House of Commons Hansard #228 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.


Division No. 425Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

No, you do not have the floor.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Bourassa will have an occasion to participate in the debate and I am sure other members would welcome that lucid participation.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope the points of order my colleague from Bourassa raised are not going to cut into my 10 minutes of speaking time. If my colleague interrupts me for 10 minutes, I hope I will still have my time to speak.

I was talking about the importance for parliament of having a new approach when the time comes to deduct money for employee pensions. Although this amendment was not introduced by the Bloc Quebecois, it is extremely important.

Up to now, everything that went on with the pension fund was out of parliament's control. When the government decides, for example, as the President of the Treasury Board did, to play around with it a bit, it causes distortion. Canada's parliament is never involved in the approach and the arrangements for consensus on what people should contribute weekly to their pension.

What is particularly deplorable as well is that these people, who have contributed to the accumulated surpluses we have now have annual incomes of some $9,000. We are not talking about huge fortunes.

Once again, I understand that the Liberal Party wants to go after these people. These people do not contribute to the Liberal Party coffers like the big multinationals, the major banks and big business. The Liberals give big business a sort of total absolution, they try not to bother it too much. However, those who have had to pay from the start, as I said in my first speech, are the employees of the federal public service, women in the federal public service, who have been denied pay equity. It is also the people on employment insurance who have paid for the fight against this government's deficit and debt.

There is one who quite neatly hides behind the President of the Treasury Board—the Minister of Finance. We never see him taking part in debates when it comes time to siphon off some money so that the government can then say how wonderful the Minister of Finance is for putting Canada back on track, reducing the deficit and starting to pay down the debt.

It forgets to say that this has been done at the expense of unemployed workers. It forgets to say that women are the losers in the pay equity battle. It forgets to say quite a bit.

Another thing we have noticed is that the minister always sends others to the front lines. The Minister of Human Resources Development will be sent out to cut EI payments. The President of the Treasury Board will be sent after this amount. We have talked about robbing, raiding, taking over, and we have used parliamentary terms like siphoning, but we have stopped short of unparliamentary language. I could have crossed the line a while ago, but for your wise ruling, Mr. Speaker.

The point of Motion No. 38, by the Bloc Quebecois, is to have the Income Tax Act apply. Under the Income Tax Act, when there are surpluses in certain plans, the government may decide what to do with them, as provided in the legislation.

All the plans are listed in the Income Tax Act. There are one, two or three exceptions, those before us today. At the time, it was agreed, and this is provided for in the act, that the armed forces, RCMP and public service pension funds would not be in the Income Tax Act.

Now, we simply want to find a way to deal with the surpluses and make sure that the Income Tax Act applies. This is merely a question of fairness, and it also shows the employees' good faith. They say “We want to go back to the act of 1985, and not just for the benefits. We want to take it as it is. We also want our pension plans to be listed in the Income Tax Act, which provides for a mechanism when a surplus becomes significant, so as to avoid having excessive surpluses”.

I would like to conclude with a motion. I move:

That all government members, whose government imposed a time allocation motion on the review of Bill C-78, be prevented from speaking during today's debate on this bill.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move his motion?

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Division No. 425Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Division No. 425Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it hard to understand how a government that uses closure could then say “We used closure, you can no longer talk, but we will do the talking now”. Before closure, government members are silent. The opposition must do all the work. Then, when the government imposes closure, its members want to do all the talking. I think a review of House procedure is in order.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to address the concerns we have regarding Bill C-78. These concerns are being brought forward as we discuss the amendments to the bill.

The important principle that we must first look at before we discuss the amendments is how the process is being abused on this particular issue. The government has chosen to move closure after only a few hours of debate on a bill that is important to all of us. The Liberals are also trying to shift the debate by suggesting that the unions want the entire $30 billion surplus in the pension fund. We know this is not the case. The facts of the case are quite simple.

This fund belongs to the members of the plan. Any surplus should be used for the benefit of the members and others affiliated with the plan such as retirees and widows. This would be a very desirable use for the surplus. However, the government wants to grab the money, put it in its coffers and say it has wrestled down the debt, but it will have been done on the backs of those who need the plan, those who have contributed and worked hard. It will be done in the same way the EI fund was grabbed and taken away from those who are unemployed.

The unions are not trying to stuff their pockets, but the government is certainly trying to stuff its pockets. The unions want to improve benefits for their members, for the start-up costs in the future and for any changes to the plan.

We realize there are 670,000 members of the plans affected. The allocation of the surplus needs to address the contributions of these members who have contributed to the plan. We often hear the government say that the taxpayers own this money and that it is the taxpayers it must protect. The people who contributed to these plans are also taxpayers and we must look at their benefits and their rights.

Another important point that is being missed is that a very established principle is being undermined by this action. Under the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, a principle was established that the use of a surplus should be determined by two-thirds of the plan members.

Bill C-78 and the Liberal's time allocation contradicts this principle. It takes away the principle of ownership of surplus of funds which is inherent in both public and private pension plans. It takes away the right of the pension plan members to determine what should be done with their surpluses. This is a shift in the way pension surpluses would be dealt with and it should be of great concern to all Canadians in both the private and public service pension plans.

The fundamental principle of agreement of all plan members is a principle that must be upheld. This is really a democratic principle. People should have the right to say what they feel should be done with the surpluses in their pension plans.

There are certainly some questions that need to be answered as we look at this whole issue. What possible justification can Liberals claim for shutting down democratic debate in parliament on a bill of this magnitude? We have seen it happen over and over again. We come to the House with an issue of very great importance to all of us and before we have a chance to debate it thoroughly and go into detail about it, the government calls for closure.

Why has parliament not had adequate opportunity to consider the effects on the economy or the effects on the public programs by taking the action it is taking?

This action is being taken at a time when our country is engaged in a war overseas in Kosovo, when matters of the highest order are consuming the public's attention and parliament's attention. It is at this time that the government seems to be trying to slip this complex legislation through. The government is trying to get this legislation slipped through the House while Canadians' attention is diverted elsewhere.

Who are we affecting with this legislation? We are affecting the Canadian military, the people who are fighting over in Kosovo. While they are away fighting, the government is back here grabbing the surplus from their pension funds.

We are also affecting the RCMP, the people who we entrust to keep law and order, to put their lives on the line fighting crime and to do all kinds of things to protect society. While they are protecting society, who is protecting their pension fund? It is certainly not the government.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Caught with its hand in the cookie jar.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

A hand in the cookie jar, that is exactly what is happening.

Who is protecting the interests of the public servants, the people who work faithfully day in and day out trying to give effect to the laws and programs that parliament decides upon? It is certainly not their employer, which is the government.

We have a lot of concerns about this particular legislation.

Does the government recognize that the bill represents a shift in the way pension surpluses will be dealt with? It is setting a precedent not just for the public sector but for the private sector as well. Employers right across the country will soon be looking at the surpluses in the pension plans of their employees and deciding that they can perhaps take those to accommodate for business losses. Why not? The government has set the precedent by doing exactly that.

Does the government consider an individual's pension to be part of the wage packet? This again draws our attention to pay equity. What has the government done there? It is withholding money that is due to its employees, money that has been ruled on by a human right tribunal and money that has been determined to be rightfully that of the employees. The government is again failing to come to an agreement to settle those issues. This is just a continuation of that pattern. We have very great concerns about the approach that is being used by the government in this issue.

Let us look at some of the people who are suffering the most from this: widows, survivors and people in the low income bracket. The government talks about needing this money or wanting to take this money to improve things. Why not improve the pension benefits for those who are receiving benefits?

Currently the average pension for a woman with 20 years service is $9,600 a year. We know that $9,600 goes nowhere today. What is the government doing? Instead of saying “We've got a surplus and we should try to improve those benefits”, it is saying “Let's take these benefits away, put it in our general coffers and pay down the debt”.

Does the government not agree that much of the surplus was accumulated because of the wage freeze for the public sector employees and the delays in paying pay equity? Does it not agree that this meant that many people received lower than expected pensions? Does the government not agree that allowing the federal government to take the surplus means that employees must pay twice?

In conclusion, I would like to say a theme that I constantly say in the House. When we are dealing with matters of this importance, we should always be asking ourselves how we would want to be treated if we were in the same situation. We should ask ourselves if we are treating people with respect and dignity when we do things that take away their right to have a say over their lives.

If we guide ourselves by the principle that we should not do something to others that we would not want done to ourselves, I am sure that we would have a much better approach in terms of governing the country.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, once again I have to address the bill.

It is a sad occasion as far as I am concerned when a property rights bill that I brought before parliament has fallen by the wayside. However, I will save that matter for another day.

It seems that the longer the Liberals are in power, the more often we have to point out that this is a sad day for democracy in Canada. Bill C-78 is another one of those sad days for Canadians under this arrogant, self-serving Liberal regime.

Canadians do not have to believe me. All they have to do is listen to the words of a pension plan expert. On May 2, Mic Cohen of the actuarial consultants William Mercer Ltd. was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen as saying:

The handling of this bill is symptomatic of the government's failure to come clean with taxpayers and negotiate with its own unions. It's a sad commentary on democracy. When the government isn't prepared to agree, it bullies its way. Now I think they are doing all the right things to fix the plan but the process stinks.

I agree with the actuary from William Mercer. The process stinks. It stinks to high heaven. The Liberals make it stink even worse by invoking closure or time allocation in the House to arbitrarily take away $30 billion from a pension fund surplus that rightfully belongs to both public servants who paid into their own pension plan and the taxpayers of Canada who paid the other share.

I notice there are smiles and grins across the way. This is a serious situation for the people involved.

The government is saying that the 670,000 employees and pensioners who are covered by this plan do not have a say in how the surplus will be managed or spent. By limiting debate of this 200 page monstrosity in the House of Commons and through committee, the government is also saying that it does not want the taxpayers to find out what it is doing with the share of the surplus paid into the pension plan by taxpayers. It has hidden it. The government is not disclosing what it is doing with it.

The Ottawa Citizen also quoted another pension expert, pension lawyer Fiona Campbell. She said:

This bill is unprecedented. I'm not aware of pension legislation of this magnitude in both what it's trying to do and how quickly it's being done with no input from the people affected.

We just witnessed, even after this quotation, that the government has invoked closure on the bill. It is limiting debate.

The Citizen article went on to say that Ms. Campbell is worried that the government's actions may allow other employers to lobby for changes that will allow them to get at pension surpluses when they need some cash. Is this the tip of the iceberg? Is this just the beginning? If it is this easy for the government to just run roughshod over the rights of Canadians, when will it do it again and who else will take that as a precedent?

Why is this so worrying? It is because for the first time the government will have the power to change premiums or benefits without seeking parliamentary approval.

Why does the government need this unprecedented power? Why do so many bills rammed through the House create new powers for ministers to bypass parliament? The absolute power by the Prime Minister and his cabinet make a mockery of democracy except at election time. I guess the logic of the cabinet is why bother going through the trouble of running a bill through the House of Commons when we can just pass one bill to give us the power to bypass parliament from now until forevermore. This is called enabling legislation. It enables the government to bypass parliament and put to regulation whatever it wishes.

Back in April of 1997, I wrote an article called “Power Grab”, which cited a number of ways the fundamental principles of democracy were being violated by the Liberal government. It is getting worse not better since I put that out.

Bill Krause, president of the Social Sciences Employees Association, told the standing committee, and I quote:

This plan is unlike any other in Canada or the world and gives the government unique powers which could be abused in generating revenue from its employees. In essence, it gives them the power to tax employees.

Do members want to see the hypocrisy of the government? Let us look at another act of parliament that the government passed to regulate the pensions of employees working for federally regulated industries, the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985.

Here is how the government requires federally regulated employers to manage surpluses in federally regulated plans.

Section 9.2(1) states:

If an actuarial report filed under subsection 12(3) indicates that there is a surplus, no part of that surplus may be refunded to the employer unless

(a) the employer establishes that

(i) it is entitled to the surplus, or part of it, under the pension plan, or

(ii) it has a claim to the surplus, or part of it, under this section;

—and the Superintendent of Financial Institutions consents to the refund of the surplus to the employer.

Subsection 3 is the most important. “An employer has a claim to the surplus, or part of it, if, after being notified of the employer's proposal for a refund of that surplus or part of it, at least two-thirds of the persons, members or former members of the pension plan, notify the employer that they consent to the proposal”.

The hypocrisy. I have to ask why there is this double standard. Why is there one set of democratic pension rules for federally regulated industries and a dictatorial set of rules for the federal government? Why pass one set of reasonable rules to govern pension surpluses in federally regulated industries and then pass Bill C-78 which gives the government total control to do anything it wants with the pension surpluses? Why?

One more question. Why did the government not put the same provisions from the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 in Bill C-78? Why? Because it has the absolute power to do anything it wants. And we all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely. To cap it all off, the government has made sure the secrets of how it handles or mishandles pension surpluses remain secret.

Bill C-78 denies the auditor general's conducting an audit of the board's investments. The pension investment auditors will not have the power to report to parliament and the board will be exempt from access to information laws.

A couple of hours ago I asked the government some questions. They are on the record. I do not think I have to repeat them. In fact I do not have time to repeat them. It is refusing to answer these questions. We are supposed to have a debate here and not only does the government invoke closure on this and limit the debate, but it does not even answer our questions. It does not even have the courtesy to reply to the very serious questions we ask. I have just asked another series of questions. I think it is about time the government came down off its high horse, became a little less arrogant and responded to our questions.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:45 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand to speak against the amendments in Group No. 3. Each one is a frivolous amendment and does not help either the interests of the employees or the interests of the taxpayers as a whole.

I remind my colleagues that whenever there is a deficit in the pension plan, it is the responsibility of the government to make up for the shortfall. The government is guaranteeing that the pension fund will remain there for the employees in the public sector.

I do not understand what the fuss is all about. Even what we have before us is pure estimation that the liability of the government will be close to $96 billion over the next number of years, while the pension fund has been estimated at $126 billion. If there is a problem tomorrow, who is going to make up for the shortfall? Is the opposition going to write a cheque to pay for the shortfall?

After all, whose money is it anyway? Who has contributed to the pension fund in the first place? The employees put in up to about 7.5% and the government matches the balance. There is one thing for sure. If the percentage of contribution is 70:30, 60:40 or 50:50, right off the bat one would say if there is a surplus, that surplus should be shared equally by the employees and the employers. That is in theory if that is the case.

Here we have something completely different. We have a situation where the government is absolutely on the hook, no matter what, under any circumstances. If there is a shortfall, if there is a problem, the government will have to come up with the shortfall. It will have to ensure that every public servant is guaranteed to have his or her pension for as long as they are eligible.

That is sound, good economics. That is sound, good social policy on the part of the government to do what it is doing and frankly what it should have done a long time ago.

I agree with those in the community who are asking for clarification in terms of what it is we should do from here on in. That is exactly what Treasury Board is trying to do with this proposed legislation. It is trying to clarify things once and for all so there will be no grey area whatsoever. We know what we have at this point, we clear it out and we start down the road again. As a result of that, everyone will know what his or her responsibilities are. Everyone will know what his or her rights are. We will move forward.

To stand and say that the $30 billion belongs to the employees, I think is being unfair to the taxpayers of the country. They were the ones in the first place who put out the cash, including the employees of the government, including those who are eligible for the pension.

Frankly, if we were to look at the proposal by the minister he has been quite forthcoming and pragmatic in his approach in trying to deal with some of the issues that have not been dealt with over the years.

To say that we have something which in our estimate could be $30 billion and we have to jump in and put our hands on it is unfair. It is totally uncalled for. In fact this money, as the government is planning to do, should remain in the public coffers because it belongs to the public. The employees of Canada should be guaranteed security and a right to access their pensions, and they are. No one is taking anything away from them. It is the opposite. There have been a number of improvements.

The President of the Treasury Board has gone out of his way to accommodate those who are calling on the government to have a proper mechanism to equally and collectively manage the funds and the pension benefits. If someone were to say, “I will call for better management and administration of the public service pension fund, a joint administration of that”, we are quite open to it. What some colleagues on the opposite side of the House are asking for is absolutely ridiculous and no one in their right mind on either side of the House would go for it.

We are unnecessarily delaying the passage of the bill by putting amendments that have nothing to do with the facts. A good number of those amendments are based on fiction and on wild imagination that somewhere somehow this money belongs to someone. Yes it does. It belongs to us collectively as taxpayers. It also belongs to the public servants.

No one is saying it does not belong to the public servants, but it belongs to the public servants as taxpayers of the nation and not as individuals. As individuals they are entitled to their pensions no matter what. No one is going to take more than what they are entitled to and no one is going to take less than what they are entitled to.

To that extent I am at a loss to hear some of my colleagues calling for things that are unwarranted, uncalled for and asking the government to do things. It is irresponsible to ask for them.

The President of the Treasury Board is doing the absolutely responsible and right thing. I commend him for that. I would like to see the proposals he has implemented as quickly as possible so the representatives of the employees and the government can work together collectively in a partnership to better manage the pension funds for generations to come.

The House should reject unequivocally every one of the amendments in this package. Let us move on with the bill.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We have a few minutes. Are there any members who would wish to debate for about two minutes on the bill? Otherwise we could get started on Statements by Members just a little bit early.

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am assuming that I will get the rest of my time after question period.

I want to say very clearly that this bill which the government has moved closure on will affect Canadians from coast to coast for years to come and it will not be in a positive way. This bill will cause more confusion, more anger, more disappointment in that years to come than any other bill in the last two years. I can guarantee that simply because the Liberals are letting through the side door and the back door and through the roof what they are saying up front. It is a camouflage bill. It totally distorts something which is true and historic to Canada.

I have presented hundreds, not dozens but hundreds of petitions to the House which this bill completely ignores. I want to use an analogy. In the town where I lived as a boy there was a store and on the front it said “Men's Clothing”, but what went on inside the store? Bootlegging. What this bill does—

Division No. 425Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I always hate to interrupt these lively debates. Nonetheless we are going to proceed to Statements by Members and the hon. member will have the floor when we return after question period.

Jim WilliamsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to honour a great Canadian from my riding of St. Catharines, Mr. Jim Williams. Well known for his hard work and dedication, Mr. Williams is the area director for the Niagara region office of Human Resources Development Canada.

Jim Williams was recently honoured with a nomination for a Public Service Outstanding Achievement Award and was invited to Ottawa to meet with Canada's Governor General, His Excellency, the Rt. Hon. Roméo LeBlanc. This award recognizes a sustained and exceptional performance of duties and accomplishments by senior public servants and is considered the most prestigious public award.

Mr. Williams' nomination for the Public Service Outstanding Achievement Award is a testament to the leadership role he has taken at Human Resources Development Canada.

For his commitment to public service, for his tireless efforts in the St. Catharines community and for the difference he has made in the lives of so many, we honour and thank Mr. Jim Williams.

Calgary Foothills HospitalStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to report a shocking story of violence being done to innocent human life, the sanctity of conscience and freedom of the press.

We have recently learned that at the Calgary Foothills hospital there are procedures being performed known as genetic terminations which are really eugenic infanticide. The hospital routinely induces premature labour of mothers whose unborn children are suspected of having some imperfection. These late term babies are delivered only to be left to die without medical attention or nourishment. In one case an attending nurse has described how an apparently viable baby was left for some 12 hours without care until it died.

According to hospital documents that I have obtained, nurses with moral objections are forced to participate in these obscene acts.

In an effort to cover up this scandal the Foothills hospital obtained a court order requiring the magazine that broke this story not to report on its details.

I have asked the attorney general and the Calgary police chief to investigate whether these procedures violate the Criminal Code's homicide provisions and they have agreed to do so.

While there are those in this current culture who would seek to kill the imperfect, infanticide is still against the law.

Harriston Kinsmen ClubStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Harriston Kinsmen Club, a service club in the town of Harriston, located in my riding of Waterloo—Wellington, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

This club does a great deal of fundraising and its efforts, which include helping to create much needed park and recreational facilities, contribute greatly to the community.

Like many other community groups and volunteers the people in this club in particular contribute significantly to the fabric of Canadian society. They make our communities a better place in which to live.

I urge all Canadians to support their community service clubs. I congratulate the Harriston Kinsmen Club for the many contributions it has made to our community over the past 40 years. We wish it many more years of success.

Canadian Centre For Mineral And Energy TechnologyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources and member for Wascana, Saskatchewan, visited Val d'Or and Malartic yesterday to announce that an additional $2.5 million dollars would be added over three years to the Canadian Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology.

The money will be used in the CANMET mine laboratory in Val d'Or for research on innovative ways to extract gold from narrow veins.

In many cases, the small regional mines lack the resources to develop new technology that would enable them to work more efficiently. CANMET can work with them to develop and adapt technologies meeting their particular needs and help them reduce production costs and remain in business.

Canada is a world leader in the field of mining. CANMET helps make Canada the place the rest of the world turns to for innovative mining technology.

We can become the best in the world in the development, production, distribution, use and exploration of mining products, abilities and technologies.

NunavutStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, on April 1, 1999, as Canadians celebrated the birth of our third territory, Nunavut, 19 newly elected members sat for the first time in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

Today those members resume their seats to begin the business of governing the new territory. As Nunavut takes its place in the Canadian federation our colleagues in government have many challenges and opportunities ahead of them.

With a fast growing population to represent, spread across two million square kilometres, their priorities include addressing social and housing problems, employment opportunities, health and education concerns. These members have an incredible opportunity to shape the direction of their territory, creating a brighter future for their constituents.

Allow me to send our territorial colleagues best wishes on their first day of business in the legislative assembly. May they govern wisely and govern well.

Tartan DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the St. Andrew Caledonian Society to ask for recognition of Tartan Day every year on April 6.

April 6 has special significance, for on that day in 1320 Scottish nobles gathered in the Abbey of Arbroath and pledged to defend their land from persecution and foreign dominance.

Swearing even to cast aside their King, Robert the Bruce, if he should falter from the principles of self-determination and freedom, this declaration is one of the earliest expressions of the rights of humanity to a peaceful, productive and secure life.

From the first contracts granted in Nova Scotia, or New Scotland, in 1621 to the present day, the Scots have played a major role in the founding of this nation.

The declaration of April 6 as Tartan Day will recognize not only the events of history in supporting the right of people to be free from oppression, but will also recognize the significant contributions of the Scottish people in the exploration and foundations of Canada.

National Mining WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is National Mining Week, a time when we recognize the major contributions of Canada's minerals and metals industry to our quality of life.

With its some 1,500 mining and exploration companies in over 100 countries, Canada is a recognized world leader in the sustainable production of metals and minerals.

We rank among the world's top five producers for some 16 major mineral commodities. Canada's industry is environmentally friendly, socially responsible and a major user of high tech products and services.

The mining industry currently offers highly specialized jobs to women and men throughout Canada, especially in its remote and rural regions.

Last year the Canadian minerals and metals industry contributed over $26 billion to our economy, employed more than 360,000 Canadians and generated some $45 billion in export earnings for Canada.

I invite hon. members to join with me in celebrating the accomplishments of this important sector and to salute the men and women who have helped to make the Canadian mining industry a world leader.


Drummondville'sStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Friday evening at the annual Quebec tourism award gala where the Grands Prix du tourisme québécois were handed out, the gold Lauréat national award in the category of tourist development and innovation went to Drummondville's Légendes fantastiques .

In its first season, this production involved the efforts of 300 volunteers, 150 of them as extras, and entertained a total audience of 43,000. This is one more example of the artistic contribution to the already exceptional economic boom in our region.

On behalf of my fellow citizens, I would like to thank all those who took part in this outstanding production, whether behind the scenes or in the spotlight. I would invite everyone to drop by Drummondville this summer and enjoy Légendes fantastiques in its second season.

My congratulations to its directors, and best wishes for a good summer.

Land MinesStatements By Members

May 13th, 1999 / 2:05 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first meeting of state parties to implement the convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel land mines and on their destruction took place last week in Mozambique.

Tribute was paid to those countries which spearheaded this humanitarian security cause and Canada was noted for its courage of true leadership.

Experience warns us that it can take decades to remove these life destroying mines once conflicts have ended. I have seen firsthand the excruciatingly labour intensive procedure that demining entails, prodding every square metre of soil 600 to 700 times. There are tens of millions of these mines to remove worldwide.

Casualties in war are 80% civilian. Too many are land mine victims, even after conflict ends.

We must free this world of these abominable, evil weapons so that we can limit the suffering of civilians, make the world a safer place and enable those affected areas to become liveable and productive once again.

Julie PayetteStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to wish Canada's next astronaut a successful voyage.

Julie Payette, Canada's newest star in the sky, will blast off on May 20 in the space shuttle Discovery , bound for the new international space station.

A mission specialist, Julie will be using her engineering and technical skills to assist in building the new orbiting facility. She will be part of a crew of seven who will add a pair of cargo doors to the station as it orbits 400 kilometres above the earth.

Julie, a native Montrealer, is a most outstanding individual. An award winning engineer who speaks several languages, an accomplished classical soprano, an athlete, a trained jet pilot and a sparkling personality, she exemplifies the best that Canada has to offer.

I say good luck and bon voyage.