House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.


Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

When resuming debate, the hon. member for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel will dispose of 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:20 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I want to tell the hon. member that I fully support his comments. The situation in Mirabel is a total fiasco and the federal government is entirely responsible for it, because it did not live up to its responsibilities.

Having said this, I would like to have the hon. member's opinion on another problem that is of great concern in Quebec. I am referring to the whole issue of workers, because there is absolutely nothing for them in the throne speech. There is nothing on orphan clauses and on young people who get their first job and whose working conditions are not the same as those of olders workers. There is also the issue of pregnant and nursing women.

There is so little in the throne speech that the same program was announced three times. A pilot program was announced three times in two weeks in the House. Let us be clear. A pilot program is not a permanent program; it is spread over a three year period. The government had to make this announcement three times, because it has nothing else to announce to pregnant women who, under federal jurisdiction, have absolutely no protection. It simply does not exist at the federal level.

There is also the antiscab legislation. What do we do with people who currently have no bargaining power? The throne speech is also silent on this. Workers who pay taxes are always the ones forgotten by the Prime Minister and his government. These people are often the ones who pay the most taxes; they also pay the employment insurance premiums, but they cannot even get benefits.

I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on this and give us his views.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:25 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I will use the example of Mirabel, because I know that the hon. member for Laurentides is, like me, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, directly affected by the closure, among other measures, of the Château de l'Aéroport, where 160 workers were laid off.

These workers were laid off and they must live with the existing employment insurance legislation. A two-week penalty applies to all of them. I want to make a brief summary of the situation at Mirabel's Château de l'Aéroport.

Let us not forget that the Château de l'Aéroport, that is, the building itself, is owned by the federal government and is located on Tansport Canada land, which means it is federally owned.

This hotel belongs to the federal government, which sublet it to ADM. This means that ADM manages all federal equipment and goods at Mirabel and Dorval airports.

So, ADM manages the hotel according to the conditions of the lease. There is a lease and ADM had a sub-tenant, Mr. Corbeil. Mr. Corbeil took legal action against ADM because the decision to transfer flights from Mirabel to Dorval has meant a loss of traffic and a loss of clientele, which violates the lease that was negotiated with ADM. In the spring of 2002, the court ruled in favour of Mr. Corbeil.

ADM appealed the ruling, but Mr. Corbeil was awarded $17 million. The court ordered ADM to pay Mr. Corbeil. Obviously, the employees figured “As long as the case is under appeal, we are guaranteed a job until it is settled”, particularly since there were still flights in and out of the airport. The transfer still has not finished. It will be completed next year. There are still potential clients. The day the hotel closed, it had 150 guests. That is the harsh reality for the workers.

On June 26 ADM's appeal was heard. Or rather, ADM won the right to appeal. Obviously, the sub-tenant, Mr. Corbeil, asked to close the hotel for the duration of the appeal, because he was losing too much money. The court found in his favour on July 27. The court allowed him to cease operations. He announced to his employees that they would be laid off in one month's time.

These are people who, because of the delay for the appeal hearing and because of the fact that the sub-tenant had been awarded $17 million, figured it would probably take between one and two years, that there would be time to find another sub-tenant, another manager for the business. No one ever thought that ADM, the federal government's tenant, and the owner, the federal government, would allow the establishment to sit empty. That is the current Liberal government.

It does not give two hoots about employees, the men and women who work there. Less than one month later, the workers at the Château de l'Aéroport, some 160 men and women, received their pink slips and had to contend with the current employment insurance rules: the infamous two week waiting period, which is a penalty the Bloc Quebecois has been denouncing for years, since this is a program that belongs to workers.

It has been some years since the federal government stopped contributing to this fund. Only the workers and the employers pay into it and they might be prepared to make changes. Their reaction would be “If we had our own insurance, truly worker-administrated, then for sure we would not have a two week penalty period”. But no, the administrator of the fund is the federal government, which helps itself to the surplus to pay down its debt. That is what it does. That is the harsh reality our workers have to deal with.

The workers at the Château de l'Aéroport, the people of the ridings of Laurentides and of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and of the neighbouring ridings, all have to cope with these laws. There certainly are women on maternity leave who are having to cope with them, and are not covered by the pilot project the minister has just announced, and has been announcing on and off since the start of this session. The same pilot project has been announced three times. Three different members have asked questions, members with problems in their ridings. They always ask the same minister the same question, and she always gives the same answer, “There is a pilot project in Quebec, and some day it will get to you”. That is the harsh reality.

That is the reaction, as they try to sell the public the message, “See, we are looking after it”, but they are not looking after it. An experiment is under way that will have no results for the people who need help. There will certainly be no results felt by the 160 employees of the Château de l'Aéroport de Mirabel, who were working in a federally owned building.

The federal government has put an independent authority called ADM, which is not accountable to the public, in charge of managing it. These people are not elected. They are not even taking journalists' questions, let alone those from unions or MPs. Basically, they are not answering questions from anyone.

The government is hiding. After receiving the minister's letter, I asked that a mediator be appointed. After one meeting, the workers received their pink slips and, on August 15, immediately after the decision was made, I filed a request with the Minister of Transport, saying “Call in a mediator. This is insane”.

What is even more insane is that, while there are people interested in subletting the hotel, ADM could not care less. They are in court, before the courts, appealing the trial decision. What matters to them is to challenge the $17 million they were ordered to pay by the trial court.

Meanwhile, they could not care less about what happens to the workers. They are not making any public statements or answering any questions from journalists or MPs. That is the reality. That is how this Liberal federal government is managing the facilities that it owns.

I repeat that the Château de l'aéroport, the Mirabel airport hotel off highway 50, belongs to the federal government. It is its building, its hotel complex, which it rented out to ADM, which in turn sublet it to someone by the name of Corbeil. Today, it is vacant, because of a court battle.

What is worse is that 160 men and women have lost their jobs and are subject to the current Employment Insurance Act, to which we are asking amendments be made. The federal government is handing out scraps, like the $1.3 million aid package for the workers. Once again, this is being criticized. Not that my hon. colleague from Laurentides, who is an expert in labour relations, has not been calling for it, but the pilot program that was just announced should be made permanent for all pregnant women across Canada and Quebec. That is what we are asking for.

Why implement a pilot program? To buy a bit more time in order to save a little more money perhaps, so that they can hand out more goodies to their friends. This is the harsh reality with this Liberal government: handouts to friends.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise and speak to the throne speech that opened the 37th Parliament of Canada.

My colleague from Selkirk—Interlake, who is the agriculture critic, wanted me to make sure that the desires of the farmers of Canada were made known to Parliament. As such, he asked me to read into the record a letter that came from the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association. This letter was addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada. I will read what the letter highlights. It states:

Saskatchewan agricultural producers will remember the Throne Speech that opened up the 37th Parliament of Canada not for what it contained, but for what it lacked. It was called “The Canada we want”, but is it really? In a year of serious drought devastation, agriculture was mentioned in three short lines with no short-term or long-term answers to the desperate situation of many farm businesses.

The Throne Speech stated that the government would implement the Agriculture Policy Framework (APF). However, the agriculture industry needs rejuvenation not more regulation, which the APF will impose.

The government has also committed to solve trade disputes in agriculture. Although important, grain and oilseed farmers' returns are dedicated by foreign policy. The federal and provincial governments must continue to pursue the level playing field between subsidized countries and our own. It was this commitment that was missing from the Throne Speech.

The Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association firmly believes that the federal government, under your direction, must engage in strategies and policies that will reduce costs to producers, increase the efficiencies of our cumbersome transportation system, solve labour disputes that are disrupting grain exports at the Vancouver Port as we speak and enhance the profitability of our sector. These are the key points that were sadly missed in the Throne Speech.

What is the federal government, under your direction, doing to solve the Vancouver Port lockout situation, solve grain transportation inefficiencies and level the playing field with competitive countries such as the United States and Europe?

The association is looking forward to the response from the Prime Minister.

Having said that, I would now like to turn to the part of the throne speech that deals with my portfolio, which is international cooperation and foreign aid.

Before I begin I would like to advise that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vancouver Island North.

Following the G-8 summit, which was touted as a development summit and at which the issue of foreign aid became the focus point of the Prime Minister, as many would like to say, for him to leave his legacy behind, in the throne speech he mentioned in passing his commitment to foreign aid. What he said was that the foreign aid budget would be double the amount by the year 2010.

It is fine for the Prime Minister to say in the throne speech that for the next 10 years the government will double the foreign aid commitment. The only problem is that he will not be in office. He will be leaving in the year 2004, as he has stated. Why the commitment to foreign aid for the next 10 years when another government may or may not keep it? One has to wonder whether this is a genuine commitment, and it is probably not.

Let me talk for a minute about the previous record the government had before it went to the G-8 and started talking about leaving a legacy for third world countries or for giving foreign aid.

Under the government, in 1999 dollars, Canada dropped its total amount of aid by 25% in the 1990s. The government has been doing a very good job of manipulating, through its spin doctors, and leaving the impression among Canadians that foreign aid has increased and that we are doing well with foreign aid. However, the reality is totally different.

From 1989 to day, Canada, on an average of OECD donor countries, and it is the rich countries of the world that form OECD and give out dollars, gives a full third lower aid than the OECD average of .39% of GDP.

The action in the past has not matched and will not match the future, or the rhetoric that the government is talking about in foreign aid, which is its commitment over the next 10 years to double the amount when the principal architect of the Africa plan, the Prime Minister, will not be in office.

In 1998, most disturbingly, the government reduced the percentage of total official aid going to sub-Saharan Africa from 45.3%, in the 1990s to 35.5%.

Let me repeat that because this $500 million that was given for the Africa fund, that is touted about giving aid to sub-Sahara, Africa, is now on the agenda. There is also the NEPAD issue, which the government likes to tout, but its record in the past has been that it has reduced aid from 45.3% to 35.5%.

The government has a terrible record of giving aid. It ties its aid so that its friends and companies owned by its friends benefit from this foreign aid while it goes around the world touting that it is giving aid.

My friend on the other side should listen to the statistics. The statistics do not lie. Canada has the second worst record of tying official aid, second only after Greece. Canada has tied 75% of its aid to purchasing Canadian goods and services. The World Bank has stated that tied aid is 25% more inefficient. That is the record of the government.

In the throne speech, the government stated that the plan is to increase foreign aid by double the amount and honour the commitment it made in Monterrey of an 8% annual increase. So here it is, talking something, as usual, and doing something else. That is what is in the throne speech.

What I would like to point out is that we in the official opposition want to ensure that the foreign aid dollars that are currently earmarked are properly used for the advantage of the people, not used as this tied aid is indicating, for its friends, and trying to pretend that we are doing goods things. Let us do it. Let us stop the rhetoric.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, I will respond to the throne speech as the international trade critic for the Alliance Party. I will start by saying that the government just does not get it.

In terms of our international trade relationships under the government, our relations with our major trading partner, the partner for 85% of our trade, and that is our trade with the U.S., has gone backwards.

When we are trading with the United States I think we have to recognize that it is the most self-sufficient and developed nation in the world. It can and does focus very much on what kind of imports it is importing because it can afford to do that. It also has the strongest domestic trade legislation in the developed world.

It is also true that the World Trade Organization and NAFTA rules are strengthening and that has become a more effective way for a nation such as Canada to offset the strong domestic trade legislation of our trading partners. This is largely a consequence of the fact that the U.S. itself has found WTO and NAFTA legal routes a very effective way to go as well.

Canada must remain a reliable partner that pulls above our weight in terms of the international community. Under the present government, we have seen nine years of neglect. Canada pulls below its weight when it comes to our armed forces and that affects our diplomacy, our trade relationships and many other things in a negative way.

I would like to spend some time talking about the softwood lumber dispute which is the major trade dispute between Canada and the U.S. I also want to make reference to the steel dispute. This is an area where the U.S. has made a very good decision in exempting Canada from tariffs on steel. Here we have our very own international trade panel recommending that Canada put tariffs on U.S. steel entering Canada. Our cabinet has to make a decision. I do not understand why this has been so drawn out when it makes so much sense to just reverse that decision.

When we heard the throne speech, the major and most significant trade dispute in Canadian jurisdiction, remembering that Canada is the most dependent on trade of any developed nation, was not given a mention beyond the fact that the government would continue to behave as it has been behaving in terms of the softwood dispute. There was no mention of a financial assistance package in the throne speech in order to maintain Canadian resolve for our workforce in the forest industry, Canadian resolve for the companies and resolve within the broaden communities involved so heavily, the 200 and some forest dependent communities throughout Canada.

Finally, last Tuesday I was able to extract a promise from the trade minister that there would be a financial assistance package forthcoming. That financial assistance package was announced and it fails on all fronts to address the mission statement, which is to ensure Canadian resolve and morale is bolstered and supported so we can maintain a unified position until we resolve the softwood dispute with the U.S., which we will surely win with all our legal challenges because we are on the right side and all legal advice says so.

The current federal government inaction in our softwood lumber dispute with the U.S. is making Canada vulnerable to U.S. divide and conquer tactics. The minister's failure to provide leadership at the national level has led to the situation where we now have B.C., Quebec and other provinces holding direct discussions with the U.S. commerce department. Canada is in jeopardy of losing in two ways. We could lose the legal underpinning of our federally organized WTO and NAFTA challenges if one province makes a deal and we could lose like we did back in 1996 when we agreed to a deal that would turn out to be continually subverted by U.S. lumber coalition special interests and by the U.S. Congress.

All of this might make some sense if Canada were losing on the legal front or if Canada's forest policies and practices were unfair, but of course we are winning at the WTO and we will win at NAFTA. That is exactly why U.S. Department of Commerce Undersecretary Aldonas is currently attempting to lead softwood discussions in a different direction.

For 20 years Canada and the U.S. have fought over softwood. Some U.S. producers have lobbied the U.S. government for trade actions against Canadian producers, alleging that the Canadian product either harms their industry or is heavily subsidized through artificially low stumpage rates on publicly held forest lands.

As a result of all of this, the most recent trade actions by the U.S. lumber coalition have now provided a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences. Though the Canadian lumber industry has suffered greatly since the imposition of countervail and anti-dumping tariffs just this past May, the U.S. industry has not benefited. The price of lumber has actually gone down in the U.S. because of two factors. Some companies have increased production in order to reduce their unit costs to ensure that they beat the anti-dumping tariff formula. In addition, exports to the U.S. from Scandinavian and other sources have increased sharply.

Consequent to these trade actions, Canada launched multiple appeals at WTO and NAFTA . In July the WTO preliminary finding was that the U.S. had misrepresented and miscalculated its finding of Canadian subsidies. This was no surprise to us. I conclude that the U.S. Department of Commerce has concluded that Canada is likely to win subsequent decisions and consequently is trying to undermine these downstream decisions by co-opting the provinces into endorsing another path.

The U.S. commerce department will prepare forest stumpage policy bulletins for the provinces this November, with the understanding that the provinces will be able to somehow show compliance and have their tariff rates reduced. What a recipe for disaster it would be to have a Canadian consensus broken in that way. The U.S. commerce department would then be able to tell NAFTA and WTO panels next spring that there is no need for the U.S. to comply with legal rulings because they have a separate arrangement endorsed by the provinces.

While this U.S. strategy is playing out, guess what, the Canadian trade minister with responsibility for trade issues is missing in inaction and his department is sending only observers to the U.S. commerce department meetings with the provinces. What is the time line for all of this? Most optimistically, the commerce undersecretary's proposals are for a year and a half. This is not significantly different from what it would take us to pursue our legal options or challenges.

To conclude, the federal government should lead all softwood discussions and negotiations. It needs to immediately implement not what was announced this week but an effective forestry assistance program and it needs to relentlessly pursue our legal options to their ultimate conclusion. Canada requires free trade in order to secure the future for our softwood lumber and value added industries, for our workers, for our communities and for our companies.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. friend two questions that relate to Vancouver Island and by extension the country. The first deals with the softwood lumber issue. I would like him to describe roughly the actual numbers of individuals who have been affected by this, who have lost their jobs, in contrast to the government's position and claim that very few people, if any, have lost their jobs over this. Second, on the same area in relation to softwood lumber, because of government inaction the damage has already been done to our softwood lumber industry. I would like him to tell us what we can do, what the government should have done, and more important, what we need to do now to give our softwood lumber industry the chance to save peoples' jobs and to get back on its feet and be competitive.

The second question deals with the transport issue and the airport tax. The government has levied a $24 airport tax that is destroying smaller communities across the country. It is impeding economics because people are not flying. They cannot afford it. The money has gone into general revenues, not into security. I ask the hon. member whether he would agree with the notion that the airport tax should be cut down to a more reasonable $8 to $9, which is in keeping with what there is in the U.S. That tax is directed right toward security, including for security personnel on the front lines, for equipment, for training and for wages. Lastly, I wonder whether the member is going to make an initiative with other political parties to get that airport tax down to $10 so we can save the economies of small rural communities, not only in B.C. but across this country, and of the airlines, which are having a very difficult time enduring this airport tax.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from southern Vancouver Island. I am from the northern part.

The actual number of people unemployed is a somewhat difficult number to calculate. The IWA, the Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers union, as of this week estimates that there are 6,033 people unemployed as a consequence of the dispute, 8 sawmills closed and 20 on reduced operations. That is in British Columbia, northern Ontario and part of Quebec where they have certification and jurisdiction. Certainly that number on a national basis, expanded by people from other certifications or by people who are not certified union workers, would mean that we have a very large number of people out of work because of this softwood dispute.

The main difficulty I have with the government announcement on financial assistance is that it deals with none of the nuts and bolts of what was being asked for in common sense support in order to retain people in the industry and keep companies in the game in terms of being able to export. There are two things. One is an expansion of employment insurance. Already there are people whose employment insurance benefits have expired. They have been told that their only option is welfare and social assistance. This government program did not deal with that issue whatsoever. It needs to deal with that.

On the other issue, the main thing that could be done, particularly for small and medium sized companies, is a loan guarantee program so that the tariff liability until such time as it will be reimbursed can be covered with government guarantees. That is something we have been putting out there in conjunction with industry since last spring. That is what has been promised by the Minister of Natural Resources since June. The government still has not delivered on that very specific proposal.

Yes, there are many government actions that are hurting our small communities, the airport tax in particular.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:55 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Alex Shepherd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to enter this debate on the Speech from the Throne.

I want to talk to the House and those people listening out there today about capital markets. Some people will ask what that has to do with the Speech from the Throne. This is an area of the Speech from the Throne that possibly has not been talked about a lot in the House, although we have had a few questions from the Bloc on this issue.

A very interesting aspect of the Speech from the Throne talked about Canada's fragmented securities regulatory structure being “inadequate and an obstacle to growth”. I think that is a very bold statement, because I can well remember when I first came to this place back in 1993 that I was very concerned about having a very fragmented registration system for securities across this country. I thought it was very much an impediment to our growth as a nation. I did some initial research and discovered a humongous roadblock called federal-provincial relations.

As most of us know, our country was founded in Confederation by the British North America Act back in 1867, which was a very long time ago. Some of the innovation occurring in our marketplaces today moves at the speed of light. In this city, as a matter of fact, we have a huge high tech industry that is doing some tremendously interesting and innovative things. Most of us are aware of Canada's investment in the space program. In fact my own son is involved in some of these things, so I am particularly interested in what Canadians can do and in the opportunities that are available to them.

When I look at this whole issue of capital markets in Canada, to me it is a statement about our inability as a country to work together for the best interests of all the people of Canada. When we talk about capital markets, the stock exchanges and so forth, some people have an aversion to it and think we are just making some kind of intellectual or economic comment, but in reality the movement of capital and the concept of innovation are very much part and parcel of the same thing. If we have capital and innovation, we can create great things in this country. We have done that in the past.

Up to the 1970s, Canadians were great savers. That was historically what Canadians did. We had a conservative approach to things. We put things in banks and for that reason our banks and our banking structure were very important to us. We spent a lot of time in this place and in others ensuring that our banks were solid, had a good regulatory framework and were national in scope, that they had the ability to protect people's savings. People had some confidence in putting capital into those banks. Of course banks then were able to do things like loaning mortgages and so forth, basically creating an alchemy of innovation and capital for the benefit of all the people of Canada.

Since 1970 Canadians have gradually moved from being savers to being investors. Indeed, one out of two people in Canada today has some form of investment, whether it is in pension systems or in direct investments in the stock markets, teachers' pensions, et cetera. Indeed, I am a member of the baby boom generation. I am very much at the forefront of that. I was born in 1946. The baby boomers are now talking about retiring. Retirement plans are very much related to their ability to invest so that those investments will return cash flow in their retirement. Canadians are now investors, but the reality is that in Canada we have a tremendously fractured capital market. What I mean by this is that because it is a provincial domain each province and territory has its own regulatory framework for controlling investments for stock markets.

The result is a tremendous amount of overlap and duplication. Canada is a very small country when it comes to the whole aspect of a capital market. We only represent something like 2.07% of the world's capital market. Therefore, in some ways we are a small player but having said that, the Toronto Stock Exchange is the third largest stock exchange in North America.

On a comparative basis, we can look at what other countries have done. Canada is one of the very few countries in the world that does not have a national securities administration. When I say that, I think of countries like Australia. It has recently realized that with only about 1% of the world's capital market, it was unable to have a fractionalized capital system and still provide the opportunities for investment, to attract investment capital and to create jobs in that country with a fractionalized system. Australia had the wherewithal to think ahead and create a national securities commission.

We all know that the United States has a national securities administration. The European Union is going through a consolidation in many of its industrial areas, not the least of which is the fact that it has come to the recognition that it must have a national securities administration. In Europe there is a two tier system; one is a national security administrator, but it allows the individual states to still do the enforcement and so forth.

I would suggest that is not a bad framework for Canada. Imagine at the same time that Canada is dragging up the rear with 13 different regulatory environments and with politicians getting involved in the process. We do not want the big, bad federal government getting involved in the regulatory framework and so forth. That may not be the model we are looking at, but it is clear we need to move forward on this file.

People talk about the regulatory framework in Canada. For instance, I believe a member of the Alberta Stock Exchange said it takes 17 months to change one regulation. That is the average in the province of Alberta and it is probably the same in every other province. The Toronto Stock Exchange just went through a changeover to a different trading system. It took four years to implement that.

Different provinces are all going off on different tangents on this. Of course, the province of Quebec does not want to be part of anything that looks national in scope. It wants to have a regulatory regime that includes all financial sectors under one umbrella. The capital markets of Canada are simply too small to fractionalize. The countries that do fractionalize, in the final analysis, are not thinking of the best interests of their own people. They are not thinking of the ability to innovate and create opportunities for their own people. They are putting their politics in front of the best interests of their people.

National governments do national things. In all the time we have spent debating in this country there has been a great theory of devolution of power from the federal government to the provinces. The fact of the matter is this is one particular file where it is time that everyone in the country came to the recognition that there is a purpose for a national regulatory system.

I am going to digress for a moment to talk about some of the things that have really had a tremendous negative impact on investor confidence. I was visited recently by people in my own profession, chartered accountants. They were telling me they have to react to some of the very negative things that have happened in the United States and other capital markets, the Enrons, the WorldComs and so forth.

As we look at the stock markets today, people are fleeing from them. They do not trust the institutions that exist there today. This is going to have a negative impact eventually because small entrepreneurial companies are starting up in a very difficult time to raise capital.

Once again I think of the infrastructure that exists in this city and in Quebec, Vancouver, Calgary and other parts. I think Saskatoon has a tremendous emerging high tech sector. The government is going to make it more and more difficult for people to get access to capital, to turn those good ideas into commercial products, to turn those good ideas into something that not only the local people but all the people in the country can take advantage of. We can export that kind of technology.

To diverge a bit once more, we have been talking about the importance of Kyoto. One of the important aspects of Kyoto is that Canada be a leader, that we take advantage of some of the technology that we can evolve if we are there first. If industry is going to be there last, the person who is into this game last will pay the highest price and will be the least competitive. Many of our corporations realize that.

Suncor and others in Alberta and other parts of Canada realize the importance of being there first. I heard DuPont Chemicals say the other day, “We subscribe to Kyoto. We are going to be there first because our production costs will be lower than anybody else's dragging up the rear taking their time to get there”.

Any benefits that we could get from the technology sector in Kyoto will be mitigated if we do not find a better way to raise capital and if we do not find a better way to harmonize and modernize our capital system.

I said it was costly. There is an example of a company that wanted to raise $600,000 for a mining operation in Alberta. The cost to that company to raise $600,000 by going through the capital markets was $300,000. That was partly for registration and so forth in the various security exchanges, but it was also for all the legal work, the lawyers and accountants and so forth. In other words, the bottom line is it is prohibitive. Nobody is going to do it for small amounts of money. Even for larger amounts of money it is questionable whether a person would go to the Canadian capital markets today.

I have heard many people in the corporate sector say that if they are serious about raising money, they go to the United States. The U.S. has a robust system. It is possible to get things registered there. It is quicker to get on the securities market and it is possible to raise more money and do it faster.

There is a problem with that philosophy and it is possible to study the history of this file. If the company's stock is being issued on the U.S. stock exchange, inevitably the company will become an American company. The control of the company will be in the United States. The people making the decisions will be in the United States and Canadians will simply be working for those other people who are calling the shots. That has been somewhat the history of our country; we have let other people call the shots because we did not have the capital to do it.

But Canadians do have the capital. We have to unlock that key to our capital markets by creating a robust system. That is why I was very happy to see in the Speech from the Throne that the government was very interested in finding a way of doing this. Discussions have gone on with some of the provincial governments on this. I say discussions because since 1993 I have been interested in this file and those discussions have been going on all that time.

It is time to act. It is time to put some meat on the bone. The people in the provincial capitals should park their baggage for a bit. They should stop worrying about how to devolve power from the federal government and start saying “This is an issue that requires a national regulatory regime and we are prepared to stand up to the plate and do that and work with the government”.

It does not mean we would have some huge regulatory regime or governmental regime here in Ottawa or Toronto. Different models could be used where this two tier system of regulatory framework could be achieved and which everyone could agree on. The enforcement could be taken on by the provincial administration. The object of the exercise is to reduce costs to make this an efficient, vibrant, securities administration.

Earlier I used the example of Australia, but imagine that the Nordic states, all of Scandinavia, have come together to create one stock exchange. I am talking about Norway, Sweden and Denmark. These are independent countries that have come together to make an arrangement. They realize that without that ability, without the opportunity of scale that they will not be able to attract capital and they will not have the opportunities that other capital markets will have.

Those countries have realized that, yet here in Canada we continue to lag behind them. We continue to not be a part of the solution, but part of the problem. We continue to argue back and forth between provincial capitals about who should be on side and who should not.

As a matter of fact, we have had supporters go in and out on this file. The CEO of the Toronto Stock Exchange, Mrs. Stymiest, has been a great advocate. I have been a follower of her career to some extent. She has been a great promoter because she realizes this is something that is mitigating Canadians from realizing their potential.

Without this we are going to continue to subjugate Canada as a junior market and a junior business environment. We are going to ensure that Canada's productivity will decline. We have to catch up. People talk about our productivity deficit. We have to catch up to the United States.

The mathematics is we have to be 1.6% more productive than the United States every year to catch up and to make ourselves competitive. The only way we are going to do that is by squeezing that last ounce of efficiency out of our business system. The only way we are going to do that in this area is to stop the duplication, create greater harmonization and have a single focus as we go out to parade a national securities administration.

I have talked at long length on this issue, but if we were sitting at home today looking at the stock market pages, we would see that the stock markets continue to ratchet downward. Some say a lot of people are not affected by that and too bad for those who are, but the reality is we have a significant lack of confidence in our capital system in North America today.

This is not about the rich and the famous. It is about the workers of the country who have their money invested in their own companies. The workers have their money invested in pension funds. It is somewhat of a disconnect and a lot of people cannot relate the connection between those capital markets and the best interests of their families, but the reality is that we are all impacted by this. Without the opportunity for capital formation effectively, without the ability to instil that capital in new burgeoning innovative technologies, Canada and those families are being put at risk.

We have to work together as a federal government with our counterparts in the provinces to park the baggage of where we are going on this issue. We have to do away with the rhetoric that has occurred in the past.

The people who run the Vancouver Stock Exchange see it as quite a different stock exchange from some of the others in the country, but some people will have to park their baggage. We have to have a regulatory framework.

The accounting bodies are trying to get voluntary compliance to ensure there are ethical standards. We are big on ethical standards around here, but the problem is the business sector has a huge ethical problem itself right now. We need to find a way to do that. I do not think voluntary compliance is going to work. We need a regulatory environment that works. Canada has a great opportunity to do that. I am very much in favour of the throne speech which talks about moving in this general direction. I hope all of us will support that when whatever legislative framework comes up in the future.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:15 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville Ontario


Joe Jordan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among all parties and I believe you would find consent for the following order:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, all necessary questions to dispose of the main motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Tuesday, October 22, 2002 at 3 p.m.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there agreement?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I found the member's speech interesting. It is a topic that is well worth pursuing.

I have often thought that the federal government is preoccupied with trying to find ways to invade provincial jurisdiction, things like health, education and social services and abandons other areas that it has clear constitutional power to deal with. Section 91 gives the federal government the power to deal with trade in commerce and any conflict in constitutional law between that and provincial property and civil rights is usually won out by the federal government.

Why does the government not take the bull by the horns and take the initiative on the capital market question and create one national security system and help build a vibrant growing economy that works east and west, not just north and south?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:20 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, under the British North America Act, as I understand it, we do have trade in commerce or interprovincial trade priorities. The reality is that commercial law is a provincial jurisdiction. That has been set out I think from 1967 onward and is where the evolution of these exchanges has occurred.

The irony of course is that while they are a provincial jurisdiction, it is not uncommon that a corporation that has all its business in the province of British Columbia will list on the Toronto Stock Exchange solely and therefore be governed entirely by the Ontario securities administration. There is a lot of irony that exist.

It is clear that the provinces still covet their position in the area of commercial law to the point that they feel it is their jurisdiction to regulate securities within their borders. That in fact is the big constitutional issue.

I do not believe that the federal government has the jurisdictional authority to simply create a national securities administration. I believe we have to get the provinces on side, but we need some leadership in this. We have to impress upon our provincial legislators that it is time to move on and to go forward with this file.

However, I thank the member for his suggestion. I can see that he supports the idea of creating a more robust capital system in Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

October 11th, 2002 / 1:20 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this throne speech debate today. I want to begin by saying that I am sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Dartmouth.

In the current throne speech, it says that:

Canadians want their government to be open, accountable and responsive to their diverse and changing needs...the government will provide clear guidelines and better enforcement of the ethical standards expected of elected officials and senior public servants.

These are words, obviously, and not deeds. On Wednesday, in this House, I asked about political interference by some ministers of the Crown on the matter of riding boundaries and I want to elaborate on that before this packed chamber this afternoon.

The Prime Minister was one of the few current MPs who was actually here in 1964, when key progressive changes were made by the 26th Parliament regarding the distribution of federal ridings and new boundaries.

In the current review of boundaries, we are now aware that at least three political ministers managed to get their grubby, little fingers into the process and compromised the independence and impartiality of those commissions.

In his response on Wednesday, the Prime Minister chose to say that I was attacking the position of the Speaker. I want to say most emphatically I was not. I happen to have a very high regard for the position of Speaker and even higher regard for the present incumbent who we elected following the 2000 election. However the Prime Minister was half right. It was an attack on a government that has grown too comfortable in office and grasps at every bit of additional power, leverage and influence that it can. That is what I was attacking and it needs to be done, because the changes in the way that we proceed with boundaries was fundamentally reformed in 1964, after 90 years of blatant gerrymandering.

I spent an invigorating evening reading the debates that went on in 1964 involving such parliamentary luminaries as John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Jack Pickersgill, Allan McEachern, Gordon Churchill, Stanley Knowles and Gilles Grégoire. It is crystal clear that these members of Parliament in that minority government were working hard, labouring to reach an accommodation and an understanding that would end these decades of partisan gerrymandering and make the process fair for all political parties and, equally important, for all Canadians.

They were trying, in other words, to put into practice what Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent had said in 1952 on the topic of redistribution. He said that it was not a matter of executive policy, that is the treasury benches, but it was a matter and responsibility for the House as a whole.

Then there was the intervention of Dr. Norman Ward, a well known political scientist, who said that the government pays lip service to this idea of fair redistribution. Then he went on to say that:

This doctrine, resting as it does on the premise that ministers can forget they are ministers whenever redistribution comes up, and that their supporters can forget it too, put an increasing strain on the credulity of opposition members as the debates wore on.

Is that not exactly the position that the public works minister finds himself in now, where his office conceded that the two people appointed in Saskatchewan were indeed recommendations of that individual?

Jack Pickersgill, who was the transport minister in 1964 and who led this debate in the House, had some excellent opinions on this matter of fair redistribution. He said:

The first and by far the most important of these was that we should not follow the pattern that had been followed in the first 90 years since confederation, of having the readjustment of representation in this place done in this place by its members directly, but that it should be done by somebody which would be as impartial as we in our collective ingenuity could provide and who would be as competent as we could find means to provide through legislation and subsequent appointment.It was also agreed that in the process the government should have no more voice than any other part of the house, because this was a business that was peculiarly the business of parliament, of all of parliament, where we all have an equal obligation and, I hope and think, an equal desire to see that the people are fairly represented.

Mr. Pickersgill went on to say:

--I should like to say parenthetically that there is a real problem in getting people who will not only be fair but who will appear to everyone to be fair.

For the record that I have nothing personally against the two individuals who were appointed to do the boundary redistribution in Saskatchewan. I do not know them. They are probably terrific at their day job. They may even write a brilliant report. However that is not the point. The point is one cannot have a partisan way of selecting two of three commissioners and then try to convince the residents of Saskatchewan that, even though they were appointed by a political minister, they have suddenly become impartial and non-partisan from here on in.

The Pearson government in 1964 understood that and understood it well. This bunch over here today, 38 years later, has totally forgotten it.

Again, Mr. Pickersgill said:

--in order to insure what after all is the most priceless of all our constitutional rights in this country, the right of all our citizens to have as nearly as possible an equal voice in the government of this country.

He went on to say that none of these appointments would be made by the government. He was in debate with someone at this point when he said:

--that is the point the hon. gentleman does not seem to grasp. Under this bill, no appointments would be made by the government at all...

That was precisely the thing to which Mr. Pickersgill objected during the debate two or three years before. He said that they were not going to transfer redistribution from Parliament to the government. He said:

I have never varied from that view, and it is for this reason that in this bill we have been very careful to have no appointments made by the government but to have appointments made by parliament or officers of parliament.

The debate began with the assumption that the chief justice would appoint the chair of each boundary commission with the prime minister and leader of the opposition appointing the other two. However Stanley Knowles and others pointed out that would not be fair necessarily to other Canadians who never voted for either of the old-line parties.

They proposed a Manitoba model that had a university professor, the chief electoral officer and the chief justice of the province. There were some problems with doing it that way in the parties because some provinces had more than one university and there were discussions about presidents and which one would be chosen.

To make a long story longer, on November 10, 1964, there was a compromise. Again it was Mr. Pickersgill, the transport minister, who recommended that the other two people, other than the appointee of the chief justice, would be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. He said at that time who better to trust than his hon. the Speaker to do the sensible thing and not to put any strings upon him except the obvious string that these appointments must be made from persons resident in the province. That was passed November 12, 1964.

Stanley Knowles, in conclusion of that debate said:

--we are dealing with the subject matter which for nine decades or more has been a most explosive one. I suppose few issues have generated as much ill-will in parliament as has the question of the redistribution of the seats in the House of Commons.

Mr. Olson, who I believe was from Alberta, said:

--the passage of this bill to set up this commission will indeed be a red letter day and a proud day for parliament.

It was a red letter day. It did end 90 years of gerrymandering and it makes great reading.

Far more important, I urge, I demand, the treasury benches across the way to heed and take heart from what was done in 1964 and agree that the clumsy, unfortunate and totally inappropriate way in which some boundary commissions have been appointed this time, in New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular in 2002, will never be replicated.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:30 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, the issue the member for Palliser has raised is a very disturbing one because it goes right to the heart of public confidence in the democratic system.

In my riding, the proposed boundary will be changed in a very significant part of my community called North Dartmouth. It is a community of interest and has historical voting patterns that date back to Confederation, yet the proposal is to change the boundary right down the middle. I have had meetings with people and during the summer we talked about this issue and actually made presentations to the boundary commission. One of the comments made by somebody in those early days struck my heart. It was “What does it matter, because this is just the way it is and this is going to happen anyway”. I was struck by the fact that these people in my community had no confidence that this was an unbiased and fair process.

I want to ask the member for Palliser how he feels. How much damage is done when certain boundary commissions that have been struck seem to have quite a strong connection to the government? How do we redress this damage?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, my colleague does raise an interesting point. There is no question that harm is done to democracy when people throw up their hands and say “Oh, well, the government will do whatever the government wishes”.

It is particularly disturbing, as I tried to indicate in my earlier remarks, because successive parliaments following Confederation in 1867 went back and forth on this issue. Whoever was in power had a tremendous opportunity to control the boundaries. The minority Parliament in 1964 dealt with that. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that since 1964, until these latest proposed boundary changes following a census, it seems to have worked fairly well. There has not been a lot of criticism. It looked like the 26th Parliament had done its job well and had eliminated the most blatant aspects.

Now all of a sudden we seem to be going backward. I think that people do wonder what the point is of getting involved in politics. It is the approach of “it does not matter who is elected, the government always wins”, like the old Irish proverb.

We in this caucus still think democracy matters. More important, we think this Parliament and this government ought to understand that it matters a great deal and make sure that what has happened in the boundary changes this time is never again allowed to occur.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I have just a brief comment. I appreciate what the member had to say in regard to the redistribution process in Saskatchewan.

One of my concerns is that the decisions that were made in regard to electoral boundaries did not follow the natural historic patterns of following municipal boundaries and natural divisions such as rivers. That has had a very negative effect upon the whole process and people's attitude toward it.

I agree with the previous comments. This is very detrimental to the participation of people in the political process. We need to encourage people to participate. What has happened here really flies in the face of that because it is destroying community cohesiveness. Because the commission has gone away from boundaries such as municipal boundaries, this really rips communities in half. It is using highways as a division. Many of these highways go right through the centre of a community so we have one part of the community in one riding and one in another. That just will not work.

The question I have is this: Is it true that out of the 14 ridings in Saskatchewan the only ridings that retained their names were the ones that are held by Liberals?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, sad to say, it is true. There are 14 ridings in Saskatchewan. The ridings of Churchill River and Wascana are currently held by Liberal members. They are the only two names that have been proposed to stay the same. Maybe it is an accident and maybe it is not, but when people are appointed on the recommendation of the political minister from Saskatchewan it is inescapable not to draw the conclusion that it is partisan.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

1:35 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to have the opportunity today to address the House with some comments about the Speech from the Throne that opened Parliament on September 30.

Throughout the summer months I have talked to hundreds of people in my riding about issues that concern them. I talked to them at barbecues, on the ferry, on fundraising walks and in my office. Over and over again I heard about the critical state of our health care system. I heard about the dismay and fear caused by waiting lists in emergency rooms, for MRIs, for mammograms, for appointments with specialists and for necessary operations. I heard from people who have lost loved ones and are left to ponder the terrible question, what if they had received the help they needed when they needed it? That is a terrible question to be left with.

In my riding almost daily I also hear about education issues, about the lack of speech therapists and teachers' assistants and social workers. Although I know that these issues are considered provincial issues, I always do whatever I can to move them ahead because investing in young people is of course a national issue. Providing a level playing field for young persons with disabilities is absolutely a federal responsibility and a charter of rights responsibility.

This summer I also heard a great deal about the high cost of post-secondary education from young people, and from their parents who have invested years in their children's schooling. I heard from young people who have dared to dream about future professions and who now are facing incredible costs for post-secondary education. With the federal government's abandonment of its support for post-secondary education, tuition fees have gone up by 135%. Nova Scotia is leading this shameful example.

This summer, with the extreme weather events across the country and across the globe, I also heard concerns about our environment: water quality, air quality and of course our sewage treatment problems.

I have heard from people in North Preston who said they can wait no longer for the three levels of government to come together and help them build their much needed recreation centre.

I have heard much about poverty and substandard housing as well.

At the Battle of Britain ceremonies and at the jetties to meet returning ships, I heard concerns from veterans and many people in the armed forces about the fact that the government continues not to put in the necessary money for the equipment they need to do their job.

So it was with great interest that I listened to the throne speech in hopes that there would be some long awaited good news for the people of Canada.

To begin with, as I just asked the minister a question about this today, I would have to say that unfortunately and outrageously nothing was said in the throne speech about a significant federal commitment to the Halifax harbour cleanup. What is needed and what the NDP has been pressing for since the beginning is for the federal government to commit one-third of the money for such a large environmental infrastructure project, which is what it used to do in the past. That would be about $110 million. Instead, the government followed the lead of the provincial government, the ham-fisted provincial government, with only a token $30 million investment, leaving our city scrambling and our citizens wondering what it is they can expect from the federal government other than lofty words.

Unfortunately, the throne speech was full of lofty words and promises but alarmingly short on how-tos and whens. The unfulfilled promises from the Liberal red book of 1993 and 1996 have reappeared on everything from child poverty to urban renewal.

The throne speech indicated that the Liberals will finally ask Parliament to ratify the Kyoto accord. It was in one slim paragraph, very short on details, with no plan as to how they are going to do this. That is a crime. Because of Liberal stalling, greenhouse gas emissions today are 14% above 1990 levels, about 20% above our Kyoto target. By Health Canada's own admission, 16,000 people die prematurely every year due to environmental pollution.

New Democrats are fighting for action now on Kyoto, not vague promises. We need a solid implementation plan now to reflect the environmental impact on and the technological capability of our economy in terms of the environmental problems we are facing. We need to fight for a ratification plan that is fair to affected regions and to the workers in those regions. To make Kyoto work we need good ideas and legislation and federal commitments now.

The NDP is calling for the legislated creation of a market for ethanol and biomass fuels and for the mandatory conversion of coal-fired energy plants through the enforcement of clean air standards. As well, we are calling for the creation of a national alternative energy strategy, based upon proven capability in wind, solar and tidal production, and, in partnership with the provinces and municipalities, for the federal government to support transportation waste diversion and municipal infrastructure programs that promote energy efficiency and the use of non-fossil fuels. Of course this includes the Halifax harbour cleanup.

Not surprisingly, the throne speech called for much needed work in the health care system. New Democrats welcome a strong and renewed commitment by the federal government to our beleaguered public health care system. We will be watching carefully to make sure that this promise is not broken again. Privatization, long waiting lists for surgery, and woefully inadequate home and long term care: this is the Prime Minister's legacy so far.

The Romanow report due in November is expected to provide a blueprint for a renewed federal role in health care. We believe that this renewed role must include a significant increase in federal funding to the provinces and enforcement of the Canada Health Act to stop the growth of private clinics and hospitals. We also believe that we have to see an introduction of the long promised national pharmacare and home care programs. We will be fighting for those measures and will oppose any “rob Peter to pay Paul” proposals for funding the federal increase to health care transfers.

So far we have seen trial balloons about increasing the GST or further cutting employment insurance to pay for increases in health care funding. Such moves would be unfair and unacceptable. If the Liberals need more revenue for health care and social programs, they should look first at the ill-advised tax cuts contained in the former finance minister's 2000 budget, tax cuts that benefit mainly the banks, the big corporations and the wealthy.

Canadian content was sorely missing in the throne speech and in the Prime Minister's legacy. There was no mention of increased investment in the Canada Council or the CBC. Deep cuts to the CBC have destroyed the public broadcaster's ability to fulfill its mandate for Canadians. For all intents and purposes, CBC regional television news programming has ceased to exist under the Prime Minister's government. Despite all of the recent Liberal rhetoric about redressing the democratic deficit, the throne speech is silent about the critical need for media concentration legislation.

Nor does the throne speech give any comfort to military families that our Sea Kings will be replaced, or to the homeless that there will be affordable housing started before the snow flies.

There are many more people who will be sorely disappointed with the government's direction, but perhaps none more than persons with disabilities. Even as the throne speech puts forward a couple of measures to address disability issues, the finance department is ripping away other much needed income supports. It is instituting unfair and punitive measures to cut people off from the disability tax credit. Canadians with disabilities deserve respect and equal citizenship from their government, not harassing bureaucracies and punitive legislation.

In closing, I would urge the government to follow the calls from the courts, advocacy groups, the medical profession and the disabilities subcommittee and provide humane and compassionate tax relief to our most vulnerable citizens. That would be the most significant and genuine legacy of all.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move:

That the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be modified as follows: Guy St-Julien for John Richardson; Werner Schmidt for Garry Breitkreuz; and that the following member be added to the list of associate members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs: Garry Breitkreuz.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)