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House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was leader.

Topics

FinanceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the surplus we announced yesterday pertains to the year that ended March 31, 2003. We are in a new year that started April 1.

The conditional commitment to increase the funding for health care that was given to the provinces in the health accord was conditional upon the budgetary surplus for this year, ending March 31, 2004, being in excess of the normal $3 billion contingency reserve. It is too soon yet for me to say whether that will be the case.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, obviously we feel that this last year's surplus could have been used for some of those needs.

I have a question for the Minister of Foreign Affairs who, in response to a question by the member for Winnipeg Centre yesterday, said that it was up to American Secretary of State Colin Powell to decide whether the Devil's Lake diversion violated the boundary waters treaty. What happened to Canadian sovereignty here? Surely it is not just up to Secretary of State Powell to decide whether this violates the boundary waters treaty.

Will the minister agree to the request of the Manitoba government to refer this matter to the international joint commission so we can have an independent judgment on this?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious question but it is also the subject matter of a serious misapprehension by the hon. member as to what I said yesterday.

In internal law in the United States, the secretary is obliged to ascertain, through his department in consultations, as to whether this act is in contravention of the boundary waters treaty. The secretary has assured us that he is doing that and he will do that because it is an internal U.S. matter. When that matter is completed, at that time, if he determines that the matter is to go ahead, it will be appropriate for us to raise it and perhaps take it to the joint commission.

However that is premature. We must let the Americans do their internal work first and we will work with them, and as we already have, urge Canadian interests with them when we deal with them

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government wants to delay dealing with important equalization renewal legislation. This is another example of how the Prime Minister's stubborn determination to cling to power is paralyzing the government. The Prime Minister is turning the House of Commons from a place of action into his own personal retirement home.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister ask the Prime Minister to retire in November so that this House can get back to the business of the nation?

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I met with the provincial finance ministers on October 10 here in Ottawa to discuss the renewal of equalization. At the time we noted the fact that under the existing statutory authority for equalization payments that authority ends on March 31, 2004.

We discussed a lot of issues around equalization. We will be meeting again, as I undertook to do with them. I told them that I expected we would have time to pass renewal legislation but I discussed with them the possibility that we might buy a little insurance, which is what the bill tabled today is doing.

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister has also mused publicly that there may not be a budget in February due to the Prime Minister's retirement schedule. The provinces are now waiting for a new equalization deal due to the Prime Minister's long goodbye.

It is bad enough that Canada has a Prime Minister who is halfway retired, but why is the government allowing him to turn the House of Commons into his own personal retirement halfway house?

Equalization PaymentsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure what the question was, nor do I recall musing about there not being a budget in February. The government will decide when to bring in a budget. There is no fixed budget time in our system.

If I were in the hon. member's seat, I would want to be very careful about inviting too imminent a disaster. In the face of what those members saw on the highway ahead, they have already taken the steering wheel of their particular party vehicle and driven it off the road and crashed it on the side.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

October 23rd, 2003 / 2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Minister of Finance has underestimated the surplus. He forecast a $3 billion surplus in June, but the surplus has now turned out to be $7 billion for the previous fiscal year. The minister is systematically wrong. The minister is systematically wrong and systematically gives us incorrect information: in the past six years, he and his predecessor have underestimated the surpluses by the astronomical amount of $35 billion. No public debate could be held on this $35 billion.

Given such surpluses, how can the Minister of Finance still make Quebec and the provinces wait for the $2 billion they need for health? He has the money; he should hand it out now.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the estimated surplus is based on revenue and expenditures. For the Government of Canada, these total approximately $360 billion.

Yes, we forecast a surplus of $3 billion. We were off by $4 billion. Our margin of error is about 1%, one of the closest forecasts of all the G-7 countries. That is not too bad.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the margin of error is over 200%, and this is not the first time. Last year, it was 300%, and it has been as high as 500%. When there is money left over at year-end, the Prime Minister can buy Challengers simply by snapping his fingers. When it comes to finding the money for public health, it is not that simple.

How can it be impossible to transfer the $2 billion to the provinces, which need it right now?

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, a commitment was made during discussions between the first ministers in February. This commitment was conditional on the estimated surplus in January 2004. It is only October 23. It is not yet January. We will address this in January.

EthicsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the Minister of Industry does not know his ethics when he trips over them.

Perhaps he can tell us why he broke all the Treasury Board rules on sole source contracting and on hiring employees when he hired Joanne Meyer as his personal assistant so that she could continue to collect a government pension while she was also collecting a government paycheque.

EthicsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as far as I am aware, all Treasury Board guidelines were respected.

EthicsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Treasury Board guidelines were not respected in any way.

Let me also ask the Secretary of State for Western Economic Diversification, who also broke the same rules and hired the same person under the same conditions, why is that person still working for him?

Will he fire her and get the pension plan payments repaid to the government because she cannot have a pension and a paycheque at the same time?

EthicsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalSecretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, the employee mentioned is a valued and highly respected member of my exempt staff. She is not employed on contract at this time. She is employed as a direct employee.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, every surplus the government racks up is more evidence that the fiscal imbalance is not fiction, but fact. In short, it means that the federal government collects more taxes than it needs to discharge its responsibilities.

Will the Minister of Finance admit that such large surpluses are not due to exemplary management on his part, when we realize that administrative costs have risen by 34%, but rather that he has collected much more money than he actually needs?

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, when I met with the provincial ministers of finance on October 10, here in Ottawa, we had discussions. They recognized the fact that the reputation of all the provinces, like that of the Government of Canada, is based on the fact that we have a balanced budget.

It is important, not only for the reputation of the Government of Canada, which still has too great a debt load, but also for that of all Canada's provinces, which are also seen in the context of a very positive frame work in relation to—

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Drummond

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Finance agree that the strategy established by his predecessor, the member for LaSalle—Émard, has not changed by one jot and is still the same? They underestimate the surpluses, hide them during the fiscal year, and six months later—surprise—the surpluses are taken to pay down the debt, so that there is never any money for health, for the unemployed, or for senior citizens.

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is not a matter of underestimating. In fact, we have adopted the most responsible and prudent behaviours. We have created a contingency fund. We have tried to make very prudent decisions.

By reducing the debt, we have now been saving $3 billion a year in interest charges. This is the money that is now available for—

Budget SurplusesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Athabasca.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the wife of a senior government bureaucrat in the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency has staked a number of mineral claims along the route of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. She did this years before the route was made public. But her husband, who worked on the file, knew the proposed route.

It seems that there is a clear breach of section 29 of the Territorial Lands Act.

Could the environment minister perhaps tell us if he has investigated this case; and if he has, what has he done about it?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that the civil servant in question asked to be removed from the case as soon as the matter was brought up in a press release from the first nation band involved.

The issue has been sent to the Treasury Board which is responsible for possible conflicts of this type among civil servants. We are awaiting the investigation of the allegations. As soon as I have information, I will be pleased to inform the hon. member.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, this incident could significantly delay the construction of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

This pipeline is critical in ensuring sufficient gas supplies are available for Canadians at a reasonable price.

How will the government protect the timelines of the regulatory process for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, the timetable will not be affected by the investigations taking place.

If there is any reason to doubt this, I will once again be in direct communication with the House or with the hon. member.