House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.


Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill.

Everyone in the House knows that our responsibility is the responsible expenditure of the people's money. It is not our money. It is not the House's money. It is the people's money.

When I watched the budget being introduced in the House, my heart sank. It sank because I thought that the government had an enormous opportunity to really close the gap with our major competitor, the United States.

President Bush has been spending money, I would say recklessly. The U.S. has turned a massive surplus into a massive deficit. The tax difference between us and the U.S. has been wide. Its competitiveness historically has been better. We had a grand opportunity when we were dealing with surplus budgets to close that gap dramatically, strengthen the Canadian dollar, improve investment into Canada and reverse the brain drain.

Sadly for all Canadians, the government chose to make the budget a political instrument. It chose to disburse money in an unfocused, shotgun approach, doling out money without firm objectives. That is utterly irresponsible on the part of the government. We missed a grand opportunity to strengthen our economy and thereby strengthen our social programs.

I will deal with just a few points which I think the government could have dealt with if it had chosen to. There are four major spending priorities the government ought to have addressed in 2003: health care, education, infrastructure and defence.

It is a good thing the government chose to split the CHST into two transfers. The Canadian public will know where the moneys are going from a federal perspective. The way to get around the moneys being spent irresponsibly is for the federal government to ask the provinces what their spending priorities are and to ensure that federal expenditures are congruent with that. In other words, the money would go to the sharp edge of patient care on the ground. It is simply intolerable for Canadians to have to wait a year to a year and a half for essential surgeries or for poor or middle class Canadians to do without essential health care services, but that is what is happening.

On education, we cannot build a strong economy without the people of our country having the educational opportunities to be the best they can be. It is not something that simply ends in their 20s; rather it is a process that will go on throughout most of their lives, given the changing demographics and our changing economy.

The government should have provided the provinces the flexibility to do that. It has an opportunity to ensure that workers have a chance to upgrade their skills without leaving their jobs and those who need to acquire skills can do so without being hurt. If we do not enable people to acquire the skills to be integrated members of our economy, those people will become a drain on our social programs.

People do not want that. People want to work. They want to use their talents to the best of their abilities. They want to contribute to Canada, but the system we have now is so ossified it does not enable them to do that. There is a chance through EI to provide that.

The government had a chance to change taxes. It had a chance to reduce payroll taxes and reduce personal and corporate income taxes. Instead it has kept them at an unacceptably high level.

The government continues to trot out the notion that Canada has a low tax rate. Anybody who has looked at the tax rates of the OECD or our G-7 an G-8 partners knows full well that we have the highest tax rates among the G-7 and G-8 nations. We are in the highest third of tax rates among the OECD nations. That affects our ability to be competitive. It affects our ability to contribute to the strong social programs that will enable us to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

On the issue of infrastructure, the pathetic and small investment in infrastructure will only hurt our country. The federal government has a role to work with the provinces to deal with the acute infrastructure needs of our nation. Our country has at a minimum a deficit of $130 billion yet the government has put in a paltry $1.2 billion into infrastructure, something that does not even scratch the surface.

No wonder the municipalities were beside themselves, as were the provinces. The chronic deterioration of our infrastructure in terms of our transportation is something that would substantially and significantly affect our ability as a country to have a strong, dynamic and competitive economy. This can be reversed. That is a choice that the government must make. I would suggest that it work with its partners at all other levels of government to ensure it happens.

I have a base in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I can tell the House that the men and women in uniform who give their lives to protect us here at home and abroad have been doing a yeoman's job. In fact, they have been giving much more consideration to our country than the government has given to them.

For the last 10 years the government has underfunded and disrespected our military by not giving our people the tools to do the job. As the PC member mentioned, the helicopter is but one issue. We can go through manpower, equipment and training. Our people are wanting at every level. They have the desire and the will to do the job, but they do not have the tools.

The Canadian public would be shocked to know that many of our service people are spending upward of 11 out of 12 months abroad, away from their families. Why? Because the government has gutted our military and our manpower is so low that it does not have the ability to put the people that we require into the field to do the job of our nation.

This is important not only on a security level. If we do not contribute internationally to security issues governed by the UN, NATO, and our partners, then when we come to the table in terms of our ability to negotiate on economic issues, we will be taking a back seat to those who do contribute. That is the cold, hard reality.

For too long we have been living off the coattails of our allies on the international security concerns that we all share. The NATO secretary general mentioned two years ago that Canada must come up to the plate and contribute. That, sad to say, has fallen on deaf ears on the part of the government.

There have been umpteen numbers of constructive suggestions from members across this nation and the military. The top levels of the military have said clearly that we should invest in our military now or we will not be able to do the job to protect Canadians here at home. It will affect us in our pocketbooks.

The $800 million that the government put forth is but a tiny sliver of what our military needs now. We will need even more in the future. I would strongly impress upon the government, and especially the Prime Minister's Office where a lot of this is held up, that it listens to the cold, objective analysis of the situation and make the investment that the Canadian public wants, that our military wants, and that our partners want.

What else can we do? Part of the responsibility of the government is to spend our money wisely. Unfortunately, it tends to have ill-conceived objectives or an absence of objectives. It does not know what it wants to do. It does not measure what it is doing. Therefore, it does not know what its output should be. Furthermore, a lot of moneys are spent to curry favour in certain ridings to make the government look good. This is a characteristic of governments everywhere.

Surely the government can do a much better job of ensuring that our moneys are spent effectively. The government should identify its objectives, measure its output, and ensure that the moneys will be spent wisely, efficiently and effectively. We have not, sad to say, seen this. From the gun registry to the Groupaction debacle to the HRDC $1 billion boondoggle, sadly Canadians have seen the abysmal mismanagement of their moneys for far too long.

It is not rocket science. The Auditor General, people in the public service, and people in the public who know how to manage money properly have given clear and constructive solutions to the government as to what our objectives ought to be to ensure that the people's money will be spent wisely and effectively.

They have not been listened to. Moneys are used to curry political gain. The government looks to see which way the wind is shifting and moves in that direction. It needs to show leadership and use public moneys wisely and effectively. Only then will we build a stronger country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to participate in the second reading debate of the budget implementation act.

This week police officers from all across the country converged on Parliament Hill to deliver this year's demands for improving the safety and security of Canadians. They had an important list which included: better protection for children, no more club fed style prisons, a national drug strategy, pension accrual rate for public safety occupations, and funding for police services.

The Canadian Police Association, representing some 30,000 frontline officers, is recommending that Parliament provide increased priority funding for local, provincial, national, federal and trans-jurisdictional policing responsibilities.

Well over a year ago the Canadian Police Association appeared before the justice committee regarding the anti-terrorism legislation. During its presentation it said:

We have serious reservations, however, about the capability of Canada's police and law enforcement officials to meet the increased demands of anti-terrorism requirements and sustain important domestic policing and law enforcement responsibilities.

To date, the government has never meaningfully addressed the Canadian Police Association's concerns.

As the CPA pointed out in its fact sheet, the 2002 federal budget allotted several millions of dollars in new spending for national security. However, only $576 million spread over six years was dedicated funding allotted to the RCMP. This amounted to only $87 million per year. Translated into human resources, it allowed for the hiring of only 446 full time employees for the RCMP, not over this year, not over next year, but over the next six years.

Need I remind the government that its slash and gouging of the RCMP that occurred in 1993 resulted in 2,200 positions being lost, a loss that has never been recouped despite years of protests and requests for increased spending.

Last year the commissioner of the RCMP openly admitted that 2,000 RCMP officers were withdrawn from other enforcement duties to respond to the terrorism crisis. These officers were taken from assignments previously considered to be priorities, such as fighting organized crime and providing frontline policing in Canadian communities. Many of those jobs were left unattended. In the commissioner's own words these files were “put on the back burner” while the RCMP attempted to apprehend terrorists suspected of using this country as a staging ground.

According to the CPA, of the complement of approximately 15,000 RCMP officers, 9,000 were assigned to municipal and provincial contracting responsibilities. Of the remaining 6,000, 2,000 or one-third of them were taken from other law enforcement responsibilities and reassigned to the terrorism file.

Minimally, 2,000 additional officers are needed to service the deficiencies that are being felt the hardest at the community level. The RCMP provides federal policing to all Canadians as well as services under contracts to all provinces, except Ontario and Quebec, the three territories, 200 municipalities, and more than 190 first nations communities.

Last year, I met with the mayor and town manager of Three Hills which is one of the larger towns in my riding of Crowfoot. Mayor Bauman raised concerns about the national resource methodology used to determine RCMP allocations within small communities and the fact that the municipality had no input in terms of how the contracts were drawn up. At our meeting, the mayor informed me that the town was faced with 20% to 25% of its budget being allocated toward policing, an expenditure that this small rural town could ill afford given all the other demands on its financial resources.

Furthermore, the RCMP stationed right in Three Hills was used by neighbouring municipalities who did not contribute financially for this essential service. More and more, Mayor Bauman explained that the services of the police officers were being stretched routinely and there was not a police presence in the community.

While I took the mayor's concerns to the Solicitor General of Canada, she took them to Alberta Solicitor General Heather Forsyth. At issue was the provincial rule that communities of less than 2,500 have police costs fully covered by the provincial and federal governments, while communities such as Three Hills, with a population greater than 2,500, would pick up the entire tab. Mayor Bauman, saying she is only looking for equity across the province, is threatening to refuse paying for the RCMP.

Another town in my riding, Drumheller, has expressed similar frustrations regarding the cost of policing. Last December, I attended a council meeting of the town of Drumheller and although it expressed a number of concerns, the most notable was the lack of RCMP resources. Although RCMP policing is primarily a provincial issue inasmuch as Alberta municipalities contract directly with the provinces for police services, I took the Drumheller concern to the Solicitor General. I did so because Drumheller is in a unique situation in that the RCMP is utilized to investigate disturbances and escapes from the Drumheller prison, which is a federal institution.

In 2001, a riot and murder investigation at the Drumheller prison cost $40,513 in overtime costs, of which $28,359 was the responsibility of the town of Drumheller. As a result of the related trials, the town also incurred significant costs in terms of the overtime and the burden of police services while officers were called to testify. At one time the town of Drumheller had an officer solely dedicated to federal issues such as the Drumheller Institution. However, that position was eliminated and it is now the responsibility of the town.

In 2000, the average caseload for police officers in Canada was 42.1 Criminal Code incidents per officer. In Drumheller, the average was 97 incidents per officer. This number is significant in that Criminal Code offences in Drumheller had dropped 24% from 1999 to 2000.

Quite obviously, the workload of the RCMP officers stationed in Drumheller is unacceptable. It puts a tremendous strain on police officers who are there, a strain that could jeopardize their ability to effectively do their jobs. Therefore, on behalf of the town of Drumheller, I have requested a review of this matter by the Solicitor General with an end to receiving a dedicated RCMP officer employed and paid for directly by Correctional Service Canada, and deployed as soon as possible.

As I stated at the onset of this debate, the RCMP was basically gutted in the early 1990s as the government introduced a program of restraint. This resulted in the loss of 2,200 RCMP positions.

Just over two years ago, in the wake of 9/11, I wrote the attorneys general and solicitors general of each province to inquire how, if indeed at all, community policing had been affected in their respective jurisdictions. In response, the Alberta solicitor general wrote back explaining:

In Alberta, there are 63 urban centres that are responsible for their own policing and contract directly with Canada for policing by the RCMP. These agreements are cost shared between the municipality and Canada based on population size...Through most of the 1990s, federal funding was insufficient to meet the needs of the contractual obligations of the agreements with Alberta...The prolonged period of federal fiscal restraint negatively impacted the RCMP's ability to deliver services required under the various contractual arrangements.

I implore the government to finally do as the Canadian Police Association has asked and that is to provide adequate priority funding for the sake of the children, and for the sake of the nation.

In closing, I wish to express the sentiments of Toronto Police Chief Fantino who said he was:

...deeply disappointed at the recent comments by (the) Solicitor General that police are adequately resourced in the area of child pornography. The Toronto Police Service has received no funding or resources from the federal government in this area. We have, however, managed to move forward thanks to a $2 million grant from the provincial government.

Police Chief Fantino has congratulated the Ontario government for moving because the federal government has not, and today we stand in the House to say thanks to the provincial government in Ontario for responding to the great need.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

12:40 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak about the most recent federal budget. I could have started this budget critique by talking about how the Minister of Finance has quite deliberately underestimated, once again, the federal surplus for this fiscal year and next.

Because the new Minister of Finance has done exactly the same thing as his predecessor. In fact, he has resorted to the same trickery in underestimating the surplus. Therefore, to a certain extent, he has distorted the democratic debate we should be having here. We do not have a true picture of public finances. How can we judge the relevance and value of government measures, without knowing the real range of possibilities available to this government to benefit the public and serve the public interest?

I could also have talked about those left out of this budget. The most important such group are the self-employed, who are still unable to take advantage of employment insurance. There are also the workers who have suffered from the softwood lumber crisis. And yet, the other side of the House had proposed implementing measures to at least partially bandage their wounds following the Americans' refusal to budge for the past few years.

We could have also mentioned the first nations peoples, who were totally left out. It sounds good to mention them in the throne speech. Aboriginals and their problems have been mentioned in at least three consecutive throne speeches. Each one calls for new arrangements to be negotiated with each nation. But when the time comes to take concrete action, nothing really substantial is offered.

I would like, instead, to talk about a new measure found in this budget which no one has said very much about. From the outside, it might seem very positive, but when one scratches the surface, the reality is rather Kafkaesque. It is in true Kafkaesque tradition.

I am referring to the new employment insurance benefit for compassionate care leave. We have been talking about it for a long time. Even the last Speech from the Throne said that people who decide to stop working for a short period of time to take care of a sick loved one, deserve the chance to do so without penalty.

The last Speech from the Throne gave the example of a mother who has to take care of her sick child. It said that the federal government was prepared to take measures to allow her to provide care without penalty.

The budget includes an initiative that is quite peculiar when examined more closely, and could lead to very dehumanizing, inhumane and cynical situations. On close examination, it does not measure up to be a good program.

For instance, we are told that this compassionate leave initiative will come into effect in January 2004. That is one year from now, which is too late; it is too far away. They also say that a parent will have a maximum of six weeks to take care of a sick child, but are quick to add there will be a two-week waiting period.

In reality, the parent who takes care of a sick child will be entitled to four weeks of benefits. Why is there a penalty? This is beyond comprehension. In the beginning, when you decide to stop working because your child is seriously ill, you should not be penalized for two weeks. Above all, it should not be set out in writing that there is a two-week waiting period. It is an utterly cynical initiative.

In addition—and this is where cynicism is added to sarcasm and insult to injury—we are told that the program is for a parent, a child, or a spouse who will very likely die in the next six months. This is the condition that must be met. In other words, Human Resources Development Canada will require proof that the child you are taking care of will die in six months in order for you to receive net compensation of four weeks of employment insurance, because there is already a two week penalty.

I have questioned the value of such a measure. I wondered about the current procedure. The Employment Insurance Act contains a provision allowing a parent to stop work in order to care for a child. For a number of years now, over-zealous departmental employees have felt this provision entitling people to care for a sick family member was at odds with the one requiring them to be available for work.

I have had recent examples of this in my riding, which have resulted in unbelievable exclusions. For instance, there is the case of the mother of a child with a brain tumour. The child had been ill for a year, but the doctors could not find the cause. The mother herself fell ill from the stress of not knowing. She applied for employment insurance, and normally would have been entitled to it under the current provisions. She had to take her case to the board of referees. The three members were unanimously in favour of her claim, saying she was entitled to benefits to care for her sick child, having fallen ill herself from the stress and worry.

The Human Resources Development administration at Saint-Hyacinthe appealed the decision of the board of referees and took it before an umpire in order to have the case reviewed. Imagine, taking to an umpire a case that had been unanimously accepted by a board of referees concerning benefits to a mother whose child had a brain tumour.

Fortunately, public pressure, and the efforts by my office and by the MAC, a coalition for the unemployed, managed to get the appeal dropped. That was fortunate. But is this much effort necessary every time, is public pressure required just to get people to see common sense? That is the way things are at present.

How is this being replaced? With the program I have just referred to: six weeks, including the two week waiting period, in order to qualify for employment insurance benefits for one or the other parent to look after a seriously ill child, provided they can establish that the child will die within six months. If a program like this is not Kafkaesque, if it is not dehumanizing, if it is not devoid of compassion, then I do not know what it is.

Given what has happened over the last seven years, following this government's EI reforms—and the example I just mentioned proves this—we know quite well that when it comes time to interpret the act over-zealously, and for the local Human Resources Development Canada office to issue cold-hearted correspondence to workers, they are capable of being inhuman.

Will we be seeing notes like the following:

Dear Ms. X,

Since you were unable to establish that your child will die within the reasonable timeframe of six months, we hereby notify you that you do not qualify for compassionate care leave.


“A bureaucrat”

Is this the type of correspondence we should expect? Those are indeed the eligibility requirements for EI leave to provide care for a child who is seriously ill. That is the type of correspondence that a mother who wants to care for her sick child will receive, because one of the two parents must always make that terribly difficult decision. It is either the mother or the father who will look after the child who will die within six months, but not both. That, too, is incomprehensible.

There is not a scintilla of humanity in what was presented; there is not a scrap of compassion. Imagine the surreal, Kafkaesque administrative straitjacket you find yourself in when you are in the grips of a very dramatic situation, when you are dealing with the blow of fatality, when your child is extremely sick and, on top of that, you have to establish that he or she will die in the next six months.

This should be the kind of correspondence you receive in that type of situation:

You have proven beyond any doubt that the person you wish to provide care for is likely to die in the coming six months. We are pleased to notify you that you qualify for benefits.

That is no way to run a program, void of any compassion, and then call it a special program that was established for compassionate reasons.

Sometimes, I ask myself how the government is running the public administration. It would have been so simple to produce a short memo to HRDC officials and tell them, “from now on, if parents are providing care for a sick child, they will qualify for EI benefits for the maximum number of weeks” rather than coming up with a program that is as Kafkaesque as this one, which tops cynicism with sarcasm.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Madam Speaker, the budget of February 18 has been described here in the House and elsewhere as the most socialist budget to be tabled in this place since the Trudeau era. I was not here then and I am not prepared to take issue with that statement. However without question, it is a spending budget, much to the great disappointment of Canadians who have been hoping for a budget of restraint and tax relief.

What the budget did was the opposite of what taxpayers wanted. Instead of fiscal prudence, taxpayers got an astounding 20% increase in federal spending over the next three years.

It was called a legacy budget by some at the time of the tabling. If the Prime Minister and the Liberals clustered around him consider a 20% increase in spending a legacy, perhaps Canadians should start thinking about changing this regime government into a democratic government.

The expression “nickel and dimer” comes to mind. It is used to describe individuals or operations which think and act small. Another expression, “chump change”, comes to mind. Both have application here when it comes to the Liberal government and its budget. The Liberals are nickel and dimers and dealers in chump change as far as the budget is concerned.

It was chump change when they set the EI premium at $1.98 in 2004. Why wait until 2004? Why not lower the rate by much more and do it much more quickly?

I will answer my own question. The Liberals will not lower it by any more or any quicker because they want that money. They need that money to continue funding hare-brained schemes like the gun registry, to make up for losses from GST fraud or for new hare-brained schemes that they have yet to come up with.

It would never occur to a Liberal that surpluses are not for spending. No, a Liberal believes that once a taxpayer has sent that money to Ottawa, it belongs to big daddy.

We on this side believe that surpluses belong to the people and that the people deserve some of their money back. We know as well that Canadians will agree to some of it being used to reduce the debt. That should not be a difficult thing for anyone to understand. Even a Liberal should be able to grasp it.

The money belongs to the people who sent it here to fund the programs that they want. Anything left over, oftentimes referred to by the government as surplus but is in fact gouging, is not to be used to fund new programs about which the Canadian people have not been consulted. However the Liberals refuse to acknowledge that.

Liberals believe in the divine right of kings and little guys from Shawinigan to do whatever it is they want to do with the public purse. They will vigorously defend the concept of the divine right to spend however much they want, whenever they want, on whatever they want, as long as it reaps them votes at election time.

What Canadians want, on top of fiscal responsibility, is creation of an economic climate in which businesses and individuals can thrive and grow and, with their success, create an even more receptive climate for others to do the same. Tragically, the Liberals believe government is the engine of success.

On this side, we favour deep and broad based tax relief, a stable monetary policy, funding for essential national infrastructure and stimulating medical and scientific research.

Over here, we lament the millions being stolen from Canadians through GST fraud. We lament even more the attitude of the Liberals, as personified by the member for Mississauga West. He said recently at committee on GST fraud that he actually contemplated moving that the meeting be adjourned. Why would he do that? Because the percentage being stolen was so insignificant.

Over $150 million stolen out of taxes is not insignificant to Canadians. Only a Liberal, or perhaps a New Democrat, would consider the theft of over $150 million an insignificant matter. Is it any wonder Canadians are in despair?

Of course Liberals also consider tax fairness for families to be too insignificant for consideration. We in the Alliance disagree. We believe that it is essential that there be greater tax fairness for families and we provide that by eliminating inequities between single and dual income families. We believe that there should be equity in choices regarding child care arrangements, including child care at home.

The Alliance believes as well that there should be integration of the tax system and social programs to better meet the needs of low income families and individuals.

When it comes to equity and equal treatment, Liberals have a philosophy, believe it or not. Liberals believe that every hard-working Canadian or Canadian family should be gouged to the max. Spare the rod and spoil the taxpayer is the Liberal mantra.

Another question Canadians have is why the high cost of vehicle and heating fuels was not addressed in the budget. There is something the Liberals do not want Canadians to know about and that is the huge windfall that comes from increasing crude oil and natural gas prices. If high wellhead prices continue, and there is every reason to believe that they will, the Liberals will have additional hundreds of millions of dollars to use to buy votes.

For every litre of fuel purchased, the Liberals gain millions through the GST that they once so despised. They get it because they put the GST, the goods and services tax, on a commodity that is already taxed. In other words, Liberals simply do not get it. They believe in sucking every last penny they can from the pockets of hard-working Canadians. They believe in taxing the taxes that Canadians already pay. It is the Liberal way: take as much as one can get and do not worry if it creates hardship for lower income Canadians.

Why was there no consideration from either the present finance minister or his predecessor for lower income hard-working Canadians in terms of the tax on gas? They are too busy fighting. One prepares to be the emperor and the other is busy squandering what he believes to be the rest of his money.

Unlike those two, we in the Alliance believe that taxes imposed for a specific purpose should actually be spent on that purpose. Is that not a funny concept? Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Canadians believes that too. Like the Canadian Alliance, the majority of Canadians believes that when a specific tax for a specific purpose is no longer needed, that tax should be cancelled.

Liberals shiver in horror at that suggestion. “Cancel a tax”, they ask in disbelief? They say that we must be insane for wanting to cancel a tax and ask if we do not realize that it is not the Liberal way. They say, “No, never. We need that money. We need that money to buy votes”.

If too many Canadians complain, the Liberals have a solution. They suggest that the complainers join a special interest group and apply for a federal grant. Canadians are ahead of the Liberals on that one. They already have joined a special interest group, under the endangered species category. They believe it is the only way taxpayers can seek and get protection from the Liberals.

They are also thinking about joining another special interest group called the tumbrel troop. These are people who believe the tumbrels should be rolling down Wellington Street in front of Parliament, bearing as passengers those responsible for the billion dollar firearms registry scandal or the HRDC billion dollar boondoggle. If there are some elected Liberals among the passengers on those two-wheeled wagons, Canadian taxpayers will applaud and cheer and happily do their knitting while they wait for the blade to fall.

Enough is enough. The government does not address the needs of Canadians. It addresses the needs of the Government of Canada. That is not the way this is supposed to work.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to be able to add critique to the budget that the Liberals are pushing upon us.

We know, of course, that the legislative process, the parliamentary democratic process in the House, is severely limited. It is very unlikely that my speech today is going to change any of the minds of the Liberals. I just wonder how carefully they are listening over there and whether or not my appeal to their reason is going to say, yes, we should change this.

As a matter of fact, it came to me very early in my elected career why we have had such fiscal disasters in this country. Soon after my first election in 1990-93, I was asked by a member of my constituency how come, with all the best economic and accounting minds in the country available to the Department of Finance, we had sunk into such an extremely low level of economic prosperity and such a huge debt.

You will remember, Madam Speaker, that in 1993 it was a great issue. We had so many people who were really concerned that our annual deficits were severely hampering the ability of the government to deliver programs when one dollar out of every four was being spent just on interest. That continues to be so, despite what the government tries to spin in our direction.

I would like to emphasize that the call for deficit reduction and elimination came from us. As a matter of fact, if one were to check the record, one would see that when we first arrived here as Reformers in 1993 and in the next few years while the government continued to add to the debt, it regularly made all sorts of scurrilous comments to us because we had the gall to suggest that there should be balanced budgets.

Now, having done it, the government endlessly gloats about it. I am glad for it. I am glad that we are no longer adding to the debt of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I am very glad and--in a way I do this often in the House--I give the government a sort of reluctant compliment for having resisted the temptation to spend it all, because that is what Liberals do. It is just part of their nature. I do give them reluctant congratulations for at least not being able to figure out how to spend the billions of dollars coming their way, mostly because of the issues they were against.

We will recall that in 1993, 10 years ago, the Liberals ran that election on two big issues. One was that they were going to kill the crazy free trade agreement. Today it at bigger risk due to the Liberals right now because of their way of engineering the deteriorating relationship with the Americans. One billion dollars a day of our economy depends on that trade. They were against the policy in 1993, but it did work, and now it has brought such prosperity to the country that even the Liberals could not figure out how to spend the money that came our way because of it. Yet they were against it philosophically.

The other issue they ran on in the election was the GST, saying, “We will kill it. We will nullify it. We do not want that tax”. Well, Madam Speaker, we still have it. It is still there. And it is bringing in a lot of money. In my view, it is a huge brake on our economy. I would like to see it reduced. In fact, that is what we have been saying all along. We would like it reduced in stages until it is zero, because it is a huge administrative nightmare for every employer in the country and for every business person. It is a drain on the economy on that account but it does bring in a lot of net revenue to the government, which has used it in order to stop borrowing. That is okay. The government is not borrowing anymore.

However, the Liberals also like to say--and I believe the parliamentary secretary over there can hardly resist heckling and I appreciate that he is so good at resisting--that the government has brought the debt down. The parliamentary secretary himself likes to say, “We have brought the debt down”.

It is curious when we look at the numbers. Despite the fact that revenues are way up, the amount by which the Liberals have reduced the debt is actually less than two of the thefts it has been involved in. I use that word advisedly, but generally when one takes money to which one is not entitled we call it theft, so that is the word I am using. The government took money to which it was not entitled. It took over $40 billion from the EI fund. That is how much it has taken out.

Has it reduced the debt by $40 billion? As a matter of fact, the debt increased from, as I recall, around $508 billion to $583 billion after the Liberals came to power. They reduced the debt, all right, but not by the amounts they took from the EI fund and the civil servants' pension fund.

As a little aside, if you will indulge me, Madam Speaker, I read in the paper the other day that the ex-finance minister, now seeking to become the prime minister, is divesting himself of his shares in his shipping company. I read a little article that said before it happens he wants to get back his pension fund surplus there and have it paid to him as a cash payout. I forget the amount. I think it was around $80 million or something. It is chump change for him, but for most ordinary Canadians it is an astronomical amount of money.

This was done to the federal civil servants while he was the finance minister. The government unilaterally said, “We have a surplus of $30 billion there and we will just take it”. I searched in vain to see where that entered into the public accounts and how it was used to pay the debt. There was no direct connection. Yet between the EI overpayments and the theft of the civil servants' pension surplus, we had $72 billion. If it had all been applied to the debt, then the debt now would be close to where it was when the Liberals took office. Instead, it is still considerably higher. I am disappointed in the budget and in the implementation act we are debating today because of the fact that there is no specific plan to reduce the debt.

I recently read about what happens in this intergenerational transfer. It is very embarrassing to us in our generation. Let us say that I am taking my children and grandchildren out for a picnic. We are on the way to the picnic with my son driving the car while I am in the back with the grandkids. While they are not watching, I reach into their little lunch buckets and eat their sandwiches and take their chocolates and things like that, so that by the time we get to the picnic their baskets are empty. If I were to do that, everybody would say, “What a nasty grandfather that is. Two weeks ago he was bragging about his new grandson and now he is eating out of their lunch and leaving them nothing”.

Collectively, we in our generation, with the government continuing it, by having this huge debt, this is what are we doing to our children and our grandchildren: We are eating their lunch. We are saying that we will enjoy the benefits of all these programs and we will let them pay for it for generations to come, plus interest. I think that is unconscionable.

The fact is that this government, being given huge amounts of money as a surprise, could not figure out how to spend those amounts and therefore had to apply it to the debt. And now it is gloating because it reduced the debt, the debt that it had allowed to grow to such a hugely astronomical amount.

That is one thing, but for it not to have a plan to reduce and eliminate the debt is a tremendous failure on its part. It is the biggest failure because the servicing of the debt is still the biggest expenditure of our government and it is saddled onto the next generations.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, yesterday the hon. member at around 5:25 p.m. raised a question and did not have a chance to get an answer to it in response to a statement that I made indicating that 70% of our revenues went toward paying the interest on the deficit. The reality is 30% of the revenues go toward paying the interest on the deficit. He was quite right and I wanted to tell him that.

Having said all that, being an engineer, like all engineers around the world, I always have a tendency to go right to the point and I have done that. I wanted to just point it out for the record.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, we are here today to discuss the budget and the implementation act regarding that.

I have a quote from Ronald Regan that reminds me of some of the facts about budgeting and governments. He said at one time that the government was like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and absolutely no responsibility at the other. We see some of that in the budget we are addressing now.

I want to talk about some of the issues that really have not been addressed much. Those are agriculture and how it fares in the budget.

We have been misled once again by the government in terms of the promises it made to farmers. Over a year ago the minister had made a commitment that farmers would get some funding over the next few years toward their farm programs.

We have watched farmers fight over the last year to get a program in place under the new agriculture policy framework, which has not worked well. There is very little co-operation from any of the farm organizations. The government has been unable to put the program together so the details are in place, and that program has to be put in place by April 1.

Here we are a week before implementation is supposed to happen and the government after 18 to 20 months of consulting and talking about the new agriculture policy framework has been unable to put a program in place that producers can agree would be of any use to them. I may come back to that a little later.

I want to talk about the money which was promised specifically in the budget. The farmers were once again given a balloon that looked like it was blown up to be quite a big thing and once we started looking at it, the balloon popped and we realized there was nothing there but more hot air.

The finance minister told us that there would be $465 million in new spending for producers. We took that at face value, went back to our offices and started to look over what he had promised farmers. It turns out that of that $465 million, $220 million is called an advance for crop insurance spending. Over the last couple of years the crop insurance programs in a couple of the provinces have basically gone to zero or have gone into the hole because of claims. Rather than put money into that, the government has given farmers what it calls an advance. We have found out that this is not money at all; it is a loan that producers will have to pay back to the government over the next 15 years.

Out of the $465 million, the first $220 million will not even go to farmers. The government calls it an advance. Producers themselves and the farmers will have to pay it back. To tell people they are getting money under those circumstances is to mislead them.

Then the government said that it would give $20 million to FCC. That is not going directly to producers. It is a stand-alone institution. It has been given to it for some specific projects and specific things that the government wants to do. Once again, that money is not available to the farmer who is sitting on his farm wondering what he will to do this spring to get a crop in the ground.

The government also mentioned that $113 million would go to the vet colleges. It is great that this money will go to the veterinary colleges, except this was announced six months ago. The agriculture committee travelled last year and heard regularly and often from the veterinarian colleges that they needed some help. They were in danger of losing their accreditation which allowed them to credit veterinarians for international standards. In every presentation they made, the veterinarian colleges made that same plea for money to upgrade their facilities which had been left to deteriorate by the government for the last 10 years. The government announced last year that it would put that $113 million into the colleges. Then it announced it again in the budget, trying to convince people that it was new money.

The government also announced that there would be $100 million for the CFIA. That was only partially true because it was spread out over two years. I guess I am like most Canadians. It annoys me when I hear the government is to put huge amounts of money into a project and then I find out that it will be divided by two, three, four or five years. All of a sudden money that it said it would put into these programs basically amounts to virtually nothing.

As someone who is interested in agriculture and is committed to agriculture and our farmers, it is frustrating to see a government across the way either be incompetent in its programs or mislead farmers about the support it says it will give them.

Of the $460 million that has been announced, not one cent will go directly to farmers. Basically, most of this will go toward an expanded bureaucracy. It is hypocritical for the government to mislead farmers by pretending to give them support and money when in fact it is not doing that.

I want to talk a bit about the APF and the struggle the government has had to find a successful program. It was set up under five pillars. Farmers do not really know what is going on with this program. The government is coming forward now with different aspects of it. From the beginning, it looked like it would be a bureaucratic nightmare for farmers. In so many of the programs over the last few years, like AIDA and CFIP, the accountants and the bureaucrats did very well. We know for the AIDA program alone, between $150 million and $200 million worth of program money was spent on bureaucrats.

One of the top bureaucrats told a member of the agriculture committee a month ago that we should be happy for this new program because it would mean more jobs in Winnipeg. The point of the program is to help farmers. It is not a make-work project for urban areas. Once again the government has failed in its ability to come up with a program that is easy to use, that will backstop farmers and give them some success.

We see the government committing $100 million to environmental farm plans. I guess I would have to ask the members around me this. How can $100 million be spent to come up with a farm plan for farmers to use so they can explain what they are farming and whether their farms are safe and secure? That is appalling. It is ridiculous to think that much money can be spent on a bureaucratic device so that farmers can say what they are doing with their sprays, chemicals and gases. It is crazy.

There are other things like renewal. The government talks about renewal and trying to get younger farmers onto the land to renew the rural communities, but it does nothing that directly affects those communities. It has massive bureaucracies and meetings here and there with their rural secretariat and those types of things but it never comes back and touches the rural people.

I mentioned the risk management part of the APF earlier. It is extremely frustrating to have to deal with a bureaucracy that gets billions of dollars a year, but has taken two years to come up with a program that will not be ready when it needs to be. Farmers do not know what kind of coverage they have. They do not know what kind of triggers will be used to trigger coverage. Farmers are expected to take between $2 billion and $3 billion out of their own pockets to get this program off the ground and make it viable.

The really frustrating part about that is they have between $2 billion and $3 billion in the NISA program already. It is sitting there. It is in a program that has worked reasonably well for farmers and the government has persistently said that one of the things it wants to do is shake that money out of the NISA accounts. It is going to do that, but then it is going to turn around and force farmers to put that money back into the new programs which the government has set up. It seems to go on and on.

Another frustration is this. We were told a $45 billion EI surplus existed. It supposedly existed up until just before this budget. Then all of a sudden we are told that it is not there. We know someone is attempting to take the prime ministership away from our present Prime Minister. He is the person who has been responsible over the years for building this fund, putting it in place and letting us believe that it was there.

I guess I am reminded, as I think about him, of a quote from George Bernard Shaw, which says that a government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. Unfortunately, the problem is that the one who is named Peter in this country is the taxpayer, it is not the other prime minister. The government took $45 billion from taxpayers under the guise of putting it into an EI system. Then it turned around, applied it somewhere else and told people the money was gone; it has completely vanished. If anyone in the House did that, I think we would find ourselves in some serious difficulty with the legal authorities.

I will close with another quote from P.J. O'Rourke, who is a well known civil libertarian from the United States. He says that giving money and power to government is like giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the Canadian Alliance speaker who raised many valid issues on behalf of prairies farmers about the situation they face and the lack of any relief or deference to their issues in the federal budget. I was interested to learn more about the NISA program. He said that the program still had $2 billion that we could shake out of it. Could he explain that a little more?

Also, while I am up and have the opportunity to ask him questions, would he expand even further on the abuse of the EI program? Would he agree with me that to deduct a certain--

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order. There are no questions and comments, but the hon. member is welcome to finish his remarks during the debate period.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am happy to be recognized and appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-28.

It was my intention to ask the hon. member to expand somewhat on the NISA program and the $4 billion that he maintains could be put to better use or put into the pockets of farmers instead of being lost to the bureaucracy. Even though I represent an area of downtown Winnipeg, I would not want to see an agricultural assistance program being used to create bureaucratic jobs or to do anything other than to provide much needed income maintenance for beleaguered prairie farmers.

I appreciated the hon. member's comments. He was bang on. Perhaps in another speech he will be able to enlighten us more about the five pillars he made reference to.

I would like to speak at some length to the last point the Alliance member spoke about, the EI program.

The federal government is very proud of its announcement of $100 billion in tax cuts. As the member pointed out, it seems that any of the government's good news announcements are sequenced and timed to come into play over a period of three years or five years. The amount is not as huge an amount of money as people might expect when spread out over that timeframe. The erosion of that amount of money during that period of time due to inflation also has to be factored in. That $100 billion will not really mean as much five years from now as it did when it was announced. The government is trying to get the maximum political bang for its buck.

We should point out to people who are listening today where that $100 billion the government has put into tax cuts came from. I can say that $45 billion of it can be traced to the pockets of hardworking Canadians and their employers. As people should know, the EI fund is strictly made up of contributions from employees and employers. The federal government puts nothing into that fund. Canadians have clearly overpaid into the EI fund to the tune of $45 billion cumulatively over the last couple of years.

If there is a surplus in the EI fund, there are two ways of looking at it. One legitimate argument was put forward by the Alliance that premiums should be reduced. We are paying in too much in terms of what is being paid out in benefits. The flip side of that coin, the NDP's argument is that benefits should be increased or the eligibility requirement should be lowered so more people who pay in would be eligible. Either one of those arguments is legitimate.

What is not legitimate is to use that money for some purpose other than income maintenance for unemployed people. I would go further and say that to deduct something from a person's paycheque for a specific purpose and then to use that money for something completely different is out and out fraud. At the very least it is a breach of trust.

A trust relationship has been created with that individual. When that individual allowed the government to deduct money from his or her paycheque for a specific purpose, a trust relationship was formed. That person trusted that the government would hold that money until such time as he or she became unemployed and needed it. To do anything else with that money is a breach of trust. To use money paid into the unemployment insurance fund to build roads, or for health care, or to give tax cuts to somebody, is a breach of the fiduciary trust entered into with the Government of Canada as employees.

I cannot emphasize enough our continued disappointment, shock and horror at the flagrant misuse and abuse of what was supposed to be an insurance program for unemployed workers.

I appreciate that there are still MPs in the House of Commons who raised that as an aspect of their comments on the budget. To not do so would be to resign ourselves to the fact that the Liberals have managed to get away with something again. Some of us are not prepared to do that.

To put in context the size of the surplus, I am fond of reminding people that the EI program is running a surplus of $700 million a month, not per year, per month. Every month that ticks by, people are contributing $700 million more than is being paid out in income maintenance to unemployed workers. Talk about a cash cow. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.

The Liberal government cannot believe how lucky it is. It seems to have gone under the radar on this one. Most Canadians are not upset about it. We are upset. Those of us who know about it in the House of Commons are upset. We are trying to alert Canadians to the fact that they are being gouged, but seemingly the public has not really got up in arms.

Unemployed people are up in arms, but unemployment is relatively low these days with 7% unemployed. That is not enough to form a mass movement of people to object to the abuse of the fund. Unfortunately when Canadians do find themselves in the unfortunate position of being unemployed, they will also learn that under the current EI rules, less than 40% of them will be eligible for any income maintenance whatsoever. The EI rules are structured in such a way that only 40% of unemployed people qualify. What kind of insurance fund is that?

What if people were obliged to pay into a house insurance fund with mandatory contributions and if their house burned down, they would have a 40% chance of collecting any benefit?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 10, consideration of the motion that Bill C-314, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, be now read the second time and referred to committee.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 2003 / 1:30 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me today to speak on Bill C-314, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act—and I am quoting from the summary of the bill—“in order to make it more difficult for adults and non-custodial parentsto abduct children by means of air transportation”.

The legislation is also aimed at reducing the incidence of child abduction and kidnapping in Canada, by requiring all adult passengers travelling with young persons to produce written proof of the consent of their parents or of other persons who have lawful custody over them.

I said that it is a great pleasure for me to speak, but it is also a very emotional moment for me because this House will remember that on May 28, 2001, it adopted a motion that I had introduced. I am referring to Motion No. 219, which was unanimously adopted and which aimed to get the federal government to force as many countries as possible to sign and ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Furthermore, Motion No. 219, which I sponsored, also aimed to ensure that the federal government take the necessary steps to fight against international child abduction. This was the objective of this motion, unanimously passed on May 28, 2001. I am pleased that my hon. colleague in the House has introduced a bill to implement the object of this motion.

I recall that this motion was initially the result of a personal matter. In fact, on Sunday, January 17, 1993, my wife's son was abducted by her ex-husband, an Egyptian-born Canadian. So, one Sunday, she learned that her ex-husband had abducted her son and left for Egypt. From that moment on, she lost all contact with them, although she had been granted legal custody of her child by Quebec courts.

We knew then that legal proceedings would commence and that the necessary steps would have to be taken. However, what this case showed us is that, inevitably, the border controls were somewhat lax when a child was accompanying one parent who wanted to leave the country and travel abroad.

The House will remember that I asked a number of questions at the time. I asked how my wife's son, Karim, who was three, could have left with his father, who does not have custody of the child, without permission from the mother, who had a custody order. What document checks were made, particularly in terms of issuing the child's passport? Another question I asked at the time was whether customs officers and airline personnel have the authority and training to prevent such a situation. We already knew that roughly 200 or more children were alleged to have been abducted in the year 2000 alone.

So, a certain number of questions were raised at the time. We felt then—and still do—that Canada must take action, but that international action must be taken as well. That was also the finding of the report by a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, which reached a number of conclusions in April 1998 on what action should be taken to prevent international abduction, but also abduction in Canada.

At the time, my colleagues had studied the impact of abduction on extradition, and the measures to take for passport control or in the case of divorce and custody proceedings. Would it not make more sense when there is a custody order and a clear risk of abduction that we make it mandatory for customs officers to require documents approved by the parent who has custody, before authorizing the child to leave Canada?

They also reviewed the issue of travel documents and the financial assistance we should provide parents who are victims of international abduction. This fight against international abduction, is above all a fight for the rights of the child. Many countries have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but unfortunately, in practice, too few countries—even among those who have ratified the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international abduction—agree to apply this convention. In my opinion, we must take action.

I am thinking about recommendation 12 the committee made in April 1998, and I quote:

Review the feasibility of creating a process for verifying documentary proof that both parents have agreed to international travel of children under 16 years of age before airline tickets are issued.

In 1998, the committee proposed document checks be carried out. The government's response a few months later, in January 1999, was that actions should be taken. It said:

The departments taking part in the “Our Missing Children” program will be discussing the international child abduction issue with Transport Canada, and in particular the role that can be played by control and security agents at airports in recognizing cases of child abduction and reacting appropriately.

The government was therefore proposing nothing more than “working in collaboration”. I have always called for legislation, for the necessary changes to be made to the law. Such was the essence of my motion No. 219, which was passed in this Parliament on January 17, 2001. Its purpose was to ensure that the necessary steps were taken against international child abduction.

Today I hope that this House will vote in favour of this bill. It seems fundamental to me that, if child abduction by a parent is a priority, we must be consistent and take the necessary steps, particularly since my motion was passed unanimously by this House.

We cannot merely settle for the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, which came into effect on December 1, 1983 and was ratified by 54 countries. Why not? Because, although Canada is trying to sign bilateral agreements with certain countries, Egypt among them, we are forced to realize that these international conventions are not being applied seriously. As a result, international abduction continues to be a scourge.

I still maintain that international child abduction is primarily a children's rights issue. It is a battle to ensure that children have the right to remain with their parents, particularly when custody has been awarded by the court.

I am therefore extremely pleased to support this bill. I feel that it represents a concrete adaptation, a concrete measure, consistent with my January 17, 2001 motion against international child abduction.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Marcel Proulx LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties with respect to today's debate on the motion for second reading of Bill C-314 in the name of the hon. member for Lethbridge and I believe you would find consent that in the event today's debate on second reading of Bill C-314 collapses and if a recorded division is requested thereon, the said vote be deferred until Tuesday, April 1 at 3 p.m.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Laval East Québec


Carole-Marie Allard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-314, to amend the Canada Transportation Act to make it more difficult for adults and parents who do not have custody to abduct children by means of air transportation and requiring all adult passengers travelling with young persons to produce written proof of the consent of their parents or of other persons who have lawful custody over them.

Unfortunately, while I support fully the intent of the bill and its objective of trying to reduce the incidence of child abduction and kidnapping, I cannot support the proposed amendment to the Canada Transportation Act.

It is a far too sweeping and heavy-handed amendment that would impose onerous obligations on Canadian airline carriers and be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to effectively implement. The effect could be that anyone attempting to travel with a child, even a parent in an intact family travelling with their own child, would be required to provide written proof of consent and prevented from getting on the plane if this is not produced. To someone unaware of this requirement, a planned trip at Christmas with their child to visit out of town family could end up being a nightmare.

This is a bill that is trying to accomplish something that the government takes very seriously. Unfortunately, sometimes children are taken by a parent, relative or caregiver without the consent or permission of the other parent. This can occur in the context of a divorce or separation, for example, and may be done for a variety of reasons, including revenge or a legitimate concern about the child's safety.

The 2001 annual report on Canada's missing children indicates that in 2001 there were 387 parental abductions. In some of these cases where the children are reported missing they are only missing temporarily because a parent is late in returning the child from an access visit. In other cases children remain missing for many years. Although children are rarely physically harmed by their parent, there is no doubt that these actions have a detrimental effect on the well-being of the children involved and, in some cases, are extremely traumatic for the child.

This government is strongly committed to protecting children from all forms of abduction and kidnapping. The “Our Missing Children” program is a key example of this commitment. Five government departments—the RCMP, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Justice Canada work in partnership to prevent adudctions, locate and recover missing children.

Although each department has its own function, the “Our Missing Children” program operates as one unit. The National Missing Children Services is Canada’s clearinghouse for reports of missing children and provides investigative services. It is linked to all Canadian police and related agencies through the Canadian Police Information Centre, and most foreign police agencies through Interpol.

These connections allow investigators to link and trace quickly and expeditiously the whereabouts of an abductor or missing child. In addition, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency places border alerts and detects and recovers missing children at international airports and border crossings.

The program also provides a photo-aging service, as well as investigative research and ongoing development and distribution of information related to missing children for parents, children and police. It has connections with not for profit search agencies and collectively provides a unique and powerful program to prevent, locate and recover missing children.

I mention all this to reinforce the point that the government is already doing many things to address the problem of child abduction and kidnapping; important things that are well planned, well coordinated and effectively assist in protecting children from abduction and kidnapping.

As I said, unfortunately, while I support fully the intent of the bill and its objectives, I cannot support the proposed amendment. One of the problems is that the provision is too vague and is directed to the airline companies that hold a licence to operate a domestic air service. The bill does not provide any guidelines about how this should or could be done. It does not explain what form written proof of consent should take. It does not indicate how this provision should be practically enforced. In fact, each licensed air carrier could implement this requirement differently.

Many different questions arise about the bill. What proof of consent would be required if one parent is deceased? What costs would be associated with implementing this requirement and who would bear those costs? Would there be a liability associated with not doing so? This statutory amendment only impacts on domestic air carriers and it might not in fact even prevent a true abduction. The abductor could simply choose a different non-Canadian airline.

Reasonable measures to protect children from abduction are already in place. The Canadian passport system, for example, already imposes specific requirements respecting the issuing of passports for children, to respond to concerns about parental child abductions.

The “Our Missing Children” program that I mentioned earlier provides many examples of law enforcement measures, programs and tools that can and do work to address the problem of child abduction.

Our missing children program, which I mentioned earlier, provides many examples of law enforcement measures, programs and tools that can and do work to address the problem of child abductions. I do not think, however, that amending the Canada Transportation Act is the right response. I cannot support Bill C-314.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I echo the comments of the previous speaker. My colleague from Gander—Grand Falls, who sits on the transport committee, has spoken previously on this proposed legislation and has indicated that, from the logistical aspect of the airlines themselves, he cannot support the legislation.

However, in saying that, I would like to thank the member for Lethbridge for putting forward legislation that is legitimate. The issue of abductions is a serious one, with non-custodial parents looking for ways to have access to the children. We have heard that in a number of cases this has been achieved. Children have been abducted and taken far from their homes and their custodial parent. We recognize that there should be, and in fact are, certain protections, certain abilities, certain attempts to resolve this issue and stop them at the onset.

However, it is our party's opinion and our transportation critic's opinion that this, unfortunately, is not the vehicle by which a lot of this will be corrected. If anything, the enforcement of this would be almost impossible.

As a father I have travelled alone with my children, as has my wife when she was bringing them to points where I was located. It would be very simple for her, if she did not have the right to have my children, to forge notarized documents that said she had total custodial rights. I suspect that would be one of the ways anyone could get around this legislation. If people were doing something of that nature they would not be terribly honest at the best of times, so I am sure they would try to circumvent the law and the legislation in any way, shape or form that they could. Enforcement would almost be impossible. Any document provided by an individual to the airlines would have to be scrutinized, and that in itself is almost impossible. The enforcement, the logistics would not make that possible.

Also, to circumvent this legislation, it would be very easy for a parent to simply go by vehicle, by rubber tire, across the border or fly overseas or to other points on American airlines which would not have this type of legislation in place.

Again, it would be difficult to enforce and difficult to restrict the kinds of movements that the hon. member legitimately, as I said, is trying to prevent.

It would also put a lot of the onus on the air carrier. I read the legislation and it says “the holder of a domestic licence”. The air carrier itself, under this legislation, would be responsible and would have some liability attached to it. Even though there may well be a forged document, there may be one circumstance where in fact someone could slip through. This legislation, in my opinion, would then hold the domestic licence holder liable. It is difficult enough currently, under the circumstances of the world, to operate an airline under our current regulations. To have the airlines now anticipating these kinds of issues and problems would be very difficult and it would be something else stacked on to the operations of the airlines that would make it most unprofitable.

I will not take a lot of time in the House on this. I simply wanted to be on the record of saying that I appreciate the member's concern. I have a lot of respect for the member for Lethbridge and I do know that his heart is in the right place when he brings forward this kind of legislation. However sometimes one has to think with one's head as opposed to one's heart and, unfortunately, the head says that the legislation is not enforceable and not something that we can put into place and make work.

That is not to say that we should not put in place other measures. That is not to say that the custodial enforcement procedures that we currently have should not be enforced in another fashion. That is not to say that we condone non-custodial parents abducting their children and moving them outside of our jurisdiction. That is not the case. We have to firm up the consequence. We have to firm up on our ability to stop that from happening in this society but this is not one of the tools that I and my party believe is available to us to stop this.

I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party. We will not be voting in favour of it when it comes forward. I look forward to helping the member perhaps draft something else that may be more workable for this circumstance.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to begin my speech on this topic with a confession. I want to confess that I had a bad thought when I heard the parliamentary secretary speak to the bill.

This was the awful thought that I had. I hope not, but could it be that the people who are writing these speeches are somehow involved in these crimes and that is why they want to protect them? That is such a bad thought that I have to apologize for even thinking it, but it occurred to me.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Oh, give us a break.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. We will show the hon. member the same courtesy we showed all hon. members in the House. The hon. member for Elk Island.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, the reason I said that is that there are so many attacks on our children in these days in our society. Every time we try to do something about it what we get from the other side, and now even from the member speaking on behalf of the PCs in the corner, are all the reasons why we cannot do it.

I would just love to see that attitude changed. I would like to see the people on the government side say, yes, our children are important, as she said, and yes, we want to take measures to protect them, as she said, but then, instead of saying “we cannot do it, we cannot do it”, I would like them to say, “And we will leave no stone unturned until it is done. We will work on it to find a way that will work instead of making excuses as to why it cannot”.

I want to be rather specific here on some of the reasons given for not supporting the legislation. One of the things both speakers talked about was that it was unenforceable. That is just not true. The member from the PCs just said that someone could just get into a car and drive into the States and then go to another country. Lots of luck: Getting across the border into the United States these days is not that easy.

For a number of years already, people have been required, if going on an international trip by airplane or across the border into the States at the border by car, to prove that they have legal custody and that their possession, if we want to use that term, of the child is valid. That is done right now, so why is it so difficult to say that if people are boarding an airplane they will have to show some documentation to prove that they are the legal custodial parent or legally entitled to have the custody of this child?

For example, I might get on an airplane with my little grandson. There is nothing wrong at all with me having a certificate or a letter or something that says, “Yes, grampa can take his grandson to Vancouver”. That is fine. There is nothing wrong with that. I have to do that if I want to take the kid to Seattle, so why not to Vancouver? It is not that big a deal. Instead, we get a bunch of excuses that the government will not do it. We get the same thing with the sex registry. The government says it is going to have a big sex offender registry but it is not going to put anybody on it. This is stupid. What is a computer going to do? It is a giant paperweight if it is not used for a reasonable purpose.

We always are given all of these reasons for why we cannot implement procedures to protect our children from attack. This is doubly important nowadays because of the fact that we have such an intrusion into our lives and into our homes by things like television and the Internet, which are very, very evil, and I am going to use that word. They are evil. We have totally lost the moral perspective on how we deal with each other with regard to sexuality and now we are getting it with children. I cannot believe it. Adults who want to have sex with children are getting onto the Internet. It is being used to lure these children.

It is so easy because children are so trusting. The other day I was standing with other people milling around and suddenly I felt something on my leg. It was a little toddler, probably about two years old, who did not realize that he had grabbed my leg instead of his dad's. How trusting. Those two year old and three year old children totally trust the adults in their life. When they get to be five or six they start generating a little bit of the self-protective mechanisms, but in that interval it is our responsibility as adults and as parents and as legal custodians to protect them from people who would betray that trust.

We are not doing it in this country. We are not doing it with our legislation. We are not doing it and we are not serving those children and their protection when a member like the one from Lethbridge brings forward a step, just one, that is going to improve the protection of children and all we can do is stand up and say that we cannot do it. What a pathetic response. I am really totally disgusted with it.

Because it cannot fix everything the government will do nothing. I admit that if this were implemented there would probably still be some abductions. There would still be some people who would engage in forgery and other things that are illegal, but at least two things would happen. First, it would reduce them and we would save some children. Second, there would be a serious breach against persons who broke the rules in order to abduct a child. There would then be another thing on them and they could have the book thrown at them.

We do not need these people in our society, the ones who would steal our children, and use and abuse them. It is time to clamp down on them hard, not continue to say we cannot do anything, let them be and that is okay.

I am not speaking just about my own children and my precious five grandchildren. I am speaking of millions of children in Canada who are looking to us for protection. It is time that we give it. If I were the Liberal government I would not wait for the next election. I would resign. I would say that I am so inadequate at my job that I am quitting to let someone do it who can do it. It is time for it to happen.

I would like to say with respect to the Internet that, unfortunately, I am aware of at least one person who was lured by the Internet. I wish I did not know it but I do. The results are totally devastating to that family. In this particular case it was not a child who was lured, it was an adult. A mother was lured through the Internet to go and meet a guy. What a sad thing that was. If it can happen to an adult, one can bet it can happen to children.

We had better start thinking of all sorts of ways to prevent these predators from getting onto an airplane and moving that trusting child to another location, even within Canada. These excuses we got are lame. The procedures are already in place for international flights. All we have to do is apply them to domestic flights. To say it cannot be done is just the lamest of lame excuses. The fact is that it is very necessary.

I know that some of the members present who have heard my speech have recoiled against it and I apologize. I was very hard on members opposite, but I am challenging them. I am saying to them, for the sake of our children, to vote in favour of this. If it is not good enough let us get it into committee. Let the committee improve it and make it better but let us do something. Let us not just say that this is no good and we will not do it. We will betray our children, let them down, and we will say that here is another success to put on the wall for the predators.

We are on the wrong side of this issue if we say that in debate. Yet, this is exactly what is happening. I appeal to all the Liberal members over on the other side, about 170 of them. They are the ones who have the numbers to control the outcome of these votes.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe there was a previous decision that if we came to the vote collapsing that the vote was already asked for and deferred until next week.