This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #177 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nafta.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Madam Speaker, I support the essence and spirit behind Bill S-11, an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a protected ground under the act.

I believe that the drafters of Bill S-11 intended it to provide protection to the poor, to prohibit discrimination based on economic discrimination. That is laudable and should be supported by members. How could we do otherwise?

My concern is not with the object and aim of Bill S-11, but rather with an overly broad and confusing nature of the exact wording. Simply using an open-ended term such as “social condition” I believe will add confusion to the act that will result in an endless sea of litigation.

Imagine the hay day the lawyers would have with this kind of wording. Maybe there are too many lawyers in the Senate. I will give an example in terms of the remarks made by the hon. member of the Conservative party. He talked about this government waiting and studying. That is not the case at all. Where has he been since 1993? Look at the budgets and look at what we have done in those budgets for training, education and other things in trying to grapple with these problems.

The hon. member mentioned the Minister of Justice and the child pornography issue. We believe in due process on this side. We do not believe in using the notwithstanding clause every time a judge makes a ridiculous decision.

Then the member talked about the minister of agriculture and the farm crisis. It is a little off topic, but I think I should correct him. The point I am trying to make is that the broad term of social condition could be given all kinds of different interpretations.

I think the House can see from my explanation how wrong the member opposite is in terms of how he views some of the things this government is doing.

The minister of agriculture acted very quickly prior to Christmas. In fact, one of the problems that the minister of agriculture has is getting the Progressive Conservative government on side in Manitoba to pick up its share of the funding so that those cheques can get to the farm community.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Reform

Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

What about Saskatchewan?

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

The member opposite asks about Saskatchewan. I understand that finally the premier of Saskatchewan has come through this afternoon and is going to pay its 40% share. That of course is due to the good persuasive powers of our minister of agriculture and our Prime Minister in having them come to the table to do what needs to be done to support the farm community.

I want to get back to the issue at hand, Bill S-11. As I said, simply using an open-ended term such as social condition will add confusion to the act that will result in an endless sea of litigation. I want to re-emphasize that point.

If we are serious about assisting the poor and the disadvantaged in our society, then we must create opportunities for jobs. That is what this government has been doing. We must lower unemployment. That is what this government has been doing. We must provide education. Look at the last two budgets. Look at the millennium scholarship fund about which hon. members opposite are so critical.

We must provide training and we must provide the necessities of life so people will be able to participate as full and equal partners in our society. We must provide a remedy through our human rights legislation for prejudicial treatment of the poor in a manner that makes that protection meaningful.

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UN declaration on human rights. It is a fitting time to review our current human rights legislation to ensure that it protects the most vulnerable in our society. In Canada we have honoured our commitment to the declaration for 50 years.

What does the declaration say on economic rights? Article 25 states:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself (herself) and of her/his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widow, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond her/his control.

Recently the United Nations in its Human Rights Development Index Report gave Canada top marks as being the best place to live based on 1995 data. I believe that Canada received a high rating because Canadians take our commitment to human rights very seriously.

I believe, Madam Speaker, that you are indicating I am out of time. Maybe I can conclude my remarks at a later date.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member will have approximately four minutes remaining the next time this bill is before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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

Canadian Human Rights ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, my question is for the Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Transport. It is further to a question that I asked in the House to which the minister responded that the province of Nova of Scotia and the province of New Brunswick, in particular, did not violate an agreement.

Since that time, through the access to information program, we have become aware of another letter in which the minister said to the province of New Brunswick that it could charge tolls on this federally funded highway under two conditions. The first condition was that the amount of the federal contribution would still have to be cost shared with the province on a 50:50 basis. The second condition was that any revenue from the tolls would be an additional source of funds to be dedicated solely to the project in question.

I sent to the parliamentary secretary a quote from Hansard wherein the minister of finance for New Brunswick said “We had always made it clear that the provincial money we invested in these sections of road would be recovered”. That totally contradicts the minister's letter which says that the province must maintain its cost share ratio of 50:50 on this highway. There is a contradiction. The province has totally contradicted the words of the federal minister.

With respect to the second condition, the minister said that any revenue from the tolls must be totally dedicated to the project in question. Again I sent to the parliamentary secretary a newspaper article which quoted the premier of the province of New Brunswick as saying “Yes, there is some money coming back and it will be applied to health care”. They used the figure of $321 million. Again the federal minister said that all the revenue from the highway must go to the project. The province now says it is going to health care or general revenues or whatever.

I ask the parliamentary secretary to address this letter and the absolutely unambiguous statements and conditions that the minister applied to the province of New Brunswick if it was going to charge tolls on a federally funded highway: that is, that the province must maintain its share, which it has not, and that the province must dedicate all the revenue to that specific project, which it has not.

Canadian Human Rights ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague asked earlier about New Brunswick taxpayers in relation to paying tolls for highways and where the money was going.

The member certainly knows that we on this side will investigate every morsel of information that he has put before us because we want to be clear and articulate in what we say. He does understand the issue.

Under the Constitution of Canada highways are a provincial responsibility.

In the instance of the new Fredericton to Moncton highway, the federal government did contribute a portion of the highway's overall costs. New Brunswick has chosen to operate the new highway as a public-private partnership with the Maritime Road Development Corporation using tolls.

The hon. member should note that the Government of New Brunswick has indicated that the federal contribution was already deducted against the cost base used to establish the tolls and the annual provincial payment for the remaining capital costs. In effect, the federal funds have reduced the overall capital costs to this project for New Brunswick taxpayers.

The concerns raised about tolls and federal contributions certainly deserve further study. We will grant the member that. Transport Canada as usual is providing some leadership in developing a future policy on tolls in the event the federal government were to launch a new national highway program.

However, with respect to the hon. member's allegation of inappropriate federal spending, I would like to quote directly from the auditor general's report: “We found in all the negotiated agreements that the program objectives, funding levels and cost sharing ratios to be maintained throughout the life of the agreement reflected the government's directives”.

Canadian Human Rights ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, I am up on the same topic and the same question to the minister. I hope that I do not get the same reply from the parliamentary secretary. He is dodging the real question of what happened to that federal money when the agreement was broken by the province of New Brunswick. That is the big unanswered question in this House.

The only thing I can agree with in terms of what the parliamentary secretary said is that the federal government is examining future agreements. It has admitted that this agreement was violated. It goes beyond the violation of the agreement that upsets me.

The agreement was made by the former Minister of Transport in this House, a man by the name of Doug Young. He now happens to be the chairman of the Maritime Road Development Corporation, MRDC. His company is taking control of what is truly a provincial constitutional issue. His company will determine the weights on that highway, the tolls on that highway and the maintenance on that highway. Basically, the province of New Brunswick has abrogated its responsibilities. The feds are sitting back here nodding their heads in agreement, protecting their old friend, Doug Young.

That is wrong because at the end of the day it is going to cost the citizens, the taxpayers of the province of New Brunswick more money than if they had built the highway themselves. This is ridiculous.

There is also another difficulty in terms of transportation. It now costs one single truck $20,000 a year to use that highway if it is used 365 days a year. That is a $20,000 increase in the operation of just one vehicle.

They have sat back and allowed them to set those tolls which is absolutely indisputably wrong. We are asking for a correction. We are also asking for leadership in this House from the Minister of Transport to renege on that type of an agreement and to take the province of New Brunswick to task on that type of agreement.

It is double jeopardy for taxpayers. The toll payers and the taxpayers are one and the same person. Why should they pay twice for the same piece of highway? The only reason they are going to pay twice is because it is going into the hind pocket of their friend, Doug Young, the former Minister of Transport, who set the deal in motion right here in this House. They reneged on their own signature.

The premier of New Brunswick is finally admitting that there is going to be money coming off this deal. Where is it going? It is going into what they consider their own little fund but it has nothing to do with paying off that highway and kicking Doug Young and the rest of them out of the deal.

That is what we want to see happen: leadership at the federal level. Anyone who can stand in the House to defend Doug Young does not understand how this toll highway works.

We are asking again for leadership from the federal level to make sure deals like this one do not happen in the future. Taxpayers can only stand so much punishment and this is extraordinary punishment brought on by a Minister of Transport who does not dare to stand up to his old friend.

Canadian Human Rights ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Madam Speaker, I sometimes think this is supposed to be the House of reason, but we had quite a rant against an honourable former member of this House. He used the word ridiculous and I would say to the hon. member opposite that the charges he is laying are in fact ridiculous. He has no basis on which to make those charges against the particular individual.

I will quote again from the auditor general's report.

We found in all the negotiated agreements that the program objectives, funding levels and cost sharing ratios to be maintained throughout the life of the agreements reflected the government's objectives.

I said in an earlier response, and I do believe this is important, we recognize that we do not want to face a system of tolls right across Canada. The concerns raised about tolls and federal contributions deserve further study. Transport Canada is developing a future policy on tolls in the event that the federal government were to launch a new national highway program.

The member charged that the company of which Doug Young is a member is doing all these things that he resents. I cannot recall them all. Really the provincial government decides on its alignment, design, construction, standards, tendering process and financing, as well as subsequent operations and maintenance.

If the hon. member is suggesting in his remarks that tolls create an interprovincial trade barrier, the agreement on international trade has an established process under which a province—

Canadian Human Rights ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid the time has expired.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.33 p.m.)