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House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was americans.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what we are sympathetic to. We are sympathetic to the employers and the employees who have been ripped off consistently by the minister's department over the years. That is what we are sympathetic to.

The minister's own HRD department had an audit and it found that 70% of the people who were told they overpaid had not. Her own audit implies that half a billion dollars was taken from over 200,000 workers.

Would the minister tell us how much she gouged, how many victims were ripped off and will she pay them back?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is completely out of touch. In fact, the report that was done by officials in the department was a very useful document which encouraged the department to make changes and improvements to the administration of the provisions of undeclared earnings.

I can do nothing more than remind the House that the member's party was vociferous against our making these changes just a year ago.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are asking the minister to look at files to find people who were overbilled by the department. We want the minister to go into those files, find out who was overbilled and pay the darn money back to them. I would like a commitment to that today.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that there is a full appeal process in the employment insurance system.

I would also reiterate my commitment to look at any new information in individual files and have the department ensure that the law was applied appropriately.

I find it very strange that the member's party is asking me not to recover public funds that were paid to individuals who were not eligible. Since when did that party lose its concern for accountability for public funds?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, HRDC has lost sight of its social mandate.

The EI fund and the guaranteed income supplement are two flagrant examples of this. As well, we have the business of undeclared income and excessive penalties being charged for nearly five years.

By modifying the regulatory provisions of subsection 19(3) of the Employment Insurance Act in August 2001, the minister acknowledged that her department had made a mistake. Can the minister then, as a consequence to this, make the commitment today to reimburse retroactively those who have been unjustly penalized sine 1996?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, let me say again that individuals who through no fault of their own made mistakes in declaring their earnings are not charged an administrative penalty.

We have a system in place where individuals who were working and receiving benefits and did not declare their earnings had those moneys recovered for the public purse.

The system is clear. There are appeal systems in place and those systems are applied.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite what the minister thinks, people committing fraud are the exception.

Since her department has acknowledged that the penalties imposed at the time were excessive, can the minister commit to retroactive reimbursement of those her department has fleeced?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the only people who were charged administrative penalties were found to have committed fraud.

Health CareOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the primary victim of the federal-provincial fiscal inequity that the finance minister is always so anxious to deny is the health care system.

The minister knows full well that the needs of our health care system will continue to grow as the population ages. He also knows full well that these needs could be met in the future if the government would agree to alter the CHST formula to allow for greater transfers of tax points since this would lead to a predictable and expanding supply of funds as the economy and tax base grows.

Why therefore does he insist that the health care golden rule must be that Ottawa withholds the gold while demanding the maintenance of rules?

Health CareOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, even among the provinces the issue of tax points is highly controversial for the very simple reason that tax points benefit the richer provinces to the detriment of the poorer provinces.

If the hon. member is suggesting that there should be better health care in the richer provinces as compared to the poorer provinces because of the transfer of tax points, because they are worth less, then that may well be his party's policy. However, our policy is that all Canadians should be treated fairly.

Health CareOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister's policy is evidently that if we withhold money from all provinces this would somehow benefit the poorer provinces.

Let me draw the attention of the finance minister to the remarks of Canada's academic authority on fiscal federalism. Thomas Courchene recently observed that by denying adequate health care funding, the Liberal government is engaged in the practice of:

--forcing the provinces to transfer resources away from all other programs into health will lead to a situation where there is a willing and receptive citizenry for Ottawa's spending in areas...which are...under provincial jurisdiction.

Academic authorities and provincial governments agree this is a jurisdiction grab. Why does the minister deny the obvious?

Health CareOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, a little over a year ago the Prime Minister signed an agreement with the provinces, $21 billion over five years plus another $2.5 billion for early childhood development. That was the largest single transfer to the provinces for health care in the history of the country. It was over a year ago. The hon. member and his party voted against it.

Canada Post CorporationOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

David Price Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1994, this Liberal government declared a moratorium on rural post office closures. In the past month there have been two such closures, one in Saskatchewan and one in B.C. Rural post offices give an essential service in these communities.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister this. Is this a new Canada Post management plan?

Canada Post CorporationOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I have met with the president of Canada Post Corporation. I have made it very clear that the government policy of having a moratorium on the closure of rural post offices remains in effect.

I have received his assurance that there is no plan to go about the country closing rural post offices. We have also maintained the strong commitment on the part of Canada Post Corporation to maintain the standards of rural postal services across Canada.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, a Mrs. Arsenault in my region, who was receiving employment insurance, signed a delivery receipt for items delivered to the take-out restaurant run by her brother-in-law, where she used to work. She did so because his employee was busy at the back.

She has now been asked to pay back $17,300. What is more, the Minister of Human Resources Development is thinking of charging interest on amounts obtained by fraud.

I would like the minister to tell us whether this is a case of fraud.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to take a look at the individual case, but on balance, penalties are paid only when fraud has been discovered. In other cases, the recoveries are only to the amounts that were equal to the undeclared earnings.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

For your information, Mr. Speaker, I sent a letter to her on December 7 and I never got an answer. A lot of corporations in Canada evade taxation for millions of dollars and are never caught, much less accused of fraud. People on EI have no choice about whether or not they are on the program. Yet, because of a signature, this lady has been accused of fraud, charged not by the court but by the Liberal government.

How does the Minister of Human Resources Development justify putting more effort into criminalizing working people who have lost their job than going after the real criminals?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I cannot accept the premise of the hon. member's words today. What I can say is that in every system and in every program we have investigative and fraud discovery programs, and that is very important for the integrity of all our systems.

I will look at this case and ensure that the appropriate action has been taken.

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

March 14th, 2002 / 2:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the softwood lumber negotiations reach a critical stage, it is important that our American friends realize that although this is the number one trade irritant between our nations and we want passionately for this issue to be settled before March 21, Canadians are united on this one front. We will not sign a deal at any cost.

Will the minister insist that the principles of free trade and free and unfettered access are built into any agreement and that any agreement bring long term stability to an industry that is simply unprepared to go through this process on an ongoing basis?

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his important question, particularly this on very day when the Prime Minister is at the White House with President Bush and will be raising this important file on softwood lumber.

Indeed, yesterday we received unanimous support by all ten provinces, and the industry was completely behind us. They have been asking us to spare no effort at trying to resolve this through a negotiated settlement with the United States giving Canada free market access to the United States, and no, we are not--

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Fraser Valley.

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is in Washington today, hopefully concluding a new softwood lumber agreement that will put this issue to rest for a long time. There are proposals on the table that would create a binational panel to force arbitrated settlements in any future disputes.

In an effort to bring long term stability to the softwood lumber issue, will the minister urge the Americans to allow any binational panel to address not only Canadian domestic forest policies but also to address U.S. protectionist domestic trade policies?

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the member's questions. There is a lot to look at in the United States in terms of its own forestry management practices.

However right now we are not ready to negotiate a deal at any cost. We want a deal that will serve Canadian interests well. We want unfettered market access to the United States in exchange for good management practices involved in our respective provinces. I think we are on the right track in the next week.

ZimbabweOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, Britain, the United States, the European Union observers, New Zealand and Australia have all described the election in Zimbabwe as a shame and a fraud. The Commonwealth observer group in Zimbabwe has said the election does not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

Will this government immediately impose economic sanctions on Zimbabwe and send its high commissioner in this country back home with a message for Mugabe to step down?

ZimbabweOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, of course we are reviewing the preliminary report issued by the observers, but I think it is clear that based on that report it would be impossible to say that the election in Zimbabwe was free and fair.

In the meantime, just as we have sought to establish the requirement for process in an election, likewise the Commonwealth needs to follow the process that was established in Australia. Steps that will be taken will be based upon consensus within the Commonwealth.