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House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-27.

Topics

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, today the HMCS Toronto was deployed from Halifax. This is the sixth ship that Canada has sent out in Operation Apollo. Two thousand personnel have been deployed in this operation. The Canadian military is doing its job and doing it well. We should salute them.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian military is doing its job in spite of the government. The auditor general said that was exactly the kind of comment that should be taken with a grain of salt. She pointed out in her report that our air force needed to borrow parts and equipment from our allies in the war against Kosovo.

The government's cuts to defence, combined with waste and mismanagement across government, have gotten in the way of vital investments. Our troops can only carry this weight for so long.

Will the Prime Minister tell Canadians that waste will be cut and that at least $2 billion will be added to new spending for defence in the next budget?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I naturally thank the member for asking for more money for the military. Certainly that is being considered. The Prime Minister has indicated that it will be a security budget and that we will look at more funding for the military.

The military, whenever it has been asked, has done its job. The military should be praised, not denigrated as the member has said. The member should also take into consideration that the auditor general's report was written before September 11.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

December 5th, 2001 / 2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the government is depriving thousands of seniors of the income supplement to which they are entitled, while it is massively dipping into the employment insurance fund, in short, while the poor are left to fend for themselves, it is promoting tax evasion for the rich by maintaining the agreement signed with Barbados. So much for the sharing of wealth.

Will the Prime Minister admit that his government's priorities are ill advised, as illustrated by the deliberate misappropriation of billions of dollars from the employment insurance fund?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that employment insurance is a government program and that revenues go into the consolidated revenue fund.

When the employment insurance fund is running a deficit, it is the government that makes up that deficit. This is the way it has been for a very long time and the system works very well.

This is why we were able to successfully restore sound financial management while preserving social programs.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the surplus is in excess of $42 billion and the auditor general said that a $15 billion surplus is sufficient to meet the needs of the unemployed.

She added that the size of the accumulated surpluses in the employment insurance fund is totally unjustified. This is what the auditor general said. Moreover, the government is refusing to improve the program.

Will the Prime Minister recognize that the employment insurance program must be used to share the wealth, not to fill the government's coffers, not to divert money that should go to the unemployed?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is at the request of the auditor general himself that we, not our government, but the previous one, stopped having a separate fund and paid into the consolidated revenue fund employment insurance contributions, which were at $3.07 per $100 of insurable earnings when we took office in 1993 and which are now at $2.20 or $2.25.

So we succeeded in reducing workers' contributions to the employment insurance fund by one-third.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the auditor general has spoken out against the huge surplus in the EI fund, which will have reached $43 billion by next March, and wonders why such huge amounts have been collected without justification.

Will the Minister of Human Resources Development admit that the only solution is the creation of an independent employment insurance fund, as the unions, the workers, the employers and the Bloc Quebecois have been calling for?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, the Standing Committee on Finance has suggested a program to review what can be done about contribution rates.

The EI fund is not a shoebox and, as the Prime Minister said, what we have done is put it into the consolidated fund on the advice of the Auditor General of Canada.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the surplus of an independent fund could also be in a government consolidated fund, as is the case with the CSST fund in Quebec.

What is the most scandalous, however, is that this surplus has already been used, whereas if the fund were separate, it would still be there.

Will the minister admit that this surplus has already been spent and that if we are hit by a recession she will not be able to meet her obligations?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, what is very clear is that on this side of the House whenever there is justification to increase and improve the benefits for employment insurance recipients, we have done that.

What is equally clear is that whenever that side of the House has had an opportunity to support us it voted against those changes. That is what is clear.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the surplus in the employment insurance fund is organized crime, pure and simple.

The government is using the workers and taking their money, yet when it comes time for workers to receive assistance, they close the door in their faces. “Ineligible”, says the minister. What we should close the door on is this government's policy of stealing.

Will the government finally give their money back to the workers?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have clearly indicated that the current system was imposed upon the previous government by the auditor general, who found it unusual, at the time, that there was a deficit every year in the employment insurance fund.

So, the auditor general at the time said that the fund had to be included in the government's consolidated revenue fund. That is what the previous government did.

Currently, in order to help workers, we have also reduced their contribution from $3.07 to $2.20.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the blah, blah, blah does not just come from the minister. It is coming from the Prime Minister on this question.

We are not talking about the practices of the previous government. We are talking about the practices of this government condemned by the auditor general.

This is supposed to be the festive season yet the government continues to pick people's pockets and leave the unemployed in the cold while the grinch sits on the EI chest.

Will the finance minister put an end to this organized theft and put the money back where it belongs, which is in the--

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I would draw to the attention of the hon. member for Halifax the words I said at the beginning of question period and ask for a little restraint.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

I do not think she listened to you, Mr. Speaker, or she cannot improvise so she had to read a text that was prepared before the question. I think it leads nowhere when words like that are used.

We have administered the programs of the government very well. It is why rather than having a deficit of $42 billion we had a surplus of $18 billion last year. It is the proof that we have provided an excellent government for the people of Canada.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, what is unprecedented about this auditor general's report on defence is that she questions both the government's preparedness and the government's word. The department's claim, she said, “should be taken with a grain of salt”.

The government's response yesterday admits that, and I quote, “national defence does not yet have a reporting system that tracks overall equipment availability”.

Why not? If the government is so well prepared, why can the minister not even track the equipment our forces need?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, at her press conference yesterday the auditor general said “If you want a really quick summary, the army seems to be able to maintain its level of activity and has done so pretty consistently. The navy as well”.

They do not look at all of the report. They just take a little bit of the report. There is one thing: never have the Canadian armed forces been abroad like in the last years. They have always done a great job and Canadians have always been proud of them. Only the opposition is dumping on the Canadian army.

Heating Fuel RebateOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, just before the last federal election, the government delivered its pre-election economic statement.

The most remarkable result of that Liberal initiative was that 7,500 deceased persons received cheques for heating costs.

Could the Prime Minister tell us how many of these deceased persons voted Liberal?

Heating Fuel RebateOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, you asked us to be nice today, so I will be nice.

In regard to this program, the Minister of Finance had to make a decision. There were problems in two-tenths of one per cent of all cases.

There is an amount of $2 million that cannot be fully accounted for. The Minister of Finance figured that in order to monitor such a program down to the last penny, it would have cost tens of millions of dollars.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Joe Peschisolido Canadian Alliance Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, on November 30, EI premiums were cut by a measly nickel. This will save Canadian workers $19.50 a year. In January CPP premiums will go up by $172. This means that Canadian workers will pay an extra $150 a year in premiums.

How, then, can the Minister of Finance claim as he does that premiums have been cut?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, when we took office the rates were at $3.07 heading to $3.30. We have cut them in every single budget since then and they are now down to a low of $2.20. That is saving the taxpayers $6.8 billion a year.

If the member wants to talk about tax cuts, let us look at what we have done for the workers: record tax cuts of $100 billion and the tax cuts which have gone to workers with families, 35%. That is how we are helping the workers.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Joe Peschisolido Canadian Alliance Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member did not realize that I did not ask about taxpayers' dollars. I spoke about Canadian workers' premiums. That is the problem. The government simply does not get it.

The chief actuary has said that EI premiums could be cut to $1.75 and the EI system would still break even. There is a $36 billion surplus. The auditor general says that the EI surplus is so large that the EI law is practically being broken.

Is the reason the Minister of Finance has not cut premiums that he has already misspent and misallocated the surplus?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, one has to be responsible. One has to look at exactly what we have done given the mess that we inherited in 1993. We have continually been able to cut those taxes. That has been one of our priorities. We have said that we will continue to cut those taxes.

The EI fund is not a shoebox. There are many priorities, but the big thing that we have done to help workers is to cut the income taxes of workers with families by 35%.

Guaranteed Income SupplementOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only has this government exploited the unemployed, but for the past eight years it has unfairly treated thousands of seniors, who are among society's most disadvantaged, by depriving them of the $3.2 billion owed them under the guaranteed income supplement plan.

I ask the Minister of Human Resources Development what she is waiting for to reimburse these seniors the money she owes them?