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House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.

Topics

TaxationOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, a spokesman for the former finance minister is proposing in conjunction with the NDP a national commission to review and regulate fuel costs. This proposal certainly hearkens back to the days of the national energy program.

When will the government come clean on its hidden agenda to regulate gasoline prices?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member is aware that the regulation of retail prices in Canada is a responsibility of provincial governments. There is no intention on the part of this government to interfere with the marketplace with respect to prices in the retail sector.

Shipping IndustryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Christian Jobin Liberal Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the shipping industry is an important asset for the greater Quebec City and Lévis area, on both sides of the river. More than 16 million tonnes pass through the port authority's docks.

Yet this industry has been having problems for several years. In order to maintain the water depths in the navigation channel at the levels marked on the charts, the river must be dredged regularly. This dredging has always been paid for by the Canadian government. For some years—

Shipping IndustryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry, but the allotted time has expired. Perhaps the hon. parliamentary secretary has another speech to give.

Shipping IndustryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok Québec

Liberal

Georges Farrah LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the excellent contribution made by the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière with respect to the shipping industry. He is a real asset to us in the caucus and on this side of the House.

With respect to dredging, we have met with the industry. As you know, since 1996, all costs have been borne by the industy. The industry has made a number of requests, including one that we guarantee that costs will be stable in future years.We agreed to this request, as of last year, in order to make the industry more competitive.

AgricultureOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan bison, sheep and cervid farmers desperately need to sell their meat to international markets. The problem is that there is no federally licensed slaughter facility in Saskatchewan.

What is the agriculture minister going to do to help these Saskatchewan farmers market and export their products?

AgricultureOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, we will certainly continue to emphasize and demonstrate to the purchasers of ruminant products around the world that we and our industry have been providing for the safety of ruminant products including those that the hon. member is referring to.

The provinces have provincially inspected plants. Those are privately owned. There are federally inspected plants. I do know that some of the owners of those plants are looking at changing the status of their plants to federally inspected plants. In so doing we will work with them to assist them in any way we can.

AgricultureOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, border restrictions are a major problem, not just for selling their products but also for qualifying for compensation.

The compensation program demands that bison, sheep and cervid butchering happens at an approved facility, the meat is sold and that it is documented. With the glut of meat on the market right now producers cannot do this.

What is the agriculture minister going to do to ensure that these Saskatchewan producers are compensated?

AgricultureOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not think that the hon. member is suggesting that slaughtered meat that is sold is not inspected and not slaughtered whether it be in provincially or federally inspected plants. I know she is not saying that.

However the business risk management programs are there. She could encourage those provinces that have not signed it to sign the agreement so that the money can be moved.

I will repeat it again. We have hundreds of millions of dollars to assist farmers as their incomes change because of circumstances like this. We would sincerely like to move that money to farmers.

CinarOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, reliable information suggests that the RCMP has concluded its investigation in the CINAR case and that it has submitted a report to the Minister of Justice.

Since the government promised to report as soon as possible, I want to know whether the Minister of Justice received the RCMP report concerning CINAR and whether he intends to follow the recommendations in the report.

CinarOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member is referring to the answer I gave in the House a few days ago, I promised to say more the next day, which I did. He probably read Hansard , as we all do every day, and in light of his question, he knows that this is an RCMP case and that we will not be commenting on it.

JusticeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, a drunk 17 year old crashed his $70,000 BMW at 140 kilometres per hour while street racing, killing his passenger. He was convicted of criminal negligence causing death. The sentence was eight months open custody and four months of house arrest.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act police are hesitant to charge. Prosecutors are frustrated because judges' hands are tied for sentencing. These problems were predicted long before it became law. Why did the justice minister not listen to the front line justice personnel?

JusticeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, under the new justice system, judges have all the tools that they need in order that we have in place a good justice system. As we all know, it is possible as well to have an adult sentence.

As I said earlier there was a conference that just took place in the province of Quebec. The information that we have is that the implementation of the new criminal justice system is going smoothly. Indeed, it appears that we have in place quite a good piece of legislation with a nice philosophy as well for all Canadians.

JusticeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

It being Thursday, I think we have one additional question from the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 2nd, 2003 / 3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is my duty today to ask the House leader what the business is for the rest of the day, the rest of this week and next week?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I guess this is the supplementary question to the lead-off of her leader earlier this day. He wanted to know the business of the House as well.

I am pleased to inform the House that we will continue today debating the Alliance motion endorsing Dalton McGuinty's election platform, which we have been doing for the day. Later tonight Mr. McGuinty will be the premier.

Tomorrow we will resume third reading debate of Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill. When this bill is completed, we will then turn to Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments.

On Monday, should it be necessary, we would return to Bill C-13 followed by third reading of Bill C-36, the Archives and National Library bill.

We would then proceed to the report stage of Bill C-19, the first nations fiscal legislation. If necessary, I would then return to Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments, followed subsequently by Bill S-13, the census records bill.

I will be seeking also cooperation of colleagues across the way to further our discussion on Bill C-41, the technical corrections bill that we discussed informally earlier this day.

On Tuesday, we will debate the third reading of Bill C-17, the public safety bill.

Starting on Wednesday, I hope we will be in a position to deal with bills that have come out of committee, as well as dealing with any of the business just listed that has not been completed.

I would also like to indicate to the House that we have had conversations about the future of Bill C-38, concerning the use of marijuana. We also intend to put this bill before the House in the very near future.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to funds spent by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for the fiscal year 2002-03 without authorization of Parliament.

The Auditor General's report on the officer of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, which was tabled in this House this week, reports at section 110:

Each year, every organization in the federal government must submit its financial statements, which ultimately are tabled in Parliament as part of the Public Accounts of Canada. Organizations must prepare these statements in accordance with the government's stated accounting policies as contained in Receiver General directives and Treasury Board guidelines. The financial statements must present the organization's financial position at year end and details of its spending. Moreover, the statements must present the information completely, accurately, and fairly.

Section 111 of the report states:

We found that despite these requirements, the preparers of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner's financial statements for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2003--the Director, Financial Services, the Chief of Staff, and the Executive Director--knowingly omitted about $234,000 of accounts payable at year end. The false financial statements were submitted in June 2003.

Section 112 of the same report goes on to state:

The effect of the omission was to mislead Parliament by creating the impression that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had spent only the amounts authorized by Parliament for the 2002-03 fiscal year...

Marleau and Montpetit state at page 697:

No tax may be imposed, or money spent, without the consent of Parliament.

Marleau and Montpetit also state at page 704:

--appropriations are always made with a time limit; the spending authorization provided under an appropriation act expires at the end of the fiscal year to which the Act applies.

Since the Financial Administration Act prohibits any payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund without the authority of Parliament, where did this money come from?

The money was spend in the fiscal year 2002-03 without the consent of Parliament.

The last sentence in section 112 of the Auditor General's report states:

The Director, Financial Services told us the chances had been slim that the strategy of deferring liabilities to the new fiscal year would be uncovered because the Public Accounts statements had not been audited in a long time. We found the discrepancy during our audit and brought the matter to the attention of the Interim Privacy Commissioner, who ensured that immediate corrective action was taken.

The Interim Privacy Commissioner has assured us that immediate corrective action has been taken and the expenditures in excess of the amounts authorized by Parliament are to be included in the Public Accounts of Canada for the year ending March 31, 2003, when they are tabled in this House at a later date.

The question is for the President of the Treasury Board who must rectify the problem that the main estimates and supplementary for the year 2002-03 which have already been approved contain no mention of the $234,000 omitted by the former privacy commissioner. Since we cannot have multi-year appropriations, the government must solve this procedural and constitutional problem of obtaining Parliament's approval for funds that were spend in 2002-03.

We just cannot accept gross mismanagement and falsification of financial information as a rationale for the government to spend money that has not been appropriated by Parliament.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour of course to verify with officials of the Treasury Board to ensure that all the information provided to this House was factual and correct. Beyond that we do know there is a report of the Auditor General regarding how this office was administered during a certain tenure, and we know what she had to say about that and even the advice that she sought elsewhere in that regard.

Obviously on material of that nature, we would not be able to comment but we will nevertheless endeavour to verify to the extent that any information made available to the government was transmitted to this House with the greatest amount of reliability, which is our duty as a government.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

It is not clear from the point of order raised by the hon. member for St. Albert what steps, if any, he wishes the Chair to take in the circumstances, but I can say this to the House. I am sure that the President of the Treasury Board was thrilled to hear the hon. member's point. To ensure that this whole matter is brought to her attention, as I believe it has been as a result of the report of the Auditor General to which the hon. member for St. Albert referred in his remarks, the government House leader has indicated that the matter will be looked into.

If additional submissions to the House are required in respect of this matter, I am sure we will hear from the President of the Treasury Board in that regard. If not, and the matter is in fact looked after in some other way, I am sure we will hear about that as well.

I am certain the hon. member for St. Albert, with his usual diligence as chair of the public accounts committee, will ensure that this matter is investigated as thoroughly as necessary to ensure that there is no wrongdoing. The hon. member has power to correct these things and I know he will exercise those powers judiciously properly to ensure that the matter is remedied and rectified. He can count on the assistance, I am sure, of the government House leader, of the President of the Treasury Board and, of course, of the Speaker in dealing with the matter should it be necessary to return to the House for further assistance.

In the meantime we will let events take their course and watch them with greater interest now that we have had this point brought to the attention of the House. As I say, the President of the Treasury Board, thrilled as she is, will the matter with great care here on in, I am quite sure.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion from the Canadian Alliance regarding the use of federal gasoline taxes.

I noted earlier in the day that the member for Erie—Lincoln said that we were chasing the parade on this issue. He has it backwards. The Reform Party was talking about this issue 10 years ago. The trouble is that his party is full of slow learners. They take a long time to get with the program and to understand exactly what are good ideas in this world.

All his blustering when he delivered his speech earlier today was simply a smokescreen designed to try to cover up the flip-flop that has taken place on the opposite side. In June of this year they voted against a motion that is almost identical to the one that we put forward today. In addition, I think he is trying to cover for the former finance minister, soon to be prime minister, who suddenly has stolen this Canadian Alliance idea and is out there peddling it as if it was his own bright idea.

Any researcher looking through the archives of the Hansard records of this House will see that what I am saying is absolutely correct. That side of the House has consistently argued against what the former finance minister, soon to be prime minister, is now promoting. We have always supported that approach.

However I am not sure that we can even trust the new prime minister to follow through on the promise, and I will tell the House why.

I was in Vancouver last week when he delivered his speech to the union of municipalities. I heard him say that he would give them a portion of the federal gas taxes, no matter how long it took. What exactly does that mean?

First, what percentage of the gas tax is he promising? He says a portion. That could be 1%, or .5% or 100%. We have no idea what it means. Second, he said, “No matter how long it takes”. What does that mean? Is it 10 years, 20 years or thirty years? We have absolutely no idea what that commitment means.

I have never seen so much ado about nothing. Everybody is excited. The media is charged up and the municipalities are charged up about this new promise that has been made by this soon to be prime minister without actually promising anything at all, not a single solid piece of concrete material of which we can use to critique or approve. There is no percentage, no amount and no time frame. Heaven knows what that might mean. It might mean exactly nothing. The new prime minister might find 101 reasons to never implement his promise. I will believe it when I see it.

In the meantime I will continue to promote the Canadian Alliance policy which is something I have been doing for the last 10 years. For example, earlier today I looked back in my files and found recent mentions I made of this issue in columns that I wrote for my local newspapers in North Vancouver. I found interventions I made in the House in the last few years. I can get some examples.

On November 3, 1999, I wrote a column for my local newspaper in which I pointed out that while the price of gasoline at the time was 57.4¢ a litre. It is amazing. In the Vancouver area it is close to 80¢ a litre today but in 1999 it was 57.4¢. Of that 57.4¢ price, 13.7¢ was going to the federal government. Unfortunately, the federal government, those Liberals, were returning less than 2% of that amount for our roads.

On September 18, 2000, I stood in the House and made the following statement:

Mr. Speaker, this year alone the Liberal government will take more than $350 million from the people of B.C. in the form of fuel taxes. That is an annual tax grab of $20 million more than the entire Vancouver area budget for new highways to the year 2005. Yet the Minister of Transport stubbornly refuses to return to B.C. a single cent of those taxes in support of our transportation network.

While greater Vancouver residents line up in gridlock on a four lane Trans-Canada Highway built back in the 1950s, the minister pumps our fuel tax money into election goody projects elsewhere.

Our taxed-to-the-hilt drivers have had enough. They are sick of topping up the minister's pork barrel every time they gas up and they are not going to take it anymore. They want their share of the national highways funding returned to B.C. and they want it now. When exactly is the minister going to deliver?

On September 27, 2000, I wrote an article for the local newspaper talking about the federal gas tax, much the same as the earlier one I quoted.

Then again, on March 14, 2001, I stood in the House and asked a question of the finance minister. The exact text is recorded in Hansard and I stated:

Mr. Speaker, there is a transportation infrastructure crisis on the lower mainland of Vancouver, but the government continues to suck $360 million a year in gas taxes out of British Columbia. That is more than five times the annual highway budget for B.C. How could the Minister of Transport justify this $360 million tax grab when he does not return a single cent of that money to B.C. for highways?

It is interesting that although I asked the question of the Minister of Transport, it was the then minister of finance who stood to answer the question. The then minister of finance, the soon to be prime minister, gave this answer in the House on March 14, 2001. He said:

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that the government does not operate and no government can operate on the basis of dedicated taxes.

That is what he stood and said and now he is out there with our policy pretending it is his own, that he is going to give some of those taxes to the municipalities.

Then he said:

If we look back over the course of the last seven years, the fact is that the government has invested very heavily, whether it be in the Canada Foundation for Innovation or the national child tax benefit. A multitude of moneys is going to universities in British Columbia. Right across the board, we have reinvested enormous sums and ought to do so in British Columbia.

He completely ignored the highways question, other than saying that his present policy at that time was completely unacceptable.

There is some evidence just from my own files of the number of times that I have raised this issue since 1999. For government members to stand there and say that we have never raised this issue is absolute bunkum.

The member for Erie--Lincoln also went off on a bit of a tangent talking about low cost housing. I feel compelled to respond to some of the comments he made.

One of my colleagues in the House, the member for Edmonton Centre-East, has carried out more than five years of extensive research on this particular subject of homelessness. He has turned up some interesting statistics which I would like to put on the record in response to the member for Erie--Lincoln.

There is no shortage of federal money. We will acknowledge that. Presently, 780 million tax dollars are being spent on new or expanded shelters and $680 million is poised to go into the building of so-called affordable housing. That is $1.46 billion and is equivalent to $103,180 for every one of the 14,150 homeless persons identified by Statistics Canada in the year 2001.

We have already committed enough money to give every homeless person $103,180. There are many people in Vancouver who are not homeless and who are buying apartments for that price. There are plenty of other smaller cities in Canada where people can buy an apartment for a whole lot less than that.

How come the government cannot solve the problem with $103,180 for every homeless person? The reason is because, without any rules or guidelines for restraint, it continues to write cheques for extravagant projects that may be designed for low income, but they are certainly not low cost.

I will give one example. Don Mount Court on Dundas Street East in Toronto is a project completely off the rails. Heated sidewalks that were installed in the entrance to this building have been left running continuously for years. The hydro bills are so extreme in that building that taxpayers have had to bail out the cost every year since it was introduced. For the people who live there it is a very low cost, but for taxpayers it is absolutely outrageous. The fact is that the money is being wasted on hydro, and it is probably the money from this tax that is collected on gasoline in B.C. that is subsidizing heated sidewalks in Toronto.

The incompetence is unbelievable. It is time the government adopted more of our policies and got this country back on track.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns that I have had, and I raised it in my speech on this issue of gasoline taxes, is a problem in British Columbia that is constantly perpetuating and I would like the member for North Vancouver to talk about it.

British Columbia's economy has been affected largely because of the NDP. It was not helped by softwood lumber and certainly was not helped by a number of things that have happened in B.C.'s semi-recent past.

British Columbians seem to get so worked up about singular problems in its transportation infrastructure. We get angry about the Island Highway. We even get angry about fast ferries. We get angry about the potential selling-off of the management of the Coquihalla Highway. We also get angry about the Richmond airport's Vancouver line and whether or not that should go forward.

However there is something that certainly British Columbians need to appreciate and this point needs to be driven home. These are battles in a larger public policy war that are having to be fought because the federal Liberals in Ottawa have persistently failed to give British Columbia a fair share of its gas tax dollars.

The constant underlying theme about all these things, whether or not Highway 97 should be federalized, whether or not there should be a second bridge into Kelowna, whether or not there is appropriate and adequate funding for the Coquihalla, whether or not the Island Highway was properly financed, is that the Province of British Columbia is being handcuffed financially by taxpayers who think that they are paying more than enough at the pump to finance all these projects so that we should not have these problems. However, taxpayers are not seeing that money going to roads. I would invite the member for North Vancouver to comment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for those comments. It enables me to expand a little on the price of gasoline and how that relates to these taxes.

During the summer I visited Ottawa a number of times and I noticed that the gasoline price was consistently between 63¢ a litre and 68¢ a litre, while at the same time in Vancouver it was close to 80¢ a litre for that entire time. Every time I came back, I was shocked to see that it was still 76¢ to 80¢ a litre while here in Ottawa it was 65¢ a litre.

At one point during the SARS crisis in Toronto there was that special sell off weekend when gasoline was being sold at 35¢ a litre. Ours shot up to 90¢ a litre that weekend and I suspect we were subsidizing that effort.

What is really important about the price of that gasoline in Vancouver is the huge amount of federal taxation we are paying, not only the excise tax but the GST on that excise tax. We paid $360 million a year a few years ago. It is probably more now. That should have been sent back to us for our infrastructure.

The member is quite right about the difficulties that we are having. British Columbians are getting angry with their local governments, however, their focus should really be on the federal government because the high price of gasoline is related to these federal taxes which suck huge amounts of money out of British Columbia.

That money is rightfully ours. It should be put into the highway system and other transportation systems. This government has to smarten up and do something about it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague again about this inequity in the Province of British Columbia.

In my own riding of Dewdney—Alouette, for years there has been a proposed crossing of the Fraser River from the Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge area over to Langley. Officials have been trying to find dollars for that project. If there would have even been a slight increase in the amount of federal taxes put back into the province for the municipalities, that bridge could have been completed many years ago, as well as the Lougheed Highway that goes from Maple Ridge to Mission. It is sorely in need of twinning.

Again those are some specific projects that could have been put in place if there would have been appropriate levels of infrastructure returned to the Province of British Columbia.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that Ottawa feels left out when compared to Toronto for the money that it gets from Queen's Park, but the fact is that when we look at federal money, almost all of the equivalent of the gasoline tax taken by the federal government was poured into the Toronto area to build highways there.

Even the freeway through Ottawa is wider than the only freeway in Vancouver. The freeway in Vancouver is three lanes in each direction and here in Ottawa it is as wide as five lanes in each direction in some areas and this is in a city that is only one-fifth the size of the population on the lower mainland.

There is something wrong and it is blatantly obvious to anybody who travels backward and forward that the money is being sucked out of the west and poured into this part of the country. It is wrong.

Members may recall the cartoon that was drawn in the fifties. It was a map of Canada with a cow standing on it. The head was in B.C. and Alberta, and the udder was in Ontario. Guess where it was being milked? It was right in Ontario.