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House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gas.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I guess my response will go back in the form of a question. Is this hon. member really saying or can he suggest to us that the province of Quebec will be there for the consumers like the Liberal Government of Canada?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on this issue. I have discussed the cost of gasoline in my region, a vast region in Quebec, on a number of occasions over the past few months.

I find the opposition motion rather timid. The Canadian Alliance is saying that taxes should be cut by 50%. We all agree that taxes should be lowered. It is important to lower taxes in order to help families, especially in vast regions such as that of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.

They forgot to do one thing that I have been doing for several months, and that is to speak about it in the House of Commons, to table bills and motions.

On February 29, I tabled a motion—it will not happen every four years because it was on February 29, it will happen every year—in which I said:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should make sure that all service stations display the base price per litre of gasoline or diesel at the pump, free of the federal and provincial taxes.

On February 16, I gave a speech on the price of gasoline.

On April 12, I tabled Bill C-476, an act respecting the posting of fuel prices by retailers, without taxes. What counts is the consumer filling up at the station. One day, Camil Aubé of Val-d'Or said to me “Guy, that costs too much. Lower the taxes”. He was right, and what counts is for consumers to have their say. It is the most important point in today's debate.

As I rise today in the House, there are people who are at home, listening to us. What is the price of a litre of gas? The government is being criticized because of the taxes, but not the oil companies.

Let me give you an idea of what makes up the price of a litre of gas in Val-d'Or, in the Sullivan area, and explain how things work.

First, the consumer filling up this evening in Val-d'Or, Sullivan or Dubuisson will pay 81.9 cents a litre. The federal excise tax is 10 cents, and the provincial road tax 10.55 cents. Back home, we do not have to pay the Montreal tax, which is 1.5 cents. We do not have that tax. There is also the GST, which is 4.8 cents, 5.33 cents. This means that, out of the 81.9 cents, there is 30.68 cents for taxes and 51.22 cents for fuel.

Why do we not post a price of 51.22 cents on the signs? Prince Edward Island lowered its taxes, but the very next day the oil companies raised the price of oil.

We should post the gross price, because when consumers walk into a store, they know that, if an item costs $17, it means $17 plus taxes. Why not do the same thing with oil companies and majors?

Let me give another example using this price of 81.9 cents a litre. Let me tell you how much retailers operating in Abitibi, where gasoline sells for 81.9 cents a litre, pay for each litre of the gasoline delivered to them. It costs 67.22 cents, including 10 cents for excise tax and 10.55 cents for Quebec's road tax.

Does the Canadian Alliance not know that every year the oil companies give bonuses to all gas stations: Petro Canada, Esso, Ultramar or Shell? If a retailer sells 1.5 million litres of gasoline at his station, he will have a nice little Christmas present of 1.2 cents for every litre sold over 1.5 million. If he does not sell 1.5 million, he will receive 1 cent for what he sold during the whole year.

In addition, I have here a confidential invoice from a retailer in my region. It shows that Petro Canada charges an amount for participating in the RRP. It comes to 14 cents and something, fourteen tenths of a cent, but RRP. Is this Shell's or Petro Canada's “régime de retraite des patrons” or employers' pension fund? We do not know. I am keen to find out.

Nunavik is a large area of Canada. It is the only riding in Canada with villages and communities above the 60th parallel. This evening, as we speak, a litre of gas costs $1.10. Of that, 30.4 cents is for taxes and the oil companies get 79.6 cents.

I spoke about the oil companies this afternoon, with Charlie Alaku from Kangiqsujuag, Adamie Alayco from Akulivik, Magie Emudluk from George River, and Pita Aatami. This is what is too bad and what the Alliance does not mention in its motion. The oil companies have to be put on the spot. We have to tell them: “Wake up. Advertise exactly what you are charging for a litre of gasoline”. We will look after the taxes. Quebec, Ontario the provinces or the government will look after the taxes. But we have to wake the oil companies up. They are ashamed to advertise the real price of gasoline.

In any event, I received many letters. I have one from the Minister of Finance in which he writes “I would like to begin by pointing out that there is no federal excise tax on fuel oil for home heating”.

Do people realize how much profit the provinces are making at this time on oil, gas and fuel? Fifteen billion dollars. How much for Canada? Perhaps $4 or $5 billion. I have a precise figure here, which I will give. In 1998-99, Canada made $4.267 billion on gas, and $437 million on diesel fuel.

Looking at the 2000-01 budget for the province of Quebec, last year it got $1.559 billion in fuel tax.

What is important, at any rate, is that the federal government made $4.5 billion and the provinces $15 billion. I am not complaining about the provinces, but I am saying that we pay one way or the other. We pay for gas, and we pay taxes as well. Yet why do the damned oil companies not display the price without tax? They are afraid to. The chairmen of their boards are afraid to tell people what the price of a litre of gas is, and I cannot understand this.

I have letters here from Petro-Canada, stating that the price is confidential. I have one from the Office de la protection du consommateur du Québec. I have filed a complaint against Petro-Canada in fact. It rejected my complaint in February saying “No, we will send you to Revenu Québec”.

Revenue Québec wrote me, and this is what is interesting, that “We know that this business practice is common among retailers selling gasoline in Quebec and that they do not indicate the gasoline tax separately on any document of sale. In this regard, the Quebec department of revenue is flexible and does not require retailers to comply with the provisions of section 12 if they wish to sell gasoline”. Take note: governments give orders but do not apply them.

I come back to the oil companies. They are listening to us today. Their political attachés are sitting and listening to us. They are right to listen, because I am angry with them, I am hopping mad and consumers are too. Every president of every company is listening, their political attachés and their secretaries. I say to them “Wake up. Display the price per litre of gasoline before taxes”. That way, we will have respect for the companies and we will know how much money they make. But they better wake up. This is important. They better wake up for consumers. This is not the fault of governments. Government deserves respect, but I oppose oil companies that do not display the before tax price per litre of gasoline.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the Liberal Party member. I think he has just given us all the solutions his government ought to put forward but fails to put forward. It has the power to take action but does not. Why? The member has said that the government has powers it is not using. I have a question for him. I belong to a coalition which is defending consumers against gasoline price increases. We have been bringing pressure to bear for a year and a half now. We have boycotted Petro-Canada and now it is Ultramar. People in my riding no longer go to Ultramar and they did the same with Petro-Canada. I ask my colleague this: If tomorrow morning we were to tell the Canadian government to suspend its excise tax and its GST and to tax the oil companies' profits, would he agree?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member has made a very interesting comment. We are here to find solutions. Today I looked at the price of gas at the Canadian Tire on Talbot. It is 79.4 cents a litre. It is important to talk about the oil companies. Petro-Canada has a sign posted near one of its pumps pointing out that taxes account for 51%, but does not indicate whether this 51% is being levied by the provinces or the Canadian government. This is misleading advertising on Petro-Canada's part.

I come back to the hon. member's question. It is a very good one and it is together that we are going to find solutions. We must. Right now, Canada's Minister of Finance is trying to find solutions. It is also important that they come not just from him but from all provincial finance ministers as well as those in the territories and Nunavut.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by the Liberal member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, in which he referred to a notice of motion that he presented to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, on February 29, 2000.

That motion was relatively timid, particularly since I had tabled one on February 10, 2000, which went a lot further. That motion read in part:

—to identify and recommend, as soon as possible, concrete means to fight the abusive increase of petroleum product prices and to regulate petroleum product prices on a permanent basis.

That document was tabled on February 10. It listed very specific measures, but the Liberal majority rejected it. Today, the member said that the Canadian Alliance motion was timid. It is timid, but it is based on important values. Some people pledged to increase the tax to fight the deficit. There is no longer any deficit. We have a surplus. Now, we must remove that tax.

Then there is the issue of double taxation. This is also an important principle. Even if the Canadian Alliance motion is timid, the fact is that it is a wake up call for the government. The motion of the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik is a big to-do about nothing. It is like the elephant labouring to bring forth a mouse.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. member for Sherbrooke did not understand. We have no elephants in my riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, just caribou and moose, and that is important.

There is one thing the hon. member has not understood. At present, the price of gas in Sherbrooke is 83.9 cents a liter. It is 81.9 cents in Abitibi. This evening I am addressing the truckers in Montreal, those who are at home tonight. In Montreal, Lucien Bouchard's provincial tax is 15.2 cents. How can it be that diesel is 16.2 cents, or one cent more, whereas we are collecting 10 cents everywhere on gas and 4 cents on diesel.

It is a cent more for truckers on Montreal Island, who pay more than all others. I agree, we must find solutions together.

That is how we are going to work. One day we will win out, and we will be winning for the consumer, ourselves included. I have appreciated their speeches. They have put as much effort into it as we, and sometimes the message does not get across.

The important thing, it is true, is that we work together as a family, but one day the government is going to have to get our message, and the provinces as well.

SupplyThe Royal Assent

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

September 21, 2000

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Charles Gonthier, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy Governor General, will proceed to the Senate chamber today, the 21st day of September, 2000 at 6.00 p.m., for the purpose of giving royal assent to a certain bill.

Yours sincerely,

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Rick Casson Reform Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a supply motion by the official opposition. The official opposition gets to pick the topic of debate about seven to nine times a year and only some of those are votable. We take supply day motions very seriously. We put a lot of thought into them and we try to come up with something we feel would be a help to Canadians. Today we have seen something happen that concerns me a bit.

This is our day to pick a topic for debate, to pick the wording, to put it on the floor of the House for all sides to have a chance to go at it.

This morning after our first two speakers spoke, the government tried to implement an amendment but we had already made an amendment to the motion, so it could not be done. The government asked for unanimous consent. This is our day. This is our chance, one of very few. The government can pick the agenda every other day of the year, but on this day let us have ours. To try to confuse the issue by doing what it did today is not being straightforward with Canadians.

The people who have been phoning my office complaining about the price of gas and the tax on gas are farmers, people on fixed incomes, seniors, single parents and families struggling to get by. They are looking for a break from government and members of parliament and here we are going around and around over some foolish issue that is not getting to the gist of the problem.

People have been watching this debate today hoping something will come out of it to help them out at the end of the month. What have they learned? What have they seen? I do not think they appreciate very much what they have seen here today.

Our party is asking for two simple things. One is to take off a temporary tax that was put on to eliminate the deficit. Thanks to the same hardworking Canadians who phone my office asking for a tax break, that deficit has been eliminated. Why is the tax still there when there is a $12 billion surplus? Why is the tax there when the revenue from tax on gasoline this year is going to be $13 billion? We are talking about billions of dollars flowing around and we cannot give hardworking Canadians a 1.5 cent per litre tax break on a tax that when implemented was to be temporary. This I am sure does not add up in their minds.

The other thing we are asking to be done today is that the compounding tax on a tax on a tax, the GST on the tax portion of gas, be moved down so it is only put on the portion of the gas from supply and production. Do not be compounding tax. In the early days when the government tried to sell us the GST back in our other world, we said no. The government said it would not be compounded and here it is.

Those are the two things we are asking for today. I have no idea where all this other stuff came into the debate today. That is the gist of our motion. We were hoping for support from all sides of the House for Canadians who get up every day and wonder where the heck they are going to get an extra $10 a month to fill their tanks.

With regard to gasoline, we are talking about diesel fuel that truckers use to haul the supplies around the country, the supplies that feed us, clothe us and house us. Every time the price of fuel goes up, every commodity that travels on a train, in an airplane or on anything that burns fuel goes up in price. Would it not be nice if we could take the temporary tax off and give consumers a break, but here we go around and around in some wrangling way to try to confuse the issue.

I give full credit to the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge. He is a member of the House for whom I have a lot of respect. A lot of people on all sides of the House have a lot of respect for him because of the stance he is taking. He has taken on a lot of issues. This is a real good piece of work that he and his colleagues have done. After what I have seen today I am starting to question that kind of action on a simple straightforward motion such as we brought forward today.

A year ago in a minority report that we attached to the report on the safety net programs for farmers that the agriculture committee was looking at, we asked the government to lower the input cost to farmers because again there is a compounding effect. It raised the price of all the products produced. It raised the price of shipping grain, shipping the products to market, the retail aspect of it and moving them around the country. We asked if the government could do that to help lower fuel costs to help reduce farmers' cost.

Yesterday I read an article that was in the Western Producer . Statistics Canada said that in total 26,200 fewer people are working in the agricultural industry in western Canada on the prairies this fall than there were last fall. Why is that? That should be of no surprise to anybody. The farm community is hurting and it is not only the farmers. I am talking about the farm community and the industries in the cities that support the agriculture industry. For that to get shovelled by is wrong.

We have been telling the government there is a crisis in the agricultural community that it has to address. It has to lower the input cost to producers. This is just one example of what the fuel tax is doing. The government has not done that.

Some 26,200 fewer people are involved in farming this fall than last fall. That is a crime. I am a little embarrassed to say today that I was involved in the House when all this wrangling was going on, when Canadians were looking for a solution and did not get one.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 5.15 p.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forth forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Pursuant to the order made on Wednesday, September 20, the recorded division on the amendment stands deferred until Tuesday, September 26, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

It being 5.18 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Apprenticeship National Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

moved that Bill C-318, an act to require the establishment of national training and certification standards for trades that receive apprenticeship training, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a long road to get to the point where we could bring this issue to the floor of the House of Commons.

In a nutshell, let me just explain the principle. We have a situation in the country where apprenticeship training does not rise to the same standards that we see in other countries around the world. I will go into some details to give a comparison, for example with Germany.

Yet we have young people right across Canada who are looking for opportunities that may not follow in what is perhaps some of the more popular areas today such as IT, high technology or something of that nature. They are interested in working in construction, in building trades, at being plumbers and at being carpenters. They are working with their hands. They also require a great deal of technological training today, unlike our forefathers from several years ago when the latest technology was not available.

I think there is a fundamental problem in our society that led me some three and a half years ago when I arrived on Parliament Hill to draft a private member's bill. It was not easy, I might add, to get the bureaucracy in Ottawa to even agree to draft it. I will go into the reasons for that in a moment.

I wanted to draft a private member's bill telling young people that if they became apprentices, if they received a ticket for whatever trade they wished to pursue in the province of Ontario, and if they received an opportunity to work in that trade in the provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta or Newfoundland, they would be able to do that. Their apprenticeship ticket or licence would be recognized equally in every province, territory, region, municipality, village and community in Canada.

Sadly that is not the case today. It came as a great surprise to me to find out that we did not have the necessary procedures in place to allow for the mobility of our young people to ply their given trade across the country. I did some research. I met with people in the trade labour movement, particularly in the building and construction trades, to find out why this was.

I was informed that we have a system called the red seal system for registering trades. There is a copy of it here. It is fairly extensive. It covers 44 trades across the country. The principle is that if one receives a red seal designation it should therefore qualify one as an apprentice anywhere in Canada. One of the fundamental problems, and I think this goes to the heart of our constitution, is that not all provinces and territories recognize all 44 of these trades with the red seal designation.

Certainly some of the more obvious ones, mechanics and cooks or jobs of that nature, are recognized in most of the provinces but many are not. I would also submit to the House that there could be more than 44 trades involved in apprenticeship training across the country.

I was surprised when I arrived here to see the resistance from the bureaucracy. I asked what the problem was and was told that it was not federal jurisdiction. I asked the bureaucracy to help me understand. I argued about it. I understood that we had entered into training agreements and labour agreements with provinces and were at that time currently negotiating with the province of Ontario. We had agreements on the table with other provinces, but I am not talking about delivering the service of apprenticeship training. I am not talking about the actual physical educational process that might take place in a combination of learning on the job in the workplace and then attending a community college in my province or some other learning institution in other provinces.

I do not want to interfere in that. I happen to believe that the delivery of education is better handled by the provincial governments in co-operation with the school boards and with other training associations.

We may get involved, and do indeed with HRDC funding, in many of these areas where we will provide some money for these training institutions and directly channel that money to the young people who are taking the training. We do that all the time. In fact, we have seen hysteria in this place by members opposite about some of the funding from HRDC that has gone out to help these young people. That hysteria has caused a great deal of difficulty for those young people.

I do not want to interfere in provincial jurisdiction. There are those who support my bill, and I am going to share with the House who some of those people are. In addition to some members here, the critic from the NDP party from Winnipeg has been a great supporter and a believer in it. It is supported by other people in most of the provinces, if not all, in many of the ridings and communities represented by members on both sides of the House. I normally get a little partisan, but this is not a partisan issue. This is about our young people.

I cannot for the life of me understand why my own government, if it is opposed to, or the people opposite would be opposed to putting in place national standards for a young person who registers for a program or gets a job. My own son is 25 years old. He is a bright young guy. He takes after his mother obviously. He decided he wanted to be an apprentice electrician. He obtained a job. He enrolled at community college for the educational portion of it. Should he be able to work anywhere in the country? He is a Canadian citizen born in this country, educated in this country. He received an apprenticeship licence in this country but he cannot go to Quebec or he cannot go to Newfoundland because his ticket does not allow him that mobility.

Frankly, not allowing that runs contrary to the social union contract which was signed by every province save the province of Quebec. Let us think about that. The social union contract called for mobility in educational activities across Canada. It was signed by all the provinces except the province of Quebec. We understand the reluctance of Quebec to sign on to anything that would promote national unity or any kind of national activity. That is no surprise. I am not surprised that the Bloc Quebecois would be opposed to this initiative in this private bill.

At first I was a little surprised to learn that Canadian Alliance members were opposed to it, but then I guess I understand that their vision of this country is to devolve all authority and all responsibility down to the provincial level. To use the term used by our Prime Minister, he said that they wanted to be a head waiter for the provinces, that that is the role the federal government would fulfil.

Members of the Canadian Alliance would oppose this kind of national initiative because it runs contrary to their support for devolution of authority and power and the absolute dismantlement of the federal government because of their provincial views, very narrow views I might add.

I ask members to think about who has supported this bill. This bill has changed titles because of the recess of this place, but it is the same bill with a different number. It received support from business, received support from organized labour, received support from the educational community, and received support from numerous colleagues in this place. It is a bill that has a vision attached to it that would benefit all young people.

Too often in our generation, those of us in this place, we think in terms of our sons and daughters becoming doctors and lawyers, becoming experts in certain fields of technology. What will happen when the day comes when we can no longer get the workers we need to build the infrastructure, the workers we need to build the communities, the roads, the highways, the sewers, the waterpipes, the bricklayers? In fact I have had an experience where a constituent of mine was attempting to get some bricklayers and he could not get them. The union could not provide them. Do members know where he had to go to find them? It was not to Newfoundland, not to Nova Scotia. He had to go to Portugal.

Does it make sense if we have an opportunity to provide training and apprenticeships for our young people in Canada to learn how to become bricklayers, to make the kind of wonderful living that a good quality, well trained bricklayer can make, for us to be looking to Portugal to import workers?

Obviously there are situations, and the trade labour movement will support this, where one-off projects require us to use our immigration system to go out around the world to find particular workers so that we can build a particular project that will indeed save, keep and create jobs for Canadians. These are temporary worker permits and they are issued all the time.

It would not happen overnight, but one of the ways we could solve these shortages would be to encourage our young people to become apprentices, to make them proud to become bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers. Why should they not be? What honourable professions those are. This place should reflect society and frankly, society has lost sight of the true honour of working in those professions.

Let me share with hon. members a letter from the Canadian Labour Force Development Board supporting the original bill. This is from Brian Skrogs, business co-chair, and Joe Maloney, labour co-chair. This is a business-labour coalition, both sides of the spectrum. In a letter to me they said “It is our pleasure to inform you that at our meeting of June 10, 1998 there was unanimous support for supporting the bill”.

It is bipartisan unanimous support from business and labour. That is a national organization. It understands. It does not have parochial views. It is not concerned about constitutional matters. It does not care about jurisdiction and who does what. It cares about having good quality opportunities available that will create the mobility right across the land of having young Canadians do apprenticeship work in every community.

Another letter is from the Building and Construction Trades Department, affiliated with the AFL-CIO which is a huge organization. In a letter that went out to all members of parliament, it stated “We would urge the government to adopt this bill as government legislation. Further we would ask all members to support this bill, either as a private members' bill or as a government bill”.

The Building and Construction Trades Department has offices here in Ottawa and it represents people right across the country. Once again it is not concerned about jurisdiction. What it wants to see is some national standards.

Let me add that what is most interesting is that we agreed in negotiations on the bill that we would adopt the highest standards in the land which I believe are from Alberta. We would adopt the Alberta standards as national standards. I am not being parochial and saying that it has to be Ontario's way. I want the best. I want the best standards that are available to help our young people.

There is a letter urging that the government and all members support the bill from the Bridge Structural Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers. It is an international union. This letter is to the federal minister of labour at the time from its international headquarters in New York City. It states:

Approximately three years ago at the first ministers meeting it was agreed that they would relax certain interprovincial trade barriers, one of which was the mobility of labour. However we now find ourselves in a virtual gridlock relevant to labour mobility due to the fact that certain provinces have red seal standards while others do not. Therefore, I would once again respectfully request that you endorse the bill.

I have dozens of letters from unions and business groups in every province right across Canada. I have letters from Newfoundland, New Brunswick and from Ontario in abundance. One is from the United Transportation Union and states “I am pleased that somebody has finally found the wherewithal to introduce a bill that makes such plain sense”. And it does make plain common sense.

I know there is opposition to the bill. I am pleading with those who have decided not to support the bill to reconsider that. I appreciate those who are supporting it. This is not partisanship. This is not about nation building. This is not about separatism or a national debate on Quebec. This is about our young people, about their future and their opportunities to pursue apprenticeship programs that will be recognized and effective from sea to sea to sea.

Apprenticeship National Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2000 / 5:35 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and respond to the member opposite.

First I would like to back up and describe what apprenticeship really means. Actually there is some interesting history.

The apprenticeship system for training trades workers is historic. For centuries skilled trades people had an obligation to teach their craft to the young. After an apprentice had satisfactorily completed the full term of training and had demonstrated his ability, he became a journeyman. A journeyman means he could travel around from one job to another; hence the journeyman trade. This is what we are talking about here.

My background is somewhat interesting. I went to Vancouver technical school. I am disappointed that they have moved away from this but in those days, most of the school was trades. Heavy duty mechanics, auto mechanics, printing, sheet metal, carpentry were all started in grade eight. In grade eight students made a decision. They could go through a university course which was fine, but many of the students did not want to do that and they went into the trades. When they came out of grade 12, they were well on their way to being journeymen. They substantially shortened the timeframe and the young men and women were well trained and well on their way.

I am really disappointed that our education system has gone away from that. I think we are missing a fair bit of the boat by trying to push everyone into the same mould and send everyone off to university when in fact we need plumbers, we need people to build our houses, we need skilled operators of various equipment.

In my background in forestry, I spent 25 years in the woods with large logging equipment. A grapple yarder can cost over $1 million alone. An off-highway truck carries 100 tonnes of logs. One can understand the size of this equipment. We had an excellent apprentice training system in our heavy duty shop.

I am not unfamiliar with the apprenticeship programs, but that is straying from the bill a bit. We are not talking about apprenticeships because we all recognize that a good apprenticeship program is valuable. What we are talking about is certification and who is going to run the boat.

I understand why the member was having some difficulty introducing the bill. Clearly it is provincial jurisdiction. That is where we are having some difficulty with it. It is an overlap that is already covered by the provinces. It is not only trades, it is doctors and dentists. I am a professional forester. It is foresters. Provinces cover education. Provinces cover certification. Why would we need a national standards program when we already have in place provincial laws that deal with apprenticeships?

I agree that there needs to be more interaction between industry and the provinces. The red seal where people can travel from one province to another needs to be improved. I recognize that. However I and my party do not think the answer is a national standards program for apprentices.

On that basis we reject the provisions in the bill because it is clearly duplication. In effect it is almost another way of the big federal government wanting to edge in on the provinces' authorities. That is the reason we have some difficulty with the bill. It is not apprenticeship at all. That is not the issue. The issue is certification and who is going to run it. Therefore we will not be supporting the bill.

Apprenticeship National Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I somewhat have the impression that I am repeating myself by speaking to this bill, Bill C-318, the purpose of which is to establish apprentice training and certification standards that will be recognized Canada-wide.

We must remember there was an epic battle in Quebec in order to reach an agreement on manpower, so that Quebec, and not the separatists or the sovereignists, but all of Quebec in total agreement including the provincial Liberals, the Action démocratique du Québec and, obviously, the Parti Quebecois, which forms the government of Quebec, along with all the social stakeholders, to enable Quebec to recover jurisdiction over it.

Today, with respect to Bill C-318, I am a bit surprised that we have to have this debate once again. We must remember—and this is the same example we had in health care—that the government of Quebec had to fight for more than a year to obtain recognition of the jurisdictions in health care so that, in the end, with the support of Ontario, the federal government would agree to sign an agreement respecting their jurisdiction over health care.

Today, on the subject of manpower training, recognition of training, this looks like a repeat to us, as if the Liberals are afflicted with the malady of always wanting to meddle in provincial jurisdiction.

When the member says that it is not a national issue, I say to him that it is at least a jurisdictional issue and a matter of efficiency. The provinces already have responsibilities in the area of training. In Quebec we have already come a long way on this. When the bill speaks of setting up a national apprenticeship organization with a mandate to set training and qualification standards for the trades they apply to, it is clear that this is duplication of the work that can be done in the individual provinces.

In this regard, additional bureaucracy will be created. Just imagine. We all know about the efficiency of government bureaucracy. In the area of human resources development, we saw how effective the federal government could be. We saw how, when it comes to taking concrete and day to day measures, this government could end up making a mess, being terribly inefficient and totally missing the mark.

Why should we add another area where federal public servants would evaluate how apprenticeship training is carried out in a province, and end up before the courts seeking legal opinions on jurisdictional issues, when everything is clear? As the member pointed out, already, in some areas, the provinces can voluntarily adhere to standards that are recognized from province to province. So why add an area in which the federal government has no expertise, no jurisdiction and no knowledge?

If the member feels that it is absolutely necessary for the federal government to be responsible for these things, he should seek a constitutional change so that the whole issue of manpower training and education would fall under federal jurisdiction. But Quebec would never agree to that of course. The jurisdiction over education is one of the main reasons why Quebec entered the Canadian confederation in 1867. It was a sine qua non condition to going ahead and signing that pact.

Since then, we have realized that this jurisdiction over education should be extended, to allow us to take effective action in the whole area of manpower. There is absolutely no question of backtracking now. Three years after Quebec took over manpower training, after a more difficult beginning but where there is now practical, functional interaction between the parties to the satisfaction of local communities, it would be very inappropriate to now go back to a system where the federal government decides on the relevance of training given in Quebec or Manitoba.

The member seems to be confusing “national” with “federal”. The federal parliament is not the boss.

Apprenticeship National Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Apprenticeship National Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, some members of the House should wait their turn to speak, so that I can use my time more effectively.

I will conclude by saying that this bill, which came about because of the goodwill of a member who thought that there must be a simpler way to do things, has not taken into account the context of jurisdiction, of how things operate in Canada, and still seems to view the provinces as branch offices of the federal government. This they are not—they are their own entities, with jurisdictions that must be respected.

If the Canadian government does indeed have major problems in this area, if it needs major structural changes in order to be able to fulfill its international role as a federal government when signing international agreements, then I have one that can be concluded rapidly: that the federal government, Canada and any provinces prepared to do so conclude an agreement, while Quebec as a sovereign country may assume its full responsibilities and be a presence on the international scene like the Canadian government, for those agreements desired by the people of English Canada.

As long as we are living in the Canadian system as it exists at present, with responsibilities given to each province, it would be totally inappropriate, insufficient and the source of major duplication, to be putting money into such a duplicated system.

It is certain that there is a huge surplus on the federal level, and perhaps they are looking for ways to use it without having to give it back to the taxpayers. There is nothing better for raising a government's profile than having money available.

In the present case, however, it would be doing a disservice to both Quebecers and Canadians to impose such a double structure on them. I hope this idea will die on the order paper today and that we will have the assurance in future that such backward thinking will be not repeated, with its reference to a philosophy far different than the one that has guided manpower agreements, that is devolution.

Apprenticeship National Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, there is not much in this world that I know a lot about, frankly, but this is one subject on which I actually do have great personal knowledge.

I am a journeyman carpenter myself and for many years I represented carpenters as a union leader and I did get to deal with the issue of labour market training a great deal. I can honestly say that the very worthwhile bill put forward by the member for Mississauga West absolutely meets a need in industry that was plain and obvious to me, and to anyone who has ever actually had experience in the industry that I represented.

One of the members from the Alliance said that apprenticeship was an ancient tradition, and he is right, but it goes back even farther than he said. It can be traced back to the ancient Babylonian code of Hanurabi, which was the first written reference of a need or an obligation for skilled workers to pass on their skills to the next generation.

I do not think anybody who I have heard speak so far has any problem with the model of apprenticeship. In fact, most people spoke glowingly about what a suitable method it was for the communication of craft trade skills and what a necessary aspect it was of any human resources or labour market strategy.

Where we find faults and what the industry has been telling us for years is that labour market training and the apprenticeship systems in this country are like a patchwork quilt. Virtually every province has its own way of doing things, its own curriculum, its own entrance requirements and its own certification methodology. As a result, as the member for Mississauga pointed out, mobility has really been threatened.

A carpenter who took his or her apprenticeship training in Nova Scotia cannot just move to Alberta when there is a boom and work there because it is a different set of skills. The employers do not know what they are getting as there is no standardized curriculum. Even more important, the customers of the construction industry service do not know what kind of a quality job they will get because there is no standardization.

For years now within the building trade but also beyond, for instance, in the auto industry, the piping trades, any place that has apprenticeship training as an aspect of the work environment, there has been a call for national standards, to somehow pull all these diverse groups working in isolation across the country together under one kind of central committee, a central umbrella. We can call it what we want. I see that the hon. member, in his bill, calls it NATO, national apprenticeship and training organization. We used to throw around the term NATAC, national apprenticeship and training advisory committee. Whatever we want to call it, it should be a forum where business, labour and government could sit down, compare notes, develop standardized curricula and a standardized set of rules for the delivery of training without interfering in the provincial jurisdiction.

We have been aware that this would be a sore point, especially with the province of Quebec. We knew that we would meet resistance there, but no one is talking about the federal government or any national agency interfering with the delivery of the service. All we are asking for is a consultation forum where a group in the province of Quebec, for instance the CCQ, the Commission de la construction de Québec, would be represented on this national organization. They would say “In our province, our entrance requirement is that one has to have grade 10. It is a four year program and the curriculum looks like this. How does that compare with your program in Manitoba?”. If there are any problems then those two would have to be aligned to guarantee the ease of mobility so that Canadian workers could work anywhere in Canada and Canadian industry could be assured that they were getting a known commodity when they hire, and I will use the example of a carpenter because that is my trade.

Apprenticeship as an education model is so well-suited for even today's new industries, even the high tech field, because the people who are involved are not really students. They have an attachment to the workforce. They actually have a job so they are earning while they learn. It is a model that we believe should be expanded far beyond the 44 current trades in Canada.

One hon. member mentioned Germany. The country of Germany has 440 apprenticeable trades. People can apprentice in almost any discipline they can think of. The regimen is outlined in a clear way. They would get a certification so that they could actually call themselves a skilled x , y , or z , whatever occupation they happen to apprentice in.

We believe that having these national apprenticeship and training advisory committees, or NATO committees, in each of the apprenticeable trades would not only serve the needs of industry in providing highly skilled workers of a predictable known quantifiable level of training, but it would also help to promote and expand the whole concept of apprenticeship in a much wider way than currently is enjoyed.

I am terribly disappointed that the government has not seen fit to adopt this idea. We have a minister of human resources but we really do not have a national human resources strategy because we have offloaded that to the provinces. Some people say that is a good thing and some people are not as pleased with that, but at least the federal government should still see that it has a role in ensuring that the delivery of training, which has been signed over to the provinces through various labour training agreements, is at least being taught with a certain set of standards so that they would know they are getting proper value for their investment into labour market training if for no other reason.

I believe the government has missed the boat. I believe it is not only not listening to the member who put the bill forward, it is not listening to industry. It is not listening to key industrial sectors that very much want this. This idea did not just come out the blue. The member did not just wake up one morning and say “I think we should do this”. We are making an effort to meet a demand by the building trades industry, which is the largest single employer in the country. The construction industry and certainly the auto industry, any of the industries that have sectoral councils or are dealing with labour market training other than post-secondary education, are very interested in this model.

When I raise the sectoral council, I believe there is a precedent for the federal government to have a role in setting national standards and that is the model right there. In the auto industry, for instance, there is CARS, which is a tripartite group made up of labour, business and management. They get together and not only set curriculum, they can talk about other things. They can talk about forecasting the labour market needs in that sector and what the intake should be of new people into those skilled trades to meet their anticipated needs. It brings together the actual stakeholders in the training around one central table.

It would not be a costly factor either. In our dialogue with industry most industries have pretty much accepted that they will have to dig into their pockets to fund this sort of thing sooner or later. There was not much opposition to some kind of a training levy being put forward to actually run the nuts and bolts.

All the federal government would really have to do is create the environment. The funding source could be some kind of a joint labour-management contribution in some models. That is what we did in our union. Every hour that a carpenter worked he paid 10 cents into a labour market training fund which was matched by the employer. We would then use that money for the training of our members.

In the province of Quebec they have things figured out in a better way with their 1 per cent training levy which employers willingly pay so that they can count on a high level of labour market training for the workers they very much need.

There is a precedent for this type of thing with the sectoral council. There is a need and a demand, as clearly articulated by industry sectors. The government has missed the boat in choosing not to support this very worthwhile bill.

If we did have the type of national standards that we are talking about, perhaps more young people would be motivated to go into the skilled trades, the apprenticeship trades. As was pointed out, there can be very high paying, satisfying careers in the skilled trades.

We often get this blue collar stigma where people are not willing or this kind of a feeling that one only goes into the trades if one drops out of mainstream education. There are satisfying careers, highly skilled workers in these fields and great entrepreneurial opportunities that come out of the skilled trades. Once one achieves a certain level of proficiency as a bricklayer or as a carpenter one can hang out a shingle and hire two or three friends, and all of a sudden we have another small business starting.

For these and all the other good reasons this bill should have been deemed votable. It should have been passed and in fact it should have been picked up by the government and introduced as a government side bill. My compliments to the member for Mississauga West for bringing forth this important issue for debate, if for nothing else.

Apprenticeship National Standards ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to speak to this bill today. It is always enlightening to sit in the House and hear the different points of view.

Actually the hon. member for Mississauga West has almost started a mini constitutional debate here with this issue. We can see from the philosophical positions of the speakers how they accept or reject this approach. In general, if one agrees with a strong central government with national standards for everything like health care, education and training, then one would support this bill. Personally I do not see how we cannot support the bill.

However, if one does not agree with a strong central government and believes that we should have a country with an array of strong provincial governments, with no real strong central government, I suppose one could oppose it. I would certainly support it and I admire the energy and initiative of the hon. member in bringing it forth.

I happen to live at the intersection of three provinces: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I have always been involved with the trades one way or another. I will list some of them: plumbing, electrical, welders, carpenters, mechanics, body shop repair and parts. These are all trades that require apprenticeships or some form of training. The standards for these three provinces change so that there is no mobility from one province to another in a very small area. We are talking of the radius of maybe 100 kilometres at the most where the three provinces intersect and the rules change. The rules are different for each trade. A set of national standards as proposed by this bill makes imminent sense to me. It would certainly help in my specific area.

If one wants to employ or train someone in the trades, the present system is to begin most likely through the community college in a town called Springhill, Nova Scotia, or there is another community college in New Brunswick, the Moncton Community College. Again, two provinces, two sets of standards and a different level of education from both of them. The trades people graduate. They have their diploma, but still they are trained in different ways with different standards. Again this bill would address that.

I personally believe that a bill such as this one would help in a lot more ways than just uniform standards. As the last speaker mentioned, he said it would motivate other standards in these fields. I think that is true. If these trades had national standards they would achieve a better level of recognition and legitimacy for a lot of people who might not think it is a good place to go or might not be inclined to go in the direction of a trade when all the pressure is on to go into high tech, IT technology training and things like that, or to go on to university. Maybe they would rather do a trade but because of the image it has or may have in their own mind they may not want to do it. However, if it has national recognition and national standards they would be more inclined to do it.

Such a program would enhance the community college system. This is a very important and is a critical element of the educational process. Not everybody will be a computer whiz or go into the high tech industry. The community college systems, in my opinion, have always been deprived of the recognition they deserve and the money they deserve. All the focus has been on university and other high tech forms of education. Community colleges really play a key role. They are the forum of education that best trains people for a specific job. I have often felt they are underutilized and under recognized.

Also, such a set of standards would raise the level of standards itself. As the member said, they would accept the highest standard in the land for each trade. How could we go wrong with that? There has to be good positive results from this.

Certainly, just the fact that we could have uniform standards across the country is good. We are famous in Atlantic Canada for exporting our most valuable asset. Atlantic Canadians are going to other parts of the country because job opportunities in Atlantic Canada are not like they are in some other areas. National standards would expedite that process but it would also expedite the process for them coming back at a later date, which is what we all want.

In general, this is a very practical and good bill. I totally support the bill because of my personal hands-on experience in everything the bill stands for. I believe the bill should receive approval and I am sorry it is not votable. If it was I would be voting for it and I am sure my party would be as well.