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House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the member has been in the House and she does not know when the Prime Minister says we will be sitting that it is here. I will not be sitting on her lap. I will be here.

I have to make a correction. It was not a wet suit rental service. It was for upper class people, as they plan to do with their tax cut. It was a tuxedo rental company.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives a whole new picture of a lap dog, does it not?

Just a few months ago the Prime Minister was arguing that his HRD minister had really only lost $250.51. Now the public accounts show that oops, it is over $300 million. Which is it: $250.51 or $344,732,360.51?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should get her facts straight. Without question, my department always tries to collect outstanding debt.

This year's public accounts clearly show that only a very small portion of the written off debts involves grants and contributions. Rather, the vast majority of debts written off relate to the Canada student loans program. They refer to old debts deemed uncollectible because they have reached the statute of limitations or because the borrower has declared bankruptcy or has died.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois anticipated a surplus of about $20 billion for the current year, while the Minister of Finance said that the surplus would only be $5 billion.

Later on, the minister told us to wait for the opinion of the country's top economists. He spoke to them over the weekend and surely he must have told them about the size of the surplus.

Based on the figures that he has, and I am sure that he has some figures, could the minister tell the House what the surplus will be this year?

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we had preliminary discussions with the economists, but the Bloc Quebecois leader must know that there are other meetings to come. Once all these meetings have taken place and the economists have completed their work, because it is their projections, we will present these projections.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, last year, we were quite accurate when we projected what the surplus would be, which was far from being the case for the minister. The top economists said that the surplus would be between $18 billion and $20 billion.

Could it be that the reason the minister does not want to reveal these surpluses is that he knows full well that he took that money from the unemployed and that, under the changes to employment insurance, he will only give them back $300 million at best?

During the election campaign, in the coming days, the minister will talk about compassion, but could he show compassion for the unemployed now while we are sitting in the House and take appropriate action?

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I just said that a consensus will be reached based on the projections of the economists. These projections are not yet ready. As soon as they are, we will present them.

That being said, the reason for these surpluses is certainly our economic growth, which is one of the strongest in the world, our job creation, which is the strongest in the world, and the economy in general, which is doing very well in our country.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, with surpluses mushrooming at the rate of $94 million a day since last April, there are persistent rumours that the Minister of Finance will give in to the Bloc Quebecois' repeated requests that he bring down a mini-budget before the next federal election is called.

Will the minister assure us that his mini-budget will include tax cuts to match his huge surpluses, tax cuts aimed at middle and low income earners?

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have always said that our priority was to cut personal taxes, with priority going to middle and low income earners.

When it comes time to bring down a budget, I assure members that I will do so here in the House, not in an airplane or bus, as the leader of the Canadian Alliance suggested.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the Minister of Finance to be serious.

Last week, when I asked him whether he would be lowering taxes for families earning $35,000 or less, he said it had already been done.

How does he explain the answer he gave last week to those families watching today, families earning $35,000 or less, who are still filing tax returns every year and still paying taxes?

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the answer I gave last week is based on our budget, which cut taxes.

The answer I gave last week is entirely true, which is to say that, according to our forecasts, a family earning $35,000 will not pay any net taxes to the federal government.

HealthOral Question Period

October 4th, 2000 / 2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, prescription drugs are the fastest growing health care cost. Yet the government has still done nothing to address this crisis. Liberals have been promising year after year a national pharmacare plan for seniors, for hard pressed families, but they are still waiting.

Surely the health minister will take the opportunity at the meeting this week in Winnipeg to propose a national pharmacare plan to his health provincial counterparts.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Will there be a pharmacare plan in place before the next election?

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I think we are tabling a bill in the House of Commons either today or tomorrow on the agreement we signed with the provinces which includes all elements of medical services in Canada.

In our discussions with the provinces we discussed not only hospitals but medication too. Part of the agreement we have made with them is that some of the money which will be made available to them, something like $23 billion over the next five years, is to go toward helping the provinces to deal with the problem of pharmaceutical care for citizens within each province.

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is not the vaguest hint of a national pharmacare plan in the so-called agreement with provincial governments.

Canadians are sick to death of hearing vague talk about a possible discussion, about a future proposal for a pilot project that may or may not take place. They cannot take that to their local pharmacy and get the prescription drugs they need.

What Canadians need is a national pharmacare plan, the one the Prime Minister has been promising for seven straight years. Let me ask again: Will there be a national pharmacare plan in place before the next election?

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, after discussions with the three NDP premiers at the conference, they all agreed that the agreement we reached together was the way to cover all the elements of health care in Canada, including pharmacare.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. I welcome his assurance that he intends to give parliament the opportunity to live its full life.

However, in the event that some unforeseen circumstance might arise, I wonder if the Prime Minister can give the House his assurance that the full report of the auditor general will be made public on or before October 17, whether or not he goes to the polls.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the leader of the Conservative Party was.

I will repeat what I said before. On October 17 of this year the House of Commons of Canada will be sitting. I do not give instructions to the auditor general but he will be able to table his report. If he feels there is an urgency, under the law he can decide to table it earlier.

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

For the record, Mr. Speaker, I am treating that as an assurance that the full report of the auditor general will be made available to the public on or before the 17th.

I have a question about the health accord, an accord which we believe cheats the provinces out of $3 million because it is a post-dated cheque. Will the Prime Minister give the House an assurance now that legislation giving effect to the health accord will pass through this parliament before a general election is called?

HealthOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the bill will be introduced today. If the government proposes it, the opposition can dispose of it. If it wants, we can pass the bill without debate right away: one, two, three and it will be done. It depends on the opposition.

The money will be voted before March 31. I understand that the hon. member is not keen to seek the advice of the Canadian people but the Canadian people have the right to decide what kind of society they want for the years to come.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the latest tabling of the public accounts shows some figures that I think need to be explained by the HRD minister.

It shows that under her watch public money was written off to the tune of $50 million in 1997-98. That jumped incredibly to $280 million in 1998-99. This year it will jump even more, if that can be believed, to $344 million.

I invite the minister to explain why under her watch the write-offs of public money have increased so dramatically.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, let me again say to the hon. member that my department makes every effort to collect on outstanding debts and money owed to the government.

I can tell the hon. member that in this year's public accounts $547,000 of unrecovered money in grants and contributions are being written off. I note that these files are at least two to five years old.

With regard to the Canada student loans program, we are talking about $294 million. In fact, I need to correct the first number. It is $500,000, but when we are talking about Canada students loans it is $294 million and again—

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, those numbers are good and I am glad the minister actually has them but she did not answer the question.

The question was why the write-offs under her stewardship have risen so dramatically over the last three years, from $50 million to $280 million to $344 million. Where will it end? Is the minister looking after public money or not? She needs to be able to tell Canadians that she is.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to tell the Canadian people that we are looking after public money.

If the hon. member were serious about the issues that she has been raising she would have taken the time to read our second progress report which shows that my department is a very different place now than it was a year ago. We have implemented organizational changes to improve accountability. We have new systems in place that improve our monitoring and assessment of programs. We have hired new staff to help us with project management. And our performance tracking directorate is telling us that we are on track to do what we told the Canadians public we would do.

Women's MarchOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a few days, women from across Quebec and across Canada will begin marching to express their demands on the subjects of poverty and violence. At the initiative of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, marches will be held in 157 countries.

Could the Minister of Finance tell us today whether we will see specific measures for women, finally, in the mini budget he is preparing in order to dispose of the enormous surplus amassed since the start of the year?