House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.


Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with interest to the speech by my colleague, particularly the matter of electronic government. We do have at our disposal an extraordinary new tool in the new technologies and the Internet, but this is a tool that can have both positive and negative effects.

We see what I would term the pre-generation of what the federal government is doing with these tools, for example the HRDC scandal and the cross-referencing with Revenue Canada of data on unemployed travellers, without any prior authorization.

I know the hon. member was on a fact-finding tour across Canada on this and there will be a Canada-wide conference. I would like to know from the hon. member if our duty as parliamentarians is to act as true watchdogs in order to ensure that these tools do not merely become tools of the high bureaucracy in order to control the system, and to ensure that democracy gains from them, rather than losing?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his interest and his assistance to us in meetings with the Quebec government on this very important issue.

Value will come from the ability to accumulate data. What HRD did is something that we would like to see happen again. We want to put proper safeguards and controls in place so that people understand what is happening and have the right to interact. However the member is absolutely right to identify it as an important issue. It is critical that all members of the House get involved in this debate in the next couple of years. If they want to learn about it, they can attend a conference at the end of March.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, allow me to congratulate you on your appointment. I would also like to congratulate you and your family, especially your son Chad Kilger, who plays for the Montreal Canadians and was yesterday selected his club's player of the month for the province of Quebec and Canada,

I would like to thank those who re-elected me this past November 27. We had a good campaign. The riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik is, I would remind hon. members, the biggest riding in all of Canada. It extends over more than 800,000 square kilometres and has a population of 100,000.

I dedicated this election to my wife, Diane St-Julien, who has been following me and helping me through the last three mandates and who will continue to do so in this one. I also thank my daughter, Sonya-Kim St-Julien, who, for the last four elections, has been giving me advice on communications.

I wish to thank the voters of the large riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik for giving me a fourth majority, in all of the riding's 68 polls. My hometown is the municipality of Val-d'Or, but I also represent a community located in Nunavik, 2,000 kilometres north of it, called Salluit.

I thank the Inuit from Nunavik, the Cree from James Bay, the Algonquin, the Algonquin communities and the other residents of my riding for this great victory, and particularly thanks to our leader, the Prime Minister of Canada and Liberal member for Saint-Maurice.

In the throne speech, we were told that a better future awaits us. We must put forward a project that will not leave anyone behind. Above all, we must set priorities and draft a specific plan. This is what was done in the red book during the last election campaign.

We realize that, during an election campaign, we must face a number of political parties. A 30 day election campaign is fair ball. There are pros and cons. Some people have claimed that my election on June 2, 1997, was a historical aberration. This is not so: it was my mother's birthday on that day.

The member who claimed that there was a historical aberration the day of my election has seen that we have fixed that aberration, as I was re-elected on November 27. All of that to say that the member who made the statement in my riding was wrong again.

In any case, what are we concerned about today? The specific plan of the Liberal government, with our Prime Minister at its head and the new options available to us, be they innovation, learning skills, connecting Canadians or trade and investment.

The Liberal government is providing prospects for children, families, health and quality care, a healthy environment, strong and safe communities, a dynamic Canadian culture and most importantly new windows of opportunity for us internationally.

In a large riding such as Abitibi, we are concerned with the price of metals in the mining sector. We have gold, copper, palladium and vanadium. There has been a price war for the past three years. The price of gold was always pegged at under $300 and rose above it only once. Cambior, a company recognized worldwide, got it because gold was sold on option.

The throne speech calls for building our health care system. Last September, in an effort to modernize our system, the Liberal government gave the provinces an extra $21.2 billion over five years. At issue is better meeting the needs of Canadians. This is a priority, which received much attention during the election, and today we hear mention of it again.

What is important? Not treating people in hospital as clients. Those sick in hospital must be treated as human beings. Together with the provinces, we must find solutions. That is what is important.

In addition, we must give thought to creating a registered individual learning account for employees, help Canadians establish a training plan and find the necessary funding. For those aged 45 to 50 who have lost their job, new ways must be found to enable them to return to the labour market.

What is important in recent years is that our government, with its expertise, has run this country with all members of the House and has paid down the debt, given fair tax breaks, and invested in health, in research and innovation, in families and children and in the protection of the environment.

On the topic of research and innovation, we know that in a remote area such as Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, considerable money is needed to help universities and cegeps. The rector of the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, in Rouyn-Noranda, has submitted projects involving primarily forestry in the Amos region. For Val-d'Or, the focus was on underground communications and multimedia, and for Rouyn-Noranda, on various other areas.

The important thing is that we need this money to boost research, particularly in a riding where natural resources are so important, whether in mining or forestry. We have trouble getting secondary and tertiary manufacturing going.

Be that as it may, in the coming months and years we will improve prospects for people in our region. The government will work closely with the private sector to offer broadband high speed access to citizens, businesses, educational institutions and all communities, particularly in a region such as ours, which takes in northern Quebec, Nunavik and James Bay.

The government plans to introduce communications. Recently, we have seen Bell Canada double its telecommunication rates in Nunavik. Why? The company told the Inuit and those working in this sector that, now that too many people were using the Internet, it would double their rates in order to lower rates for Internet users.

That is a good one on Bell Canada. It is doing a great deal of harm in Nunavik, and the people do not find it amusing, since they are the ones having to pay.

It is also important for new approaches to be found. I strongly believe that the government, via the minister responsible for the economic development of Quebec or via Industry Canada, is going to put new methods into place to help northern Quebec, James Bay and Nunavik.

What is important in our area is health, quality health care in particular. We know that we need to work hard in conjunction with the governments, the government of Quebec in particular, to find physicians. We also need to improve the situation of hospitals and to add to the numbers of nurses in a region as large as ours.

We must speak of Nunavik, because it must be kept in mind that the Inuit pay taxes just like southerners do. Recently I spoke with the President of Makivik corporation, Mr. Pita Aatami. He said that new ways must be found to help the hospitals administered by Kativik corporation, by the Nunavik health board, and improvements must be made in order to attract nurses.

What is important is to work very hard in this House in order to be accountable to the taxpayers, to the people in that great riding, to Quebec and to Canada. We must plan in order to reduce taxes, move toward a new economy and strengthen our communities.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is interested in the country's current equalization formula because he is from Quebec and Quebec is a recipient of equalization payments. The current equalization formula keeps a province from drowning but falls far short in that it never gives a province the wherewithal to swim on its own.

As a member from Quebec, a province that receives equalization payments, how would he feel about a change in the current equalization formula to recognize that some provinces need a leg up to develop their natural resources?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is an excellent question. In Quebec, we have equalization payments and tax points. Also, we must file two tax returns, a provincial one and a federal one. Transfers will always be an issue. Let us not forget that under the equalization program there are rich provinces and poor provinces.

For a number of years, even Quebec had a deficit in the employment insurance sector of some three of four billion dollars. Who helped us? It was the other provinces. There is always room for improvement of the equalization program, but always in co-operation with the current government of Quebec.

We know the Quebec Liberal Party, through the Hon. Jean Charest, made proposals regarding equalization and the handing over of tax points to the province. We are waiting to see what will come out of these proposals.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member if he is aware of the impact on his riding of the changes to the employment insurance program. I am convinced that he is pleased to see that the government has already introduced the new employment insurance bill. I would like to know the impact of these changes on his riding.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member. Employment insurance is indeed an important issue in my region. Seasonal workers in a large ridings such as ours are like those from the Atlantic region, whether they work in mining or several other industries.

Bill C-2 has been introduced. There is always room for improvement.

We know that the standards come from a committee of the commission, which comprises management and unionized employees.

What is important? Finding the right solutions. Requests come into my office either from Laurier Gilbert, from Val d'Or, or the Regroupement des chômeurs et chômeuses, wanting to appear before the standing committee.

It is also important to look at both sides of the coin. A few years ago there were people using unemployment insurance in the last four months of the year, because during the year they had earned their full salary on Saturdays and Sundays earning double time and double time and a half. When they saw they were going to pay too much income tax, they went on unemployment. It was very easy to do so back then.

There are employers back home who say to me “With the new reform, we get more”. Back home, Bélanger Électrique said “I am happy with this, because the electricians come to us. Before we never saw them in construction”. The same is true for PLC in Senneterre, which does not have mechanics any more. The mechanics went off for three months. We knew it, it was not a secret, some of them went off hunting and fishing and so on over the holidays.

The system has to be improved and together, before the standing committee, we will find solutions. Together with the government in office is the way to improve things for people. In any case, what counts is keeping permanent jobs.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know the House will join with me in offering congratulations to you on your position. We all know that the House is in very good hands. I will be splitting my time with the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

I want to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to the people of the riding of Medicine Hat who once again elected me to be their representative in Ottawa. It is really a great honour. I also want to say a special thanks to my family: to my wife Deb and my boys, Matthew and Michael, without whose indulgence it would be impossible to do this job.

I am the foreign affairs critic for the Canadian Alliance. My job is to scrutinize the government's foreign policy and to offer suggestions on how it might be strengthened.

Today I have just 10 minutes to speak, so an entire survey of the government's foreign policy is not possible. I will focus therefore on what I believe to be the most important aspect of our foreign policy, the complex relationship between Canada and the United States.

Specifically I wish to offer ways to strengthen that relationship. First must come a change in attitude. We need to remind ourselves that every single Canadian benefits from our relationship with the United States, and not just a little.

Over 40% of Canada's annual wealth is generated by trade, and 80% of that trade is with the United States, a $10 trillion economy. In other words, trade with the U.S. accounts for about a third of all the wealth generated in our country every year.

One could imagine the unemployment and cuts to government services if that wonderful relationship suddenly ended. A strong relationship with the United States is very much in Canada's economic interests.

Some people are anxious knowing that President Bush will make his first foreign trip to Mexico instead of to Canada. They are worried that Mexico will soon eclipse Canada as America's biggest trading partner.

I am not troubled per se by Mexico building a stronger relationship with the United States. More U.S. trade with Mexico does not necessarily mean less U.S. trade with Canada.

The relationship between Mexico and the United States is probably underdeveloped and, in my opinion, very much to the detriment of the Mexican people. I hope both sides of that relationship prosper because the wealthier they become the greater the opportunities for Canada.

What troubles me even more is the cavalier and even hostile attitude some of the Liberals betray toward the long, deep friendship between Canada and the United States.

More trade between the United States and Mexico is not a threat to Canada's interests. Undermining, snubbing or picking fights with the U.S. is a threat to our interests. Nothing can be gained but much can be lost when prominent members of the government go out of their way to tweak the noses of the Americans.

Examples abound. Consider Raymond Chrétien, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., and his embarrassing statements last spring. The ambassador said publicly that the Liberal government favoured candidate Gore over candidate Bush in the U.S. presidential election.

Imagine the outcry if that had happened the other way around, if an American official had consciously interfered in a Canadian election. Thank goodness the Americans mostly ignored the government's disregard of the tradition of non-interference in domestic politics.

A second example occurred in 1999. A suspected Algerian terrorist making his way from Canada into the United States was picked up with bomb making equipment in the trunk of his car.

CSIS, our intelligence agency, reports that it is monitoring 50 terrorist organizations that currently operate in Canada. The Liberal government still largely ignores these U.S. concerns, to the point where Liberal cabinet ministers, such as the finance minister, have defended attending a fundraising dinner in Toronto for a group that CSIS and the U.S. state department have identified as a front for a terrorist organization.

A third example occurred just recently. Our current foreign affairs minister, regarding the U.S. proposal for a missile shield, made the amazing announcement that if President Bush satisfies the concerns of the Russians and the Chinese then Canada will be satisfied as well.

When did we decide that Canada's foreign policy would be driven by the wants of the Russians and the Chinese? I think that is absolutely ludicrous.

Perhaps the minister needs to be reminded that we are an ally of the United States, not Russia and China. Perhaps he should recall that Canada and the U.S. are committed to mutual defence through NATO and NORAD. Perhaps he needs to recall that the likely scenario would be a missile coming from across the Pacific toward North America with the idea being that the U.S. missile shield would be in place to shoot it down before it reached North America, something that is definitely in the interest of Canada.

To be sure, questions remain about the effectiveness of that shield, but it is irresponsible for the minister to dismiss it out of hand while casting his lot with the Russians and Chinese.

In reviewing the recent record, President Bush might be forgiven for wondering whether Canada is still the trusted ally that it once was.

We must do more than quit annoying the Americans and undermining our relationship. We must put greater effort and resources into building and improving that relationship. Why should we do that? We should do it because it is in the interests of Canada. Even a small percentage of increases in exports to the United States would result in thousands of new Canadian jobs.

However, the Prime Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs would much rather talk about their elaborate efforts to promote trade with China and Cuba. This is a little more than ironic because Canada's exports to China have gone down by about $800 million since the first trade Canada mission a few years ago.

Meanwhile, our yearly trade with Cuba is $500 million dollars. We do more trade with the United States in half a day than we do with Cuba in the entire year. The United States, moreover, is not a notorious human rights abuser like both China and Cuba.

We need to do much better. First, we should start by forging much stronger relationships with the Bush administration, congress and senators. We also need a new initiative to get to know governors and legislators because they are often the first to raise issues which can sometimes become full blown trade disputes.

Second, we need to rebuild our military to more properly fulfil our NATO and NORAD commitments. A strong and independent foreign policy requires a strong military behind it.

Third, we need to crack down on terrorist organizations operating within Canada, not just for our own safety, which is reason enough, but also so the Americans will ease up on the restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border that impede trade and hurts the prosperity of Canadians.

We need to show respect for American concerns if we want them to respect ours. Nobody doubts that Canada should practice an independent foreign policy but not one driven by knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

The guiding principle of foreign policy should be the deliberate, methodical pursuit of outcomes that are directly beneficial to Canada. In other words, sometimes we will agree with the Americans because it is in our economic or security interests to do so. Other times we will disagree, as we have on softwood lumber or Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, again because it is in our interest to do so.

It is an approach that we have used in the past to build our reputations as respected, fair and independent players on the world stage.

In conclusion, I urge the government to pay closer attention to the critically important relationship with America. In war and in peace we have worked together to our mutual benefit. A new administration in Washington means a new chance to build on that relationship, but it requires a new Canadian attitude free of the defensiveness that the current Liberal government has so frequently displayed. What we need is a tough minded, determined and respectful approach driven by the interests of the Canadian people.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario


Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the remarks of the member for Medicine Hat with interest. I have two questions for him.

First, he said that the Alliance Party has a different view from that of the government about the softwood lumber dispute. I am wondering what its position might be.

Five years ago the forest industry pleaded and begged the government for the quota system to manage trade so that they could get five years of trade peace. In hindsight perhaps it has not worked, but it was on the basis of the industry's recommendation that the government proceeded to manage trade. Now there is talk about free trade in lumber. What is the Alliance's position on softwood lumber?

Second, the member referred to the social dinner with the Tamil community in Toronto, a cultural dinner. I think it was $25 a head, hardly a big fundraiser. I was there with two ministers. He talks about the Tamil community and sponsoring tourist activities in Sri Lanka. What about other communities that are illegally sending money back to their home countries to help causes? Why is he singling out the Tamil community? Has he some information that the government does not have?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me answer those questions in reverse order. I simply point to the CSIS website, Canada's own intelligence agency, which raises the red flag about the particular group that sponsored the dinner the finance minister and the member attended.

This is not information that we exclusively have. If he would consult his own government then he would find out that there are concerns about this group. It is not the Tamil community in general; it is this group. I want to make that very clear.

I do not think it is correct for the member across the way to misrepresent our position. He has asked for our position on the issue of softwood lumber. Our position is that we would like to have free trade with the United States in softwood lumber.

The real question is what is the government's position. We have the industry minister saying “I think the renewal of the existing agreement is something that will be part of the mix when we sit down at the table”. He says that we should renew the softwood lumber deal, even though the industry does not want it. The industry is opposed to it but the industry minister wants to do it.

Meanwhile, the international trade minister says something different again. Perhaps the member's question should go to his own ministers. Then he could find out the government's position from them.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Medicine Hat that we need a stronger military in terms of Sea King replacements, money and compensation benefits for the valiant men and women in our armed forces.

The feeling that I am getting on this side of the fence is that a while ago they argued to put Canadian flags on their desks and now it sounds as if they want to put U.S. flags on their desks. It is obvious by his comments that Alliance members will support the nuclear missile defence shield which leads us all down the path to nuclear madness.

It is also quite obvious by his comments that the Americans plan to open up the Alaskan oil reserves in Alaska and on the east coast. President Bush also indicated a year ago that he would lift the moratorium on the Georges Bank on which Canada has placed a 12 year moratorium.

Would the member support the lifting of the Alaskan oil reserve, which has a great effect on our aboriginal people, on the porcupine caribou herd and on our fishing communities, if the moratorium is lifted off the Georges Bank?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the position of the Canadian Alliance with respect to all these issues is that we will do what is in Canada's interest. Because I have not attacked the United States, my friend has suggested that means we would put American flags on our desks. It is quite the contrary. We want to do what is in the best interest of Canada.

Sometimes that means agreeing with the Americans. Sometimes it means taking the opposite position, such as we are doing on softwood lumber. I think that is entirely appropriate.

In answer to the question, when the issues become completely clear, the issues of missile defence, of opening up the refuge in Alaska and other such issues, the Canadian Alliance will take a position that favours the interests of Canadians. However, it will not be the knee-jerk anti-Americanism which unfortunately characterizes so much of the rhetoric of the NDP.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is my first time to speak during the new session. I congratulate you on occupying the chair and express my confidence in you.

I have thanked my constituents. It is a rare that they would ask me to thank some other people, some of whom are in the House. The hon. member from Winnipeg has already spoken. I always enjoy what he has to say. He referred to the campaign as being more than just a bit dirty, but the dirt and the innuendoes actually helped me.

When I started my campaign my crew knew that I had about 41% of the vote. Then the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration made a speech which reached my constituency. It was in the Ottawa Citizen and stated that I above everyone was anti-immigration. Those words riled my constituents and I jumped about 5% in the polls because they knew it was absolutely untrue.

Then one night on television a former premier of the province of Ontario said that the Alliance in the west could put up a donkey and get it elected. I know he was talking about me and I will say why: I am the one with the biggest ears over here. Immediately I went up another 5%.

Then we had an incident in which a reporter said, and he wishes he had not said it, that the Ontario vote was a sophisticated vote. It is, as are the votes in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, but the tone in which he said that put me up 10%.

By this time my crew estimated that I had 61% of the vote. The surge in popularity came more from comments that were meant to degrade me and my efforts in my constituency. Finally, and this is a little humorous, one of the other candidates accused me of stealing his platform and that put me over the top.

In a sense I say to people who tried to use a smear campaign that it blocked hundreds of Canadians from going to the polls in the last election. If it continues we will have fewer Canadians exercising their right to vote.

My colleague from Medicine Hat referred to security. I wish to talk briefly about security at home. He referred to security on the international level. I know what it is like to look into the eyes of a child who lives with insecurity. I know what it is like to look at elderly people who live with insecurity. I certainly know from the past four years what insecurity means to my constituents.

I am very proud to be the Department of Veterans Affairs critic. I say to the government and to this side of the House as well that if those in veterans affairs knew that the veterans affairs committee was not an independent committee, I think they would feel insulted. They would say they have enough on their plates, enough matters to be discussed, that they should be a separate committee.

I will ask a question this morning in the House. The very people providing the security and the freedom we enjoy are now some of the most forgotten people in Canada, and that ought not to be. Many veterans out there have not received medals for the various campaigns they have been in. They have been asking for them for years. Widows of veterans have been cut off from some of the vet programs. That ought not to be. Where is their security?

To top it all off, a young fellow in the army reserve came to me. He volunteered to go overseas to Bosnia and was ordered to get his passport. When the passport came, unbelievably he had to pay for it. A man who is volunteering his time to serve with the Canadian forces had to pay for his passport. I hope he receives remuneration, but the last I heard he had not.

Let me ask one more question. I believe that a promise made is a debt unpaid. It is clearly recorded that the government still owes merchant navy vets some $70 million. I believe that should be paid and it should be paid now. There was no mention of it in the throne speech, but I believe it should be paid.

Another forgotten group is grassroots aboriginals. For years they have been crying out for help, telling us of the fraud, the theft, the corruption and the mismanagement. These accusations reach my office and I am sure they reach the offices of members opposite. These accusations come from rank and file aboriginals. They are not invented on this side of the House. They have been crying out for years. I can understand their feeling of insecurity.

The throne speech indicated that billions will be allotted to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I ask the government, and particularly cabinet, to listen to the rank and file. Aboriginals should be included so that they have a degree of security on their own land. They do not now. People in Regina are on a hunger strike in the hope that the government will say that enough is enough and bring about security.

Security means fundamental changes. We must respond to the auditor general. We talk about the inherent right of self-government, treaty entitlements and land claims which will bring security to all. However all of the claims mean absolutely nothing unless we change our approach to accountability for the common people, the grassroots people.

I want to spend my last two minutes talking about the terrible insecurity that exists within my constituency and across the farms of western Canada. Towns and villages are disappearing. On the main street of my town four businesses have closed. They will never reopen.

We are watching a whole generation, fourth and fifth generation Canadians, completely deserting our province because the government bungles more money than ever got into the hands of the farmers of western Canada. It has thrown away more money than will ever go to make agriculture a sustainable industry in western Canada. We need to provide them with some measure of security.

In closing, since 1993 the government has deliberately used alienation to divide Canada and to give it the largest block of voting. It believes in going ahead and alienating and it can always be government. That is a national philosophy of which it should be ashamed.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet Québec


Gilbert Normand LiberalSecretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating you on your appointment and by thanking all the people of the big, beautiful riding of Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet for returning me to the House. I also wish to thank the Prime Minister for his vote of confidence by appointing me to the position of Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development. This morning I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Guelph—Wellington.

As hon. members will no doubt realize, my remarks on the Speech from the Throne will provide an explanation and support of the Canadian government's programs to advance science and research in this country.

In recent years, the Canadian government has made huge efforts to develop this sector of activity and to make it possible to enhance the quality of life and standard of living of all of our citizens. Research councils, which we call funding bodies, have been put in place, such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, created in 1978 out of the National Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which has its roots in the Canada Council. More recently, we established the Canada Foundation for Innovation in 1998, Genome Canada in 1999 and the university chairs in 2000. In the year 2000, we also gave strong support to environmental research.

The government's intention in focusing so much effort on R and D is aimed at national and international objectives, along with what I would term security and ethical ones.

Foremost among the mandates is to keep our research scientists in Canada and not to see them leaving for other countries. As well, we want to attract foreign researchers of international repute.

Canada has set itself the policy goal of moving from 15th ranking internationally in R and D to 5th within 10 years. That is why there is a clear indication in the Speech from the Throne and in the Prime Minister's speech that the emphasis will be on innovation, research and development, and we shall be doubling the budgets devoted to this over the next ten years.

Our universities need substantial support. The Canadian Foundation for Innovation has made new funding available and this has led to agreements with the provinces and private sector for additional and increasingly innovative research in our universities. However more work remains to be done, particularly with respect to support for indirect costs.

I must also tell the House that Quebec's universities are going to need some very tangible support, particularly with the about face by Quebec's Minister of Education this week.

With respect to research being carried out in our hospitals with funding from both by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and our granting councils, many of our hospitals have actually acquired international reputations in research. Some of this research has resulted in the development of drugs now recognized throughout the world.

There are various approaches to research in Canada. The government has its own in-house research centres, such as those in the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, the Environment, and Fisheries and Oceans. All these research centres are now in the process of restructuring so as to meet the needs of industry in the various sectors concerned. The primary purpose of this research, as I mentioned, is to give citizens access to quality products, new drugs and new technologies, whether in transportation, environmental monitoring, agriculture or food.

This research is vital to our economic and social development. It is also designed to maintain Canada's credibility in the international scientific community.

We are working closely with a number of countries. In his economic statement last October, the Minister of Finance announced an additional $100 million for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation for collaborative international research projects . The Canada Foundation for Innovation, which was given that mandate, wants to establish three or four major research centres in our country, where researchers from abroad can work in co-operation with our own scientists.

The foundation also wants to set up a program to allow Canadian researchers to work abroad with researchers from other countries.

The important thing regarding our investments is that they are profitable in the sense that we have partners who come to work with us. Genome Canada, among others, was set up barely a year ago with a budget of $160 million and has already collected $240 million from the provinces, not counting the money that will come from the private sector for genetic research.

These initiatives, which we want to further develop and even double in the coming years, are not only useful but indispensable to our country's development and, as I said earlier, to improving the quality of life of our fellow citizens.

Various types of research are conducted in co-operation. For instance, for the space agency, France, Canada and the United States are co-operating regarding telescopes set up in Hawaii. This is currently giving an incredible boost to astronomical research.

Beyond the money aspect, the Canadian government will also have to concentrate on issues of safety and ethics. As people know, a lot of discussions are going on, primarily on biotechnological research. There is the whole issue of research on human embryos, on human cloning, organ culture and genetic properties. All of this must be debated and mechanisms must be put in place to do so.

Personally, I am currently working on creating what I call—but which will probably not be its final name—a national academy of sciences. Canada is the only country of the G8 without such a body, which would be independent and could provide expert opinions, which would be available to the population at large.

We are currently working to set up federal-provincial discussions on science, research and development. In the coming month, the first federal-provincial science ministers meeting will very likely be held.

At the moment, Canada's scientific influence abroad is growing with our researchers. Discussions with the Minister for International Trade are increasing. I myself, as the Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development, have already had three meetings with the Carnegie group, which brings together the ministers of science of all the G-8 countries. The next meeting of this type will be held in Quebec, most likely in Montmagny itself.

The efforts that went into the throne speech for science, research and development are not only justified but indispensable. I want to congratulate my colleagues on their support and I thank them for seeing the importance of developing this sector of activity.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During my speech I inadvertently used the wrong figure when I was pleading for the government to return the money owing to the merchant marines. I should have said $10 million. I think I said $70 million.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2001 / 11:25 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice, statements pursuant to Standing Order 31 may be made this day from 1:55 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. and, after 2:10 p.m. a Minister of the Crown may be permitted to make a statement pursuant to the said standing order.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House today, following the speech by the member for Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet. I have two questions for him.

The first concerns research and development. I agree that some of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation projects have produced some interesting results. For example, I know that the Centre spécialisé de technologie physique du Québec, in La Pocatière, received funding.

I would like the hon. member to tell me whether his vision encompasses a sufficient share of R and D investment both for Quebec and for areas outside the major centres, be they in Quebec or elsewhere.

As we know, the trend in this field is to create centres in order to create synergy, but often there is a natural attraction toward the major centres. There has been a tradition of research in certain areas for years. For instance, the centre in La Pocatière benefited from the support of an experimental farm for some years. Unfortunately, it was closed in 1994 as a result of cuts. Since then, however, new areas of activity have been developed in fields related to technology, mass transit and all manner of other areas.

Does the hon. member think Quebec is getting its fair share? What about the regions? When I see the number of federal research centres that are located in the Ottawa region compared to Quebec, I feel there is a very considerable disproportion.

My second question deals with an issue which must be of concern to the hon. member. During the election campaign, it was said that there would be other changes to employment insurance in addition to those contained in the former Bill C-44. Now Bill C-2 has just been introduced and it is Bill C-44 all over again.

During the campaign, the Prime Minister stated that certain problems, certain major shortcomings in the plan needed to be corrected. The Secretary of State for Amateur Sport and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, who is also the minister responsible for Quebec, suggested that other improvements needed to be made. I know as well that the hon. member for Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet, with whom I participated in a debate on this issue during the campaign, has indicated a desire for such openness.

Can he explain to us why the government has not immediately brought in other modifications? Does he believe it is possible for additional improvements to indeed be added through the work of the committee, and for the terrible clause trying to legalize the misappropriation of the employment insurance fund surplus to be eliminated?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Gilbert Normand Liberal Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for his very pertinent questions. As for his first question concerning the Canada Foundation for Innovation, this is a first because the foundation is investing not only in universities, but also in colleges. In fact, the Collège La Pocatière, located in the hon. member's riding, benefited from such subsidies, as did Cégep Lévis—Lauzon and several other cégeps in various regions.

I must also point out that one of our priorities is to demonstrate that research can be conducted in rural areas when the so-called critical mass is not indispensable to such research.

I can give the hon. member several examples of what has been done in recent months. There has been, among other initiatives, the marine science park in Rimouski, the de-icing operations in Chicoutimi, some composite materials in Sherbrooke and, just recently, the establishment of the aluminum research centre in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region.

This area is indeed a government priority. I could add that in Rouyn—Noranda there is a research program on pain and various other initiatives. So, this is indeed a government priority.

In my opinion, Quebec is getting its fair share and even more than its fair share. In recent years it has received over 30% of all the subsidies given across the country.

One must not only look at the research centres located in Ottawa to determine what is being done across the country, and particularly in Quebec, regarding research and sport subsidies.

When the granting councils and the foundation select projects, that process is conducted by experts and is not dependent on any geographical consideration. It is innovation that counts. Quebec is very innovative, and it gets its fair share.

As for employment insurance, the bill was tabled in its original form, as we said it would. It was referred to a parliamentary committee. It would have been ill-advised on the government's part not to leave it to members of parliament to propose amendments, and I am convinced that the hon. member opposite will propose amendments.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to congratulate you. You look great in the chair.

I am pleased to rise today to take part in the debate on the Speech from the Throne. I thank the people of Guelph—Wellington for re-electing me for a third term as their member of parliament. It is an honour and a privilege to stand here as their representative. I promise to do all that I can to ensure that their voices are heard in the Chamber and across the land.

The Speech from the Throne sets the course for the future. It outlines the government's vision for Canada. It explains how we will create opportunity for all Canadians in the 21st century. By working together to implement this moderate and balanced plan, all Canadians, men, women and children, will have the opportunity to be the best that they can be in the best country in the world.

Personally I am proud of our achievements as a government over the past seven or eight years, and this plan builds on those accomplishments. We will continue to table balanced budgets, to pay down the debt, to cut taxes fairly, to invest in health care and social programs, to encourage research and innovation, to protect our environment and to help Canadian families.

The Speech from the Throne will have a very real impact in my riding of Guelph—Wellington. In order for Canada to continue to be a world leader in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship, we have to create opportunities for bright minds to learn and share their knowledge.

Some of the nation's brightest minds study and teach at the University of Guelph. The university and our community will benefit from the federal government's commitment to work with other public and private partners and to encourage research and development.

We will at least double the current federal investment in R and D by 2010. We will strengthen the research capacity of our universities, government laboratories and institutions. We will accelerate our ability to commercialize research discoveries. Many of these are made at the University of Guelph.

For example, the Yukon Gold potato was developed by Dr. Gary Johnston, an employee of Agriculture Canada, doing research at the University of Guelph. We will also support more collaborative international research at the frontiers of knowledge.

The University of Guelph, which is well known for its roots in the farming community in Guelph—Wellington as a whole, and Canadians from coast to coast will all benefit from the federal government's commitment to helping our agriculture sector move beyond crisis management. Together we will work toward more genuine diversification and value added growth, new investments, better land use and high standards of environment stewardship.

I am pleased to see the commitment to our farmers and their families. Our agricultural community helped to make Canada what it is today, and we must give it the tools it needs to continue to grow and prosper. Mr. Speaker, as our whip you talked a lot about having a tool box with tools in it so that people could achieve their full potential.

While the well-being of our agricultural community is a concern in Guelph—Wellington, so too is the state of our health care system. In the Speech from the Throne our government reaffirms our commitment to upholding the Canada Health Act. We will work with the provinces to ensure that all governments continue to fulfil their commitment to the principle of medicare. We will work to help Canadians maintain a healthy lifestyle by encouraging physical fitness, combating substance abuse and tobacco consumption, and promoting mental health.

In order for Canadians to have confidence in our health care system they need to understand how it is run. To this end we will create a citizen's council on health care quality to provide perspective on relevant and meaningful measures of how our health care is performing.

We will also encourage active minds by creating registered individual learning accounts to make it easier for Canadians to plan for and to finance their education. We will improve loans for part time students and provide support for young people who have difficulty staying in school or getting their first job.

As the former chair of the Guelph—Wellington County Literacy Council, I am pleased to announce that the federal government will invite the provinces, territories and other parties to launch a national initiative to increase adult literacy.

In the new knowledge economy it is no longer enough to be literate. Canadians must also be computer literate to succeed. The path to national prosperity and personal opportunity travels the Internet. The federal government is committed to building a fast lane for Canada on the information highway by giving Canadians the skills and opportunities they need to become the most Internet savvy people in the world so that we can compete to win.

We will make the Government of Canada the most connected government in the world to its citizens. We will help entire communities go on line and create the framework needed to make Canada a world leader in e-commerce. Getting Canadians on line will not only help connect us to the world but also to each other. We can learn so much about each other if children in Whitehorse can chat on line with students in Gander, Drumheller, Guelph or Halton.

Canada cannot succeed in the knowledge economy unless we prepare our children for success. To this end we will build on our efforts to eliminate child poverty. We will develop new measures to help single parents overcome poverty and to create a better future for their families. We will work with the provinces to modernize laws for child support, custody and access, and to ensure they work in the best interests of the children in cases of family breakdown.

Guelph—Wellington has always been especially concerned with helping our children and with ensuring that they inherit a clean, safe country. We all need clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and natural spaces to enjoy.

The Speech from the Throne commits the federal government to implementing the smog emissions reduction agreement signed with the United States to reduce vehicle emissions by 90%. We will do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We will develop stronger national guidelines for water quality and fund improvements to municipal water and waste systems. We will invest in the creation of new national parks and make our existing parks ecologically healthy. We will strengthen laws to safeguard Canadians from toxic substances.

To ensure our communities are safe we will continue to implement a balanced approach to crime, focusing on prevention and on punishment. We will take aggressive steps to combat organized crime. We will reintroduce legislation dealing with young offenders.

On a final note of good news for Guelph—Wellington, the Speech from the Throne includes a commitment to helping our municipal and provincial partners improve public transit infrastructure. We will stimulate the creation of more affordable rental housing, for which there is a very real and urgent need in my riding and in many other ridings across Canada. My colleague from Halton and I were just speaking of the homeless issue and the things that we need to do and have done as a government to help in that area.

The issues are wide and broad and the needs are great, but the government has worked hard to have a balanced platform. We will continue on that path to do the right thing for all Canadians.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of the member opposite. There were a couple of points I would like her to address that she did not mention.

She mentioned that one issue addressed in the throne speech was the commitment by the government to bring the agricultural community further than crisis management. I would like to suggest to her that the program to get money out to the farmers with low incomes in disaster situations has not worked. Only 50% of the money has been disbursed. Does she have any comments on what the government will do to get that money out faster?

Spring seeding is coming. Many people in my riding and across Canada from coast to coast are having trouble in the agricultural sector to meet their needs. I wonder if the comments in the throne speech, which say that tools will be given to get our agricultural community past this crisis and into other areas, mean that the government will try to help farmers to get off the land instead of help them to stay there. If that is the approach the government is taking it is on the wrong track.

We need to do something immediately to get these funds off cabinet table and on to the kitchen tables across Canada. Would the member comment on what she will do about that?

A joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons met to deal with the parenting issue when families break up. This has been on the table now for about two years. The justice minister said she would not look at it for another two years.

This issue needs to be addressed. Many Canadians are coming to my office asking questions on it. They must be coming to the member's office as well. Would she comment on the government's slow approach in dealing with it?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me assure my colleague that the government believes in the family farm. There is no question we are committed to it. We also believe as a government in a safe, affordable food supply.

When we look across the world we see people in food lines. They line up for hours for a quart of milk or a loaf of bread. As much as 85% or 90% of their money goes toward that food supply and they are still hungry. We have none of this in Canada. This has been because the government has been committed to the family farm. This has been because we believe that we need to have safe, affordable food for all.

I will not stand before the House today and say there are no problems in agriculture. There are many problems. Since the government was first elected in 1993 it has increased the safety net by 85%. That is an important point, but there is no doubt there continue to be problems in the trade area.

Last night the Prime Minister talked to the new president of the United States about this issue, which tells me that we are continuing to work on it. Perhaps my colleague would like to infer that by the wave of a magic wand everything will be okay. That is not possible. We have to continually work at problems in balance, and that is what we intend to do.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the hon. member. For her to stand in the House of Commons and say that the Liberal Party cares about the family farmer is simply not on. It is simply ridiculous.

The facts are that 22,000 farm families left the farm last year in western Canada alone. Those are the facts. They are undeniable. When we speak to the children on the prairies about whether they are interested in the farming community, they say they want nothing to do with farms. Who does she think will be the farmers that will feed Canadians in the future?