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House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was price.

Topics

Order In Council AppointmentsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments recently made by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1) they are deemed to be referred to the appropriate standing committee, a list of which is attached.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34 I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the delegation of the Canada-Japan Interparliamentary Group to the ninth annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Valparaiso, Chile, January 14 to January 19, 2001.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-11, an act respecting immigration to Canada and the granting of refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Judges ActRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another Act in consequence.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Parliament Of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-273, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (recognized political parties).

Mr. Speaker, this bill would provide that in order to receive official party status a political party would need at least 10% of the seats in the House of Commons and members of parliament from at least three provinces or territories.

The bill would therefore prevent fringe parties such as the Progressive Conservative Party and the NDP, with only 4% of the seats in the House of Commons, from receiving the benefit of financial resources that come with the distinction of official party status.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-274, an act to amend the Criminal Code (Order of prohibition).

Mr. Speaker, I have a bill that I think has a little more substance than the last one.

It refers to a section of the criminal code, currently section 161, which deals with an offender convicted of a sexual offence. The enactment would permit the court to make a prohibition for the offender from being in a dwelling house where the offender knows or ought to know that a person under the age of 14 is present without being in the custody or control of a person also of that age.

In essence what the bill will do is allow judges to currently expand the umbrella of protection when putting in place prohibition orders for those who have been convicted of a sexual offence.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-275, an act to amend the Criminal Code (recruitment of children and swarming).

Mr. Speaker, once again, this bill pertains to the criminal code in its current form. I introduced the bill in the last parliament.

It would essentially amend the criminal code to include a provision that would make it illegal to elicit or recruit children to commit criminal offences.

It would also put in place a new provision of the criminal code which would prohibit the offence of swarming, which is an offence that is sadly becoming increasingly prevalent in a number of communities around the country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Competition ActRoutine Proceedings

February 21st, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-276, an act to amend the Competition Act (abuse of dominant position).

Mr. Speaker, I am please to reintroduce a bill dealing with changes to the Competition Act, most specifically section 78 dealing with abuse of dominance.

Recently growing consolidation and concentration throughout a variety of industries, most specifically in the retail sector, have led to a number of abuses, particularly of suppliers. Currently the Competition Act deals with the notion and the concept of monopoly and oligopoly but does not deal with the more technical question of oligopsony or monopsony.

As a result the bill would provide more teeth to the Competition Act to ensure that items such as high listing fees, trade allowances, et cetera, would be prohibited and would have, at least in their purpose, result or the intent, a competitive and a less harmful outcome for consumers and Canadians as a whole.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

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

moved:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development that it have the power to divide Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations, in order that all questions related to the establishment of the premium rate and to Employment Insurance surplus management be in a separate piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to my motion that is supported by all the opposition parties. At committee stage, this motion would divide Bill C-2, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, into two separate bills.

There have previously been two precedents in the House for this type of motion. In fact, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice stipulates the following:

Once a bill has been referred to a committee—

That is the case.

—the House may give the committee an instruction which authorizes it to do what it otherwise could not do, such as, for example, examining a portion of a bill and reporting it separately, examining certain items in particular, dividing a bill into more than one bill—

Our motion does exactly that.

Bill C-2 brings to our EI plan some of the improvements the Bloc Quebecois has been demanding for several years now. However, these changes are minor compared to the EI surplus, which could have been used to improve the plan.

Under Bill C-2, only about 8% of annual surpluses will be given back to workers, to the unemployed, while 92% of these surpluses will continue to be used to cover other government expenditures, including the debt. The money used for all that will come from the contributions paid by employers and workers, but particularly from the benefits that the unemployed will not receive.

This part of the bill is aimed at legalizing the fact that EI contributions are no longer insurance premiums but rather a new payroll tax. This should be the subject of a separate debate, different from the one on improvements to the plan.

The proposal I brought forward is supported by the three opposition parties. Indeed, those parties made very eloquent presentations at a press conference, the purpose of which was to show that, even though all parties do not share the same views on ways of improving the plan, it is possible to have similar objectives.

The Canadian Alliance's views on ways of improving the plan may be very different from ours or from those of the New Democratic Party or the Progressive Conservative Party, but we share the same position with regard to the fact that, by hiding a provision in a bill, the government will legalize the misappropriation of surpluses in the EI fund, something it has been doing for several years. This issue cannot be dealt with at the same time as improvements to the plan.

This is why we are asking the House to mandate the committee to study both issues separately. This afternoon, the committee will hear the human resources development minister, who will have to justify her bill, especially since, during the whole electoral campaign, liberal members have said that the system could be improved some more at the committee stage. I think of the members for Bourassa and for Gaspé—Bonaventure—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok in particular. They were saying that, in committee, improvements other than the ones included in the former Bill C-44, and which are still not found in Bill C-2, could be made.

If we want the committee to give appropriate time to the priority consideration of improvements to the system, I propose this motion which involves the study by the committee of the issue of improvements so that more improvements can be made since Bill C-2 only contains a few.

I am sure that those who will appear before this committee will tell us that these improvements are far from being enough and that many others will have to be added to the government's propositions to broaden eligibility for EI benefits, to eliminate the qualifying period and to ensure that seasonal workers' status is not dependant upon the economic situation in their region and that they are guaranteed a decent income between jobs.

Therefore, all issues concerning the transformation of EI premiums into a payroll tax scheme should be the subject of another debate at a later date.

At that time, the whole issue of tax reform could be raised. We should not forget that the way EI premiums are currently taxed represents a very regressive tax because anyone who earns up to $39,000 has to contribute.

That means that someone earning $43,000, $44,000 or $50,000 a year does not contribute on income over that limit. EI contributors are the ones contributing to the elimination of the deficit and to the reduction of Canada's debt, not those earning over $39,000 or, even worse, those who do not contribute to the EI scheme at all, including members of parliament.

A broad public debate is going on about the whole issue of tax reform, an issue that ought to be discussed elsewhere, for example in a joint committee bringing together members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and members of the Standing Committee on Finance. It is a much broader issue that is changing the balance between income tax, taxes and payroll tax and their impact on productivity. Those are very distinct elements.

Therefore, I call on the members of the House to debate that issue and to pass this motion. I hope that the Liberal majority will show an open mind and let us debate that matter today.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, from time to time the House has to deal with complex bills. Often they have issues that deal with separate items in a policy envelope. I really do not understand why the member opposite and his party want to split the bill when, from the point of view of this member anyway, the bill seems to be so positive and so directed at remedying apparent defects in the employment insurance system.

I do not understand why they would not wish to pursue the bill as a package. I would ask the hon. member to explain why there are not enough good things in the bill and why he and his party feel it necessary to split the bill.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I think the question of the parliamentary secretary is very relevant. The answer was given in the newspapers the very evening of the debate on our proposal, which was supported by all opposition parties.

The Conseil du patronat du Québec, which is not comprised of unionized people, would like a separate debate on the whole issue of payroll taxes, because employers have been contributing to the employment insurance program for a long time and in a disproportionate way, considering the program that we have.

In a private insurance program, whatever it may be, there is a balance between premiums and the benefits paid out. If there is a major surplus, premiums are usually reduced or the terms of the program are improved for the employees, in the case of employment insurance, among other things.

In this case, why should we divide this bill in two and examine each part separately? Because, through this bill, the government is appropriating a right. It is legalizing the fact that it has been misappropriating the employment insurance surpluses. This is not insignificant, we are talking about $30 billion. This is money that was paid by employers and employees to fund the employment insurance program but was used to fund other types of government spending, including Canada's debt payment.

Certainly, Canada's debt has to be reduced, but this battle must not be fought only at the expense of people who contribute to the employment insurance program, because that would reinforce the regressive nature of the legislation.

This is the main reason why the bill must be split in two for consideration. The motion calls for the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development to examine the improvements to the plan first, and to report to the House on that part of the bill first. The standing committee could also choose to report on the second part, which could be the subject matter of another bill, but it is unacceptable that the government should try to pull the wool over our eyes with a nice little package.

The government is playing the game of saying, on the one hand, that it is going to abolish the intensity rule, something the Bloc has advocated for several years. This represents about $300 million. On the other hand, it will legalize the misappropriation of funds by a vote that will enable it to dig out of our pockets $6 billion a year and use that money for all sorts of expenses, including paying down the debt. Those who contribute to the plan are people who earn $39,000 a year or less.

Why should we not ask that those who contributed to the elimination of the deficit by being unemployed now reap the benefits, just like the taxpayers are being rewarded by tax cuts for their contribution to the elimination of the deficit?

Some workers, more particularly seasonal workers, whose status is precarious, do not pay huge amounts in taxes. What they need is decent employment insurance benefits.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, which, by the way, is the riding with the longest name in Canada, to reassure the House and to inform our listeners that the Bloc Quebecois is not against improvements to the intensity rule. He said very clearly that this is something the Bloc has been calling for, for several years now.

I would like him to give more details on why he is asking that the bill be divided because, if the bill is passed without amendment, it will open the door to ill intentioned persons, particularly on the government side. The government could say “You from the Bloc were opposed to improvements to EI. You were against them”.

It would be too easy later on to use a bill with clauses on such a wide variety of subjects as an excuse to indulge in demagogy. For that reason, I would like my colleague to repeat that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of increasing benefits for workers who have had to take large cuts since the government's first reforms in 1994.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, even before Bill C-2 was introduced, we had submitted a proposal to the government to have two separate bills.

We said we were willing to dispose very quickly of the issue of improvements to the plan. Even before an election was called, when this bill was known as Bill C-44, I remember asking the Prime Minister in the House if we could vote right away on improvements to the plan, excluding the provision enabling the government to divert for its own purposes the employment insurance fund surplus.

Our attitude has not changed. This afternoon in committee we will hear from the minister. We will ask her questions, but we hope that this bill can be passed as soon as possible, as far as improvements to the plan are concerned.

Yesterday in committee we decided to make a list of witnesses who could be invited to appear. Within 24 hours, we came up with a list of 30 or so groups and organizations that wanted to be heard. The committee will begin its deliberations immediately after the visit of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, on Thursday, and next week hearings will begin.

We are willing to proceed very rapidly. However, we are hearing from people with very different opinions, including not only the Conseil du patronat du Québec, but also unemployed workers advocacy groups, which know full well that seasonal workers need the money they will get from the elimination of the intensity rule and they need it quickly. However, they also agree with the Mouvement autonome et solidaire des sans-emploi that this bill, if passed as is, will not really deal with the fact that we have a surplus of billions of dollars.

At the same time, we have young people, women and seasonal workers who are not eligible to EI because of the government's greed. The government wants to use the money to fill up the coffers, pay down the debt and pay its expenses, but not give adequate EI benefits.

Yes, we do want the improvements to be passed as soon as possible, because we have been asking for them for several years now. In the last few years, we have introduced about a dozen bills to improve the EI plan. The Liberals have picked two or three of our ideas, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Let us put our time, our energy, the work of our committee and the ability of all members to good use.

I especially ask for the support of the Liberal members who, throughout the election campaign, kept saying that the plan would be changed after the election and that it would greatly benefit all Canadians because it would be made fairer. So far, these commitments have not been added to old Bill C-44.

So, to answer my colleague, I say that yes, it is true, we have to focus all our energy, and as soon as possible, on restoring some value to the plan, but we must not legalize any misappropriation of the EI surplus, as employers, employees and the unemployed would never forgive us.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I only want to make a comment and ask a question.

Could the member explain what happened during the election campaign when there were demonstrations in the Prime Minister's riding?

The Liberals had made some promises. One of the ministers, the public works minister, and another one whose name and title I cannot remember, promised people in Quebec that there were going to be further changes to employment insurance over and above what was in Bill C-44.

Could the member explain it to us in order to shed some light on the issue?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, indeed, during the election campaign the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport and the Minister of Public Works promised a parliamentary committee to people, particularly union leaders, who came to meet with them, and told them “You are going to be able to propose your amendments”.

There was some openness in this regard. It was said that they were open to changes. I hope this openness to changes did not mean that they would be able to put even more money in their pockets instead of handing it back to those who contributed to the plan.

In view of this position and the Prime Minister's statement, and I will end on this note, in the maritime provinces, acknowledging that there were several major flaws in the employment insurance reform, we are still waiting for this same Prime Minister to specifically acknowledge these flaws through amendments to Bill C-2, in order to bring about a true reform of the employment insurance plan instead of trying to hide the hijacking, by the Liberal government, of the surpluses in the EI fund.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The parliamentary secretary knows full well he is operating outside the rules of the House in wanting debate of this very important issue shut down. We are, as members have indicated, meeting at committee stage in the next few minutes. Let us continue the debate and air some of our grievances.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I have not heard anything that would indicate the motion to adjourn the debate is out of order. It is my duty to put the question to the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

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

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.