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House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from March 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today to speak to Bill C-18. I will be splitting my time with the member for Acadie—Bathurst.

Bill C-18 is an act to remove the cap on equalization payments for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 1999. The act concerns me and the other members of the New Democratic Party a great deal because of the implications it will have for the have not provinces in Canada.

The equalization program has enabled less prosperous provincial governments to provide their residents with reasonably comparable levels of public service and taxation. Equalization payments are unconditional in that the receiving provinces are free to spend them in public services according to their priorities.

The NDP has always supported transfer payments and equalization payments as a way of cementing the country and its provinces together. Many years ago we had the EPF, the established programs financing program. It was equal, with 50:50 funding for established programs within the various provinces. The NDP believes it was of far greater benefit to the provinces when we had the federal government in control of implementing national standards with the funding formula of 50% and 50%. It was simple. If one of the provinces chose not to comply with the national standards that were in place, it was jeopardized in that the 50:50 funding formula was pulled back.

The established programs financing worked very well. We then saw CAP, the Canada assistance plan, come in, followed by the cap on CAP. Then came the CHST. Now we are seeing a removal of the cap of the new ceiling imposed in a temporary way.

In earlier debates, New Democratic Party members pointed out the devastating impact of the CHST on social programs in the country. It should be stated clearly and abundantly, so the public hears it over and over again, that the government stripped 33% of the funding out of federal social transfers with the CHST. I believe the total figure since 1995 is $23 billion. The government went from $19.1 billion to $11 billion in social transfers.

When the equalization program was renewed in 1999, the ceiling was reduced by roughly $1 billion per year to an arbitrary level of $10 billion in 1999-2000, in spite of the broad objections from virtually every finance minister in the various provinces. It was then indexed by GDP growth in subsequent years.

Adequate levels of equalization and social transfers are critical to provinces like Nova Scotia. Otherwise Nova Scotians would not get what they are entitled to under the constitution, namely, reasonably comparable services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

Why do we need federal transfers to ensure that services in Nova Scotia are reasonably comparable to those elsewhere? We need them because our economy is smaller and weaker and does not produce as much wealth as the economies of most other provinces. Because there is less wealth, tax rates in Nova Scotia need to be higher to raise the minimum revenue needed to maintain public services. However, even though we pay a higher rate of taxation than most other Canadians, when it comes to public services Nova Scotians pay more and get less.

Nova Scotians value education and the role that good education plays in making possible a better and more prosperous future, and we in Nova Scotia invest our scarce resources in education. In 1995 Nova Scotians invested 8.4% of their gross domestic product in education. That was the highest rate of investment in education of any province, higher than Alberta, Ontario, B.C. or Quebec. Only Newfoundland put a bigger share of its collective wealth into education.

What did we get as a result? Did we get well funded schools, low pupil-teacher ratios and gilt-edged support services? Not a chance. Because our economy is small relative to other provinces, putting more of our economy into education still left us at the bottom of the class in terms of educational expenditures per student. I have spoken with many people in my riding who do not believe for a minute that Nova Scotia students are enjoying reasonably comparable services when it comes to education.

Health spending is another case in point. Last year Nova Scotians spent 11.3% of their provincial gross domestic product on health. The national average was just 9.3%, but because we are taking a larger piece of a considerably smaller pie the slice was not big enough to adequately serve our population. Once again we paid more and got less. The health care we can afford left our per capita spending the second lowest in the country. It was a full 9% below the national average. With that, we are expected to serve a population that needs more health care, 10% or 15% more than the national average. With those kinds of numbers, we have to wonder whether Nova Scotians are getting health services that are reasonably comparable to those enjoyed by many other Canadians.

Rather than improving, it is a sad fact that financial support has been declining since the promises of comparable service levels were put into the constitution. In 1980 federal transfers amounted to almost 48% of the revenues available to the province of Nova Scotia. By 1993 when the Liberal government took office, the percentage had dropped to 38.6%. Last year it was down to 37.2%.

By lowering the level of equalization payments, which is indeed where Bill C-18 will take us, the government will be moving us even further away from the goal of providing reasonably comparable services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

We in the New Democratic Party oppose Bill C-18. We oppose further cuts to the baseline equalization payments. In fact, in a time of galloping surplus we see the need to augment our equalization payments to allow for equal standards of education and health care across the country.

Now is the time to correct the crippling impact of inadequate funding on our education and on our health care, on our schools and on our hospitals. Now is the time to revisit the equalization formula to ensure that all provinces are afforded an equal level of services and all Canadians an equal level of citizenship.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Dartmouth for those remarks, many of which I can relate to as I also come from a province that relies heavily on the whole concept of the redistribution of wealth through federal transfer payments.

I want to raise something that has come up recently with regard to the ministers of finance and the first ministers of the various provinces who recently agreed on the arrangement to lift the cap for a one year period and to then reinstate it. The sentiment we are hearing now is that some premiers and some provincial finance ministers feel this is not quite what they agreed to, that what we are dealing with in Bill C-18 is in fact less than what they thought they were agreeing to on, I believe, September 11, 2000.

For the province of Manitoba this is certainly the case. Is it true for the province of Nova Scotia? Is there disappointment that what is being proposed is less than what Nova Scotia thought it was agreeing to at that meeting?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is indeed the case. For many reasons, the province of Nova Scotia is clearly very concerned about what it feels is the unfair equalization formula that now exists. Certainly we in Nova Scotia do not feel we are getting enough to run our education and health care services.

Another issue that is very important right now is Nova Scotia's concern that there be a recognition and a commitment from the government to allow Nova Scotians to maintain more of our offshore development resources. If we did not have the excessive federal government clawback, we would be able to use more of the resources coming in from our new offshore development to pay down our debt. Certainly that would go a long way in helping us to get on an even footing with the other provinces.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is one other issue I would like the hon. member to comment on. It is of a more general and philosophical nature. Now that we are re-introducing the cap, albeit at a lower level than we thought, at a level that we frankly believe is lower than will meet the actual need, could the hon. member provide her comments on the whole concept of putting a cap on human need? How do we pick an arbitrary number and say it is the maximum amount of money that will be spent on social development in the coming year when we do not even know what the urgent need will be 18 months from now? Is it morally right to be putting a cap on need or should we be funding things based on what is actually necessary and on the urgent need out there?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, in a time of enormous surplus I think it is immoral for us to be putting a cap on the amount of money we will be spending for health care, for education and for the very services that allow our people to be strong. I would say that the best investment this government can make now is an investment in a healthy, well educated population.

In a country where we have one in five children living in poverty it is very hard to feel too pompous or too cheerful about the economic prospects we are facing, because clearly that is not being shared across the board. As the income gap between poor and wealthy people in the country continues to increase, we are sowing the seeds of some very deep misery for an enormous number of children and vulnerable people.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-18.

As members know, we are against the capping of equalization payments, especially for provinces like New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces, but also Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

In a country like ours, where we talk about national unity and where we should be able to work together for our common well-being, it is important to help each other. The goal of equalization payments was to get money to the provinces that needed it, mainly for social programs like education and health.

Now, the cuts imposed upon the provinces create an unacceptable situation and place them in a difficult situation.

I would like to read a newspaper article published in L'Acadie Nouvelle , which summarizes what has happened in New Brunswick. This article, published on March 1, 2000, reads as follows:

The decapping of equalization payments for 1999-2000 will allow New Brunswick to receive $50 million more from Ottawa than what was initially anticipated for the fiscal period 1999-2001. New Brunswick's finance minister, Norman Betts, is far from carried away by the bonus resulting from the decapping of transfer payments and prefers to put things into perspective.

“Fifty million dollars represent 10 days in health care spending. It represents 1% of our $5 billion budget” said Mr. Betts, adding that the province could also receive less money because of the country's economic performance.

Besides, according to official new estimates by the federal Department of Finance, New Brunswick will receive an extra $5 million for the 1999-2001 period.

For fiscal 2000-2001, New Brunswick will receive $1.207 billion from the federal under the equalization program. This amount represents more than one quarter of the province's budget, which was $4.472 billion in 2000-2001. Before Minister Betts can cash the $50 million cheque from his federal counterpart, the Commons will have to pass the bill reviewing the equalization program formula tabled on Tuesday.

This was for the month of March 2001. The article goes on, and I quote:

The equalization program was created to close the gap between the have and the have-not provinces, so that these provinces can provide to the public services comparable to those provided by the wealthy provinces. Three provinces, British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta, get nothing under the equalization program.

As I said, living in a country is something like the unions, which I will use as an example. Within a union, there are big locals and small locals but every member is part of the same union. It is true there are smaller locals with only five, six, seven or eight persons. It is more expensive to give them services because they cannot afford to pay for all those services. I like this example because I think it is a good illustration of what happens in the case of the provinces.

It is called a union because all the workers of the country, big groups and small groups alike, are united in one union. That is how I imagine the country. The country is a group of all 10 provinces and the territories, including the Yukon and Nunavut. All those provinces and territories form the union which is our country.

Whenever we are no longer able to take care of the have nots, why remain a part of it? Why stay in a country if we cannot take care of each other?

The reason a country takes money from the rich, yes I dare to say it and I am not ashamed of it, is to redistribute it. This sharing can be compared to what happens in a family. Sometimes in families those who have more help those who have less. This is what a country is all about.

I believe we have a problem today because we are too selfish. It is everybody for himself. This attitude runs from the top down: the country, the leaders and the governments down to the provinces and the families. We have to show that we can take care of each other. This is why a cap is unacceptable.

If we can help a province to survive and if we are able to invest to create jobs, I think people will be able to manage on their own. However, if we deprive them every day of these tools and if we are unable to make the transfers needed to help those provinces, I think it will go from bad to worse. This is contrary to common sense and to national unity, utterly contrary.

The federal government has a responsibility, which is convincing people, be they from Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia, that this is the way Canada works; all the provinces are together, and we must have a formula to help Canadians all over the country. We have to recognize this.

For example, if Alberta were to say “We are now rich; we have oil and we don't need anybody anymore”, I hope they will not run out of oil, because they might need this formula also. This is what a country is all about.

In New Brunswick, we never asked that the fisheries go the way they went, and we never asked for the elimination of groundfish quotas. We never asked for this. People in fishplants were working 30 to 32 weeks before the moratorium on groundfish. We never asked for this closure of the fishery.

It can get tough for any province when revenues do not come in. Let me take Alberta as an example. I am very glad for Alberta, because it is a rich province, but when one is rich, one should share with the poor. I do not mean that our own region is very poor but it does have certain needs, just as Manitoba does.

The whole country is glad that we have an agricultural industry in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Thanks to them, we can have three meals a day. We need provinces where agriculture can prosper. It is the same thing in Quebec. Between Montreal and Rivière-du-Loup, farms line the road on both sides. It is nice that we have farmers but it is also nice to have fishers.

People like to visit New Brunswick and other Atlantic provinces. We have people working in the tourist industry. As I said very often in other speeches, people in Toronto are fond of our two by fours but to have two by fours, we need lumberjacks. These people work hard yet they have seasonal jobs. It goes without saying that seasonal workers cannot pay as much income tax as if they worked 12 months per year. Our provinces are losing out on benefits because these are seasonal jobs.

I would like the federal government to show some leadership in this regard, and to say “This is the rule, this is the formula that will help our poorer provinces and keep our country united”. Again, if there is no advantage in being part of a country, why stay in it? What is the country in the end when the federal government makes such cuts in health, education and all the rest?

I will conclude by asking the federal government, the Liberals, those in power, to show some leadership. This is why we have to oppose the capping of the equalization program.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from Acadie—Bathurst for very forcefully putting into words what many in the room are thinking: that the redistribution of wealth through federal transfer payments may be the single greatest achievement of Canadian federalism and the most important instrument for fostering Canadian unity. That point has not been made often enough in this room. I thank him for making it very poignantly.

The question I have is more specifically about the methodology and formula for the Canada health and social transfer. The hon. member pointed out, and other speakers have mentioned, that when the government introduced the CHST the federal transfer was about $19.1 billion. When the CHST kicked in it was $11 billion. It is only now inching forward. In other words, the total aggregate amount of cutback the government has ripped out of the federal social transfer is $30 billion to $35 billion, arguably even more.

Would that not constitute a breach of the whole concept of Canadian unity? Are we not jeopardizing the fragile thing we call the federation of Canada when we rip the heart out of the very programs that make it worth belonging to? Would the hon. member care to comment on the impact felt in ridings like his when the Canada health and social transfer ripped the heart out of so many social programs?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg Centre for his question. My colleague talked about health care. Looking at the history of health care, in 1969 the federal government used to pay 50% of the cost of health care. Now it is down to 13%. If the federal government cannot make the transfers that need to be made to be able to have the programs I have used many times, then what is the purpose of having a federal government?

We could go to the vet and not find a dog or a cat in the hallway. If we go to the hospital where human beings are, we find them in the hallway or they cannot even get into the hospital. That is an example of how health care stinks in our country. It is the fault of the Liberals and the federal government. In 1969 the government paid 50% of the cost of health care. Today it is down to 13%.

That is why we could say we are losing the unity of our country. It is the fault of a federal government that does not know how to create programs that would keep all our provinces and territories united. That is what happens with the federal government.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst puts into words exactly what I was thinking. He does so better than I could. We will feed him another question and let him try it again.

When the CHST was first introduced, the National Council on Welfare called it the most devastating social policy initiative since the great depression. Let us imagine going forward with a policy that experts in the field cited as devastating.

I ask that we hearken back to a time when we had established program funding, when social programs were funded at 50:50. Did the federal government not have a better opportunity to maintain national standards when the funding level was 50:50? Under that system, if a province failed to meet national standards it could be punished by having its funding reduced. Was there not more capability to have true national standards under that funding mechanism than under the CHST?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is easy to answer. When one does not pay into it one has no say in it. That is what happens with the federal government.

Let us look at my province, New Brunswick, for example. Could anyone imagine that one person who goes on welfare receives $269 a month? Two hundred and sixty nine dollars a month is probably not what a member of parliament gets in one day here, and the Liberals want a person to live on $269 a month.

The federal government has a responsibility across the country to make transfers which make sense and with which people can live. I agree with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre that government cuts have created a separation between poor and rich people and poor and rich provinces. We are going backward. We are going the wrong way. I hope the federal government changes its mind about the way it is running our country.

Child CareStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, Annie Pelletier condemned the Quebec government, because it “spends $8,000 per year on each child attending a daycare centre, but does not give one penny to mothers who stay at home to look after their children”.

The recognition of the parents' role when they look after their children is also an objective of the national forum, and the subject of an awareness campaign to change mentalities. The spokesperson for the Regroupement Naissance-Renaissance added that “we must stop seeing the birth of a child as the sole responsibility of the couple”.

“Maternity has an economic value and supporting it is a collective responsibility”.

HealthStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, despite persistent assurances and massive efforts at containment, foot and mouth disease has spread from the U.K. to France, Ireland and the Netherlands. It is costing billions of dollars and has resulted in the destruction of thousands of animals in the United Kingdom alone.

Here at home we are experiencing an outbreak of chronic wasting disease among elk herds in Saskatchewan.

The minister of agriculture has sent Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians to the United Kingdom to assist with the outbreak there. The problem is that they are having difficulty handling the CWD outbreak we have at home.

Budgetary constraints at the CFIA and Agriculture Canada have made it difficult for officials to contain and deal with the outbreak of CWD in Saskatchewan elk herds. They are struggling just to keep up.

I call upon the minister of agriculture to get his priorities straight and beef up the resources of the CFIA and his own department so we can deal appropriately with this important issue.

Helge IngstadStatements By Members

April 2nd, 2001 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I mark the recent passing of a great world explorer and archaeologist, someone whose profound contribution to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to our nation and to the entire world will be remembered forever.

Dr. Helge Ingstad of Norway and his wife, the late Anne Stine Ingstad, are credited with the discovery of the Norse encampment at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. Their discovery and study of the archaeological remains of this Norse village have led to its establishment as the only truly authenticated Viking settlement in all of North America.

Based on the life's work of the Ingstads, L'Anse aux Meadows is now preserved as a national historic site within the Parks Canada system and has been designated as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

On behalf of the House I extend my sincere condolences to the family and to the people of Norway as we remember the life and work of the late Helge Ingstad.

Youth Service CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pride and enthusiasm that, on Thursday, in L'Annonciation, which is located in the RCM of Antoine-Labelle, I attended the closing ceremony of a Youth Service Canada project that was a resounding success in the community. “Les bons J.A.C.” is a joint initiative of the Quebec Provincial Police and the Antoine-Labelle RCM that began in August 1999.

One of the objectives of that program was to allow young people to gain the basic knowledge and experience that they needed to enter today's labour market. For 32 weeks, ten young people from L'Annonciation had the opportunity to take part in the organization and planning of activities geared to eliminating, through prevention, awareness promotional activities, the problems relating to violence and discrimination.

These young people also helped create a community garden, while supporting other regional organizations, to bring generations closer together and create connections between young people and parents.

During the project, public mischief went down from 16 cases in 1998 to only one in 2001. These figures show that federal programs for young people are a good thing.

Music WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to recognize Canadian Music Week, which occurred last week and during which the radio starmaker fund board of directors was announced.

The radio starmaker fund and its French arm, le fonds radio star, is aimed at finding the most promising musical talents in Canada and providing them with the marketing and promotional support needed to boost careers and create stars. It is a great example of the radio and music industries working together to promote Canadian culture.

I wish to applaud the initiative by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and its partners, the Canadian Independent Record Production Association and the Canadian Recording Industry Association.