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House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wto.

Topics

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question then is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Canada has long worked for a convention on the non-weaponization of outer space within the conference on disarmament. The defence briefing notes confirm that the United States is actively pursuing plans for space weapons in the next decade.

Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell the House if a joint working group has been struck between the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defence to establish a common Canadian position on the weaponization of space? Could he also tell us when this issue will be brought before parliament and when a clear position will be stated in parliament by one of the two ministers?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the right hon. member for his question because, as the Minister of National Defence stated very clearly, Canada's position has always been against the weaponization of space and we will maintain that position.

Surely the hon. member does not wish to suggest that we should not have conversations with our American allies. It is exactly in conversations that we can bring Canadian policies to bear. We will continue to insist with the Americans that we are against the weaponization of space. We will bring forward Canadian interests and Canadian values in our conversations with our American allies.

Lumber IndustryOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister said that the U.S. president was looking into the problem of the softwood lumber dispute. However the clock is ticking and on March 21 the U.S. department of commerce will be issuing a decision on what duties the Canadian lumber industry may have to pay.

What assurances did the Prime Minister receive that real progress is being made to work out an acceptable solution prior to the March 21 deadline?

Lumber IndustryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I first want to say that I made a little mistake a minute ago in confusing two good ministers.

I talked with the president yesterday and I was informed that some discussions would be going on today and that there will be other discussions later in the week.

The administration in the United States knows very well that we are very preoccupied with this problem. I say again that I am hopeful that there will be a resolution of this dispute within the next month.

Lumber IndustryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would just remind the Prime Minister that he was preoccupied with this problem in November when he said that the problem would be fixed by Christmas. Now he is saying that he is hopeful a solution can be found.

I want to remind the House that in British Columbia alone 40% of its provincial GDP comes from forest industry exports. Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake. Nationally, this is a $10 billion export business and it faces devastation as of March 21 if something is not done.

Will the Prime Minister make a personal trip to Washington to intervene and make the case for this very important Canadian industry?

Lumber IndustryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I talk regularly with the president. I do not think he needs to see my physical presence. He knows about the problem. He knows we have a free trade agreement. He is supposed to be a free trader. He wants our resources in the United States. I keep telling him that we are happy to have free trade but not on a selective basis. We need to have free trade in all the resources of Canada.

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

February 27th, 2002 / 2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is preparing to consider, for purposes of calculating equalization payments, the Statistics Canada estimates on the value of residential capital stocks. Using this new figure will deprive Quebec, starting this year, of $500 million in equalization payments.

Whereas the protocol for calculating the equalization payments terminates in March 2004, what is the Minister of Finance's justification for again, as was the case for the Canada social transfer, unilaterally changing the rules in midstream?

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there has been no unilateral change. This change was made by Statistics Canada.

I have made an offer to the provinces, one accepted by Minister Marois, for their public servants to meet with Statistics Canada staff to discuss this. At the same time, we offered to spread the payments out over five years, if this discussion does lead to payments.

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the minister has surplus money coming out of his ears. He has no need to add any more by destabilizing the public accounts of Quebec.

Does the Minister of Finance not find it indecent that his departmental officials insist on using this source of data, whereas it would have been very simple, and not prejudicial to Quebec, to have used the true market value of the housing available in the municipalities, a value that was even proposed by Gérard-D. Lévesque in 1987, who referred to the predators of federalism?

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there are two kinds of changes, changes to methodology and changes in the order of things.

For example, this time the economic downturn in Canada has meant a drop in equalization payments for Quebec.

In the same vein, in 1999 Quebec received an unexpected cheque for $1.3 billion from the Canadian government.

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, there is one air carrier model in the world right now that is showing profit and it is low cost, short haul, no frills air carriers: Ryan Air of Ireland, WestJet of Canada and Southwest of the United States. In fact WestJet was the only profitable carrier in Canada last year.

Did the transport minister do an impact study on the government's $24 air tax on low cost, short haul carriers prior to the introduction of the December 10 budget?

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I explained yesterday, the government brought the air security charge in reflecting the costs that were to be incurred. At the same time, in discussions with the Department of Transport, a number of airports in areas where those security charges or the services would not be required were exempt.

The fact is that there will be a revision of these charges when we see how low factors are which obviously will give us an opportunity to examine the whole situation.

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, WestJet's profit is four passengers per flight. The minister did not give a clear yes or no answer. Did the government do a study or not?

The finance minister seems more interested in his government's bottom line than in the fact that only one air carrier in this country is showing a profit and the government is going to put it six feet under.

Why is the government introducing a massive tax grab without having done one single impact study on it? Seven air carriers have died on this government's watch. Why is it so anxious to create an eighth death?

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, what the government sought to do and was asked to do was to make sure that confidence could be re-established following the terrible events on September 11.

The government has stated that in the fall there will be a complete review of the charge to see how low factors have been affected and to see exactly how much money is coming in versus the expenses going out. We have made that undertaking to members of the finance committee. We have made it in extensive discussions with members of our caucus and with the Minister of Transport, and we intend to carry through on that.

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the last federal budget, the Minister of Finance announced a new $2.2 billion tax to improve airport security.

Yesterday, officials stated that no sectoral or regional impact studies had been done prior to this tax being imposed. What is more, stakeholders are unanimously opposed to this tax, which is devastating for airlines, the tourism industry and the future of the regions.

Given the difficulties that airlines are experiencing, particularly in the regions, how is it that the Minister of Finance could go ahead and blindly impose a tax without assessing its impact beforehand?

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, following the terrible events of September 11, there was a drop in air travel, and it was very important that the government act as quickly as possible to restore confidence, which we did.

It is our intention to study the effects, and certainly this fall, we will see if the entire system needs to be reviewed.

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, what are we to make of the comments of the Minister of Finance, who told us confidently that his tax on air transportation would have no negative impact, when they were not based on anything, and on no serious measure?

Is the Minister of Finance not really just bluffing with this sort of behaviour?

Airline IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, here in Canada—and in the United States as well—security taxes were imposed, which was very important in light of the events of September 11.

Now that the economy is starting to return to normal and air travel is starting to bounce back, we certainly intend to review the system again in the fall.

Access to InformationOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the horror stories about the lack of accountability and the secrecy that the government wraps itself in never ends.

Yesterday, before the health committee, the Auditor General of Canada admitted that she was not allowed to examine the spending of a minister's political staff even if there were concerns that they might be using tax dollars to buy drugs.

Will the President of the Treasury Board commit to immediately bringing forward legislation that closes this loophole and gives the auditor general the power to expose misspending of ministers and their political staff?

Access to InformationOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue which the member for St. Albert has raised before.

We issued guidelines to all departments on how to interpret the legislation, the Access to Information Act as well as the Privacy Act.

Not only is spending by ministers and their staff accessible, but individual privacy is protected as well. This was the nature of the guidelines issued to each minister.

Access to InformationOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, we cannot see a minister's expense account unless he or she releases it. The public cannot see the Prime Minister's agenda and the government has its own lawyers suing each other in order to enhance cabinet secrecy.

The auditor general pointed out this problem in the face of questions about the industry minister and his staff using tax dollars to further his bid for the Liberal leadership.

Will the Minister of Industry join his colleague, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and pledge to release his expenses and those of his staff?

Access to InformationOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear. The spending of ministers and their staff is always accessible under the Access to Information Act.

But the Privacy Act must also be respected. We are basing this opinion on a Supreme Court decision. We must also respect the rule of law in this country.

Fishing IndustryOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, some scientists are reporting that cod stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are showing no signs of improvement. As a result, representatives from the P.E.I. fishing industry are very concerned and they are expecting no cod fishery this year.

Could the minister give the House his views in terms of the scientific report? Could he also inform the House and the industry whether there will or will not be a moratorium on gulf cod this year?

Fishing IndustryOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to thank the member and all my colleagues in the gulf area for their interest in this matter.

He will recognize that it would be premature for myself at this time to make statements as to the stocks and as to the fishery or limit of the fishery for the summer period next season.

However I can advise him that we are holding our first round of negotiations with academic and industry sectors, after which we will publish the results on the cod stocks, the scientific data.

The FRCC will hold wide industry and community consultations and will be making recommendations to me, recommendations which I will consider more seriously before making a final decision.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. There is mounting evidence that Canada is losing revenue to tax havens. A recent security regulator's report found that the Canadian investment dealers are holding 13,000 accounts in OECD blacklisted tax havens. We have also seen the CIBC play with its profits to reduce taxes in this country.

Will the Minister of Finance show some leadership and hold talks with the provinces to create a national securities watchdog that would tighten regulations and require full disclosure of transactions with tax havens?