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House of Commons Hansard #241 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was magazines.

Topics

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 1999 / 8:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, perhaps I was a little naive. After all, why should I have believed that the minister was sincere about protecting Canadian culture when she had already abandoned her own principles with regard to the GST?

The minister said that she was determined to rid the country of GST or else she would resign. Now we find her in collaboration with her government colleagues defending the GST as if it was their own initiative. Yes, she did resign and win in a byelection, but is that the whole point of the exercise? Like so many other Canadians, I believe that she opposed the GST as a matter of principle. Obviously she was not as opposed to the GST as we were led to believe.

That begs the question about what exactly this minister stands for. We now know that she does not stand for Canadian culture.

Perhaps I am being a bit hard on the minister. Perhaps she does believe in protecting Canadian culture. Perhaps it is the rest of her cabinet colleagues who have fettered away our Canadian magazine industry just to satisfy American interests.

We must remember that the Minister of Canadian Heritage was purposefully excluded from the final negotiations that were conducted by our Minister for International Trade and his staff with, of course, the direct involvement of the Prime Minister. So determined was the Prime Minister to exclude the Department of Canadian Heritage from the further negotiations with the U.S. he even sent the deputy minister to see greener pastures.

On the surface it would appear that by giving in to American demands we have averted an illegal trade war that could have affected the livelihoods of many Canadians. I say illegal trade war because that is exactly what the U.S. retaliation would amount to.

During question period I specifically asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister for International Trade whether Bill C-55 would respond to international trading obligations. Both of these ministers indicated that this was indeed the case. Therefore it begs the question as to why we would have sacrificed so much of our Canadian magazine industry when in fact we were simply creating legally acceptable legislation that would protect this vital industry.

Did these ministers purposefully mislead the House with their responses or did they suddenly find out that Bill C-55 was in fact a violation of the WTO or NAFTA? Perhaps we have avoided a trade war with the Americans but at what price to our Canadian cultural industries?

For well over 30 years successive governments imposed strict regulations intended to protect Canada's magazine industry. These elected officials recognized the importance of this industry to Canadian culture.

Most recently the former PC government insisted that Canada's cultural industries be excluded from any free trade or NAFTA negotiations. Although the U.S. was very much interested in having Canada's cultural industries brought into the negotiations, the former Progressive Conservative government resisted those overtures. It recognized the importance of maintaining our own distinct culture for generations to come.

The decision to capitulate to the Americans on this issue is going to have long-lasting negative effects for this and any future government that might want to oppose the U.S. during discussions on cultural issues. In future negotiations with the U.S. we can try to insist that we are serious about protecting our culture, however this Liberal government has now set a precedent.

Why would the U.S. or for that matter any other international trading partner take us seriously when we try to convince them that culture is vitally important to Canadians and that it deserves protecting? They will simply look back upon this agreement as an example of how everybody has their price. In this instance the Liberal government's price was $300 million in U.S. or possible U.S. sanctions, a mere one hour of trading between Canada and the U.S.

What exactly is contained in this agreement? No one has adequately explained what was the finally negotiated settlement. Now we know the Minister of Canadian Heritage has insisted that majority Canadian content is a prerequisite to allow foreign investors complete access to Canada's advertising revenue. For their part, the Americans have insisted on a substantial level of original editorial content. What is the definition of substantial? If we have never had any Canadian content in the past, I guess 20% Canadian content would be considered substantial depending on one's point of view.

The minister's office has indicated that the signed agreement between the two countries specifically states that a substantial level of original editorial content will be required. This is a far cry from the minister's insistence of majority content. I was told however that Canadian regulations indicate it is majority Canadian content. Which one is it? Substantial or majority content? If questions or disagreements should arise with regard to the level of Canadian content within a particular magazine, then which definition are we to follow?

The Liberal government is going to compensate Canada's magazine industry by giving it some kind of subsidy. It is too early to predict whether this will have any long term benefits for our industry.

Should Canada's magazine industry feel secure in believing its federal government will continue to provide it with these subsidies well after the furor over Bill C-55 has been forgotten? I certainly would not feel confident with the present government at the helm. After all, it has shown its willingness to sacrifice this industry through its amendments to Bill C-55.

What has this sudden turnaround in our cultural policy meant to our international reputation? We remember that during the MAI debate the Minister of Canadian Heritage stood up with her counterparts from France to denounce any negotiations that would weaken each other's cultural industries.

Last year in Ottawa our heritage minister invited representatives from throughout the world to discuss ways of protecting our cultural heritage. I wonder how these representatives are viewing Canada's capitulation at the hands of the Americans. I would suspect that they are as disappointed as the rest of us because this decision has certainly weakened their position in terms of trying to defend their own cultural policies. How will they defend themselves against the influx of U.S. cultural products when they see that Canada lacked the heart and determination to protect its own?

On the surface the Liberal government's decision to amend Bill C-55 to appease the Americans would appear to be of little consequence when one compares the billions of dollars worth of trade that is exchanged daily between both countries. I think this decision will have a profound influence on all future negotiations with our international trading partners. Canadian culture can no longer be considered sacred in any future negotiations. The Liberal government has told the world that Canadian culture is a commodity like any other and that trying to protect it for future generations is futile.

The U.S. has agreed to 18% access to our advertising revenue before being required to produce any Canadian content. I think it would be naive of us to believe that they will be satisfied with the present arrangement for too many years. Then what? The precedent has already been set.

It is important for all Canadians that we oppose the amendments to Bill C-55. The government may no longer be concerned about the right of our children to read Canadian stories written by Canadian authors, but we are. Therefore, I urge all hon. members to vote against the amendments to Bill C-55.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we go to questions and comments, may I have the attention of the hon. member for West Nova.

In debate, I am not sure, but I thought I might have heard the hon. member for West Nova infer that ministers of the government had deliberately misled. That is not the nature of the member for West Nova. I wanted to make sure it was on record that was not part of the member's comments. Could the member for West Nova indicate that was not part of his comments, please?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the excitement of my deliberations I may have said that. If I did, I would retract that in due respect of the House.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I thank the member very much.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for West Nova for his presentation. I too am very concerned about the made in America Bill C-55. I have it in front of me and it looks to me to be a three page letter between U.S. trade representative Barshefsky and Canadian Ambassador Raymond Chrétien.

What strikes me about this deal is that there is one paragraph after another saying that Canada will amend, Canada will further amend its foreign investment policy, Canada will amend its definition of Canadian issues, Canada will amend section 19. It is all of the things that Canada will do. There is no mention about what the United States will do. It seems like a very one way deal.

The only paragraph that mentions America at all states that Canada and the United States will agree to consult annually, upon request, within 20 days, on any matter relating to this agreement. That is the extent of American involvement in this deal.

Does the member for West Nova believe that this is in any way a reciprocal, mutual agreement? What can we make of this one paragraph outlining American responsibilities?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the whole issue which my colleague from Dartmouth raises speaks to how this was handled. This was something about which we were not advised. We do not know the details. Not knowing the details creates more problems, because it leads us to be concerned and scared. Maybe if we knew all of the details we could be more positive, but at this point there is no way we can be. There are too many pitfalls, too many capitulations to the U.S., and I continue to be concerned.

I am concerned for the future of Canadian culture. Our culture has been sold out. I would again ask all hon. colleagues not to support these amendments as they are not good for our country and Canadian culture.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for West Nova if he would comment on the following. This is a note which the minister received. It reads:

Congratulations for hanging tough on your recent negotiations. A compromise was forced instead of the usual capitulation. They play hardball—but so do you! I admire your style. Stay healthy and strong. Best regards, Norman Jewison.

Would the member care to comment on that?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is something which the government has tried, since the beginning, to spin in a very positive way.

What we have to look at here is Canadian culture and the good of the Canadian people. I am expressing an opinion, as have many members of the opposition. A concern we hear repeatedly is that Canadian culture has been sold out. My position is clear and the position of my party is clear.

We should protect Canadian culture. We should continue to fight for Canadian culture. That is not what is happening and that is not what the government is trying to accomplish.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motions from the Senate to amend Bill C-55. I realize that my time will be fairly short. I hope to be able to continue my speech tomorrow or else extend the time this evening in order for me to be able to complete my speech.

As the trade critic for the official opposition I think that Bill C-55 has been a total disaster at every turn over the last year.

It seems to me that this all started with the World Trade Organization ruling which told Canada that it could not follow the policies which the government implemented in terms of taxes on split-run magazines. It was very interesting to hear the Minister of Canadian Heritage today say that the government had to respond because Canada lost that ruling.

I would agree, but that is a very different interpretation than we heard a couple of months ago in the House when the heritage minister and the trade minister said that Canada did not lose that ruling. It seems to me that we lost and we have to abide by the rules which we, in turn, put in place.

Canada has been one of the main proponents of trade rules to protect our interests around the world. Why is that? That is because Canada has a relatively small population. We have a very big country with a lot of exports that need to be exported around the world. In fact exports account for 40% of the GDP of the country. They are very, very high. We need to be able to export and, in turn, we need the protection of trade rules.

Canada in the last 50 years has probably been the biggest influence in establishing trade rules at the GATT and subsequently at the World Trade Organization. The rules work for us, and yet when we lose these rulings we have a Liberal government that does not want to accept the rulings and tries to do a dance to work a way around those which are against Canada. We saw it again in the case of the aerospace industry and export subsidies.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage has, as I said, managed this issue very badly, but I have to give her credit. As the minister of culture she has been an amazing playwright. She has written a play called Bill C-55. I am not sure whether I would call it a farce or a tragedy, but it is one of those. I do not think the final act has been written or played out.

I believe that there are a lot more things to come on this issue of culture and the dispute with the United States because the bill is very, very badly designed and will invite further challenges from the United States. It is not only going to invite further challenges from the United States, it will invite further challenges at the World Trade Organization, the very organization where Canada goes to argue to have rules designed concerning subsidies and how they should not be applied against our exports.

We cannot have it both ways. What is really going on is simply a matter of damage control. Canada got beat up very badly, and it deserved to on this issue. The Liberal government managed this issue very badly.

Over the past year we have intimidated a lot of industries in Canada, such as the steel and lumber sectors, which are already facing challenges from the United States. We have intimidated those industries into thinking that they will have to face another round of retaliation. Does the government not recognize, does it not realize, what it is signing in these international agreements? Most people knew that the so-called exemption clause for culture would not hold water.

I believe that the government is basically misleading the Canadian public. It is certainly misleading the cultural industries. It has misled them for the past six years into thinking that they were protected by the exemption clause. Look what it led to, a total collapse in the position of the Canadian government and it had to accept a very bad deal. It is not just bad for the government; it is bad for Canada.

I want to talk about Liberal assurances, this Hollywood movie set that they hide behind. It is not just in the cultural area, but I want to talk about that for a moment. We have the so-called cultural exemption. The cultural industries which built an industry on it thought they had protection. What did they find out? That they had been betrayed.

World Trade Organization negotiations are set to start in Seattle probably next year. What is the Liberal government's position? It is going to protect the cultural industries. It will have a cultural agreement, a cultural instrument inside the WTO agreement. What nonsense. It knows that cannot be accomplished.

We see it over an over again. We saw it in the softwood lumber agreement with the United States. The government accepted the managed trade agreement. There would be five years of peace. No problem. It signed the agreement thinking there would be no disputes for five years. What have we got? Dispute after dispute after dispute because Canada did not know what it was doing at those negotiations.

What about the supply management sector? Again the government is telling the sector not to worry, that it will be protected. It said that in the GATT negotiations in Geneva. It said it would protect article 11, border closures. There would not be product coming into Canada and the sector would not have to convert to tariffs. What happened? The government could not defend that position. Then it came back and said it was sorry. It had tried to protect the sector and it had lost. The government knew full well that it could not protect that sector.

It gets worse. Upcoming trade talks will be held at the World Trade Organization. The government is not only selling the same old story to the cultural sector, it is also selling it to the supply management sector. It is saying not to worry, it will protect them. There will be no movement this time. There are 350% tariffs, but it will protect those sectors. They will not have to worry about it. There will be a 350% tariff after it is finished. What nonsense. Anybody who believes the government on these issues is very naive.

The government is doing the Canadian public a grave disservice. I suggest that the agreement which was reached with the Americans will have ongoing problems which will not be resolved very easily.

We have the business of subsidies. Now we are going to give the Canadian magazine industry subsidies of $100 million a year. That is the figure that is floated out there. It is ironic that the subsidies are not only going to go to the Canadian magazine industry. American magazines which are subject to this agreement will also get subsidies. The Canadian public will subsidize the American magazine industry under this agreement. What nonsense.

The Americans have said that there are current challenges which might happen under this agreement. Here is the caption on the so-called letters that were exchanged a week ago: “The United States accepts the terms of the agreement which states that a net benefit review by Canada on new investments in the magazine industry will include undertakings from foreign investors that result in a substantial level of original editorial comment”. Notice that I said substantial. That is what the United States said. Canada will use guidelines that call for a majority of original editorial content. Which way is it? It is not even clear. Is it substantial or is it a majority?

I suggest that we have all kinds of problems coming and we have just seen the tip of the iceberg. This agreement is nothing more than a short term agreement that is never going to see the light of day in any substantial terms. The government is deceiving the magazine industry yet again.

I could go on and I will at a future date, but I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are telling me that I have to conclude my remarks for this evening.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for Government Orders has expired, pursuant to the special order adopted earlier today.

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

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I realize the hour is late, but I have to rise today to further discuss a question I raised in the House on April 14. The situation involving the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital is absolutely critical. There is no question that we are dealing with an emergency which the government continues to overlook and refuses to address.

I want to put this in context. On July 2 I wrote to the Minister of Health explaining to him that the situation at the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital was critical. The hospital is supposed to serve 28 first nations communities in northern Ontario, but it was in a critical and dire situation because of the failure of the government to ensure a contract between that hospital and a teaching hospital to provide the adequate staff in terms of both doctors and nurses.

It is no question that we are dealing with a lack of action on the part of the federal government, a mishandling of a serious situation. I have to raise this issue tonight because the government continues to refuse to address this matter.

On April 14 I raised this question in the House. At that point the chiefs of two first nations in northern Ontario had been on a hunger strike for 100 hours over the issue of the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital. They were on a hunger strike to try to get the attention of the government to act and act quickly. At that time the Minister of Health said “Do not worry. We are looking into it. In fact, I am going to visit those communities”.

The Minister of Health went to the region on April 23 and April 24 and promised prompt action. To this day, June 9, 1999, no action has been taken. The hospital is still not open, leaving 16,000 residents without adequate health care.

There is supposed to be a contract between the medical services branch and McMaster University. To this day, McMaster, which has been committed to recruit and retain 16 physicians, has only been able to find two or three physicians to serve at this hospital. Up to 75% of the nurses in northern nursing stations which feed off of this hospital are rumoured to be relief workers. Nursing at the hospital itself has decreased significantly since the hospital closed and now the hospital only has enough nursing staff to keep 25 of its 39 beds open. We are looking at a dire situation.

I am raising this tonight to see if finally the government will act quickly so that the people of this entire region can have some solution to a critical health care situation.

When it comes to northern and remote communities and first nations communities, there is no semblance of adequate quality health care. This situation is absolutely acute. It is desperate to the point where the chiefs for two of the first nations communities went on a hunger strike. They are now back appealing that the government do something immediately.

I want to know tonight, does the government have any plan to ensure that the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital is up and running, has the necessary physician services, is able to equip all the related northern nursing stations and is able to guarantee the people of this region have some direct access to quality health care?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:35 p.m.

Oakville Ontario

Liberal

Bonnie Brown LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the minister shares the member's concern about the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital. However, I must say that in a free society no government at any level can make individual doctors or individual nurses choose to serve in that location. It is a matter of coaxing and it is a matter of offering incentives. We have done that.

In November 1998 Health Canada signed an agreement with McMaster University for physician services within the Sioux Lookout zone. A new compensation package was developed to assist physician recruitment into this area. McMaster University representatives remain optimistic that the number of physicians in the area will significantly increase in the next short while.

The hospital is open and is currently offering as many in-services as possible. The emergency department will reopen when there are sufficient physicians to ensure continuity of care and safe practice within the hospital setting.

Health Canada has been working on innovative strategies for the recruitment and retention of nurses. It has formed a working group involving first nations, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and Health Canada representatives.

In addition the Minister of Health established a Sioux Lookout zone working group which is a partnership between Health Canada and the first nations to address and resolve the zone's health situation, including the issues of physician and nurse shortages.

Health Canada is also committed to working with all parties on the amalgamation of the existing provincial health facility and the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital. This will eventually lead to a new provincial hospital with a two-thirds first nations board representation.

The Minister of Health during his visit in April participated in a round table meeting on health care and reaffirmed his commitment to work in partnership with all parties impacted by the situation. He encouraged all parties to contribute toward solutions to address the problems in the long and short term.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons often has many visitors. Tonight a number of young Canadians have come to spend some time with us. Before getting to my question for the parliamentary secretary I thought perhaps I would relate very briefly the frustration these young people may face when trying to get on the Internet.

We click on the icon, dial up the network, enter the server name and password, and sometimes the line rings and rings. Call backs have to be made. Then we finally get through and the home page comes up and very slowly the little bar at the bottom starts moving. We call up the first picture and slowly another line will appear. It is very frustrating for many people who use the Internet and whose computers do not have a lot of juice to wait for the information. It is very frustrating when one's mind works faster than the hardware and the software.

That is exactly the kind of frustration I wanted to raise with the Minister of Human Resources Development on June 3 and I will repeat the question tonight. In times of need Canadians expect the government to be there for them. When someone loses their job, the last thing they need is a thoughtless, faceless bureaucracy armed with confusing rules and jargon. People need personal, sensitive and understandable systems. I asked the Minister of Human Resource Development whether he shared my sentiments and if so, what steps were being taken to ensure quality service for all Canadians.

Members of parliament have this frustration when constituents call faced with problems such as program benefits they want to access, a job loss situation where they require employment insurance to pay the bills for their family. They are frustrated because they are faced with questions. They are also faced with voice mail and electronic messages. At times of stress, pressure and strain all they really want is the opportunity to talk to a human being who understands their crisis and who can tell them in layman's terms exactly how to deal with their situation. It happens time and time again.

The minister very briefly started to outline some steps but unfortunately because of the time limitations in question period, he did not get through many of the points I am sure he wanted to raise. I have come here tonight to ask the parliamentary secretary if she would provide Canadians with a little more insight into the kinds of things the government has done and is working on so Canadians get the kind of service they need.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:40 p.m.

Oakville Ontario

Liberal

Bonnie Brown LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the minister and I both agree with the member for Mississauga South on the need for quality service from Human Resources Development Canada to Canadians who have lost their jobs and approach HRDC for help.

The minister did have a town hall electronic session with officials and employees of HRDC from across Canada to discuss how the department could go further in terms of ensuring that Canadians get the very best service possible and that people are treated with respect, compassion and caring when they come to the department for help. As a result of this meeting, several initiatives are now underway at HRDC.

For example, HRDC is committed to ensuring its clients can better understand the rules and regulations behind various programs. It will also make sure that all of its communications with citizens are written in plain language and in an appropriate and friendly tone.

The department will do more to look into hardship cases and complex EI claims to ensure a fair and consistent application of policies and to tell people of available resource mechanisms they might use. Many of the local offices already have public liaison officers who help in this manner.

HRDC is committed to adopting consistent processes for collecting overpayments to ensure that an individual's capacity to repay is respected and that the repayment schedules reflect individual circumstances and take into account cases of hardship. HRDC will also find new ways of consulting and talking to Canadians to ensure that our standards measure up to their expectations and are meaningful to them.

That just scratches the surface of the multitude of initiatives the minister has undertaken to ensure that HRDC's excellent service becomes even better. This commitment is firm and honest and Canadians will be the beneficiaries.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:40 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on a question I asked on April 30 about the AIDA farm disaster program.

At that point only 500 farmers had taken the time to fill out the AIDA forms and send them in to be processed. There are 100,000 farmers on the prairies. What percentage of them have now filled out these forms? How many claims have been paid? Very few farmers have been applying and receiving compensation. I would like to know if the minister thinks this program is helping farmers through the income crisis they are experiencing.

How much has been paid out under AIDA to producers in Ontario, in Quebec, in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and the other provinces? Even the minister of agriculture in Saskatchewan has called on the federal government to scrap this program because he has realized it is not helping the farmers who need it. Will the minister listen to farmers and get rid of the AIDA program?

AIDA was supposed to help farmers who had an income that fell 30% in 1998 but because of the fact that it is tied to NISA, a farmer's income has to fall almost 40% to qualify for any assistance. Did the minister tie the program to NISA so the government would not have to pay out the $900 million commitment?

When I asked this question during question period, the minister said that farmers were not applying. In essence he is blaming farmers for the fact the program is not working.

Long before the minister announced the AIDA program we urged him to keep the program simple and to make payments on an acreage basis. We made that recommendation over six months ago.

NISA is not working either for these farmers. In NISA, 8,600 Saskatchewan farmers have an average of $303 in their accounts. Another 10,000 farmers have less than $2,800 in their accounts.

I understand the reason the minister is not accepting negative margins in his AIDA package is that he does not want to promote bad farm management. Due to the drop in commodity prices there were an estimated 10,000 farm operations with negative margins in 1998. I wonder if the minister of agriculture is prepared to say that these 10,000 operations with negative margins are the result of bad farm management.

The calls coming in from the farm stress line in Saskatchewan are also an indication that AIDA is not helping producers. The number of calls to the farm stress line this year is already way above the monthly average for 1998.

AIDA is definitely not helping farmers get through this income crisis. Is the minister ready to admit that his farm disaster program is a disaster? Is he ready to sit down and work out a program that will help Canadian farmers?

It appears that the AIDA staff is also making up rules on the fly. A man called my office the other day. He and his wife have separate farming operations which include each possessing their own Canadian Wheat Board permit books, filing separate taxes and having separate NISA accounts.

The husband and wife each filled out separate AIDA forms and sent them in. When the AIDA staff looked at these forms it was determined that this husband and wife could not file separately because their farms were not at arm's length from one another.

I want the minister to explain how it is determined that these farmers who file separate income taxes, have separate permit books and have separate NISA accounts are not considered separate farms when it comes to AIDA.

This also raises a number of questions as to how AIDA staff will deal with other types of farming operations. Are the rest of the husband and wife operations to be considered as one farm? What about places where father and son each have separate farms but work together? Will they be considered one operation? The same applies for brothers or people who work together. Did the minister consider any of this when he was constructing AIDA?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:45 p.m.

Egmont P.E.I.

Liberal

Joe McGuire LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, as has already been stated in the House, federal money is flowing out under the agriculture income disaster assistance program. Program administrators have started processing applications and sending cheques to those farmers who have submitted a complete application package.

We acted swiftly to pay the federal portion in those provinces where the federal government delivers the program so that farmers could have money in their hands. When those provinces, and that includes Saskatchewan and Manitoba, sign the agreement producers will receive the second portion of their disaster payment.

Other provinces are delivering the program. B.C., Alberta, P.E.I. and Ontario are using an existing administrative system. Members should be aware that Alberta has had a disaster assistance program since 1995 to which the federal government has contributed its companion program money. Farmers in those provinces started receiving money several weeks ago, notwithstanding the federal-provincial discussions on cost sharing and administrative issues.

I think our record is very good. AIDA started out as a general concept just before Christmas and in a mere four months has become a reality. Money is flowing to farmers for a program that is targeted and pays benefits to people who really need them.

Hon. members also realize that this program will not buy us trouble with our trading partners on the international scene. Benefits will not be captured by foreign treasuries but by our own farmers. This is no simple accomplishment in such a short period of time.

Federal and provincial governments should be commended for all the hard work that went into the AIDA program.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Michelle Dockrill NDP Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, following the annual NAC lobby on Monday of this week I hoped we would see a change in attitude from the Liberal government concerning the impact of its programs on women, especially changes to the EI program which have had a specific and serious effect on Canadian women.

The government's own figures show that women have been hardest hit by modifications to eligibility requirements. Today, 44% of Canadian women are not eligible for maternity benefits, placing a huge strain on families from B.C. to Newfoundland.

The decision the government has made is a simple one. It has placed the ideology of the collection agency ahead of human compassion and economic efficiency. I am sure hon. members are familiar with the term penny-wise and pound foolish. This is a concise summary of the government's policy. By attempting to balance the nation's books on the backs of the middle class, the working poor and the disadvantaged, the administration has decided to trade long term growth for the illusion of short term responsibility.

It is the equivalent of a family selling its house so it can pay off its debts. What good does a perfect credit rating do when everything that matters has been thrown away?

Employment insurance was designed to serve as a bridge to enable workers to survive while they are between jobs. Over the years that definition has become more and more restrictive. Now one has to live in a region that experiences a complete economic meltdown before one will be eligible. Even then, unfortunately, there are parts of the country where that meltdown has happened. I base these statements on fact. There are people who fall through the cracks.

When I recall the statements made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development several weeks ago in the House, I am struck by the calmness with which she dispatched my question, the easy words about studies and about investigations into the problems we are facing with the system.

It seems once many people leave their communities and start to breathe the thin air on Parliament Hill they forget that studies, investigations and inquiries do not put bread on the table. Certainly the people of Cape Breton Island have learned that lesson well. We are aware that reports do not fill a child's stomach before he or she goes to school or goes to bed at night.

The parliamentary secretary said that they do not want to start making changes until they understand the whys and wherefores of the numbers. I was left wondering what was the problem. Before the government pushed through its changes to the system, there was no evidence that women were discriminated against by the system. Surely the answers to the government's questions are laid out for it in the old legislation which the government threw away.

I want to make perfectly clear that my comments are not intended to call simply for a return to the old ways. My party is the first to admit that system was imperfect and in need of substantial reform, but changes need to be based on an assessment of why a program was invented in the first place.

An unfortunate trend has come to dominate policy making since 1993, the tendency of programs to be examined, pared down or eliminated because of their impact on the year to year financial forecast instead of on their social utility. Using this model, programs like EI and other assistant agencies are portrayed as inefficient. That justification has been used to whittle them away until they are unable to function.

We have to act and we have to act decisively. Canadians will not reward parliament for indecisiveness or a lack of action. Whenever the reports or studies or whatever concerning the EI system are delivered to the minister, I hope the government will be inspired into action to do what is right for women and all other citizens of the country.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:50 p.m.

Oakville Ontario

Liberal

Bonnie Brown LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am not the least bit embarrassed that the member opposite thinks I remained too calm in answering her earlier question.

In fact the electors in my riding expect me to remain calm, analytical and have an intellectual approach to the subject in front of me, and I think that is the approach of the government. It is only in so doing that one can be a true steward of the nation's resources and come up with programming that addresses the true needs of people and does not respond in some hysterical fashion to some new statistics that come out of a study.

I assure the member that we too are concerned about making sure that EI is fair and accessible to women. We agree with her that claims by women for regular benefits dropped by four percentage points more than claims by men in 1997-98, and this concerns us.

The minister's officials are now in the process of determining why the number of claims went down. The reasons for this decline are not easy to see and not clear. In fact there seems to be several factors at play. Let me assure the member that we are trying to get a clearer understanding and we are looking at various options that could rectify the situation.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House that several features of the EI program benefit women. The move to an hours based system, for example, was in large part about helping women out of the 14 hour job trap.

We also know that two-thirds of the people who get the more generous family income supplement are women, that 58% of the small week claims were made by women, and that the reach back provision for active employment measures means women who stayed at home to raise their children can benefit from these measures for up to five years in order to help them get back into the workforce.

We are committed to making sure that EI benefits are fair and accessible for all women, but we are also committed to helping women who wish to enter or re-enter the workforce. Our efforts will continue in that direction.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActAdjournment Proceedings

8:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8.55 p.m.)