House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on December 10, 2001, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate today regarding Bill C-49, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled on December 10, 2001.

This wide ranging legislation includes measures to legislate in the following areas. It implements the Canadian air transport security authority which will deliver improved security at airports and on board flights. It implements the $24 round trip domestic air travellers security charge announced in the budget, which of course is discriminatory, toward short haul airlines and flyers two to three times higher than charged in the United States.

The act also amends the Employment Insurance Act and its regulations. These amendments provide increased flexibility to parents whose newborns are hospitalized for an extended period of time and clarify employment protection. There are no new benefits per se provided for in the bill. This issue addressed in these amendments affect approximately 7,000 women and 2,000 children, while the total cost of implementing these changes is estimated to be about $20 million to $25 million for next year.

The act also implements the income tax amendments. The purpose of the amendments is to push revenues into the following fiscal year when a budget deficit is more likely. The most visible amendment is the provision to defer certain income tax instalments for January, February and March for six months. This measure is accounting trickery and really has only marginal benefits for business, perhaps $50 million in total.

However that is not new.The government has been seriously criticized by the auditor general in the past for disregarding the generally accepted accounting principles to balance the books. It has front loaded and back loaded the expenses and revenues respectively to make it convenient for the government to balance the budget. For instance, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation was not even in existence but the funds for operations were included in the budget.

The act also provides for the new $500 million Africa fund to reduce poverty, provide primary education and set Africa on a sustainable path for a brighter future. This fund is without clear direction or a mandate nor does it have a control mechanism in place. Rather than logically putting it with CIDA, a government official was quoted as saying that the Prime Minister will make that decision.

Moreover, the act was also supposed to implement the $2 million strategic infrastructure fund which was intended to provide assistance to large infrastructure projects in co-operation with municipal and provincial governments, as well as the private sector. The government has flip-flopped on this particular issue. This fund will be under the control of politicians rather than under an arm's length board of directors. There is no policy statement or basis for approval of these funds. Thus it is the de facto Liberal leadership strategic slush fund. It will be distributed on a project by project basis.

The government's vision or, for that matter lack of vision, is supposed to be reflected through the Speech from the Throne. Any budgets, in turn, are supposed to fulfill the vision laid out in the government's throne speech. As is evident, the budget completely fails to do this. This is probably because the government has no clear vision to begin with.

The throne speech is supposed to be a statement of how the government plans to act and where it plans to commit taxpayer resources. Under this government the throne speech has become nothing more than an empty public relations exercise devoid of any true meaning.

I would like to look at some of the important differences between what the government said it would do in the throne speech versus what it actually did in the budget.

In the throne speech the government said it would focus on: creating opportunity by fostering an innovative economy; taking steps to make Canada one of the most innovative countries in the world; enhancing the skills and learning of our country, in part, by recognizing foreign credentials; strengthening our country's information infrastructure by expanding broadband access to remote areas; and fostering trade and investment by investing in areas such as skills, learning, connectivity and lower corporate tax levels.

Members will note that the throne speech ensured Canadians that every effort would be made to work co-operatively with the U.S. to ensure fair and open market access. Nothing has happened with the softwood lumber dispute. My province of British Columbia is suffering because of that.

The throne speech said the government would: help families by creating jobs and a stronger economy, especially for our native population; ensure health and quality of care for all Canadians by upholding the principles of the Canada Health Act; and work toward environmental preservation, including clean air, water and conservation of our national spaces. It stated that it would “safeguard Canadians from toxic substances and environmental contaminants”. I wish to mention that 8,600 tonnes of toxic waste will be coming to Richmond, British Columbia from the United States of America. I do not see how the government is creating a safe environment.

The throne speech also said that the government would: co-ordinate government programs and policies to support Canadian communities; ensure a vibrant Canadian culture and celebrate Canadian citizenship; and protect Canadians by fostering a more peaceful international climate.

From what I have seen in the budget and Bill C-49 the government has fallen short in every one of these areas. This means that it has failed Canadians by not implementing the priorities it outlined in its own throne speech.

Some people say the Liberals campaign from the left and govern from the right. However, I think they would say anything during the campaign to get votes and once in power would do only those things which fulfill their own agenda. We know about its promise to remove, eliminate, scrap and abolish the GST, but the GST is still here.

The Liberals said they would create opportunities for Canadians. Instead, we are falling behind in many areas such as: job creation, lowering taxes, paying the national debt, improving health care, improving the economy, and improving transportation and infrastructure. As far as job creation is concerned, although the figures indicate that the job creation figures for January are a little better, the situation in my own province of British Columbia it is still very bad.

Our standard of living and productivity continue to fall relative to that of the United States. This is made worse by the government's low dollar policy. The Liberals failed to significantly improve our economic competitiveness.

The Speech from the Throne and, consequently, the budget speech, fail to set the priorities right. It is the culture of the weak and arrogant Liberal government that needs to be changed. Wastage, mismanagement, patronage, corruption, cover-up, secrecy and favouritism are the benchmarks of the Liberal government. It plays politics with the important priorities of Canadians including the national sex offender registry, child pornography and victims' rights.

Over the last 10 years, the official opposition has come up with grassroots policies by listening to Canadians. These grassroots policies would set the right priorities for the federal government. The government criticizes us for our policies and tries to shut us up. In the end, it steals our policies.

There cannot be a band-aid solution to the national problems of governance, mismanagement, corruption and prioritizing the issues of national importance.

The official opposition has played a significant role in changing or improving the national agenda for the country. We have been carrying the flashlight and showing the dark side of the Liberals. We have been exposing their weaknesses and blind spots which they have left unattended. They have seen some light and stolen some of our policies. I wish they had stolen more policies. By stealing our policies they have managed to form three consecutive majority governments. Still they could not set the priorities right and improve the culture of the government to manage the issues that I have just listed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-49.

I would like to deal with the parental leave under the employment insurance plan. I cannot deny I am happy with the impending chances, even if they are to be implemented over a two year period.

The government keeps repeating that the opposition is never able to give credit where credit is due. I am ready to do it today, even if I do not make a habit of it.

Fifteen weeks of sick leave, plus 15 weeks of maternity leave, and 35 weeks of parental leave add up to 65 weeks off. Last year, the maximum was just 50 weeks. The parental leave can be spread over two years.

I have a disagreement with the government however—after all, I cannot agree with everything all day—over the parental leave for adoptive parents.

The same conditions should apply to them. Under the bill, if a parent adopts a child, and the child is in hospital for three months, the parent will be entitled to EI benefits after these three months, and the benefits may be spread over a period of two years.

However, it seems unacceptable and discriminatory that during the three months the child will be in the hospital, the adoptive parents will not enjoy the same advantages the natural parents do. One can certainly imagine how adoptive parents who have often had to wait one or two years before adopting a child can feel when the child has to be admitted to the hospital.

The government can never do something completely right. It always seems to stop half way. It likes to compel us to challenge it. The government seems to like being spurred on by the opposition.

As the NDP whip, I will try to whip them into shape this morning. Once again, I think the government has gone against its obligation to eliminate this type of discrimination against people. We have fought long enough here in the House to say that there should be no discrimination against adoptive parents versus natural parents.

The government is introducing a new bill and this new bill too is discriminatory.

What will the adoptive mother or the adoptive father do while the child is in the hospital? What does the government have to say to the fact that the mother visiting her child in the hospital is receiving no money?

That was the whole idea behind the employment insurance system and Bill C-49, to allow parents to go the hospital, to take care of their child and extend the number of weeks.

Once again, this is why I say it is unfortunate the government missed the boat. It is unfortunate that the government does not take into account the global recommendations of the standing committee, which examined the issue of employment insurance. There is a $42 billion surplus, and all parties made unanimous recommendations to the government.

In the meantime, the government chose the bit by bit approach, and said, “We are nice. Every three or four months, we are nice”. They give a little bit here, a little bit there, a million here, a million there. They are like a bunch of people handing out peppermints every three months.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

An hon. member

What they give with one hand, they take back with the other.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

As my colleague from the Bloc says, the government gives with one hand, and takes it back with the other. This time, it gave something to parents, but in the case of parents who adopt a child, it said, “You do not deserve the same thing”. I find that unpleasant and unacceptable.

At the same time, the changes to employment insurance that are proposed in the bill are totally unfair to the regions where many of us come from. I have someone here today and he knows what I am talking about. The riding of Acadie--Bathurst is losing $6 million to $9 million of employment insurance benefits. The region is suffering and small businesses in the region are suffering.

We have companies that came over from other countries, such as Finland, and bought our Canadian companies in the region. This week we were told that woodcutters would no longer have jobs in the woods. The Finnish company UPM is kicking them out of the forest and will not hire any more woodcutters.

The Liberals on the other side can smile and laugh but they did not do their job when it came to free trade. They did not protect us during free trade. That is why today Canadians are losing their jobs.

It is not enough that in our region, for example, Brunswick Mine will close down in five years. Foreign companies dictate to us how we should deal with our national resources and control the jobs given to Canadians.

The budget has made no changes to employment insurance to help people in regions like ours, and those in northern Ontario and northern B.C. who have problems with softwood lumber. There is nothing in the budget to help the working people who built this country. I say shame on the government. I cannot lift my hat to them.

Last night the Minister of Finance said that he would bring the municipalities into the infrastructure deal. I hope he follows through. I hope the municipalities would be able to sit down at the same table if they are to put one-third of their money into any infrastructure deal. I hope the local people would have something to say if they are to make money.

I hope MPs from the area of Acadie--Bathurst, and I see the member for Beauséjour--Petitcodiac, would support what the Minister of Finance said last night. It is very important. I am sure the municipalities would be happy to be able to participate in those negotiations. That is what the budget should look after; it should look after Canadians.

The budget should take into consideration the men and women, the workers who have built this country. Again, I believe that the Minister of Finance has failed. If we look at the budget, we see that it distributes crumbs here and there to try to keep people quiet. This is not the way to govern a country.

The time will come where the Government of Canada will have to stand up and say, “We have a country, we are proud of it and we want to have our word to say”. It is not like in the example I have given, where a Finnish corporation comes to New Brunswick, buys a company and lays off everyone, and governments can do nothing about it because of free trade.

This is terrible, unacceptable and I would say monstrous. It is monstrous to see that our workers will lose their jobs because foreign companies come here and dictate how we should do business here in Canada. We already have too few jobs to allow such situations to occur.

I hope that the Minister of Industry will be able to deal with this issue, show leadership and help the provinces, which are having a problem with free trade because of the federal government. I also hope that a part of the infrastructure investments will be distributed in regions like mine. In the Chaleur Bay area, the mine will close and fish stocks are dwindling. The government should be able to put infrastructures in place.

I hope that the government will put infrastructures in place to allow regions to create jobs. In my own area, we need a natural gas distribution network, a port at Belle-Dune and good highways. This is what is needed to attract companies to our area. I therefore call upon the federal government to stand firm here in Canada and help Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to rise in the House today and talk about the budget and the budget implementation bill as put forward by the Minister of Finance.

I want to first congratulate the Minister of Finance for putting together a budget which probably had the most widely consultative process we have seen within the country in some time. It is important that Canadians of all ages, from sea to sea to sea, have an opportunity to talk to government. It is important to point out first and foremost how the process was done because I think it really reflects what is in the budget.

What we in the House and parliament did was allow a committee of the House, the finance committee, to travel across the country, hold public hearings and listen to Canadians about what they felt was important, because these are challenging times. There is no question that the events of September 11 and the global downturn in the economy have made it much more difficult for governments at all levels to deal with their budgets and particularly to deal with public expectations as to what they feel should be in budgets.

I think it was quite good that members of parliament from all sides of the House went across the country and consulted with Canadians. Many of us went throughout our own ridings and talked to people at local grocery stores and at the gas stations and got a feeling from them as to what they felt should be key in the budget.

On this side of the House I know that the Minister of Finance met with a wide range of different caucus committees. He sat down with them and talked to them about where they thought the government's priorities should be. For my part, I chair a task force on the future of agriculture. My task force had an opportunity to consult with Canadians across the country and then sit down with the Minister of Finance, dialogue with him and show him directly where farmers across the country thought the government's priorities in spending should be.

On our part we were successful in some areas but what we got from the Minister of Finance, from the Prime Minister and from the cabinet was a commitment to look at the long term issues in agriculture and to make sure that the structural problems that we found across the country when we talked to Canadians would be addressed in the next and upcoming budget. I think the process went very well. Members of parliament on all sides of the House had an opportunity to sit down, talk to the Minister of Finance and put forward to him the concerns of their constituents.

The budget first and foremost gives a boost to the Canadian economy at a time when there is an international downturn, at a time when there are challenges. Given some of the difficulties we are seeing in the economy, such as some of the large manufacturers we relied upon during the last number of years to create many jobs but are now contracting a bit, it was prudent of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to give a quick boost to the economy.We did that in many ways.

We put $2.2 billion into air travel safety. Certainly after the events of September 11 we all realized the importance of making sure our skies are safe. We also put $1.6 billion into policing and intelligence to make sure that our police forces, CSIS and all the people who are out there looking for terrorists and possible dangers to Canada's national security have the resources they need to address these problems.

We also put $1 billion into more efficient screening of refugees and people who are trying to get into the country, to help secure our borders and make sure that Canadians can feel safe. Not only did we make sure that we kept our border secure on the outside, but we also have made sure that our borders with our most important trading partner, the United States, are more open and free for the free flow of goods across the country.

As hon. members know, after the events of September 11 the border was clogged. I know that many businesses in my part of the country and indeed across this great country were concerned that their most favoured, lucrative and protected market might be cut off. I thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for International Trade for their work. They took it upon themselves to go directly to Washington to make sure there was no danger of our goods being stopped at the border. It took a bit of work and some phone calls from the Prime Minister, but it was done. We have an effective and open border now. Although there still needs to be more effort put into making sure that we get a quicker free flow of goods across the border, certainly after the clogging up due to the events of September 11 their efforts have gone a long way to help open up the border.

One of the key things the government did in the budget was give dollars back to Canadians. The government made sure in this budget and particularly in the previous budget that $100 billion in tax cuts over the next number of years will flow back to Canadians. It is important for Canadians to have cash in their hands to spend, particularly in difficult times. It helps the little businesses to have these dollars in their hands to put back into the economy, particularly in my area of the country and in rural Canada. I was pleased that we in the government did that the last time. I am hoping that in future budgets we can go even further to make sure that more tax cuts are put back into the hands of Canadians.

We also did something that I think was important for rural Canada in particular, because what we are seeing across the country is that our rural infrastructure is crumbling. Governments have cut back to deal with budget deficits and debt. As a result, they have not been putting the dollars into infrastructure across the country, municipally, provincially or federally, that were needed in the past. Through this budget we have put an extra $2 billion into infrastructure. As federal and provincial governments have cut back and municipalities get sideswiped by our cutbacks, it is good to see that both federally and provincially we have put some of those dollars back into the municipalities to make sure that their infrastructure is kept up to date.

We in rural Canada were pleased to thank the former Minister of Industry for his program to make sure that rural Canada was wired to help it keep up with the technology in the urban centres. We are pleased that there is an investment in broadband in rural areas.

Health care in the country is a subject of debate now, with a national task force on the future of health care. I would say that it is a subject of debate in provinces and municipalities across the country. We made sure that the dollars we put into health care were increased over the last couple of budgets to make sure that those services were provided, particularly in the area of equipment in hospitals that needs to be upgraded. There have been more health care dollars put into the last number of budgets to make sure of that.

I want to say that the budget was a budget for young people in Canada. My two young children, Christopher and Victoria, are looking on today. I think the budget speaks to their future. It makes sure that this great country has the services and the ability to provide a lifestyle for the young children of Canada, for their future.

I again want to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for a budget that I think addresses a balanced approach, which Canadians across the country were calling for.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak, not as tribute to the Minister of Finance, but to criticize Bill C-49.

In reacting to a budget, it is normal for each member to take advantage of the opportunity to address the matters of most interest to him or her. The budget is, after all, the basis from which we can see where the government's policies are headed. The budget also offers us a way of seeing whether we will be pleased or disappointed by what the government is doing. It is also normal for the opposition to point out the weak points in the budget. I must say that, on this score, we have a pretty easy job of it, because there are many of those.

I have been following the debate on Bill C-49 since the start. I have heard the discussions on EI and on the situation in the regions. Yesterday, it was transportation. We heard how unhelpful the budget is in this respect, how in fact it is harmful to regional development. Communications and transportation are vital to regional development. This budget hits the regions where it hurts, by adding a tax on air travel.

I have heard one of the hon. members on the other side indicating that he was somewhat scandalized by our reaction. He asked, “Have you listened to Canadians?” and told us that they had toured Canada before bringing down the budget, had asked Canadians' advice, and people were, according to him, in agreement.

I do not think we have been listening to the same Canadians. We are not on the same wavelength. My concern about the guaranteed income supplement is well known. I have spoken with a good number of Quebecers on this. I have visited some fifteen different regions of Quebec and consulted with people. I have attended many well packed meetings in those regions.

Not a single Canadian or Quebecer asked me to tell the government to take over the employment insurance fund, that it can have the fund. Not a single worker asked me to do so. There is not a single worker who is not deeply shocked at the $42 billion in the employment insurance fund—$42,000 million—that belongs to workers. This is a fund to which the government did not contribute one red penny. This fund is sustained by only a part of society. Not a single Canadian or Quebecer told me, “It is a good thing that the government is taking over this fund and is paying the debt that is owed by everyone, is solving the problem of the deficit that is owed by everyone on the backs of the most needy, of workers who contribute to the employment insurance fund”. I never heard that. If someone on the other side heard that, I think he or she did not hear well.

In working on the issue of guaranteed income supplement, I did not meet either a single elderly person who told me, “The government is right to take our money”. It has taken $3.2 billion in the last eight years, $400 million each year, that belongs to the most needy in society, to elderly people who are the most vulnerable. No effort is being made to go get this money.

I can tell you that I did not have any congratulations to extend to the Minister of National Revenue or the Minister of Finance. This is a scandal that must be condemned.

It makes no sense that in this country, which has a Minister of Human Resources Development precisely to humanize the government's actions, we cannot do more to locate these people to whom we owe money. On this issue, there is not one senior citizen who has asked me to congratulate the government.

As for developing countries, we have heard all world leaders talk of sharing wealth more fairly since September 11. In terms of security, we are told that the best insurance policy against terrorism is to share the wealth. Let us stop allowing the same people to accumulate the riches, thereby increasing poverty around the world.

I recall a speech given by the Prime Minister here in the House, and another given by President Bush. However, there is one speech in particular that struck me, that of Tony Blair when he stated that once and for all, developed countries must decide to share wealth.

Lester B. Pearson, when he was the Prime Minister of Canada, was the first to propose to the United Nations that the rich developed countries reserve seven tenths of one percent of their budgets to help developing countries. It was Mr. Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize incidentally, who sold the UN on this idea.

But in this budget, Canada's great generosity is taking the form of an amount of $500 million for developing countries, provided there are surpluses. I can tell hon. members that some 30 years later, after the wish expressed and the work done by Mr. Pearson at the United Nations, we are not at seven tenths of 1% of the budget: we are barely at one quarter of 1%, or 0.25% of 1% for developing countries.

This comes after the government congratulated itself for its work. Not too long ago, in the fall, I attended a committee meeting where they discussed hunger in the world, food and a better sharing of the wealth. I heard public officials from that department say that, at the rate things were going and given our generosity, by the year 2015 there will only be 400 million people in the world who will die of hunger. This is nothing to boast about. It does not make any sense to accept such a situation.

With $500 million in this budget, it is obvious that we will never fulfill the wish of a former Prime Minister of Canada, who wanted us to earmark at least seven tenths of 1% for developing countries.

Those who congratulate themselves for this budget did not look very far and they cut corners. When we have to make representations as we are doing now so that, for example, the elderly get their due, when the idea is obviously to keep a low profile to avoid having people claim their due, when the mandate is obviously to take the workers' fund to pay off a debt that was incurred by everyone, I do not think the government deserves to be congratulated.

Someone said “We did lower the contribution rate to employment insurance”. What did they lower? They do not contribute one penny. They are simply telling workers “We have good news for you. Next year, we will take a little less from you”.

When the contribution rate to employment insurance is lowered, it is the rate paid by workers and employers, not by the government. In fact, the government increases the possibilities of taking workers' money. This is a scandal that will not be forgotten. It is a scandal that is marked in time.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member who spoke before my colleague mentioned a couple of issues related to the budget. One was infrastructure and one was rural Canada becoming wired. I would like comment on a couple of those things.

The problem with the infrastructure programs that the Liberals have instituted in the past is that they have quite often ended up being boondoggles, handouts to friends and to special interest groups. They have not actually contributed to renewal of real infrastructure, like roads and bridges.

I do not disagree with the member that there is a need for some infrastructure investment, but not of the type that was done in the past in the $6 billion infrastructure programs that were introduced in 1994. Everyone knew that was a joke. They were handouts to all sorts of special interest groups. The degree to which I can support the member is; I would say yes, provided we really invest in real infrastructure.

As to rural Canada becoming wired, I think most people in the country would agree that that was a complete waste of money. The private sector was doing very well getting Canadians wired. Frankly, in areas where it was not economic to do so, people were coping by getting onto the Internet over the regular phone lines. This can be done on cell phones and satellite phones so I do not see any reason why taxpayers should have to pour huge amounts of money into that system. It is just ridiculous when the money could have been used in more worthwhile areas.

When I look at the budget as a whole, the finance minister has failed to put a stop to billions of dollars that flow out the door of the treasury every year by discretionary grants and contribution programs. Every year billions of dollars of taxpayer money is handed out by virtually every department of government in discretionary grants programs. It is fairly shocking when we look at where that money goes. I will give some examples of that in just a moment.

It is interesting to note that for three years now there have been generous federal surpluses, but instead of aggressively paying down our national debt, the Liberals use most of the surplus to significantly increase spending for their pet projects. As a result, it is still spending about 25% of the entire budget, $40 billion a year, on interest payments on the debt.

That is totally unacceptable because $40 billion a year could build 200 brand new Lion's Gate Bridges in Vancouver every year for what is being spent on interest payments on our debt. Instead of ramping up the spending to special interest groups, if the government had instead taken an aggressive approach to pay down of the debt, it would have freed up more money to spend on our important programs.

The problem is we have these terrible grants and contribution programs, and I want to give some examples.

The first example would be grants to political friends. The human resources development department has been atrociously handled over the past few years. We know that it wasted billions of dollars. It keeps sinking money into businesses that go bankrupt. The latest one is that more than $618,000 that was sunk into Celebrity Boats Corporation in the Prime Minister's riding before it went bankrupt.

Taxpayers have also backed loans to Air Wisconsin, Northwest Airlines, which is the fourth largest airline in the United States, to help them buy jets from Bombardier. Estimates of the cost of these loans to taxpayers exceed $1.6 billion. Frankly, the finance minister should be vetoing this corporate welfare and taking away the Prime Minister's credit card because it is just unacceptable to be blowing away this kind of money.

Then we have cultural nonsense. Quite apart from the almost $1 billion in subsidies to the CBC, there are numerous smaller amounts spent on questionable cultural grants that add up to hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, even though the previous foreign affairs minister skipped the world conference against racism in South Africa, his substitute, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism at the time, blew about $2 million on everything from child care expenses and bottled water to Starbucks coffee mugs, cookies and wall hangings.

Also, in this year's budget was around $25 million for provincial cultural events, 84% of which went to Quebec while the entire west, Atlantic Canada and Ontario received a paltry $3.8 million. The finance minister needs to put a stop to this sort of nonsensical and irrelevant spending.

The minister of heritage has a $2.2 billion Canadian heritage ministry. It has been identified by the auditor general as having no clear objectives, no criteria for measuring the success of its programs, yet the minister asked for a $26 million increase this year.

The example set by the minister herself leaves a lot to be desired. For the third year in a row, she topped the list for the most expensive travel budget in the Liberal cabinet. She racked up $159,000 in travel expenses last year, well above the travel budget for the previous minister of industry, Brian Tobin, who spent $105,438. Brian's bill though was for just six months of travel, so I would guess that if he was still here he would easily have toppled the heritage minister's record for the current year. It is time the finance minister called in their travel cards and cut them off as well.

What an example of misguided Liberal social engineering the gun registry has turned out to be. Just as predicted by Reform MPs back in 1994, the cost of the registry has spiraled completely out of control, yet the police commissioner to date has been completely unable to provide a single example of a crime either solved or prevented because of the registry.

We do know though of one murder which was apparently committed as a result of the so-called gun control legislation. A man in Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador, who was prohibited from owning firearms incidentally, went to the RCMP and picked up a rifle that had been held in storage for him. He has now been charged with killing a 15 year old boy, but it has been reported that the aboriginal exemptions and adaptations of Bill C-68 forced the RCMP to give this man his rifle.

When the former minister of justice introduced the gun control bill in 1994, he promised us in the House that it would not cost more than $85 million over five years, yet the registry has already consumed more than half a billion dollars. By 2003 it is expected to reach a billion dollars.

Are Canadians really getting value from the $750 million already spent and several hundred civil servants employed by the registry? The minister should abandon this waste of money and transfer the funding to the RCMP, CSIS and immigration enforcement budgets where we could start to get on top of the criminal refugee problem that we have in the country. That is what we should be spending the half billion dollars on, getting rid of the thieves and cheats who come here because of our inability to control our borders.

The millennium bureau is another example of waste. It is unbelievable and amazing that the Liberals are still pouring money into the millennium bureau almost two years after the celebrations. This year they want another $9.7 million. Are they planning for the next millennium? I hate to think what the size of the budget will be 98 years from now. It is time for the finance minister to sell off its furniture and close the office down.

One of my favourites is the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. More than $100 million disappears into this unaccountable pit of government waste every single year. I have tried for years to get someone, anyone, to provide me with a logical reason why this sinkhole for taxpayer money should even exist, but the entire organization seems to be shielded from scrutiny. It is about time the minister pulled the plug on this one and made a payment on our debt with the saved money.

I have pages of examples here, but I know that my time is running short so I think what I will do is change the tone of the debate for a moment.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following therefor: “Bill C-49, an Act to Implement Certain Provisions of the Budget, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time, this day, six months hence”.

Budget Implementation Act, 2001Government Orders

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the amendment. However it being 11 o'clock the House will now proceed to statements by members.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians both urban and rural care a great deal about endangered species. More particularly they have a clear understanding of what effective endangered species legislation should contain.

The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has completed its study of Bill C-5. In a tremendous spirit of co-operation, members from all parties came together to make recommendations that would improve the bill and that responded to the testimony of scientists, conservationists and industry. The committee's amendments would strengthen prohibitions against killing listed species, the protection of their habitat, and the listing process.

Canadians will notice if we do not fulfill this longstanding commitment to them and the international community in a genuine and biologically sound fashion. I therefore urge the government not to turn its back on the committee's work.

EducationStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, chintzy, cheap and immoral are just some of the words being used to describe the Liberal government's decision not to pay school boards money owed to them on GST for school bus services. School boards are struggling with increasing transportation costs.

This attack on public education is made worse by the decision of the Liberals to only pay the province of Quebec the money it owes for transportation services and then bring in retroactive legislation to prevent all other provinces from receiving the money that is rightfully owed to them. Ontario alone is out $40 million in what is an additional tax on rural Canadians who rely heavily on school buses to send their children to school.

It is time the federal government realized that there is an importance to education and respected the federal court which ruled in favour of the school boards.

Vincent MurnaghanStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to a great Islander, Father Vincent Murnaghan who passed away this past December.

Father Vince was a courageous voice for those struggling in a world of inequity and injustice. He worked tirelessly in the Dominican Republic, returning to UPEI to teach. He was co-founder of the Latin American Mission Program in Charlottetown.

Father Vince had a special love for the land and those who farm it. He was the co-founder of citizens against farm foreclosures, a grassroots organization designed to assist threatened farm families to stay on the land. Although elder in years to those he worked with he was young in ideas and hope. He often said “In some small way we can make a difference in a world full of violence, injustice and fear”.

That is Father Vince's challenge to us in this place. We would honour him by accepting that challenge.

Member for Calgary EastStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, aside from the partisan sparring in the House there is a sense of camaraderie, and I rise in that spirit today to acknowledge that the member for Calgary East has taken a turn for the worse following heart surgery that was performed on Monday. He is being treated in intensive care at Foothills hospital in Calgary.

After several years of involvement in local and federal politics the hon. member was first elected to the House in 1997.

I ask all hon. members to join me in sending our best wishes and hopes for a speedy and full recovery to the hon. member, his wife Neena, their three children and indeed the entire Obhrai family.

National Flag of Canada DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, next Friday, February 15, is National Flag of Canada Day. It is a day set aside to celebrate the most powerful symbol of the values and ideals we hold dear: freedom, trust, diversity, openness, equality and compassion.

In the global community our flag represents democracy and caring. It recalls Canada's role in human rights and humanitarian missions and it welcomes those who seek a better life.

Our flag embodies our hopes and dreams and the achievements we have made together as a nation. It flies proudly above our peacekeepers, Olympic athletes, national parks, historic places, skyscrapers and coast guard cutters, our place at the United Nations and the top of the Peace Tower here in Ottawa.

This National Flag of Canada Day I invite all Canadians to celebrate the tremendous blessing it is to belong to this vast and beautiful country, Canada.

Liberal PartyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, the newly elected chair of the Liberal parliamentary caucus should be congratulated for his bravery. The Hamilton MP has inherited a hopelessly divided Liberal caucus and it is now his chosen task to help keep it together.

In the interest of bipartisan co-operation in parliament the Canadian Alliance has put together a short to do list so that he can get to work right away putting out Liberal fires. First, the member should probably apologize to the Prime Minister for asking him to resign just before election 2000. That will help his weekly meetings with the Prime Minister go a little smoother.

After that, he may want to try to pull the Liberal backbenchers off of the defence minister. We know they are upset about the Afghan prisoners fiasco but it looks bad.

Then he should settle the dispute over gender equity in cabinet and end the ongoing public feud over health care between the Liberal Winnipeg MP and the new health minister.

Then he should make the Prime Minister and the finance minister play fair during the leadership race.

The Liberal caucus is divided and I hope the newly elected Liberal caucus chair knows what a mess he is getting into.

Genie AwardsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, since 1980 the Genie Awards have celebrated and honoured outstanding achievements of the Canadian film industry, an industry which has become an important means by which Canadians share their stories with one another and the world.

This year saw a major first for the Genies and our film industry. The film Atanarjuat , The Fast Runner, won an amazing five Genie Awards including best picture, best director and best screenplay. It is interesting to note that Atanarjuat is the first full length feature film by Inuit shot entirely in Inuktitut and in Igloolik, Nunavut. I commend everyone in the small community for their tremendous effort.

I take this moment to congratulate everyone involved in the making of Atanarjuat and all of the winners and nominees in the 22nd annual Genie Awards. We should all celebrate the achievements of Canadian talent.

White Cane WeekStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, White Cane Week, the theme of which this year is “Aging and visual impairment”, winds up on February 10. The risk of developing a serious vision problem increases with age, and half of all those with visual impairments are 65 and older.

Thanks to the commitment of community organizations, however, these people can look forward to continuing to function as full-fledged members of the community, autonomous and no longer isolated, which is the first consequence of any significant loss of visual acuity. It was with this in mind that the Fondation des aveugles du Québec launched a pilot project on aging and visual impairment.

I urge everyone to take part in the many activities organized to mark White Cane Week. It is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing the visually impaired.

Skating PartyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, what started out as a celebration to thank my constituents for electing me back to Ottawa, the annual St. Paul's skating party, has now permanently moved to Ottawa. Today and tomorrow residents of St. Paul's will descend upon the national capital region to partake in a variety of events including skating at the Governor General's rink at Rideau Hall and along the Rideau Canal, and a tour of the House of Commons.

I am thrilled to welcome the citizens of St. Paul's to Ottawa, including a full busload tomorrow, and look forward to spending the next couple of days with them participating in the festivities of Winterlude, North America's greatest winter festival, and enjoying the splendid beauty of our capital.

The St. Paul's skating party is full of fun, laughs, hot chocolate and beaver tails but builds real relationships between citizens and their parliament.

Member for Calgary EastStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart to inform the House that our colleague from Calgary East has experienced a small setback on his road to recovery. As all members must know by now our colleague recently had heart surgery to correct a weak valve.

This past weekend in Calgary he joked that most of his colleagues were surprised that he even had a heart. Most of us in this place know very well that he has the heart and the soul of a lion.

The member for Calgary East and I were both elected in 1997 and we have our origins in East Africa. Over the years, and I am not sure how, we have been mistaken for one another but what cannot be mistaken is his ability to crack a joke and make us smile.

To his wife Neena and his family, all of us here in this place wish them well and wish a speedy recovery for our friend. He is a fighter and I look forward to his return to the House.

2002 Winter OlympicsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the members of the Canadian team now in Salt Lake City to take part in the 2002 Olympics Winter Games.

Catriona LeMay-Doan, carrying Canada's flag, will lead our delegation into the opening ceremonies. This will be the fourth time this resident of Saskatoon has taken part in the Olympics. It is the fourth set of games for five other Canadian athletes as well: Susan Auch, of Calgary, in speed skating; Jean-Luc Brassard, of Grande-Île, Quebec, in freestyle skiing; Ken Leblanc, of Ottawa, in bobsleigh; Edi Podivinsky, of Toronto, in alpine skiing, and Elvis Stojko, of Richmond Hill, in figure skating.

Each athlete in the Canadian contingent embodies excellence, devotion and rigorous discipline.

I therefore wish to take this opportunity to congratulate these athletes, who have sacrificed much in order to be able to make it to Salt Lake City. We wish them good luck and will be with them in spirit.

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, one month ago cabinet ministers opposite learned of a serious imbalance regarding the treatment of Canadian and American professional musicians wishing to work in the other's country.

Border changes in the U.S. now require a payment of more than $1,800 which effectively shuts out most Canadian musical artists from performing in the American market. The situation, however, facing U.S. musicians wishing to perform in Canada is entirely different.

Until recently Canada customs charged about $450 total for an American band of up to 14 in number to obtain a work permit. Now even this modest fee has been removed, meaning that many more U.S. musicians and performing artists can now work in this country without first obtaining any work permit.

That American musicians can cross into this country at will with no reciprocal treatment for Canadian musicians wishing to work in the U.S. is totally unacceptable. It has struck a sour note and one the government must take steps to rectify immediately.

Black History MonthStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Black History Month was launched in 1925 in the United States by historian Carter G. Woodson. It has since spread across North America.

Throughout the month of February each year, we pay tribute to the cultural, social, political and economic contributions of the Blacks of Quebec and elsewhere in the world.

Many activities focussing on this year's theme of “Discovering our heritage from generation to generation” will be held, in Montreal and Quebec City in particular, to provide the public with more knowledge of black heritage. Many great women and men have made a huge contribution to the development of a modern Quebec that is open to the world.

Quebec's Black community is one with a thousand different accents, a thousand different faces. This diversity and dynamism, both cultural and economic, as well as political, deserves to be better known and to be celebrated.

Our congratulations and thanks to all those whose efforts are what will make this Black History Month a great success.

Stewart MacLeodStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that I rise today to pay tribute to Stewart MacLeod who died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer.

During his long journalistic career, most of it covering the national political scene, Mr. MacLeod won the affection and the admiration of fellow journalists, of members of parliament and of prime ministers. In fact, during one election campaign former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stopped his campaign train in Mr. MacLeod's home town and indicated that it was he, the prime minister, who was travelling with Mr. MacLeod.

He was a journalist and columnist for 40 years. We remember him as president of the National Press Gallery and as leader of the National Press Club Allied Workers Jazz Band, but above all we appreciated his wit and skill. He in fact epitomized the best in journalistic excellence and integrity.

I am sure all colleagues join me in wishing Mr. MacLeod's family and friends our deepest sympathy.

Olympic GamesStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Dewdney--Alouette I take this opportunity to wish all of our Canadian athletes, coaches and support staff well in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympic Games.

Our athletes have spent years training for the opportunity to represent our country and I thank them for their dedication, perseverance and commitment. No doubt their families have made sacrifices along the way to support and assist their loved ones to reach this world class level of performance and we acknowledge and thank them as well. I especially wish Kelly Law whose home town is in Maple Ridge in my riding and her entire team well as they go for gold in women's curling.

We look forward to hearing O Canada being played many times in the next two weeks and hope to see more Canadian athletes than ever on the podium in Salt Lake City.

Regardless of the results, though, we are proud of all of our dedicated Olympians. On behalf of all of my colleagues in the House we wish Team Canada well and say “Go Canada, go”.

The Art BankStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the members of this House, I would like to extend congratulations and best wishes to the Canada Council Art Bank, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

The Art Bank's collection of over 18,000 paintings, sculptures, sketches, etchings and photographs makes it the world's largest collection of contemporary Canadian art. Its holdings are rented out to the private and public sector.

Since 1972, the Art Bank has contributed to the creation of a stimulating and original work environment, as well as making Canadian art and artists better known. A number of its works can be seen in the offices of MPs or ministers, who have decided, like myself, to rent them to decorate their offices on the Hill.

Thank you to all those who have contributed to the vitality of the Art Bank and have done such an excellent job to make Canadian visual art accessible to greater numbers of our fellow citizens. May the next thirty years be equally successful.