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House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to this important issue because of the profound effect that equalization problems are having on my constituents in Dartmouth.

Simply put, the current transfer formula does not treat my constituents in Nova Scotia and Dartmouth the same way that citizens in other provinces have been treated. I will spend a bit of time talking about that this afternoon.

Equal opportunities need to be given to Nova Scotians under our federal transfer regime. Sadly there are a number of barriers in our equalization formula which continue to work against poorer provinces such as Nova Scotia and which are causing real hardship to ordinary hard working persons in Dartmouth.

Simply put, Bill C-18 does not meet the real constitutional obligations of the government. I will state what they are because I am not sure we all know. Subsection 36(2) of our constitution states:

Parliament and the government of Canada are committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonable comparable levels of taxation.

If we look at health care standards and the lack of availability of pharmacare, per pupil funding levels for primary, secondary and post-secondary education, and services for those living in poverty, including the thousands with disabilities in my community in Nova Scotia, it is self-evident that the lofty ideals of the constitution are not being met. Canadians know, and study after study shows, that there are significant inequities in services and taxation levels across Canada.

I concede that some of the inequities are the result of decisions made by provincial governments. Many Conservative governments, rather than using budget surpluses to rebuild social programs, have brought in large scale tax cuts which benefit the wealthy. That is not the fault of equalization.

Some inequities stem from the ability of some provinces to generate revenue from resources. There is no doubt that Alberta has greatly benefited from the fact that it is situated on large lakes of underground oil and gas. It receives full royalty revenues from those resources. There is some accounting of this in the equalization formula. However another inequity is at play here.

That relates to the fact that offshore oil and gas revenues cannot be taxed by provinces in the same way that onshore oil and gas revenues are presently being taxed. Therefore we are leaving the have not provinces in Atlantic Canada without the same ability to provide programs as Alberta has.

While I know there are different jurisdictions for onshore and offshore resources, it is difficult to give the legal mumbo-jumbo explanation to the people of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians have made their living off the ocean since the province was founded almost 400 years ago just as much as they have made their living off the land.

Alberta's tar sands are a provincial resource, and telling Nova Scotians that Sable Island gas is not part of their province simply does not wash. They do not see the legal argument. They see that they are once again being kept poor by unequal rules set by central and western Canada, and they have a point. The government is not treating them fairly and it obviously could if it wanted to.

For example, there was a temporary exemption of royalty revenue in the calculation of equalization payments which had been granted to Newfoundland and Labrador in the past. This temporary measure helped boost the economy of that province, and Nova Scotia deserves no less.

I call on the government to give Nova Scotia the same deal which was granted to Newfoundland and Labrador. As my leader and colleague from Halifax said eloquently in today's debate, Liberal cuts to the CHST, their elimination of the Canada assistance plan and their general approach to giving a higher priority to tax cuts rather than rebuilding our social programs have hit Atlantic Canada very hard.

These are policy barriers to governments in Atlantic Canada which the government should address, but it should also be fulfilling its constitutional role to create equity in services through the equalization formula.

Bill C-18 leaves barriers in place. The biggest barrier is the cap on equalization payments. It needs to be removed. I am not alone in this regard. As has been mentioned, the provincial ministers and the premiers have brought this matter to our attention. Bill C-18 has failed to remove the artificial cap on equalization payments to poorer provinces for this fiscal year. It means that Ontario and Alberta keep more and Atlantic Canada keeps less. How can the Liberals justify this? Do they know what it means to the people in Atlantic Canada?

What it means is that Dartmouth students suffer with less funding and there is increased labour strife as school boards try to squeeze concessions from already underpaid workers. It means that post-secondary students have the highest tuitions and the most ineffective student aid program in the country. It means that fewer sick people can afford the medications they are told by their doctors they need to stay alive. That is not fair and it is not equal. That does not meet the lofty goals set out in our constitution.

Specifically on post-secondary education, I repeat my request for the federal government to increase the support for legitimate post-secondary educational needs in Nova Scotia through a bilateral agreement that would recognize the significant price that Nova Scotians are paying to support a disproportionate number of out of province students.

I hope the government of Nova Scotia would then use the funds to reduce student tuition fees, currently the highest in Canada, and increase the inadequate student aid plan. Atlantic Canadians do not want handouts. They want fairness. Sadly our party believes that Bill C-18 would not deliver this to them.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have a problem in the country when policies are not made on the basis of good reason or good common sense but on the basis of pure politics. That is what has happened in this regard.

A task force was convened back in 1995. I would like to share with the House some of its observations. The clerk of the privy council asked Ivan Fellegi to chair a task force of senior officials to review the state of the government's policy capacity. The task force submitted its report in April 1995 and it concluded:

The most notable weaknesses at present relate to longer term strategic and horizontal issues. Resources are disproportionately consumed by short term demands.

It was basically a condemnation of the way in which the government makes policy. Its observations were such that it highlighted to those who read it the unfortunate political motivation behind too many of the policies that are misconstructed by the government.

Such is the case here. The bill proposed by the government is after the fact. It is designed to fulfil a promise made by a Prime Minister, in anticipation of a federal election, to a group of Canadians in the Atlantic region who he hoped to persuade through his promise to support them. It is clear and obvious to members opposite that was the case.

Is that the way policies should be designed and shaped? Is that the way policies should be communicated to the Canadian people? The obvious answer is that it is not.

The bill is a reflection of the government's ability to act in an ad hoc fashion rather than to plan. There was no consultation in advance of the promises made by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister does not have to consult but he should. The Prime Minister has made announcements before on behalf of various ministries and sometimes without consultation with his ministers. For example, the millennium scholarship fund was introduced by the Prime Minister without consultation with his finance minister. This is not the way to make policy and design a better Canada.

We have another problem in this case. We have a problem for the people of Atlantic Canada because in many regions the constituents in Atlantic Canada elected Liberal members. Liberal members were sent here not because they were bought, which is not the nature of the people of Atlantic Canada at least in my experience, but rather to represent their constituencies and to represent them well.

However I have not heard voices raised in the House in strong support of the people of Atlantic Canada on the equalization formula. No one from the Liberal side has stood to condemn the words of the Prime Minister or his lack of action and the lack of action of the finance minister on this policy issue. That is a shame.

I have heard members from Atlantic Canada. They have not attacked the Prime Minister's approach to this issue. They have not attacked his lack of sensitivity around the needs of the people of their own regions or of other regions such as my own in Manitoba or in the province of Saskatchewan, both provinces which depended to some degree on equalization payments to offer the kinds of services to their residents they deserve to have. I have not heard voices raised in that respect.

Rather I have heard voices raised in the House attacking provincial politicians in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick. I wonder at the wisdom of those kinds of personal, petty and partisan attacks. I wonder why members opposite would rise and criticize the governing parties of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

It seems the only reason they would do so is that currently there are Progressive Conservative governments in those provinces. That seems rather shallow. It also seems at odds with what their constituents would want them to do, which would be to stand with Premier Lord, Premier Hamm and with many others in Atlantic Canada. Their constituents are trying diligently to have this formula revisited and to ensure the resources they and their provinces need are made available to them under a fair formula.

Partisanship is at its worst in the House when members opposite fail to address issues of importance to their own constituents. There are clear divisions in the Liberal caucus and among various ministers on this issue.

The Minister of Industry crowed like a rooster in the barnyard about his voracious appetite for a revisiting of this formula when he was premier of Newfoundland. I have not seen him rise in this place on this issue since returning to Ottawa. Perhaps he has another agenda in mind. I have not heard him put on the record his strong support for the people of Newfoundland on this issue. I have not seen it and I have not heard it.

I heard the minister on a lot of other issues as the people of Newfoundland have when he was there. When they said goodbye to him I am sure it was with some hope that he would come to this place with a Newfoundland agenda in mind. That has not been evident.

The finance minister has not shown any interest either. Rather he told finance ministers that this file would not be opened. He said that a single act would suffice. This ad hoc act and self-serving makeshift policy is not the way to deal with an issue as important as this one is to the people of Canada.

The finance minister for some reason refuses to open the file. Perhaps it is because he does not want to give any credit to the industry minister, who may be behind the scenes raising this issue, although he is certainly not doing it where anyone knows that he is doing it. This has been a closed debate and that is unfortunate. It has been closed to a very few. That kind of policy making is not the kind of policy making that people want.

I have sat and listened to the debate with some interest. Members have unfortunately misrepresented Canadian Alliance policy. I would like to put on record our policy on this issue. We recognize that different provinces and regions of Canada have different levels of wealth but all wish to provide similar services to their residents.

We are committed to the constitutional principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide their residents with reasonably comparable levels of basic services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation. That is the Canadian Alliance policy, not the policy that has been misrepresented and put on the record in the House by some members opposite.

Our policy reflects the desire for fairness and for some equitable treatment of all Canadians. We believe that equalization should serve the longer term purpose of equalizing economic opportunity and autonomy in all regions of our country. It should not create incentives for perverse economic policies. It should not be used for self-serving political purposes. Rather it should be used as it was originally designed, to provide a way up for people, not just an excuse for a government to try to buy support.

Donald Savoie in his book Governing from the Centre made some observations concerning the nature of the way in which the government has chosen to develop policy. He stated:

While I argue that the centre and, in particular, the hand of the Prime Minister, has been considerably strengthened in recent years, this is not to suggest that the federal government is better able to define new strategic direction or a coherent plan to which all government departments can contribute. It is ironic perhaps that as the hand at the centre has been strengthened, its ability to manage horizontal issues has been weakened.

We see evidence of that in many policy areas and certainly we see it in regard to this file. The Prime Minister's controlling hand is all over the legislation. His desire to use legislation such as this to fulfil pre-election promises is obvious and self-evident.

What is the ability of the government to deal with the horizontal issues that affect all regions of the country? According to Donald Savoie, a noted observer of things political for decades, the ability of the government to deal with the horizontal issues that face our nation has been considerably weakened.

We see that here and in many other areas. Our desire as a political movement is to make sure that everyone in Canada feels they are a part of Canada. That is not the case today in Canada. We have seen centrifugal federalism where the willingness of the government to practise and develop policies does not reflect the true Canadian fabric. Too often we have seen a willingness to use partisan judgment rather than develop good, comprehensive, intelligent, foresighted policy.

The Council for Canadian Unity has been at work developing ideas, researching and looking into ways to enhance that sense of being a Canadian that should exist across the country from coast to coast. It has just released the results of a study it conducted. What it revealed is truly disheartening and should be disheartening to all hon. members of the House.

Canadian residents were polled and asked the question “Do you feel that the federal government is respectful of your province?” The results were tabulated by province and were truly sad in terms of what they revealed. The results revealed that in only one province of Canada did the government get a passing grade from the people in that province. That province was Ontario. In nine other provinces from the west coast to the east coast, the Council for Canadian Unity study revealed that Canadian people do not feel their provinces are being treated with respect by the government.

This is a condemnation of the way in which the government has chosen to develop its policies. Perhaps it is a condemnation of the way in which it has chosen to communicate. However, I doubt very seriously that venturing out to western Canada on feel good trips, for example, will change the perceptions of western Canadians toward the government.

What western Canadians are looking for, and I believe what people in the maritime region are looking for, is real change, a real change in the attitude and the approach of the government toward the people of those regions, a real change in the ways in which the government develops policy and does consultation. I believe they are looking for a real change in the way in which the government and the Prime Minister deal with the reality of the need for democratic reforms, for openness, and for increased openness in the Chamber and elsewhere. I believe they are looking for a real change in the institutional approach we have developed over many years in the country, a change that would allow for a greater sense of belonging to the country, a greater sense of control among the Canadian people, so that they would feel their input was being valued, that they were being respected as Canadians.

When the study was released, the reaction was silence on the part of the government opposite, but I genuinely hope that in the days to come we will not have to deal with any more of these pieces of legislation that are designed clearly and simply to fulfil promises made by the Prime Minister in isolation from any of his own caucus members and in isolation from any consultation with the Canadian people. He simply made them, pre-election, for his own personal electoral purposes. That is not the kind of legislation we should be dealing with in the House and yet we are today.

I will conclude by saying that we in the Canadian Alliance will continue, as will I in my responsibility as the regional equity critic, to look for ways to genuinely develop a country of which all Canadians feel they are a part and in which they feel they are respected. That has not been the case under the government's mandate.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The government whip has just indicated that the vote will stand deferred until Monday after government orders.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you would find unanimous consent following consultation among all parties to further defer the vote just deferred until Monday to next Tuesday at the end of government orders.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Pursuant to Standing Order 76(8) the recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The House resumed from April 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the two minutes left before question period, which will be adequate for me to make my brief intervention, I would like to say that the bill before us has positive features and it has some negatives. I will briefly outline them for the House's consideration.

Beginning with the positive, this act dealing with transboundary waters offers an ecological approach. It deals with water as an important item that is dealt with as a basin. It is seen as an ecological asset wherever it is found and therefore it is dealt with in an approach that is new and, from an ecological and environmental point of view, I think, most desirable.

Having said that, I will say that the bill also has some shortcomings because it relies on the voluntary approach when it comes to non-boundary waters in preventing the export of bulk water. In other words, Bill C-6 is quite explicit. It says that the export of water in transboundary lakes and river systems and the like is not to be permitted, but when it comes to waters from Newfoundland to British Columbia that are not shared with our neighbours, it is left to the provinces to decide whether or not the export should take place. Therefore it covers only one aspect of our great ecological asset, namely, freshwater.

The legislation also leaves out bodies such as Lake Winnipeg, the island lakes from Newfoundland, and other lakes from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

The fact, therefore, that emerges from reading the bill is that while a good step is being undertaken in the bill in covering transboundary waters, it leaves out a substantial body of lakes and rivers that are not being shared with our neighbours to the south.

The bill also does not contain any reference to reciprocity on the part of the United States. It may be that this bill is not the appropriate place to have that kind of reference.

It may be that such an omission could be corrected by an appropriate amendment to the 1909 Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty in a manner that would bind the United States as well. I am not aware of initiatives south of the border that would be parallel to the one we are initiating in this parliament, and therefore I am raising this matter here this afternoon.

Moving on, the question of export of bulk water is one that has been of major concern to Canadians. We know that the vast majority of our population does not want to see Canadian water exported in bulk. Therefore maybe there is a solution to that problem by having the Government of Canada seek an interpretive statement under NAFTA whereby bulk water is to be defined as a non-tradable commodity.

Having obtained that interpretive statement, then we could use our constitutional powers given for international trade to the federal government and subsequently enact federal legislation banning export of bulk water, covering Canada as a whole and not having to rely on the vagaries of the voluntary agreements with the provinces, as we would by adopting this bill alone.

Finally, the approach I have just outlined of seeking an interpretive statement is not a new one. It has been followed already for health services, which are not subjected to trade agreements. It has been adopted in relation to education and it has been adopted in relation to certain natural resources.

What is desirable, then, in the near future would be an additional piece of legislation that would replace the voluntary accord proposed by Ottawa in the case of removal of bulk water. We need that kind of legislation that would make it illegal to export non-boundary bulk water because it is quite safe to predict that the voluntary approach would not work in the long term, as leadership in provincial governments changes from time to time.

In conclusion I would say that we need this type of legislation with a certain element of urgency, because in certain provinces there could be a threat very soon for the export of bulk water from non-boundary waters, which might be authorized by some provincial government, as we have learned from media reports emanating out of Newfoundland.

I will use the remaining minute just to refer to the fact that the government introduced in August 1998 a very good piece of legislation called Bill C-156. It was called the Canada water preservation act. It contained a number of legislative measures emanating from the Pearse water report, which was initiated in January 1984 and completed in 1985. It has been languishing since then, waiting for implementation. It is an important report that certainly deserves the attention of this parliament.

Canadian Improv GamesStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased and proud to announce that last Saturday a nine member team from Westwood Community High School in Fort McMurray won the Canadian National Improv Games here in Ottawa.

They competed in a fierce battle with four other teams, but when the dust settled and the points were tallied the team from Westwood came out victorious.

When one considers the accomplishments of these students, it is obvious that the tar sands are not the most precious resource in Fort McMurray.

I wish to extend congratulations on a job well done to students Lucus Merger, Arlen Konopaki, Sean Parsons, Michelle Parsons, Mike Robertson, Laura Rushfeldt, Kyle Miles, David Zeglen, and their teacher, Karen Towsley.

Responsible Fishing AwardsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge and congratulate the winners of the Roméo LeBlanc National Awards for Responsible Fishing.

This award recognizes Canadian fishermen who have contributed to the development and promotion of responsible fishing practices. Individual fisherman are the most aware of the need to manage fisheries in a responsible manner. It is their livelihood. It is their future.

This award gives them the recognition they deserve. The 2001 winners who are present in the gallery today, Stan Logan, Pierrot Haché, Stevie Audlakiak and George Purvis, have all been chosen by their peers for significant contributions to responsible fisheries. These men are role models for younger generations who look to Canada's great ocean resources for their future

I wish to extend congratulations to the winners of the award and thank them for their inspiration.

Regional DevelopmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, documents prepared for the industry minister by Western Economic Diversification Canada show that since the Liberals came to power western Canada's share of money for regional economic development has been cut by more than half and that the rationale for funding certain projects is to gain “visibility and credit” for the government.

No wonder poll results released by the Council for Canadian Unity show that a majority of Canadians in nine out of ten provinces feel that their province does not get the respect it deserves from this federal government.

Canadians want real change. They do not want feel good tours and they do not want self-serving Liberal patronage either. For example, the council's research shows that 60% of western Canadians cite an elected Senate as a high priority and 55% cite free votes in the House as a high priority.

The government should stop playing politics with regional issues and should start addressing the real priorities of Canadians.

Mental HealthStatements By Members

May 3rd, 2001 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, under a brilliant sky, hundreds of people met at the Aylmer race track to take part in the event known as “En espadrilles pour la santé mentale”.

Organized to raise money for the Fondation Pierre-Janet, this fundraiser brought in over $35,000 to build a new day centre, exceeding the objective set by the organizing committee.

Today, I would like to thank all those who, in varying degrees, worked to organize this dynamic event, where good humour was infectious. “En espadrilles pour la santé mentale,” was a fine occasion to promote a feeling of solidarity with and generosity toward people facing problems of mental health.

This event is another great success for the Fondation Pierre-Janet, which, since 1990, has invested over $500,000 in the field of mental health in the Outaouais.

Long life to the Fondation Pierre-Janet and to Dan Guay, who instigated the “En espadrilles pour la santé mentale” event.

Responsible Fishing AwardsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Stevie Audlakiak of Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, who received the 2000 Roméo LeBlanc Award for Responsible Fishing for the Arctic.

Honoured for being our leading proponent of responsible fisheries developments in Nunavut, which includes Inuit traditions of responsible fisheries harvesting, Stevie has ensured the sustainability of the Arctic char harvest as well as trying to initiate a clam fishery off Broughton Island.

I wish to extend thanks to Stevie Audlakiak for his great contribution to a viable Nunavut fishery and the continuing developments in the fishery as he continues to improve and refine techniques to the benefit of all.