmond at 92.3%, Vancouver—Kingsway at 82.1% and Vancouver Quadra at 91.5%. That is how their constituents want them to vote, but how will they vote?

Not only do we have constitutional and potential legal problems but we also have a political problem. Will the Liberal government continue to blatantly show contempt for democracy and ignore what the people want? Will the government continue to show spite and disdain for the people of Canada and the democratic process and not allow its political people to reflect what people want?

I have attempted to show that the consecutive bills, Bill C-9 and Bill C-10, are related in effect and to each other. Both fall short of what people want. Both should be amended to more accurately reflect what people want.

The advisory panel created under Bill C-10 was created at the advice of the municipal councillors, and rightly so, but the bill does not go far enough to give these people any kind of authority so that their recommendations will be treated seriously.

The minister's discretion with regard to whether he accepts, amends or rejects their recommendations should be tied up. His discretion should be limited much more than is the case. That is what the people want. That is not what the minister has given us.

It was also clearly suggested that money making crown corporations, which are set up to make money for the Government of Canada, should be included under schedule 4. Again these corporations are not talked about at all.

This is not listening to the people. It is saying to the people that it does not matter what they recommend. There is already evidence that it will not listen. How can we believe that it will now listen when the panel makes a recommendation?

We need included in the bill that the recommendations of the advisory panel not be unreasonably refused by the minister. Finally, schedule 4 must include corporations that make money. There are three specifically. Two were named by the joint technical advisory committee on payment in lieu of taxes and another I have added. They are Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada Post Corporation and Royal Canadian Mint.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member who spoke before me spent a good half hour using Bill C-10 as an excuse to introduce the Reform Party's objections to the Nisga'a treaty. I, however, am going to try to get the debate back to Bill C-10, back to the municipalities and to federal-provincial relations.

This bill is going to have a title that is far better adapted to reality—for which I congratulate the minister. It will no longer speak of grants. I am going to read its official full title—an act respecting payments in lieu of taxes to municipalities, provinces and other bodies exercising functions of local government that levy real property taxes.

I trust then that there will be no more talk of grants, for a grant is a gift, and that means that the recipient, the grantee, is receiving a present. The federal government is very big on giving gifts. Moreover, in this bill, as my distinguished colleague from Vancouver Quadra has indicated, the minister's discretionary power is omnipresent.

That is the point. It is the minister who will be going about distributing largesse. That is one thing we can say about the Liberals: they are past masters at this kind of disguised gift and at ministerial interference. If an MP from their party asks the minister to exercise his discretionary power on behalf of a municipality in his riding, it is a rare thing for the minister to refuse.

However, if someone from another political party is facing the same problem, the minister rarely has the funds. He is rarely able to comply and to exercise this discretionary power, which he has obtained under just about all the laws passed in this parliament since 1993. I have been in this House since October of that year.

We can congratulate the government on the new title. However, it is not accurate when it comes to legislation on payments made in lieu of taxes to municipalities.

There is a difference between income tax and property tax. But this is a minor fault that will not be held against the government. What we can criticize it for, however, is paving the way for discretionary action, petty political jockeying, under the table arrangements, as well as unjustified and unjustifiable gifts. We are not happy about this aspect of the bill. The minister's discretionary power is really exorbitant.

There is also something of grave concern to municipalities, in particular to the Union des municipalités du Québec, which we contacted. The bill was introduced here on October 27, 1999 at first reading, that is, only a few working days ago. Municipalities were not given much time to examine the bill carefully and assess its real impact. The government is pressing us to adopt this bill immediately but, frankly, municipalities are not pleased with this legislation.

If we look at the substance of the bill and draw a parallel between this piece of legislation and other ones, we see a constant. It is always the same thing when the government tables any bill. With all its bills, the government has this annoying propensity, this bad habit of targeting the poor and making them pay because they form the largest group.

The Employment Insurance Act is a case in point. Today, we are told that the minister—who is using very conservative figures—will amass a surplus of some $95 billion over the next five years.

But where does he take all that money? He gets it through cuts in transfers to the provinces, which are directly accountable to people. The provinces are on the front line when it comes to dealing with the public. So, the federal government makes cuts affecting hospitals and many other services, uses its tremendous taxing power to get more money, and then its spending power, all this with a cavalier attitude, bragging all along about having money and being able to interfere in just about any area.

This often creates false hopes, false expectations or even real expectations. However, when the time comes to meet these expectations, the federal government passes the buck to the provinces.

In Quebec, we have a pharmacare program. It cost Quebecers a lot of money to establish that program. All Quebecers are paying for it. I am told that the program is working well. Fortunately, and thank goodness, I am not sick and I do not really use that program. But everyone says that it is working well. When the federal government noticed how successful the program was, it hastened to step in.

In the budget speech, the government mentioned the possibility of launching a pharmacare program. Once the program is up and running, once people have come to trust it and rely on it, the federal government will pull out, as it always does and leave people stuck with a program that they will then have to beginning supporting themselves.

It is the same thing with employment insurance. This government does not have the courage to bring in tax increases, but it knows that most of those with jobs pay taxes, since all of those with jobs are subject to tax. So, by keeping EI premiums high, the government can count on those with jobs paying premiums and will be able to rake in $95.5 billion over the next five years, which is shocking and scandalous.

When I say this bill is no different, or that the attitudes are the same as in the past, I mean that when a municipality wants to build a road, water or sewer infrastructure, the cost of laying down a bed so that lines do not shift, crack or break through freezing and thawing is extremely high. Taxpayers figure that the cost of bringing in a line, or building a road or sidewalks will be shared among users, those who will benefit from the infrastructure.

This holds for everyone except the government. In my riding, for instance, there is a rehabilitation centre for young offenders with about 800 feet in frontage.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. He has a little over 30 minutes remaining, but it being 11 o'clock, the House will now proceed to Statements by Members. When we resume after question period, he will have the floor.

Teachers' Institute On Canadian Parliamentary DemocracyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, this week 70 outstanding educators from across Canada are attending the third annual Teachers' Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy on Parliament Hill. This initiative, launched by the Library of Parliament in collaboration with the Senate and House of Commons, is an important and unique professional development opportunity.

The program is designed to provide educators with valuable knowledge regarding parliament, legislation and democracy in Canada. It also offers them the chance to meet individually with parliamentarians to learn about parliamentary procedure and to view this institution through the eyes of those who work here.

The Teachers' Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy has become a great tool for teachers across our country who want to further their knowledge about the Parliament of Canada. I salute everyone involved in the Teachers' Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy for the support of this important and useful educational experience.

Royal Canadian LegionStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many volunteers and veterans who perform such valuable work for the Royal Canadian Legion.

In particular, I draw special attention to my constituent, Mr. Roy Frisken, the current president of the Red Deer Legion who has volunteered thousands of hours to both the legion and other community organizations.

In 1943 Roy joined the Canadian army and in 1945 he was a participant in the heavy fighting that occurred in northern Holland. Roy has been instrumental in supporting local youth activities that occur in our riding. They all know they can count on Roy. It is this kind of leadership that shows continuous dedication to our nation.

Roy Frisken and many other volunteers across the country have played a crucial role in shaping the fantastic communities we now enjoy. With Remembrance Day next Thursday, I ask members to take the time to thank veterans for their sacrifices and to support their local legions so that they can continue to provide important services to the community. We will not forget.

Veterans WeekStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, today marks the beginning of Veterans Week, a week when we remember the sacrifices of all those who served for Canada.

This year I would like to pay tribute to our Canadian war artists. Through Max Aitken's efforts during the first world war, over 850 works including paintings, sculptures and prints were brought together in the Canadian War Memorial's collection.

During the second world war, Vincent Massey and the director of the National Gallery, H. O. McCurry, compiled a collection of over 1,000 creations. The entire collection from both world wars was transferred to the Canadian War Museum in 1971.

This museum presently displays only a fraction of the collection.

One year and one day ago the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced that a piece of land near CFB Rockcliffe would be held for a new facility. It is time that we honour all those who served this country of ours and especially our Canadian war artists by displaying their works with dignity and pride in a new home worthy of their sacrifices.

East Asian FestivalStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this month in Kitchener-Waterloo at Renison College we are celebrating the annual East Asian Festival.

This multicultural event is a wonderful celebration of the heritage of East Asian Canadians. The cultures of Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China are each represented throughout the four day festival.

This event gives members of our local community and students at the University of Waterloo the opportunity to experience and learn about East Asian traditions. Guests to the festival have the opportunity to experience lion dancing, East Asian foods and martial arts demonstrations, and to participate in business and educational workshops.

I would like to extend my congratulations to all of the volunteers who have given so much of their time to make this festival the great success that it is. In particular, I would like to commend Dr. Gail Cuthbert-Brandt, principal of Renison College, for her commitment to this very worthy project.

The Late Greg MooreStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, thousands of people attended a memorial service in Maple Ridge in my riding to honour the life of our hometown hero, Indy CART racer, Greg Moore.

Greg's accomplishments on the racetrack have been well documented. He was the youngest racer to ever win the Indy Lites championship at age 20 and the youngest to win an Indy CART race at age 22.

The greatness of Greg Moore lay not only in his racetrack performances, but in the fact that he remained a regular guy. Although he had become a star in his chosen profession, he still had time for his fans, charity work and his hometown. He never forgot his roots.

Greg was an ambassador for auto racing, for Maple Ridge and for Canada. Many dream but few dare to take action to attain that dream. Greg pursued his dream of racing with persistence and passion.

Today, together, we continue to mourn the loss of a great young man. On behalf of all members of the House, we extend our deepest sympathies to Greg's family and friends and offer our prayers of support at this very difficult time.

The EconomyStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning Statistics Canada announced some good economic news: in October, the unemployment rate dropped 0.3% to 7.2%, which is the lowest it has been since March 1990.

This economic indicator shows us that our economic and financial policies have been effective. The conditions created by the Liberal government are contributing to the economic growth of Canada and to improving Canadians' quality of life.

Without getting hung up in a lot of numbers, let us simply say that, this year alone, 253,000 new jobs have been created.

While the opposition parties have been wasting their time tilting at windmills, 253,000 more people have found dignity in employment. While the opposition acts up, we have been acting.

Remembrance DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as we look ahead to a new millennium Canadians have a great deal to look forward to and be thankful for. We owe a great deal to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives for freedom and the quality of life we now enjoy.

To honour our Calgary veterans, I am sponsoring one veteran from both the Forest Lawn Legion and the Ogden Legion to attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies on Parliament Hill.

I would encourage all Canadians to participate in the final Remembrance Day of this century and to honour those who fought and gave their lives for us.

Quebec Theatre ProductionsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 10, the curtain at the National Arts Centre will rise on a Ghislain Filion production of Cervantes' “Interlude”.

First performed in May 1998 by students specializing in theatre at Cegep Lionel Groulx, “les intermèdes” is a french adaptation by Ghislain Filion of Cervantes' work. News of its enthusiastic reception in Quebec so impressed the NAC French theatre that it has included it in its 1999-2000 “Découvertes” series.

The Bloc Quebecois parliamentary group is proud to salute the new generation of Quebec theatre companies, whose talent, originality, perseverance and dynamism is brilliantly illustrated by the “Capharnaüm” company.

In these days where virtually everything is focussed on sacrosanct economic values, for a young person to choose to earn a living from cultural pursuits is a bold decision. Opting for difference, for beauty, for universal values is, as Jacques Brel put it “to reach the unreachable star”.

To all these young people, we say thank you and bravo.

Soheil Mosun LimitedStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, many companies strive to be world class players in their industry, many companies strive to be excellent.

Let me today acknowledge a company for which these are not just distant goals, a company for which these ideals are part of everyday reality. Let me today introduce Soheil Mosun Limited, a custom architectural fabrication firm that I am proud to say is located in my riding of Etobicoke North.

Recently its excellence was again recognized when it was granted a contract worth $7 million to participate in the refurbishment of the Renaissance Centre in Detroit. This project to upgrade GM's headquarters is touted as the world's largest renovation project. I am glad to see that a Canadian company and Canadian employees will be participating.

Many thanks also to Canada's crown corporations, the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Business Development Corporation, for their assistance in bringing this transaction to fruition.

I welcome Soheil, Darius and Cyrus Mosun. Congratulations to Soheil Mosun Limited.

EmploymentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, six years ago today the Canadian people gave our Liberal Party a mandate to concentrate on economic growth and job creation. We embarked on a strategic plan to reduce the staggering 11.4% unemployment rate. Taking a balanced approach we worked with various sectors of our economy, such as those involved in trade, research and development, tourism, youth employment and, of course, the small business sector.

As the member for Trinity—Spadina, it gives me great pleasure to stand today and say that the unemployment rate in six years has moved from 11.4% to 7.2%. In 1993, 13 million Canadians were working. Today 1.8 million more Canadians have joined the workforce, a 14% increase, bringing the total to 14.8 million Canadians.

With our policies we are helping more Canadians achieve a higher standard of living with the dignity of work.

EmploymentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the fall of unemployment to 7.5% is good news as far as it goes, but our rate of unemployment remains staggeringly high when compared to earlier decades.

In the 1950s 4% unemployment marked the depths of the recession. Today 7.5% is also staggeringly high when compared to other countries, such as Austria, the Netherlands, the United States and Norway. All of these countries have reduced their unemployment to less than 5%.

Let us not kid ourselves. Everyone here knows the 7.5% figure is not accurate. It does not count those who find themselves on the welfare rolls. Incredibly, it does not even count aboriginal people on reserves where unemployment could be 95%.

Whether the real figure is 7% or 17%, the question remains, why do we continue to tolerate chronic long term unemployment? What ever happened to the goal of full employment for this country? Are there still people out there who are perverse enough to think that if unemployment drops too low it will spike the rate of inflation?

The EconomyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government took office in 1993 Canada was saddled with a $42 billion deficit. Four years later that deficit was gone. Achieving it was not without significant sacrifice by all Canadians.

However, that sacrifice led to back to back surpluses for the first time in the last 50 years of $3.5 billion in 1997 and $2.9 billion in 1998.

Continued responsible government and prudent fiscal management have also created another 600,000 jobs since 1998 and our unemployment rate, as announced today, has fallen to 7.2%, its lowest level in nine years. That is good news.

Based on the economic statement of November 2 delivered by the finance minister, our strong performance is also forecast to continue for the next five years. Canadians can now expect more tax cuts, greater support for children and families and more help for education, knowledge and skills.

This is all good news for Canadians. As we enter the new millennium Canada is the place to be.

Apec InquiryStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Paul Mercier Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few hundred years ago, there lived in Provence a greedy judge who decided one fine morning to lunch at an inn recommended to him. What should he see on arriving, there waiting for him, smiling, wearing his hat and carrying the spit? A litigant. The innkeeper was none other than one of the parties to a proceeding that he would hear. So, with a heavy heart and an empty stomach, the judge turned on his heel and got himself a sandwich somewhere. The judiciary, which does not associate with just anyone, will soon have to appear before it.

This is clearly not the opinion of the prosecutor at the commission of inquiry into the APEC summit, who is not afraid to be seen at a funding dinner along with the Prime Minister, whom he might call to testify at the inquiry. It appears that this is not the opinion either of the said Prime Minister, who saw nothing wrong with having the prosecutor contribute to his election fund the $400 cost of the dinner.

I recommend the Prime Minister and the prosecutor read this tale by Paul Arène. It will provide both with a practical lesson in professional ethics.

War VeteransStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with humility and great pride that I stand today to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served in our armed forces in various capacities with distinction. It was their valour, their commitment, their dedication and, yes, their sacrifice which permit us today to not only live in a free society but also to live in the best country in the world.

As this century comes to a close, it is fitting that with the help of the Royal Canadian Legion and the support of the federal government we are starting a new tradition. Beginning this year the legion will lead the nation in setting aside two minutes of silence in every town and city across our country. Given the magnitude of the sacrifices of our veterans, many of whom did not return home, it is only fitting that we pledge to continue in the new millennium not only to honour and remember them but to continue to support them.

I want to say to all Canadians, especially our youth as we move into the 21st century, we must never forget.

Down's SyndromeStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, this week is national Down's syndrome awareness week. The exact causes of the chromosomal rearrangement and primary prevention of Down's syndrome are still unknown.

Down's syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality, affecting one in every 700 live births. Individuals with Down's syndrome experience delayed development, both physically and intellectually. Down's syndrome is one of the leading clinical causes of mental disability in the world. It is not related to race, nationality, religion or socioeconomic status.

Research is the key to conquering this devastating disability. Let us all pray that our researchers are successful in their efforts and that all Canadians continue to generously support their efforts.

Women's History MonthStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, as October was women's history month, it gave us an opportunity to pay special tribute to francophone women in Canada. I would like to add my voice to those who have already spoken on this subject.

In 1912, the Ontario provincial government adopted Regulation 17 prohibiting the teaching of French in the province's schools. In spite of that, two sisters, Béatrice and Diane Desloges, who were teachers at Guigues school, in Ottawa's lower town, kept teaching in French.

They were punished by first being deprived of their salary and then the provincial government forced them to leave Guigues school. In January 1916, accompanied by mothers and grandmothers, and armed with fearsome pin hats, they challenged policemen and stormed Guigues school.

The Desloges sisters never gave up the fight for Ontario's francophones—

Women's History MonthStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

Seasonal IndustriesStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the concerns of seasonal industry workers will finally be voiced here in the House of Commons.

Making Motion M-222 a votable item means that we can have a constructive debate, during which everyone will be able to put forward short, middle and long term solutions to address the issue of seasonal workers and employment insurance.

The debate will also allow us to debunk several myths regarding seasonal work. The issue of seasonal workers affects every single region of the country and particularly rural areas.

I hope members from all parties will join me and will take part in the debate and in the development of solutions.

Communities all over the country that depend on seasonal industries are turning to us, so that we can all work together to find feasible solutions. Let us not disappoint them.