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House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to nine petitions.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present the third and fourth reports of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages.

The third reports on the committee proceedings on the appropriations for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and approves them.

In the fourth report, the committee unanimously expresses the wish that the government consider the advisability of increasing funding for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “Beyond Bill C-2: a Review of Other Proposals to Reform Employment Insurance”.

I am very pleased to present the report, which was endorsed by all parties on the committee. This is not an easy thing for a committee to do with a topic that attracts such great interest as employment insurance.

The report is a deliberate follow up on the work this committee did on Bill C-2, which the House passed. It deals with issues that were raised by the 80 witnesses we received during the Bill C-2 hearings. We tried to present the concerns of all of those people to the government in this report.

I am most grateful to members of all parties on our 18 person committee.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the selection of votable items in accordance with Standing Order 92.

The report, in keeping with the tenor of the times, is introduced on wrinkled parchment. The report is deemed adopted upon presentation.

I also have the honour to present the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the provisions of Standing Order 87(6), sometimes known as the 100 signature rule for private members' business.

If the House gives its consent I intend to move concurrence in the 22nd report later this day.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. At the end of my presentation of the report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources and the Status of Persons with Disabilities I forgot to ask that members of other parties who were on our committee be given a short time to speak to that report. I would be most grateful, if you would seek unanimous consent to return to that item.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Madam Speaker, I had informed the House that I intended to table an interparliamentary delegation report.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

You must get the unanimous consent of the House. Does the member have the unanimous consent of the House to revert to parliamentary delegation reports?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, as well as the financial report relating thereto.

The report deals with the meeting of the Commission on Education, Communication and Cultural Affairs held in Cambodia on April 2 and 3, 2001.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, if the House gives its consent I would move that the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Does the House agree?

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to present a petition signed by a number of people in my constituency who join with other Canadians in expressing their concern about free trade and, in particular, the free trade area of the Americas agreement.

The petitioners are very concerned about negotiations involving the free trade area of the Americas and the lack of access to the details pertaining to this agreement. They want to see the Government of Canada take decisive action to ensure that any negotiations on free trade provide for the protection of our health care system and our environment, and ensure that the safety and security of Canadians is at the top of the list.

They call upon the government to adopt a new approach to globalization that places social, economic and ecological justice above the profits of multinational corporations.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, there has been consultation among all the parties, and I believe that you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the mover of today's opposition motion be deemed to be the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière rather than the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to inform you that only the first speaker will split his time. The others will follow the procedure provided for in the standing orders.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should call a federal-provincial first ministers' conference for the purpose of reapportioning the tax base among the federal and provincial governments through the transfer of tax points.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me this morning to launch this debate on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois. This is, in my opinion, a very important debate that addresses Quebec's historical demands.

From the outset, I think it is a good idea to reread the motion:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should call a federal-provincial first ministers' conference for the purpose of reapportioning the tax base among the federal and provincial governments through the transfer of tax points.

In Canada, the financial situation of the two levels of government, namely the federal and provincial governments, can be summed up very simply: the needs in the health, education and social services sectors are in Quebec and in the other provinces, while the money is in Ottawa.

For several years now, Ottawa has been accumulating indecent budgetary surpluses. This would be acceptable if Ottawa seized this opportunity to withdraw from the area of taxation and left it to the provinces or if it would transfer part of these surpluses to Quebec and to the provinces, for health and education. But Ottawa would rather hide these surpluses and reallocate them massively to reduce the debt. It even refuses to restore transfer payments to the 1993 level.

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has had, and will again have the opportunity to demonstrate, with all the energy, enthusiasm and seriousness that characterize him, this critical aspect because this is what led to today's debate.

In the last federal budget, Ottawa's fiscal effort in the transfers for post-secondary education is the lowest in 30 years. As for health, the federal contribution is now only equivalent to 14 cents for each dollar spent by Quebec.

Today's motion seeks to correct the fiscal imbalance and to ensure that the revenues of each government are based on their fundamental needs.

This is why the Bloc Quebecois is calling for a federal-provincial conference for the purpose of reapportioning the tax base through the transfer of tax points from Ottawa to Quebec and the other provinces. In Quebec there is complete agreement on this, and the premiers of some of the other provinces share that consensus as well.

I prefer to leave discussion on the financial situation up to the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, our finance critic, and he will be speaking later in the day.

It is not difficult to figure out that the money is in Ottawa while the needs are in the provinces. The federal government's revenues have increased by 53% between 1993 and 2001, while its expenditures have decreased by 3%. Over that same period, Quebec's program expenditures have risen by 16% and health expenditures by 32%.

In other words, the health sector alone represented 71% of the increase in expenditures. Federal cuts in expenditures have been at the expense of the provinces through cuts to transfer payments. From the early 1990s to the present, federal transfers to Quebec have dropped from close to 20% of Quebec social expenditures to about 13%.

The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve will certainly elaborate more on health.

Spending in education increased by only 3% from 1993 to 2001 because health was a priority. Things were already fiscally tight.

This problem is due to the federal government, because its financial contribution in terms of transfers for post-secondary education is at its lowest level in 30 years, as I said earlier.

The federal government contributes less and less to the needs of Quebecers. Between 1993 and 1999, its share has dropped from 23% to 13.5%.

A bit of historical context of the tax point issue would be in order. Tax points transferred to the provinces are not a kind of federal assistance, nor are they an exercise of its spending power.

In fact, they contribute to balance the tax positions in the federation, and this has nothing to do with the Canadian social transfer for health, education and social services.

The tax point transfer to the provinces in the 1960s, aimed at giving back to the provinces some of the tax room they had yielded to the federal government in the 1940s, particularly to finance the war effort.

Important dates should be remembered. In 1882, Quebec introduced its tax on corporations. In 1892, it created inheritance tax. In 1917, the federal government introduced a personal income tax. In 1939, Quebec collected tax on personal income. From 1941 to 1942, tax rental agreements were signed by which the provinces agreed to refrain temporarily from collecting personal and corporate income taxes and inheritance tax; in return, the federal government agreed to pay them a rent for the war effort.

In 1947 after the war, the federal government tried to renew for five years the tax rental agreements for the purpose of reconstruction. Quebec and Ontario refused and created their own corporate income tax scheme. These two provinces also started collecting inheritance tax again.

In 1952, the federal government maintained its approach and offered a new transfer package to the refractory provinces. Ontario accepted the offer, but not Quebec.

In 1954, Duplessis said “Give us back our booty”. Since it failed to negotiate a partial withdrawal of the federal government from the field of personal income tax, Quebec got back on board with a rate equal to 15% of the federal rate.

Between 1960 and 1966, a series of tax points were transferred to the provinces. In 1977, there was a federal-provincial agreement on tax points, an agreement that excluded Quebec which, supposedly, had received more than its share in 1966.

That tax point transfer has indeed been the subject of a federal-provincial agreement. The provinces and the territories received from the federal government a transfer of 13.5 tax points for personal income tax and one tax point for corporate income tax.

In 1997-98, the main tax point transfers to the provinces and the territories amounted to $2.7 billion. These transfers are now worth four times more, that is, $13.9 billion. That does not mean that the federal government is transferring tax fields worth $13.9 billion.

Tax points are, in fact, provincial revenues. Thus, the tax point figures appearing in the various federal budgets are simply the current value of the points transferred in the 1960s.

Here I would like to quote a comment Allan Maslove, a professor at Carleton University's school of public administration, who said that tax points are now an established component of the provincial tax base and should not be viewed as a form of transfer from Ottawa.

Historically, all Quebec premiers have expressed concerns over the tax balance with Ottawa. By starving the provinces financially the federal government, citing its spending power, manages to impose its management conditions on certain areas of Quebec jurisdiction.

I mentioned earlier Mr. Duplessis, but I would like to point out that Jean Lesage, at the federal-provincial first ministers' conference in 1960, reiterated Quebec's position with respect to federal spending power by decrying the conditional funding paid to the provinces in the form of shared cost programs.

Following him, Daniel Johnson in 1966 renewed Quebec's decision to opt out of established joint programs and not take part in any new programs. In addition, he demanded that Quebec's withdrawal be unconditionally fiscally compensated. He said:

Joint programs are an obstacle to the unfettered growth of Quebec. They impose priorities that may get in the way of those Quebec would otherwise set, and limit its real budgetary autonomy ... Joint programs freeze the fiscal resources of a nation like ours and deny us full control over areas of activity that rightfully come under our jurisdiction.

Mr. Johnson's successor, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, maintained Quebec's position. He, too, denounced the exercise of federal spending power.

Then it was the turn of Mr. Bourassa's Liberal government, which also saw this spending power as a federal intrusion in Quebec's jurisdiction. Like his predecessors, Premier Bourassa felt that a new fiscal balance would allow Quebec the full exercise of all its powers. He said:

—we will only achieve a viable balance if, within the framework of the general principle, we can ensure the necessary flexibility so that each level of government has the revenue it needs to exercise its fiscal powers without a negative impact on overall growth and the balance of the various sectors of the economy.

The government of Quebec's inaugural speech, read in the national assembly in March 1973, made rebalancing tax sharing in the federation a priority.

All this is to say that what we are asking for this morning is consistent with what Quebec has asked for in the past, not just under PQ governments but under all governments since Duplessis.