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House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was defence.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present four petitions today pursuant to Standing Order 36.

In the first petition from Kamloops the petitioners point out their concern about Alberta's bill 11, which they feel opens the door to for profit hospitals and threatens health care across the country.

They are asking parliament to take whatever steps are necessary to stop this American style move to health care and to consider introducing national programs for home care and prescription drugs.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present another petition. The petitioners are concerned about the state of the highway system across Canada. They urge the Government of Canada to consider putting some of the revenues raised by the excise tax on fuel into highway construction in all parts of Canada.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition in which the petitioners are concerned about our criminal code. They call upon the Government of Canada to amend the criminal code to prevent persons convicted of serious crimes from being released from custody pending the hearing of their appeals except in exceptional circumstances.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fourth petition is from members of the Sikh temple in Kamloops. They point out the importance of April 13 in their religion. They also point out their contribution to Canadian society.

More important, they call upon the House to recognize the importance of the five K s. These are the kirpan, a sword representing indomitable spirit; kesa, unshorn hair representing simple life, saintliness and devotion to God; kara, a steel bangle worn as a sign of eternity to God; kangah, a wooden comb worn to represent a clean mind and body; and kacha, short breeches representing hygienic living.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to present a second petition signed by a number of people in my riding.

These petitioners are calling on the government to do everything possible to lower the price of gasoline, especially with winter just around the corner. The increase in the price of gasoline will make it difficult for many people in my riding and across the country to make ends meet over the winter, given the very high price of heating oil, among other things.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

October 17th, 2000 / 10:45 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has received notice of a request for an emergency debate by the hon. member for Roberval.

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for recognizing my privilege, my right to speak to this request and to give my reasons for making it.

I would like to say that you should examine this request in the light of the question of privilege raised a bit earlier. Allowing the question of privilege would automatically dispose of the emergency debate, because there would be a debate today, which would meet our objectives. If you were to rule the question of privilege out of order, obviously the matter of an emergency debate would remain an extremely pressing one.

On page 1 of the information commissioner's annual report, the hon. Mr. Justice Gérard La Forest, former judge of the supreme court, says—the words are heavy with meaning—and I quote:

The overarching purpose of access to information legislation...is to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry.

Page 2 of this report contains an extract from the Access to Information Act, subsection 2(1):

  1. (1) The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exemptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.

The reason I have requested an emergency debate is that, in the report submitted to parliament, because the information commissioner reports to parliament, it says, and I quote very briefly:

PCO claims now that it may exclude confidences from access without any obligation to certify to the Commissioner (as it must—

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. This is not an opportunity to make a speech on the matter raised by the hon. member for Roberval with respect to the debate this evening. It is merely a very brief presentation on the urgent nature of the debate.

I would ask the hon. member to restrict his remarks to that point alone, nothing else.

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Just one sentence, which will satisfy both you and myself. It reads as follows:

The Privy Council Office refuses to accept the clear words of Parliament giving the Commissioner the powers of a Superior Court of Record in the conduct of his investigations.

The Privy Council Office is the department of the Prime Minister. It is questioning the authority of parliament and its decision to confer upon the commissioner responsible for access to information the powers to investigate, audit and distribute documents.

This strikes me as so serious, given the words of Justice La Forest, that it is an attack on the very essence of democracy by the department of the Prime Minister. It is not a minor matter, but rather one which merits an emergency debate this very day.

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has carefully considered the comments by the hon. member for Roberval, as well as his letter submitted earlier this morning on the matter.

As the hon. member has indicated, the Chair has already received a question of privilege from the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and has taken the matter under advisement.

If the Chair decides it is a true question of privilege, as the hon. member for Roberval has indicated, there will be an immediate debate in the House on the motion by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. It is possible to continue that debate during regular sitting hours.

In my opinion, it is perhaps not necessary to consider the matter of an emergency debate this evening, because the Chair has already taken the matter under advisement. In my opinion, the request is not in order at this time.

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, from what I understand, the ruling on the point of privilege has not yet been brought down.

Does your response mean that you are maintaining my request pending a ruling later on? Because a favourable ruling disposes of my request, while an unfavourable one leaves it active and fully justified.

I would like to know where we stand exactly.

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Hon. members must wait for the Chair's ruling on another point of privilege. I must add, however, that it is standard practice to renew a request for an emergency debate daily.

Thus, if the Speaker's ruling is not brought down this afternoon, tomorrow the hon. member can request an emergency debate on this issue for tomorrow evening.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved that Bill S-26, an act to repeal an act to incorporate the Western Canada Telephone Company, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill S-26 is to remove from the laws of Canada obsolete provisions that restrain Telus Communications from operating throughout Canada.

Bill S-26 is a standard housekeeping bill in many ways. It would repeal an act to incorporate the Western Canada Telephone Company, known as the BC Tel act. It thus would remove restrictions that hinder BC Tel from competing across the country. These are restrictions only BC Tel faces.

This constraint was put into place in the bad old days of provincial monopolies. Today it is contrary to the competitive climate in which the telecommunications industry works in Canada. The Competition Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act will still apply to Telus.

We support the bill because it is consistent with Canadian Alliance policy that government should foster a healthy economic environment for the benefit of consumers by pursuing free and open trade at home and abroad, including eliminating interprovincial trade barriers.

The telecommunications industry is Canada's fastest growing industry. According to the Canadian business performance report revenues grew 50% in this industry between 1998 and 1999. This is tremendous growth. It is one of the strongest assets in Canada.

Canadian society is being transformed by the increasing use of technology. In their homes, businesses and schools Canadians are embracing technology and the changes it brings. Computer use in Canada jumped to a 36% national average in 1998 from 29.4% in the previous year. Governments in Canada at all levels are changing the way they do business by incorporating this new technology into their practices. Telecommunications companies provide the important ramp on to the information highway.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association, between November 1999 and January 2000 in Canada approximately 12.7 million adults, or 56%, used the Internet. That shows an increase of 13% since 1997. We can see this is a growing sector. The 43% who are not currently on the Internet anticipate getting online within a couple of years. We definitely need the infrastructure the telecommunications industry provides.

However it is not all good news today. Too many bright Canadian entrepreneurs have been forced to go to the United States to find capital for their ideas. Too many Canadian companies have been forced south or overseas by high taxes. Canada's personal income burden is the highest in the G-7. It is 21% greater than that of the United States. High taxes combined with a stagnant standard of living and an abysmal Canadian currency of a 65 cent dollar have been leading many individual Canadians to leave our country, in increasing numbers. It is quite disturbing.

This summer Statistics Canada reported that over 62,000 Canadians left the country this year, enough people to populate a medium size Canadian city. That is an increase from the 58,000 who left last year. This is accelerating, if anything. We know the U.S. high tech companies continue to look for people around the world. That will continue unless we get our house in order in Canada.

While those people were packing their bags the Liberals were denying that the brain drain existed. As recently as June the Prime Minister publicly rejected the notion that Canada was losing its best and brightest. He insisted that the brain drain was only a myth being perpetuated by his critics.

This year 65,000 Canadians do not agree with that. The brain drain problem must be addressed. The Canadian Alliance fair tax plan would address the main reasons behind the exodus. The Canadian Alliance would increase income for all Canadian taxpayers no matter how much they make. We would remove 1.4 million Canadians with the lowest incomes from the tax rolls entirely. We would encourage investment and savings for retirement. These measures would encourage Canada's best and brightest to stay and work here at home.

It takes quite a bit before a Canadian wants to leave this country. Our friends and families are all here. It is a major disruption. For the people who have immigrated to Canada over the years we know it has been a major traumatic experience. These people did not do it willingly. They were being driven out of their countries.

In addition to relieving the onerous tax burden, Canada needs a strategy to compete in the global economy. The Canadian Alliance would reduce business taxes and build a positive climate for doing business while ensuring Canada has a skilled workforce and a modern infrastructure. Part of that infrastructure is telecommunications.

Investors need confidence that government is getting the economic fundamentals right, and I would suggest that is not happening now.

To encourage more high tech investment in Canada's economy, the Canadian Alliance would lower payroll taxes so that employees would take home more money and businesses could hire more employees.

We would cut the capital gains tax on investing, which would take away obstacles that restrict investment and which would encourage the economy to prosper. We only need to look at the situation in Ireland as an example.

We would cut taxes on the high tech industry. The current system penalizes the new economy. The Canadian Alliance proposes to tax all types of companies equally.

In this day and age Canadians must be able to access government information and services online. We would appoint a senior adviser on technology to oversee a project to ensure that Canadian citizens could access the Government of Canada online.

We would increase support for Canada's research granting councils and co-ordinate scientific activities in all government departments to ensure that science, not politics, prevails. Canadians should not be left behind in the rush to do business online. Canadian regulations need to be modernized to reflect the reality of a new technology.

Bill S-26 is a straightforward piece of legislation which would allow Telus to compete on a level playing field with other Canadian telecommunication companies.

In an increasing global market deregulation of this kind is long overdue. In fact we have quite a bit better legislation and trade agreements in terms of international trade agreements than we have here at home because of our interprovincial trade barriers which restrict Canadians from doing business across provincial borders. That needs to be addressed. It is long overdue. I would suggest the government has not made much progress in that area.

It is time to give Telus the legislative freedom to do business in Canada. Therefore the Canadian Alliance is supportive of the bill and will be supporting it at all stages to allow it to go through the House today.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My colleague from the opposition just mentioned the reason for my point of order. I think you would find unanimous consent in the House to proceed with all stages of the bill today, including consideration in committee of the whole.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed with the bill as indicated by the deputy government whip?

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario

Liberal

John Cannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, yes, we have a Minister of Industry and allow me to offer my congratulations this morning.

I was very pleased that the Alliance Party member for Peace River expressed himself on the bill. We all heard him speak in support of the bill. It is really a housekeeping bill as he clearly stated. On our side we fully appreciate the fact that there is good co-operation on the bill. He referred, for example, to the BC Tel act, which was enacted in 1916. We certainly have to modernize things, and that is what we are trying to do.

He touched upon some of the most important issues. I will not go into the nitty-gritty, but through Bill S-26 we are trying not only to modernize but to create a level playing field so that telecommunications companies have an opportunity to compete, to remain strong and to grow. Not only will they offer excellent service but at the same time will create opportunities for Canadians locally and abroad.

I thank everyone for co-operating in moving the bill forward. It is also important to take this opportunity to talk about some issues with which we are faced today.

The member for Peace River touched upon some very important points. He talked about technology and how we had moved forward. I stand here proudly as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry to talk about our connecting Canadians program and our computers for schools program which put our country above every other nation. We are probably the most connected nation in the world, offering high speed Internet and low cost. As Canadians we feel very proud of it.

The member raised one very important issue. He talked about how we had better policy to deal with our international partners than we do within the provinces. He is right.

The federal government cannot simply stand and say it wants to do something. Provincial jurisdiction has to be respected. We have to work with our provincial partners. I know the member agrees; we have talked about it personally. I am sure he feels that by working together we will slowly, hopefully, overcome those barriers as quickly as possible for the good of each Canadian.

I will touch upon some of his points. He talked about companies and people moving. In a global economy, in the global village we live in, there is a lot of mobility. There is a great shortage of high tech people in Canada because it is one of the fastest growing industries.

Not too long ago I read an article in the local papers in which applications had been put out for lab technicians. About 80% of the individuals who applied were Canadians wanting to come back to Canada for several reasons: the fact that we have invested in research and development and that we have made some very positive steps in the last budget in how we treat, for example, our stock options in terms of capital gains, which the member for Peace River so eloquently touched upon.

We know what has clearly been addressed in the budget in terms of how we address options to motivate people to invest in our country. That has been happening in a very healthy way. Steps have been undertaken.

All statisticians and pundits out there, not us, have been saying that we are going to lead. We have been leading the G-7 in economic growth and in job creation. We were the first to balance our books and we were the first ones to show a surplus.

Just the other day I read in an article a comment made by Mr. Klein, the premier of Alberta. He is now basking in the surplus he has. He is now reinvesting it back into his province, and I am glad for that. He said Alberta did not want to go back to 1993 or 1994 when it had to make tough decisions. Now he is able to reinvest in his province and he is able to give out some bonuses, as did the premier of Ontario, for example. That is their prerogative.

It is important at this stage to talk about the tough decisions that we as a government had to make in 1993. We had a growing deficit after nine years of the Conservatives not being able to meet one of their budget targets. We had a growing debt that was out of control. Thanks to the Canadian people we carried out our commitment and balanced the books. We are lowering the debt consistently, and now we are in the same position as Mr. Klein, thank God, to reinvest in our country. Part of that reinvestment is looking at the high tech sector—

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

They do not want reinvestment; they want taxes down.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

I am glad the member for Peace River is talking about taxes. If we do not have the money, we cannot support the system, lower the debt and lower the deficit at the same time. That is voodoo economics. That is skidoo mathematics.

The government took a very responsible position, headed by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Industry and the new Minister of Industry. We made those tough decisions in a compassionate way. Yes, we created a lean government but it was not a mean government. We went to the people with commitments and promises we have kept. We are very proud.

The member touched upon payroll contributions. In 1993 they were pegged at $3.30 per $100. My colleague sits on the industry committee with me. He is a great participant with whom I have enjoyed spending time on the committee. They prefer to refer to payroll contributions as taxes, but as a former employer I call them contributions, as did the former leader of the Reform Party.

It is on record year after year that payroll contributions have been going down. Members opposite fail to accept this and ask why we have revenue. Let us talk about revenue. In 1993 we had 11.4% or 11.6% unemployment. We were having to put money out to support these people. Today we have over two million people working who are not taking out of the system but who are paying into it.

They talk about revenue and economic growth. I stand here proudly as I look at the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and the minister responsible for northern development who has invested in the north and created jobs. These people are working hard to put people to work.

The hon. member talks about tax equality. When I go to the doctor and I have an ache in my arm, he will start from that point and work his way. We did everything within our means to deliver compassion to the nation. I stand proud that the high tech industry the member talked about is growing by leaps and bounds.

There has been the creation of 2,000 21st century research chairs across country. The United States has MITs. Can we imagine having 2,000 MITs across our country? That is what it is all about. The government and the Prime Minister chose not to build monuments for the 21st century. They chose to invest in the future of the country, our youth, by creating the Canadian millennium scholarship endowment fund which is preparing our youth of today for the economy of tomorrow. That is one of the best investments we have made.

Let me close by saying that we have followed a very balanced approach. This is reflective of what we are doing by modernizing legislation permitting Canadian companies to compete locally and internationally. The member for Peace River referred to provincial barriers. I am hopeful in the future and with their co-operation we can move toward working with the provinces to bring down interprovincial barriers so that we can have mobility.

With our health care system we have sent a very strong statement to Canadians across the country that the Liberal federal government is adamant about protecting health care. It will enforce the Canada Health Act. It has put its money where its mouth is and we intend to continue in that direction.

In closing let me thank all the parties that co-operated to fast track Bill S-26 for the good of the country, for the good of Canadian people and for the good of Canadian companies.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the rather enthusiastic comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry this morning. Normally he is a very quiet individual, a thoughtful, low key and humble kind of man. Today he is not.

I wondered what would cause my friend to have a different approach today. Then I remembered that he is a hard working and determined guy who is dedicated to the Department of Industry. When he heard the Minister of Industry was leaving, I suspect he probably thought he would get an appointment, a better job.

What does the Prime Minister do? He reaches out into a provincial legislature, picks a guy who promised to serve out his term in Newfoundland and places him as Minister of Industry. Talk about Machiavellian politics. This has to be a case study in manipulation and so on.

I assume the enthusiasm of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry is a masking an extreme disappointment that he has been overlooked and our friend from Newfoundland has been brought back into cabinet in this eleventh hour cynical move. However that is the way the world is and there is not much we can do about it.

In his comments, my friend talked about the government's restoration of health care funding. What he failed to mention is that when all of the restoration takes place, it will only lift the federal contribution to the level it was at in 1994. I want to tell my friend this is not 1994. It is not 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 or 1999. It is the year 2000. In other words, to feel great about this whole thing and to pat himself on the back with both hands, to say that we have increased funding to the 1994 levels when we know populations have increased, when we know inflation has increased, is not really that great a contribution.

I will just say to my hon. friend, we are still looking for a little bit more, but the point is still well taken.

He also mentioned the investment the government has done. I will be the first to say, yes, in a balanced approach, there have been very useful investments in the high tech sector. We are a relatively well connected country, perhaps even, as he says, the most connected country in the world, but let me also remind my friend of other investments made. They were not investments in social housing because the government says that we do not have any money for social housing, but we do have money for luxury hotels and resorts and we do have money for golf courses all over central Canada.

To make the record clear, when my friend says we are investing in the economy, yes, he is investing in golf courses, hotels and resorts, but the government has not invested a single cent in social housing.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone CompanyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

An hon. member

That is not true.