House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to make a few comments on the throne speech, the general orientation of the government and my own initiatives, those which I had the opportunity to present to the voters of Ottawa—Vanier in the last general election and which comprise the mandate I received from them.

First, I think it is appropriate to do as all my colleagues have done and thank the people of Ottawa—Vanier for the trust they have placed in me for the third time. This was the third election in the riding within six years. Two general elections and one byelection within six years is a pretty heavy task. In this connection, I believe I have a duty as well to thank all the people who provided me with active support in those three campaigns, the volunteers who play an essential part in the democratic process of this country.

This year we are making a special effort to spotlight volunteerism, and it is very important to keep in mind that democracy depends in large part on volunteers. Without the volunteers in all ridings of this country, in all parties, this country would not have the successful democracy that it enjoys. I wish to particularly thank those who helped me in this campaign.

As well, I take this opportunity to congratulate my adversaries in the last campaign. They were honourable people. All the candidates from all parties, including myself, whether they were major parties or those that were perhaps less well known, were honourable people with exemplary conduct. I was quite proud to be part of the process in Ottawa—Vanier.

In the past two weeks, I have had some difficult moments, personally. There were deaths everyone has heard about, because the events were very public and, in some cases, very controversial. In each instance, people I know were involved. This morning, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the contribution these people have made.

The first instance was a tragedy. It was the case of Catherine MacLean, who died suddenly as the result of a road accident, when she was struck by a car driven by a Russian diplomat. We must continue to press on this side of the House, as must all parties, for the recodification, if I can put it that way, of the Vienna convention on diplomatic immunity.

I have said it before, and I repeat it again. I doubt very much that the concept of diplomatic immunity was created to enable people to circumvent the law of host countries, as appears to be the case here. We heard there were other deplorable incidents, as the matter came up in the House this week. I therefore strongly urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Canada to seize the opportunities presented to them to update the Vienna convention, which is some 40 years old, to ensure the full effect of the law is felt, especially in the case of tragic events such as we have seen.

I would also like to extend my best wishes for a full recovery to Catherine Doré, who remains in hospital. She was with Ms. MacLean on that fateful Saturday afternoon walk.

Second, there was the funeral earlier this week of Carol Anne Letheren, president of the Canadian Olympic committee. I had occasion to work with her in the preparation of the file for the modernization of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. She was of great help to me on that project. She was a great lady. Again this was a life cut short, and it is a great tragedy. I express my deep regret to the members of her family.

A colleague of ours will be buried tomorrow in St. Boniface. David Iftody died in an unusual way, and again this was a life cut short. David was, dare I say it, a card game buddy. We had good times. He was also a parliamentary secretary when I was. We helped each other out. We supported each other. We had good arguments. It is an incredible tragedy that a man of that age in such fine form and good spirits, with much more to contribute, would disappear from us. I hope to be able to attend that funeral tomorrow to pay my respects to the members of his family.

The last person I want to mention is Mr. Charpentier. As we are speaking, his funeral is being held here in Ottawa. Mr. Charpentier died this week at the age of 103. His was a full, extraordinary life in the service of his country, his community and his fellow citizens.

I had the honour of supporting the efforts of Pierre Bergeron, the editor of the daily Le Droit , when the Assemblée parlementaire de la francophonie awarded the Ordre de la Pléiade to Mr. Charpentier, when he turned 100. The ceremony took place in the newsroom of Le Droit , for which Mr. Charpentier had worked.

I am anxious to read the book that a friend, François-Xavier Simard, is writing on Mr. Charpentier's life. It should be released in the coming year.

I am taking this opportunity to refer to the lives of these four people, whom I got to know, if only a little bit, but who nevertheless had an influence on my work here as a parliamentarian.

We have a renewed mandate based on a commitment called the red book, which was made available widely in print form and even more widely in electronic form during the last general election. I of course campaigned on it, as did all my colleagues on this side of the House, and all those candidates who did not succeed did present that option to the Canadian electorate.

That option has been retained as the one favoured for the future orientation of our country. This is the sixth day of debate on the Speech from the Throne, which was in great part a reflection of that campaign pledge. We have heard numerous comments. I will not go into detail on the major items of priority. As we all know, they deal with health, the necessity of innovation, lowering taxes and debt, education and early childhood development. There are many other items such as our environment and our parks. These have all been talked about. They are widely known.

I will highlight a few that have perhaps not been dealt with in the same detail. I will also highlight five actions that I presented to the electorate of Ottawa—Vanier which I think mesh quite well with what is in the Speech from the Throne and are of importance not only to the people in Ottawa—Vanier but to those within this region and in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

The first of these is the need for a ring road and bridges crossing our river into western Quebec. This is important for a number of reasons.

Building a ring road around the national capital region is very important to ensure balanced economic development. We all know that the western part of our region is growing rapidly. Before long, the road network for Ottawa and the region will no longer be adequate because of that growth and will no longer meet the needs of the population.

There is only one main east-west highway, known as the Queensway. There is a need for a ring road, which would branch off from the Queensway west of Ottawa, continue south of Ottawa's international airport and reconnect with the provincial road system to the east of the city.

Later on, two bridges would be built and this ring road could be completed in western Quebec. This would truly ensure balanced growth in our region, much of it probably centred within the bounds of this ring road. We could thus protect our agricultural heritage, something we must not neglect. In addition, we must make sure that the three airports in our region, the ones in Ottawa, Gatineau and Carp, are connected to this ring road.

All of this would help to get the huge trucks out of the downtown core in the nation's capital. I think that any self-respecting city in North America, Europe or wherever has this concept of a ring road to allow heavy truck traffic to bypass the downtown area, which is not the case now in Ottawa.

We must not forget the safety aspect. In recent years, a few trucks have spilled their cargoes on the highway that runs through the downtown core of the nation's capital. Fortunately, these cargoes were not hazardous and contained no toxic substances. One would really have to be irresponsible to think that there will be no accidents or ecological or other disasters that might pose a threat to the public in this region in the future. It is important that these hazardous goods be transported outside the downtown area, ideally on a ring road. That was my first point.

The second is the Rockcliffe military base.

The Rockcliffe airbase is a 330 acre parcel of land which is in the heart of the riding. It is a glorious location. There is an opportunity here for public good.

A few years ago the Department of National Defence declared it surplus to its needs. There has been an ongoing process of preparing it to be sold. I have indicated repeatedly, with the support of my community, that I am opposed to the disposal of that land for building a residential subdivision. We have an opportunity, because of the proximity of the Aviation Museum and the National Research Council which is contiguous to this piece of land, to create something of much more importance to the economic development of the east end of the city. That is one thing I wish to focus a lot of effort on during this mandate.

A third project which has been under some preparation by a number of groups, such as the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the Kingston economic development officers, is the cleanup of the Rideau River from one end to the other. It is a rather massive project and is one which will require co-operation among the Government of Canada, the government of Ontario and many of the municipalities along the Rideau system.

We all know the importance of clean water and having a water system that is alive. We know the importance of having ecological biodiversity, a safe water supply and an area that can also be used for recreational purposes.

The scope of the project is now pretty well established. Over the next number of years, I hope that we would see co-operation in a project, which could well take a decade but is of some importance and significance to eastern Ontario and the entire St. Lawrence and Ottawa River system.

Fourth, we have linguistic duality. Respect for that duality must begin here in the capital of Canada. I believe it is absolutely essential for this capital city to reflect the duality of Canada, and for it to officially recognize both English and French.

The municipal council will have the responsibility of determining how this will be done, but I trust that when application is made to the government of Ontario, when it is informed of the wishes of the people of this city, this being a local decision, it will agree to recognize the benefits of the use of both languages in this capital.

This recognition and respect of linguistic duality does not stop there. It must be present throughout the federal administration. I am most relieved to see that the government's intention was set out very explicitly in the Speech from the Throne. I hope to be able to contribute, through work in the House and in its committees, to the implementation of that desire to ensure that there will be a place for French everywhere in Canada and a place as well for English-speaking citizens everywhere in Canada.

This is an absolutely vital initiative, for it relates to the very essence of our country. It is fundamental and essential to the future of this country. Once again, let me say how relieved I am to see that the government intends to address this.

The other item I had mentioned flows totally into the government's initiatives in terms of research and development and innovation. I believe we must strive to foster a better scientific culture in the country. It is without doubt that we have various areas of science that will be impacting on society in a major way.

We are already seeing on a daily basis developments in the field of genetics. With all its potential and with all of its dark side, government must have the ability to establish a framework within which we can all feel comfortable, yet pursue knowledge and the positive use of that knowledge. That is just one field.

It is the same in the field of nanotechnology. Last year alone the American government put $500 million into the institute for nanotechnology. We have yet to really move on those lines. It is an incredibly important technology in all fields, not just medicine, and I sense that sometimes we lag in that.

The same thing can be said for artificial intelligence. I am not trying to be funny or anything, but there are accelerating developments in that field. It will have a significant impact on all of our lives in the way we conduct ourselves, in the way we interact, in the way we do business and perhaps in the way democracy works. Yet sometimes I sense that the population of Canada is not engaged in those fields and is not aware of the importance of what is coming at us. It behooves us all to try to foster a greater scientific culture and perhaps use some of the mechanisms of the House.

I had hoped at some point that we might see a full-fledged standing committee on science and technology. I would be encouraged if we started with a subcommittee of industry. However, in summary, the whole notion of the scientific culture and the importance of science and technology to our society cannot be underestimated.

Those are some of the elements I had hoped to work on. I put them forward to my electorate and I feel comfortable that I have a mandate to work on those.

I wish to point out that a provincial colleague, Brian Coburn, the member for the riding next door to me, was elevated to the cabinet of Ontario as minister of agriculture. I am very happy to see that because on some of these projects we will be working together on in great co-operation, the ring road in particular. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my friend Brian for his appointment yesterday to the Ontario cabinet.

With all of the commitments in the red book being put forward in the Speech from the Throne, with these additional ones and with the need to address the housing situation in our community, we have a lot of work to do in the next years. I pledge to my constituents, as I did on the Saturday morning of January 27, 2001 when I was sworn in front of 400 of them, that I will do the best I can to serve them faithfully. I thank them very much for this opportunity.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Excuse me for interrupting the debate at this point. I have a motion that I think you will find there is unanimous consent for and that all parties in the House are interested in having passed. I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, all questions necessary to dispose of the main motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on Tuesday, February 13, 2001.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Preston Manning Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on his re-election and on his remarks this morning.

One phrase that he used, with which I would certainly be in agreement, is the need for creating a greater scientific culture, starting right in the House. We do not make the effort that we should to bring science to bear on many of the issues we are confronted with.

I would ask the member, in light of the interest in creating a scientific culture, would he support the government creating a specific ministry of science and technology, rather than having that buried in the industry department? Would he support the creation of a separate standing committee to deal with science and technology issues? Would he support the idea of a chief scientist who was accountable to parliament, somewhat in the same way as the auditor general?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues on this side of the House know that I support the notion of a standing committee on science and technology. There is no doubt about that.

I have had debates with some of our colleagues. I believe that the notion of the creation of new committees might have been broached during discussions between the House leaders. I am not absolutely certain, however, because I am not privy to those discussions.

I would hope that somehow someone in the House would see fit to create a standing committee on science and technology. From that could flow debates on whether or not a science officer or a chief scientist would be required and how to structure it, if that was the consensus emerging from the committee. Also flowing from that could be how we conduct research, how we attribute budgets, how we do not seem to have enough cohesion in the approach between departments and how the rate of innovation is important to our economic well-being and, therefore, our own personal well-being.

I would absolutely support that. I talked to my colleagues about it in the recent weeks. I would hope that some day sooner than later we would see a permanent standing committee for science and technology in the House of Commons, as we see it in many jurisdictions around the world.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too listened with interest to the member's speech. I noticed that about 85% of his speech had to do with municipal government. Then, he talked peripherally about the values in the House.

He mentioned one thing that really intrigued me. When he talked about drinking water, he threw in the word ecodiversity. I was rather confused. My idea of drinking water is that there is not too much ecodiversity in it. I would rather it be pure water. He may want to check the record of what he said and maybe rethink his position on that.

I have one question for the member. We feel in the House that members of parliament are too marginalized. Does he have any comment on the government's very tepid statement in the throne speech on improving the way in which members of parliament can do their work? I would like his comment on that.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, biodiversity is an essential component to the health of a river system. If we want to have good, clean drinking water we must have rivers that are alive and that have a great deal of biodiversity in them. That is the case in the Rideau River. It is actually getting better. More species seem to be recovering and re-establishing themselves in the river, which leads to clean water, believe it or not.

I am not a biologist. Therefore I will not get caught up in all the details. I cannot get caught up in them because I do not know them. There is no doubt that a dead water system will not produce clean, drinkable water. We need a river system that is alive and has biodiversity so that it can regenerate itself.

I have not commented, either in the House or publicly, on the debates regarding parliamentary reform and so forth. Sometimes some of the criticism is a reflection of a mindset. I have asked to be here, as all my colleagues have. I fought to be here. No system is perfect. All systems can stand some improvements. I have chosen not to be miserable. I have chosen to work within the system to try to improve it but to use the mechanisms at hand. The one I have chosen to use the most is the committee system.

Colleagues who have sat with me on certain committees know that I have had no difficulty supporting amendments or motions from opposition members, based on their merits, not on party affiliation. We have changed government legislation at committee at least on two occasions significantly and the changes have been approved in the House.

There can be improvements as my colleague suggests, but I disagree with the statement that the system does not work. My experience has been the opposite. If we choose to use the devices, the services, and the resources available to members of parliament, we can effect change. I did not address that issue because it is not uppermost in my mind. I would rather get things done as opposed to whining.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the address in reply to the government's Speech from the Throne.

First off, I would like to thank the voters in Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for the trust they have placed in me once again, by electing me for a third mandate. I will try to represent them with all the vigour and dignity the job requires.

I have nine comments to make on the throne speech. That means I have less than a minute per comment. I will try to do so quickly, but these are things I consider vital.

The throne speech has once again set out the general policies the government intends to follow in its dealings with Quebec and with the citizens of this country.

First off, there still was no recognition of the federal government's flagrant tax imbalance with Quebec and the other provinces in Canada. The money is in Ottawa. The surpluses expected this year will exceed $20 billion, and the needs in health care, education and other areas are to be found in Quebec and the other provinces. There is no concern about striking a tax balance in Canada. That is most disappointing.

We would have preferred to have the Minister of Finance recognize the mistakes of the past and, acknowledge that when he lowered income taxes he targeted first and foremost the very high end incomes, so much so that in the latest two budgets, people earning over $250,000 in Canada, probably not most taxpayers, received a $9,000 tax cut this year, whereas families earning about $40,000 received a $300 tax cut.

This is outrageous, particularly since the anticipated surpluses for the coming years could have been used to provide immediate relief to families with an income of $40,000 or less, particularly single parent families with two dependent children. With that money, these families might not have had to pay any federal tax and the government would have created a balance in society, instead of granting tax reductions that primarily benefit the millionaires in this country.

We were also very disappointed not to find anything for the unemployed who, over the years, have been hit very hard by the government. Considering that only 43% of the unemployed are covered by the new employment insurance program, one would have expected the government to make adjustments and use the annual surpluses of $6 billion to $7 billion to come up with a much improved program for the jobless.

We are not talking about cosmetic changes such as those proposed in the bill, which only use $500 million per year, out of the surpluses of $7 billion, and which give to the federal government the power required to control the fund's surpluses, to legitimize the robbery of the money in these surpluses that has been taking place over the past four years.

Third, we would have liked the government to recognize the consensus in Quebec on parental leave and to transfer the necessary funding to the government of Quebec, so that it can implement its parental leave policy, which is much more generous and universal than the federal government's policy.

Fourth, we see in the throne speech the government's perpetual desire for confrontation with Quebec. For example, there is the new citizens' council on the quality of health care provided by the Government of Quebec. It is unacceptable that the federal government tell the Quebec government what to do in the health field when this is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

It is always this policy of confrontation which drives the federal government in its relations with the government of Quebec.

Fifth, we would have liked to see mention in the throne speech of the fact that Quebec has been enforcing the Young Offenders Act the way it was intended. Quebec is a success story with respect to the reintegration of young offenders into society. The success rate it achieves with its approach is the envy of many. It would have been nice to see this acknowledged in the throne speech.

If the minister really has the courage she claims to have to impose a new young offenders policy, she should have imposed the policy being used in Quebec throughout Canada, instead of the brutal policy of sending 14 year olds to prison.

Mr. Speaker, if it were your son or daughter who made a mistake and was liable to be charged under the new legislation introduced by the minister, with the support of the Canadian Alliance, I think that you would stop and think twice before giving this bill your support.

We would have liked to have seen that consensus respected, and this contemptuous treatment of Quebec and young Quebecers avoided.

Sixth, once again we find unacceptable intrusions into the sector of education and early childhood education, to fuel this confrontation with Quebec.

Seventh, we would have expected the government, with more than 20 criminal investigations on its back relating to presumed fraud, particularly within Human Resources Development Canada, to have addressed an important issue in its throne speech: government ethics. Let it agree to carry out its red book promise to have an ethics counsellor, one who is appointed by parliament, answerable to parliament and guided by rules defined by parliament. Instead, we still have an ethics counsellor who reports to the PMO, who says what the Prime Minister wants to hear, because the Prime Minister is the one paying him.

When it comes to government scandal, to undue pressure from ministers or the Prime Minister on crown corporations, when the ethics counsellor tells us there is no problem, he cannot be believed. Why can we not believe him? Because he is on the Prime Minister's payroll. One does not bite the hand that feeds one.

Will this matter of transparency be one of the fundamental questions for this elitist government once and for all or will it be sidestepped again? Like the House leader of the government said yesterday in the House, will we again be told “We are a government with an incredible record of honesty and integrity”. There has to be some reason for twenty criminal investigations, because such investigations are not carried out for no reason.

We would also have liked to see an announcement of measures to properly deal with cyclical fuel crises. We would have liked to see the government show a bit more compassion for people like the independent truckers who have to deal at various times throughout the year with the major oil companies and the way they set prices.

Let us not beat about the bush. The government should stop telling us there is no proof of collusion between major oil companies. One simply has to walk around and look at the prices posted by major oil companies at service stations to realize there is collusion.

The Competition Act is full of loopholes. It must be strengthened. It must have teeth so that major oil companies can be confronted about their actions in the areas of gas and heating oil.

It is time the government gave some teeth to that act, teeth as sharp as those of the sharks called oil companies. In other words, it is time the government assume its responsibilities in that area.

The cheque of $125 did not solve anything. It merely eased the plight of the poor. At least they got that, because when it comes to income tax and social transfers, this government has made huge cuts in recent years. At least they got that cheque.

However, mistakes were made and we cannot accept that some inmates received $125 for heating costs.

The government did not solve anything with that. Oil prices are still rising quickly and so are heating oil bills. We would have liked to see the government take that into consideration.

I will conclude by saying that Canada is being built without Quebec. It is absolutely shameful to see that while the summit of the Americas is going to be held in our national capital of Quebec City, our province is not given a place of choice. Quebecers have pride and at some point they will express it.

Forty five per cent of those who took part in the latest poll support sovereignty without a referendum campaign. This is a significant increase in the support for sovereignty. It means that at the next referendum, Quebecers will decide to leave a country that has no room for them, a Canada that is being built without Quebec and without Quebecers. I can assure the House you that Quebecers will make that decision.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment.

I take this opportunity to respond to my hon. colleague, whose remarks were interesting in some ways and less so in others. It was interesting when he dealt with the economy, but less so when he started to talk again about Quebec's sovereignty and independence.

As members know, the last referendum was not the first one in Quebec. It was the second or the third. The question has been widely debated, and each time Quebecers came out in favour of the Canadian federation.

I cannot understand. When are we going to stop talking about this issue and deal with the important issues for Quebecers, the economic issues?

I would like my hon. colleague to tell me whether or not the economic situation of Quebecers is much better now than it was ten years ago.

The federal government has already given to the provinces, Quebec included, a great deal of responsibility in several areas. What does my colleague want from the federal government for his province to get Quebec off its back once and for all? You know as well as I do, Mr. Speaker, that Quebecers are quite happy with our way of governing. They are very satisfied with the Canadian situation. They are also quite proud of the Canadian nation and of their French Canadian heritage. Could my colleague answer all these questions?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, in case I forgot to mention it, I will be sharing my time with the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve.

When are we going to stop talking about sovereignty? Never. So long as it is not a fact, we will keep talking about it. He had better hold on to his hat, as my colleague from Roberval would say, because in the coming months we are going to be talking sovereignty more than ever. He has not understood that Quebecers constitute a people and that the throne speech contains no reference to the existence of a people and a nation in Quebec.

Quebecers are a people. Although people readily speak of a Canadian people, we are not among them. Let him make no mistake. The sovereignty option had climbed in this morning's poll, without anyone talking about it. Does the member know what the percentage was prior to the latest referendum, in 1995, six months before the referendum? There was no talk of sovereignty. It was 37% or 38% tops. After the referendum campaign, it rose to about 50%. We lost by 50,000 votes in the latest referendum. We are at 45% now, and there is no talk of it. Give that a little thought.

Quebecers are proud. They are not crazy. They can see how Canada is being built. They can see that Quebec is being left on the fringe in this building activity. They can also see how incredibly arrogant the government is, that it marches right into Quebec's jurisdictions and that it is destabilizing Quebec's public finances.

People should not imagine, and I think it is important to point this out, that it is easy to manage Quebec's finances when the federal government first slashes transfer payments and then leaves us in a state of perpetual uncertainty. We do not know what it is going to do in the coming years. Now we are looking at a throne speech and upcoming bills that show not a shred of respect for provincial jurisdiction.

How is it possible for two independent bodies to run the same sector effectively? Do we want to sit still while the federal government takes Quebecers for a ride in sectors such as education? Are we going to allow three-quarters of the Canadian population, which lives outside Quebec and is primarily English-speaking, to decide the kind of exams French-speaking students from Quebec should have to write to get into elementary school?

There is a problem somewhere. Over the years we defined the separation of powers and the jurisdictions to be respected. However the federal government is not keeping to its part of the bargain. It is more arrogant than ever. The member is asking me what it will take to shut Quebec up? We are not going to beg the federal government for anything.

The day that Quebecers decide to become a sovereign nation, we will stop handing over the $33 billion in taxes we now pay to the federal government. We will manage this money ourselves and will not get down on our knees to ask the federal government for anything.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your new responsibilities. I want to thank voters in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for putting their trust in me for the third consecutive time. I will do my best to live up to the responsibility they gave me.

Also, I would like to congratulate all the new members of the House, who will undoubtedly work very hard to serve their fellow citizens.

I will expand on what our colleague the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has said. The Speech from the Throne is disappointing, especially for what it does not say. It is interesting to note that as the government is embarking on its third mandate, two main characteristics come to mind to describe it. First, there is this very contemporary will that would certainly be a source of embarrassment for the likes of Lester B. Pearson, André Laurendeau and other nationalists who believed Quebec was a province unlike the others.

It is rather incredible. The new Liberal members, those from Quebec who sit on the government benches, are going to be faced with a real challenge. I do not doubt they wish to serve Quebec just as I do. However, they will have to say once and for all whether they are comfortable with the idea that Quebec is a province just like the others and that when we talk about Quebec, it is the same as if we were talking about Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland. Are they comfortable with this logic imposed through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which considers that all provinces are equal in fact and in law?

We call this the ideology of egalitarianism. However, what is interesting is that this cannot be possible. We cannot say on the one hand that we wish to have a strong French speaking Quebec in North America and, on the other hand that Quebec is a province like the others.

We cannot on the one hand say that there is a Quebec model with the Mouvement Desjardins, with a social safety net that cannot be found outside Quebec and on the other hand maintain that Quebec is a province like the others. We cannot on the one hand vote on a bill in 1997 that allegedly gives Quebec a veto and that recognizes Quebec as a distinct society and on the other hand deprive Quebec of its full powers in immigration.

I am one of those who believe that in the coming years the sovereignist movement, a democratic movement that has deep roots in the Quebec society, will go on. I remind the House that each time the citizens of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve have had the opportunity to do so, they have voted for sovereignty. It is the people of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, whom I am pleased to represent here, who for the first time elected a sovereignist member to the national assembly, Robert Burns.

In the coming years, Quebecers will have to face a truth test. This identity confusion being maintained by the federal government cannot go on indefinitely. As I said, Canada is a great country for Canadians. I am convinced we have friends everywhere in Canada and that for those living in English Canada that country deserves to be defended.

However this cannot be the case for a Quebecer. We cannot accept that a province like Quebec, which has its own legal system, a language different from that of the majority, its own history and a desire to live together all these things being the attributes of a nation under international law, to be reduced to the status of an ordinary province.

The government could have recognized the specificity of Quebec in the Speech from the Throne. I see new government members who have been democratically elected. It is quite acceptable in democracy for people to choose between the two main constitutional options: the federalist option and the sovereignist option. The issue must always be settled by the voters, democratically.

Now, why does this government keep saying that Quebec is a distinct society while this statement is never backed up by concrete initiatives? For instance, in the case of parental leave, why is it that the government continues to ignore one of the strongest consensuses in Quebec society? Women's federations, management, unions and consumer associations all agree that there should be only one parental leave system and that it would be easier for the national assembly to improve this system.

As an aside, let me remind hon. members of a letter that the Canadian Conference of Bishops sent to those beginning their third term, as well those beginning their first one. The letter pointed out that during the last campaign the Liberal government indicated that 1.33 million Canadian children, one in five, were living in poverty.

There is no wizardry involved here. If there are children living in poverty, it is because there are families living in poverty. Of course, one way to fight poverty is to increase the parents' disposable income to ensure that those who are not in the workforce can access it and that single parents who want to benefit from a parental leave plan can do so, and be assured that they have the best plan possible.

I hope we can count on the new Quebec MPs on the government side to support one of the most solid consensuses in Quebec society, a consensus on the necessity for the federal government to enter into negotiations to ensure that Quebec national assembly be in charge of parental leave.

Let me say that during my third term I will work on various issues, and that the issue of poverty will always be on my agenda.

I am not forgetting that this is the seventh successive year of economic growth. As parliamentarians, we must realize that economic growth and job creation no longer go hand in hand. Things are not as they were in the 1950s. Economic growth does not mean that every person capable of working can get a job.

This is why over the next few months we, as parliamentarians, will have to be extremely ingenious and courageous in terms of the social policies we want to put forward and the means we want to use to fight poverty.

In a few days, I will introduce an anti-poverty bill aimed at giving to the Canadian Human Rights Commission a new mandate in this area.

In closing, I want to mention that, in a few weeks, we will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of the report tabled in the national assembly by the Bélanger-Campeau commission.

Members will recall that this commission has a special status since, even when the federal Department of Intergovernmental Affairs alludes to it, it recognizes its status as a constituent assembly.

For the first time in Quebec history, the national assembly recognized, through the Bélanger-Campeau commission, its inalienable right to make a partnership offer to English Canada and to achieve sovereignty.

As members of the House of Commons, it will be incumbent upon us on this tenth anniversary to recognize the non-negotiable right of the national assembly to make a partnership offer to the rest of Canada and to lead us toward sovereignty, if that is the wish of a majority of Quebecers.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, will work toward that in full compliance with the democratic principles that have always motivated us.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


John Cannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I did not have a chance to congratulate you on your new duties so I take this opportunity to do that.

I listened very carefully to the member. He talked about seven years of continuous economic growth. I was very happy to hear him acknowledging that. He also talked about providing jobs and opportunities.

Could he comment on how we work in the House of Commons in terms labour training programs that we were more than happy to transfer the to the provinces because they knew what programs they needed in their respective provinces. Was that not a good move on the federal government's part?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, could I reserve my answer for after question period, since we do not have much time and I will need to elaborate on that? If the Chair could give me three or four minutes after question period, I would be most grateful.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to statements by members. Of course the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve will have the opportunity to answer this question and possibly others after oral question period.

South Easthope TownshipStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to announce that on February 18, 2001, a book launching of South Easthope Township will take place in my riding of Perth—Middlesex.

The book, entitled Country Roads: The Story of South Easthope , is the product of hard work. It took the committee of this project almost four years to collect information about South Easthope, and their hard work and dedication has produced an excellent publication. This publication is a quality hardbound book of about 800 pages, with 1,300 photos and it tells the lives of the people who make up South Easthope.

I congratulate co-chairpersons Lester Wilker and Wilma McCraig, and the editor of the book, Jim Hagerty, for their hard work and dedication. The hard work of farmers, business people, teachers, clergy and residents should also be commended.

Grain TransportationStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the farmers of eastern Saskatchewan are a long way from traditional ports. The port of Churchill is approximately 800 miles from most delivery points in my riding.

Mr. Justice Estey recommended that competent third parties have access to CP and CN rail systems. Implementing this recommendation would mean that the farmers of eastern Saskatchewan would benefit by having access to the port of Churchill at much reduced freight rates.

Canadian farmers are suffering severely from circumstances beyond their control while the government misses yet another opportunity to help our producers by implementing this recommendation.

I therefore urge the transportation minister to give back to farmers some real control over their industry by opening up the rail lines. Let us help our farmers help themselves by giving them the choice and the opportunity to reduce their costs.

Eating Disorder Awareness WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that February 11 to February 17 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

The goal this year is to reduce the prevalence of anorexia, bulimia, extreme dieting and body image problems through a public education program emphasizing the impact of social factors on these disorders.

During the week, information will be provided to Canadians to dispel myths and direct them to appropriate resources. These messages are consistent with Canada's food guide to healthy eating, Canada's physical guide to healthy active living and Health Canada's vitality program, which continue to help Canadians make healthy lifestyle choices.

I congratulate the National Eating Disorder Information Centre for its work on raising awareness of this very serious health concern.

Black History MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1995, parliament passed a resolution proclaiming February Black History Month.

This annual celebration grew in popularity during the 1960s, as blacks in Canada became increasingly aware of their contribution to Canadian society with the growth of the civil rights movement in the United States.

The Mathieu Da Costa awards program shows the importance the government places on Black History Month.

Historically recognized as the first black person to settle in Canada, Mathieu Da Costa helped the Mi'kmaq and the first French explorers understand each other, thanks to his skill as an interpreter.

The awards program is aimed at encouraging primary and secondary school students, aged 9 to 19, to explore the contributions persons of various cultural and racial origins have made to Canada's development.

In this, Black History Month, I hope celebrations are lively and I offer my thanks for their contribution to Canada's culture.

Winterlude 2001Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, having worked in the Alberta oil patch I can attest to the indomitable character and determination of the many workers who toil on the rigs of Kenting, Brelco, Nabors and many more. These men and women work in all types of weather, far from the comfort of family, friends and home. It is cold, lonely work on remote, isolated frontier land to bring warmth to Canada's homes.

Today on Parliament Hill, three Edmontonians are charged with the task of carving Alberta's character and spirit into snow. William Purnel, Kelly Davies and Shane Lewandowski are proudly representing Alberta in the Winterlude 2001 snow sculpture competition. Their sculpture, Going Steady, embodies the industrial spirit of all Alberta workers, a spirit represented by members of parliament who too come from all walks of working pasts.

I wish our artists the best of luck and thank them for a wonderful effort.

St. Lawrence SeawayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway plays a vital role in servicing the marine transportation needs of North America's mining, steel, pulp and paper, agriculture and construction industries in the movement of over 250 million tonnes of raw material, finished and semi-finished goods and products to domestic and international markets in a cost efficient, safe and environmentally friendly mode.

The waterway is a major component of Canada's transportation network, being a critical link between east and west, between Canada and the United States, between supply and production, and between potential and prosperity. The waterway's importance extends beyond the Atlantic coast to the western shores of Lake Superior, impacting communities in all regions and people in all walks of life, including those in my riding of Erie—Lincoln.

I challenge all levels of government to work in partnership in the development of a strategic plan to improve the competitiveness and viability of this world class marine trade route.

Heart MonthStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, February is Heart Month, the month in which heart foundation volunteers call at people's homes across the country to collect money in support of research into heart disease.

This month is dear to my heart because, like thousands of others, I too have lost someone dear to heart disease.

In a few days it will be the fifth anniversary of the death of my husband Michel, who died of one of these diseases. This is why my children, Julie and Patrick, and I are asking the people of Quebec and Canada from the bottom of our heart to be generous when a volunteer from the heart foundation calls at their door.

Michel, you will always have your special place within our hearts.

White Cane WeekStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West—Mississauga, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to the many volunteers and supporters of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and to the nearly 100,000 Canadians who are visually impaired.

Since 1947 the first week of February has been designated White Cane Week. During this week the CNIB and its volunteers and supporters across the country conduct programs to raise public awareness about the challenges of blind and visually impaired Canadians as they strive to function independently in a sighted world.

Today the CNIB must respond to an increasing demand for its services as Canadians live longer and experience age related vision loss.

I ask the House to join me in congratulating members of the CNIB for their achievements and in extending our best wishes for a successful White Cane Week.

The SenateStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister visits China, in part to promote democracy in that country. On Tuesday, B.C. Senator Ray Perrault retired, giving the Prime Minister a golden opportunity to practise democracy at home.

A replacement senator could easily be elected through B.C.'s senatorial selection act, which encourages the election of senators. This senate vote could be held in conjunction with B.C.'s upcoming provincial election, which must be held by the end of May.

To prove his commitment to democracy, the Prime Minister needs only to tell British Columbians that he will appoint the senator they elect. Respecting democracy at home will clearly make him more worthy to talk about democracy abroad.

With the mechanism in place and an electoral window on the horizon, there seems to be no reason why B.C.'s next senator cannot be elected.

Surely democracy in Canada should come before democracy in China. I hope the Prime Minister takes this chance to show that he agrees.