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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will indeed keep my question very brief. I do not know what happens to people when they become part of a majority government. I will not use any pejorative terms but when the member used to come to finance committee as a witness, he dealt pretty forthrightly with all the facts of the economy. We appreciated him as a witness.

Now he is parliamentary secretary to the finance minister and unfortunately he has joined the mantra of the Liberals in saying things that are disingenuous, if I may quote a word he used. I refer, among other things, to his using the term $100 billion. This is an annual budget. He speaks continuously of this $100 billion tax cut. The motion we are debating today and one of the things that our party took exception to was the report talking about the $100 billion tax cut. It just is not so.

From an annual point of view, because the $100 billion refers to a five year period, it is $20 billion per year on average, not $100 billion. It is $20 billion for an annual budget and it is just wrong for him to pass this off as a $100 billion tax cut. It is not.

Second, even within that $100 billion it is less than that amount because he has failed to take into account that a large portion of the presumed tax cut is simply a failure to collect taxes that were previously announced. If I say I will charge someone $100 for something and then later on say it will be $120, and he objects so I say I will bring it down to $110, have I given him $10? No, I have not. I am still taking $10 more. That is what the government is doing with this spin.

I said I would be brief but I find it difficult. Let us hear how brief the parliamentary secretary can be in his answer.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief because the hon. member has said nothing of substance. Yes, it is $100 billion over five years. I have said myself that it is $17 billion this year. We are not hiding that. It is a fact. By the way, $17 billion is a lot of money. It is the biggest tax cut of any G-7 country this year.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments for the learned, or formerly learned, member opposite.

I am very surprised when I hear the members opposite say that those nasty separatists from Quebec are asking for additional tax points.

Does the learned member opposite think that Jean Charest, the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, is a nasty separatist? Is that what he thinks Mario Dumont, leader of the ADQ, is? For they too are asking that tax points be transferred.

The member opposite should get out of his ivory tower in Toronto and come to Quebec to see what this morning's papers, the Gazette , La Presse , and so on, have to say. All of them must be separatist papers, because they are critical of the federal government's budget. The federal government has generated its surplus on the backs of the poor, the unemployed, and women, and by cutting social transfer payments. That, dear learned colleague, is the sad reality.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I simply wish to remind the House that any member who speaks, from whichever side, must address his remarks to the Chair. I would ask the hon. member to put his question so that we may now resume debate.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry for having got carried away and allowing my frustration to show.

I would like the member to comment on the notorious sleight of hand in the Minister of Finance's budget with respect to corporate taxes, when he says that the government will be deferring the installment payments of small businesses for the months of January, February and March 2002 for six months in order to help them with their immediate cash flow needs. The government says that this will mean a shortfall of $2 billion. But on April 1, it will say that—

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I am trying to give members of every party a chance to speak. I call on the parliamentary secretary to comment now.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois members seem to be getting a bit worked up.

I never said that separatists were the only ones asking for tax points. It is a fact that the present government of Quebec is a separatist government.

As for the measures allowing SMBs to pay six months later, SMBs said they were very happy with them. It was never a question of handing over $2 billion. The idea was to improve their cashflow in a downturn. That is what we have done, and SMBs are happy.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a brief question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance concerning the provision in the budget for a $12 fee for each leg of a round trip flight. As the parliamentary secretary would know, this will impose a very serious hardship on many Canadian travellers and have a very adverse impact on the travel industry, in particular on smaller airlines.

I want to point out that on flights which may be very short flights, Vancouver to Victoria, for example, flights of a very limited duration that have very low fares and may cost under $100, this would result in something like a 25% increase overall in the cost of that fare.

I want to ask the parliamentary secretary a very serious question in terms of the possibility that the government might be willing to re-examine this issue or, at the very least, if it is not prepared to eliminate or significantly reduce this $24 additional burden on travellers, would it be prepared to look at the possibility of some sort of exemption below which that fee would not be charged? For example, on a round trip fare of less than $500 or less than $300, something of that nature, travellers would not have to pay a very substantial percentage in a new fee for a round trip fare. Would the parliamentary secretary be prepared to consider that option to assist travellers?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a general proposition what the government has done is appropriate. The main beneficiaries of increased air safety are indeed the users of the flights and they will benefit from the additional security. The additional charge in general is not out of line with the American charge if we calculate it on the same basis. As a general principle of user charges, I think it is appropriate.

There may be some anomalies. I have heard, for example, that in parts of the far north where the only method of travel is by air this could pose some problems. On very short flights, as the hon. member says, there could be some problems. I think the general principle is extremely appropriate, but I am not saying the government is not open to looking at particular cases where there may be anomalies.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I realize we are running short of time so I will ask the hon. member two direct questions. He gave a very interesting and colourful, if not very accurate speech. I would like him to address two points specifically.

My first point deals with the fact that the budget was very much touted as a security budget. There is no real funding in it for the military. The military asked for $1.2 billion to stay in the black this year, but it received $150 million so it cannot stay in the black. It either has to cut services or cut capital expenditures.

My second point also is with regard to security. In the budget, the government indicated that it will spend $2.2 billion on airport security. However that money is not extra spending by the government; it is a tax on Canadians which the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas just discussed. How does the member consider that to be new spending?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the member's first question, $1.2 billion over five years is not peanuts. The Minister of National Defence expressed his satisfaction with the budget.

On the second point, it is nothing new for expenditures to be financed by taxation. All of our expenditures are financed by taxation so I do not really understand the point of the question, except to add that the airport charge is not a tax, it is a user fee.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, opposition members are condemning the government's response to the needs of Canada's major urban centres and the allocation of $600 million to build necessary infrastructures.

As a member of the special committee on urban affairs, I can say that it is large cities that asked the government to put more money into infrastructures.

Could the hon. member explain the advantages of creating a $2 billion infrastructure foundation, as announced by the Minister of Finance?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. Since I lived in Montreal for the better part of my life, I can say that there are serious traffic problems in that city. While the situation may not be as bad as that of Toronto, it is clear that Montreal and other major cities need money for infrastructure. This foundation will provide the required funds.

If the Quebec government says that the municipalities cannot accept these funds, I think major cities will give it an earful.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. The Bloc Quebecois insists on the tax points issue.

Therefore, I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance could give us the value of the cash transfers to Quebec, expressed as a percentage of all transfers, taking into consideration Quebec's population, and the value of the tax points.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois and the separatists are making two mistakes. First, they are asking for tax points in a totally illogical fashion. Second, it is not in the interests of Quebecers to have cash transfers converted into tax points.

Unfortunately, it is true that the average income in Quebec is lower than the national average. Therefore, the value of a tax point in Quebec is significantly lower than in Alberta or Ontario.

Accordingly, Quebec would lose if cash transfers were converted into tax points.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was disappointed but not the least bit surprised that the parliamentary secretary in his 30 minutes of remarks failed to mention once the subject of the motion before the House, that the House concur in the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

As an opposition member I find myself in the very peculiar situation of concurring in and supporting a committee report drafted principally with the direction and support of the government majority members on that committee while the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, I gather, opposes the report which the House now seeks to concur in. How do I so gather? Whence do I make that inference? Quite simply from the fact that the parliamentary secretary did not bother to address the report.

How sad it is that he has become a lackey for his minister's department rather than actually being intellectually honest about the budget. How sad it is that he could not even make reference to this report presented to the House by the finance committee. There is one good reason for it. It is because about 90% of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance were either ignored or contradicted by the budget presented in this place this week.

I and other members in this place have had a chance to begin the general debate about the shortcomings of the budget and the wasted opportunity it represents. There is the government's lack of prioritization; the fact that there is no debt reduction, tax relief, support for health care or agriculture; the fact that the government could not find one cent in ways to reduce. We have talked about that and developed those themes but I want to go straight to the point of the motion, concurrence in the standing committee report.

Sitting here at my desk I have identified 25 substantive recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance, 23 of which were either ignored or contradicted by the budget presented in this place. The finance minister said at the outset of his speech that he wanted to thank the Standing Committee on Finance for the marvellous work it did in consulting with Canadians and how this represented the new open and transparent budgeting process of the government.

What hogwash when we see that the literally thousands of hours of witness testimony, preparation, hearings across the country and work by the members of the finance committee to produce this report were completely ignored by the finance minister. I suspect that he never read it. In fact I suspect that his parliamentary secretary, who sits on the committee, never read it.

I will begin to go through the 25 substantive recommendations in terms of fiscal policy. On page 25 the report states:

Tomorrow's productivity gains also depend on maintaining a commitment to balanced budgets--

The finance minister presented us with a stealth deficit, not a balanced budget, last Monday. It is not only the opposition that says this. It is a growing list of independent economists, such as the TD Bank, which stated that the finance minister “was able to show a zero on his budget's bottom line for this year and next only because of some fancy accounting footwork”. David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Merrill Lynch said “A small deficit in the next two years is a good possibility”. Ted Carmichael at J.P. Morgan said “At least a modest deficit now looks likely”.

The fancy accounting footwork to which TD referred was the fact that the finance minister took $2 billion of revenues that are owed to the public treasury in this year and, through a bogus deferral of that tax to the next fiscal year, moved money from this fiscal year to the next fiscal year. He broke every accounting rule in the process in order to show an ostensible deficit. He also had to cut $3 billion out of his combined prudence and contingency reserves to avoid showing a planning deficit.The government contradicted the first recommendation of the committee to balance the budget.

At page 26 of the report in terms of reallocation it states:

To the extent that new spending on security and defence could lead to a deficit, the government must balance this new spending with spending cutbacks elsewhere. The Committee recommends that the government make a firm commitment to balanced budgets.

In support of that it quotes the BCNI as stating:

Finding the money needed to ensure the security of Canadians will require determined efforts to chop less essential spending to defer to other proposals for new initiatives.

It also quotes the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada as stating:

If increased spending in the area of national security is to occur in a context of fiscal prudence, funding for other initiatives will inevitably have to be curtailed.

On that point of reallocation, to cut low priority spending and move it to high priority spending is something which the finance minister ostensibly agrees with. On October 6 he told the Toronto Star :

Ottawa is reviewing its spending on an item by item basis to see where cuts can be made. We are looking at what are the lower priority areas and how do we make sure that we can fund the higher priority areas.

The finance minister agreed with the finance committee but in the budget there is not one dime in reallocation, not one cent. In fact, he was quoted in the National Post today as saying that he could not find any fat in the $130 billion budget, which led columnist Andrew Coyne to write that it would appear that there is no such thing as a priority in Ottawa these days; everything is given equal billing.

At page 27, the finance committee recommended that all government spending undergo a program review which should include: a public interest test; a role of government test; a federalism test; a partnership test; an efficiency test; and an affordability test. It also states:

The Committee recommends that the government follow the program review process while maintaining a balanced budget in the face of new priority spending.

There is no mention, not one word in the budget, of a program review. The committee quoted David Paterson of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance in support of its recommendation as stating:

Increased spending on security is essential, but we believe it can be offset by reduced spending on less important programs. New initiatives can be postponed until a budget surplus has been restored to a more adequate level--

Again there was no reallocation and no program review. At page 27 the committee also recommended:

The Committee has in the past recommended that the federal government strive to limit program spending growth to the rate of inflation plus population growth.

Inflation plus population, which the committee recommends, is a 3% rate right now yet the program spending budget increases ostensibly by 9.4% in the budget. Actually, if we look at the dedication already of the contingency reserve, it grows by over 10%. That is three times higher than what the finance committee recommended, the committee of which the parliamentary secretary was a member.

Here is another contradicted recommendation of the report. At page 30 of the committee report it speaks to five year projections. It states:

While the Committee is broadly in agreement with this approach, it is concerned that the May economic update employed only two year fiscal projections. The Committee feels that the five year estimate of surpluses for planning purposes presents a framework within which budgetary debate can take place.

Under questioning from the Leader of the Opposition at the finance committee last May, the finance minister indeed stated “Yes, I will provide five year figures this fall”. He failed to do so. He broke his own word. He broke the recommendation of the finance committee to provide five year projections so we could see the direction the federal government was headed in. The reason he did it in this budget of course is that he did not want to show what he knows, which is a deficit appearing in his plan in the out years. At page 31 the committee recommended:

--any time the full amount of the contingency reserve is not available for debt reduction, the difference should be added to the contingency reserve of the following year.

It went on to state:

The Committee applauds the government's commitment to use unutilized contingency reserves for debt reduction. The Committee also supports the government's commitment to announce each fall how much of the anticipated surplus over and above the contingency reserve will be used to pay down the debt.

It quoted, in support of this recommendation, the Vancouver Board of Trade as stating:

--utilizing a contingency reserve in its annual budget, with an extra degree of economic prudence to provide further assistance against falling back into a deficit. This approach no doubt is proving to be very beneficial this year as the economic decline erodes revenue.

The Canadian Manufacturers' Association said, in support of this recommendation:

--it is essential that the government revise its spending plans in order to ensure that existing reserves set aside for contingency and economic prudence purposes are sufficient to offset any deficit that may arise in its underlying budget balance.

What did the finance minister decide to do in response to this recommendation? He trashed it. He took $4 billion for contingency and prudence, reduced it to $1.5 billion and said that it would not go to debt reduction but rather it would go to new program spending in the form of foundations which have been condemned by the auditor general and another recommendation that the finance committee contradicted by the budget. At page 32 the committee recommended:

That any new spending initiative be subject to the rigorous and detailed tests of the principles of Program Review...that the federal government initiate a regulatory audit of all regulations to ensure relevancy and benefit of regulations in our current context. This audit should include a clear process and schedule for the elimination of undesirable regulations.

I already have addressed the absence of a program review commitment here. With respect to deregulation, the committee made a further recommendation at page 126 that:

--reiterates its call for the government to institute better oversight of the cost of regulations and user-charge programs by reporting on them annually with the budget.The application of these must not be undertaken in isolation but must be consistent with the government's overall policy objectives, namely international competitiveness...and an improvement in living standards via enhanced productivity.

There is no mention, not one word, about deregulation or a review of regulations, another recommendation of the finance committee ignored by the government. At page 35 there is an interesting comment by the Business Council on National Issues.

There can be no doubt that the war against terrorism will require additional spending. Such new costs, however, should not be simply loaded on top of the business-as-usual approach to all government activities.

That is precisely what happened. At page 48 the finance committee renews its call for the government to engage in a productivity covenant. This is a very respectable and positive hobby horse of the finance committee chair.

The Committee reiterates its long-standing recommendations that the government should commit to a productivity covenant. Just as Program Review is an ongoing examination of federal spending, this covenant should subject all existing government initiatives...to an assessment which evaluates their expected effects on productivity and hence the standard of living of Canadians. Every new budgetary initiative should be judged according to this productivity benchmark.

What happened? Nothing, no productivity covenant or benchmark, is in this budget. At page 45 the committee said:

--we must ensure...that tax relief is sustainable, so that we do not embark on a roller-coaster ride of tax cuts followed by tax increases whenever the budgetary position is threatened by financial turmoil and economic slowdown.

We are in that condition now, yet the government not only did not reduce taxes in this budget, it increased taxes. It increased CPP premiums by over $2 billion. It increased tobacco taxes by $400 million with no offsetting decrease elsewhere. It increased taxes on air travel by $400 million. It contradicted the committee's recommendation for no tax increase.

At page 53 the committee recommended a white paper for defence to assist government in revising its defence policy. It quoted the Conference of Defence Associations as saying:

--Canada spends only $265 per capita on defence. The NATO average is $589. The study (of the CDA) concluded that, notwithstanding recent increases, an additional $1 billion per annum needs to be added to the DND budget merely to check the decline of the Canadian forces. Furthermore, the Canadian forces “currently inhabit the worst of two worlds: conventional military capabilities are in decline; and, new capabilities are unaffordable.

At page 55 the committee recommended:

A fast-tracking review of the 1994 Defence White Paper to determine its continued relevance, an acceleration of the replacement of out of date equipment, and additional funds to DND.

All of that was broken except that there was $100 million in additional funding to DND per year in this budget, which is 5% of what the CDA recommended; another recommendation broken.

At page 60 the committee recommended that the government invest in border infrastructure to assist in the rapid flow of goods across the border. The government did that with a $600 million infrastructure commitment, which we support and applaud. At page 76 the committee recommended:

Given the Committee’s views on the dangers of falling back into deficit, we recommend postponing any major new non-security spending initiatives until the longer-term fiscal outlook is secured

The committee said no new spending in non-security areas, yet the finance minister raised spending by $10 billion, about three-quarters of which was in non-security related areas.

There is one other positive point. At page 82 the committee recommended that the government exempt from capital gains the gift of securities to registered charities. The government accepted that recommendation. We applaud it for doing so. That is 2 out of 25 recommendations. On employment insurance premiums at page 83 the report states:

The Committee recommends that the government continue to reduce EI premiums so as to gradually get closer to the break-even rate.

It quotes the CFIB supporting this by saying:

The $100 billion federal tax plan includes a 10¢ EI premium cut for 2002. A lower rate cut will signal to employers and employees that the government is prepared to move off its tax reduction plan.

What did we get? A five cent reduction, not a ten cent reduction. We did not substantially move any closer to the break even rate; another recommendation ignored.

At page 84 the committee recommended “That the government consider implementing a yearly basic exemption for employment insurance”. That would have substantially reduced by several billion dollars the EI payroll burden. It was ignored. At page 86 the finance committee recommended:

That the government undertake the research necessary for a comprehensive reform of the capital cost allowance rates to better reflect the pace of technological change and the ever-shortening economic life of modern machinery and equipment.

That was a very important recommendation that came to us from a number of industry groups. There was not a single word in the budget about capital cost allowance or any other form of corporate tax reform. At page 88 the committee recommended:

That RRP and RRSP limits be indexed to inflation, consistent with the government's decision to restore full indexation to the tax system. Similarly, the Committee recommends that the government consider a one-time increase in contribution limits for the full range of savings plans beyond what is already planned.

Most witnesses recommended that increase be to $18,500 on RRSPs. Of course, there was not a word about pension tax reform or increasing RRSP limits in the budget, which is another recommendation ignored.

At page 91 the committee made a recommendation that we change section 31 of the Income Tax Act to make it clear that horse race operators who had a reasonable expectation of loss and incurred a loss could write those expenses off like other businesses do, and the government ignored that recommendation. At page 92 the committee recommended:

That the government consider measures to promote the use of ESOPs.

This was a very popular recommendation of witnesses, and it is nowhere to be found in the budget. This is another recommendation ignored. Finally, at page 113 the committee recommended:

--given current economic conditions, the government sell its remaining stake in PetroCanada consistent with the government's longstanding commitment.

That plus the continued share ownership in Hibernia represents about $2 billion in government equity which could be applied to the debt, realizing about $150 million in annual interest savings, money which could then go to stimulative tax relief or to health care and agriculture.

The point is that over 85% of the recommendations of the finance committee were ignored or contradicted by the government. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is a member of this committee. He stood up on a concurrence motion. I presume that he does not concur in the committee report.

The official opposition took the unprecedented move of actually concurring in this committee's report and issued a supplementary, rather than a dissenting opinion even though we did not agree with all of it, because fundamentally it was sound.

The theme of reallocation, the theme of setting priorities, the theme of further tax reduction, the theme of balanced budgets and the theme of further tax reform and reduction, capital tax relief, payroll tax relief were all eminently sensible. In closing, the opposition concurs in the finance committee's report. It is a shame that the government does not.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:50 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is an excellent report. The member opposite is getting all excited. It is a well crafted report. He totally misses the point.

There are two critical chapters. Chapter II, “Seeing Through the Storm: Holding Course on the Productivity Agenda”, deals with the short term issues and sets out five priorities for the budget, on page 33. First, the government should invest in national security. Second, the government should not return to deficit. Third, we should follow through on the health care spending. Fourth, we should follow through on the $100 billion tax cuts. Fifth, we should spend more on research.

Those are the short term priorities stated by the committee. Every one of them is in the budget. All his citations come from chapter IV, which is entitled, “Planning for the Future”. The sensible members of the finance committee understood that these would not generally be in the budget, given the exigencies of the day, but each and every one of the short term objectives set by the finance committee were indeed carried through in the budget.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member does not know what he is talking about. I drew recommendations from every section of the report. In terms of immediate priorities, it talks about reallocation. It states there must be cuts in any program areas to offset new security spending and that:

--new spending on security and defence could lead to a deficit, the government must balance this new spending with spending cutbacks elsewhere.

There was not a cent in spending cutbacks elsewhere. The committee referred to its previous recommendations to limit spending to the rate of growth of population and inflation 3%. Spending in this budget was increased by over 10%.

He says that the recommendations in the latter part of the report are for some indefinite point in the future. Not so. The recommendation on the capital tax was for “immediate” elimination of the capital tax and to move immediately toward the break-even rate unemployment insurance.

I know the parliamentary secretary is embarrassed for himself and his minister because they went through this public relations exercise, spent probably millions of dollars of House resources to produce this report and to placate interest groups to make them feel like they were being listened to, and then they just threw the report in the trash, along with fiscal responsibility in this budget.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the finance critic for the Canadian Alliance. I find myself agreeing with the general thrust of his comments; that shame on the government for ignoring so many of the recommendations contained in the very report of a committee that is dominated by government members. It is incomprehensible that it has done such a disastrous job for the nation in drawing up this latest budget.

Specifically, could I elicit a comment from my colleague about the new $24 per ticket fee, what the parliamentary secretary calls a user fee, on all domestic and international air travel?

The member may not know that in a vast northern riding such as mine in northeastern British Columbia, there are many smaller airports with smaller airlines that do not even have screening facilities or security measures, yet, supposedly under this plan of the government, people will have to pay the $24 fee.

If at some point in the future the government reduces its security measures, will we see this tax on air travellers reduced or eliminated or is the travelling public is just stuck with it forever?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, Thomas Jefferson said that there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. Another thing that is certain is that a tax never dies. This new $24 per round trip tax is a punitive penalty on those who travel.

There are many smaller airlines that fly smaller routes and their fares may be only $50. All of a sudden, the cost of a ticket on those airlines will increase by 50%. It is completely insensitive to price. The cost of this new tax is the same whether one flies business class from Halifax to Victoria for $4,000 or takes a $50, 10-minute flight from Victoria to Vancouver. It is a terribly designed way to pay for this.

I have every anticipation that the revenues from this will end up in a slush fund, much like those from the EI fund which have now furnished the government with a $40 notional surplus to pad its budget.

International Year of MountainsStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, the United Nations declared 2002 the International Year of the Mountains. Throughout the year, the UN will seek to promote conservation and sustainable development in mountain areas, by raising public awareness, and promoting and defending the cultural heritage of mountain communities and societies.

The International Year of Mountains will provide an opportunity to raise awareness concerning the importance of mountains, the fragility of their resources and the need for sustainable approaches to mountain development.

Mountains are fragile ecosystems and are important at the global, regional and national levels. The United Nations described them as adirect life-support base for about one-tenth of humankind. They also supply between 30% and 60% of freshwater in tropical zones, a figure which rises as high as 95% for semi-arid and arid areas.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, in conjunction with other UN organizations and with NGOs, is planning numerous events and initiatives to raise awareness, and to communicate key information on mountain-related subjects.

We in Canada are very fortunate that, in many of our parks located in mountain areas—

International Year of MountainsStatements by Members

2 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Okanagan--Shuswap.

Veterans AffairsStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of the holiday season is sharing it with family and friends, including remembering those who have gone before us.

The Government of Canada bears special responsibility to remember Canada's veterans, including providing wreaths on behalf of Canada to be laid at cenotaphs across the country during ceremonies each November 11, but we have a problem. The Government of Canada only provides wreaths for communities which have an operating Canadian legion building.

My riding includes two small communities which conduct November 11 ceremonies at their local cenotaph but have no legion branch so the Government of Canada provides no wreath.

Partly due to the age of Canadian veterans, this year in B.C. alone it is expected that six to eight legion branches will close and the Government of Canada will provide fewer wreaths on November 11.

I urge the government instead to provide one wreath on behalf of Canada to every community which remembers veterans at its local cenotaph each November 11. Lest we forget.

Science And TechnologyStatements by Members

December 13th, 2001 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Matthews Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, 100 years ago yesterday, on December 12, 1901, a new age of communication was born. Amidst skepticism and facing extreme odds, Italian born scientist Guglielmo Marconi sent the first wireless signal across the Atlantic Ocean. The message, simply the letter S in morse code, was sent from Poldhu, England, to Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland, a distance of 1,700 miles.

This simple accomplishment changed the course of history. Marconi received many honours including the Nobel Prize in 1909, and Signal Hill gained distinction as the place where the impossible became possible.

This is a proud part of our Canadian history. The legacy of that single transmission is still heard literally all around the world.

I ask all hon. members to join me in saluting the achievement of one determined scientist so many years ago as well as the accomplishments of all present day Canadians whose innovative ideas are changing the shape of modern technology.

Position of Parliamentary Poet LaureateStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to underscore a great moment in the history of our parliament. On December 11, 2001, this House passed Bill S-10 in third reading. This bill, sponsored by Senator Grafstein, will create the position of parliamentary poet laureate, once royal assent is received.

I myself had the honour of being able to work on it, but my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert, is the one who ensured the bill's safe passage through the House.

I thank the MP for Saint-Lambert profusely for her hard work and dedication to the creation of a parliamentary poet laureate. Her skillful stewardship ensured the successful passage of Bill S-10 through the House.

December 11 will be remembered as a good day for Canadian culture. The creation of a parliamentary poet laureate will ensure that Canadians' knowledge and appreciation of their poetry is further enhanced.