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House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

April 1st, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member for Yukon and I are here today to acknowledge an historic day for the people of Yukon. Today the Government of Yukon will take on responsibility for managing the territory's public lands, water, forests, mines and minerals and responsibility for environmental management. After today, land and resource decisions that affect the territory will be made in Yukon rather than in Ottawa, enabling local residents to better shape their own future.

Completion of this initiative will bring government closer to the people it serves because it places key development decisions in the hands of those most knowledgeable about local conditions and those most affected by the consequences of those decisions, Yukoners themselves.

Overall, of course, the federal Crown will continue to hold title to lands and waters in Yukon, and changes being proposed will not change the constitutional status of the Yukon territory. Nevertheless this devolution of powers respecting lands and resources represents a major step in the evolution of Yukon. It transfers the last major area of provincial-like responsibilities still under the purview of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to the Yukon government.

About a year ago, the House passed with unanimous consent a new Yukon Act. That act is being proclaimed today. Yukoners see the Yukon Act as their constitution. In addition to giving effect to devolution, the new Yukon Act recognizes the reality of responsible government in Yukon that is similar in principle to that elsewhere in Canada.

In closing, I would like to underline the point that I have made before: that this is a key nation-building initiative. This is a good day for Yukon, for Yukoners and for all Canadians. The decision to proceed with devolution serves to affirm our commitment to end decision-making by remote control from Ottawa and put it in the hands of northerners. It demonstrates, not just to the territories but to all regions of the country, our willingness to put in place sensible, effective and accountable governance arrangements that foster both regional development and national development.

On my behalf and on behalf of the member of Parliament for Yukon and all parliamentarians, we want to wish Yukon the very best on this very important day.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

For the information of those members responding to the ministerial statement, the minister took approximately three minutes so the Chair will allow three minutes to each member responding, beginning with the hon. member for Athabasca.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the minister's statement. Certainly in principle, at least, we would support this initiative although I find it somewhat curious that the minister introduces this statement and this initiative to devolve his responsibility in Yukon for natural resource management and environmental management. In reviewing the recently passed Yukon Act, let me say that the act does not appear to give the minister responsibility to devolve that power so it is pretty hard to assess the impact of the statement just made by the minister without more information on exactly how this power will be devolved to Yukon.

However, our party has always been supportive of initiatives of the government to bring the territories toward provincial status and more control over their own affairs and the management of their resources and their environment. I think that is good, but rather than being in sync with the Yukon Act, it appears to do quite the opposite. In fact, the Yukon Act sets up a management board that is entirely accountable to the minister. Then the minister turns around and devolves the power that he has to the Yukon government. That does not make a lot of sense.

Of course there is no mention, no insight at all, in the minister's statement or the Yukon Act on how the fiscal arrangement between the federal government and the Yukon Territory will in fact be affected by this initiative of the minister. Really all we can say is that we support the initiative in principle and that we look forward to more detail on how the fiscal arrangement between the two bodies will be adjusted in consideration of this initiative.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course this legislation replaces the Yukon Act, particularly because it recognizes the existence of a responsible government system in Yukon.

This legislation will rename a number of public institutions to reflect current practice and provide the Yukon Legislative Assembly with new powers over public real property and other Yukon properties.

The Bloc Quebecois supported Bill C-39. We knew how important this bill was and what it meant. The Bloc Quebecois knows that, most of the time, it is better for decisions to be made at a level closer to the people.

However, let us be clear; all too often, the government takes credit for such initiatives to show how generous the Liberals are, and this was clear from the tone of the minister's speech. Above all, we should recognize what it means for the people of the Yukon to fully participate in the process for making decisions that will have an impact on their future.

Therefore, we support this legislation because it seems to be in line with the will and the wishes of the people and the governement of the Yukon.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, we in the NDP are very happy to support this development of Bill C-39, devolving these additional powers and authorities to the government of the territory of Yukon. It is a clear reflection of the desires of the people who live in Yukon to take on this additional authority to control their local affairs and not have to deal directly with Ottawa on matters that are much more appropriately dealt with at the local level. It has been some time in coming. The negotiations have gone on for well over a decade. We welcome this day, as I am sure all of the people of Yukon do.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent of the House for just one minute to thank my colleagues for this great day.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent?

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

YukonRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, this is a great day for all Yukoners. I would like to thank all my colleagues in all parties for their support.

Today the budget regarding natural resource management has been transferred over to the Yukon government, and now our future, our destiny, is in our own hands. Yukoners are truly grateful to the Parliament of Canada for allowing us to take this big step in a new partnership in Confederation.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report following the 11th annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from January 13 to January 15.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present today containing approximately 40 names of members from the City of Windsor. The petition deals with the cross-border traffic problem, and specifically with the problem of traffic on Huron Line.

The petitioners ask that the government respond to their needs.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present this morning. The first one is with regard to marriage.

The petitioners are from all across Canada, including my own riding of Mississauga South. They state that the majority of Canadians believe that the fundamental matters of social policy should be decided by elected members of Parliament and not by an unelected judiciary.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including the invocation of section 33 of the Charter, the notwithstanding clause, if necessary, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition concerns stem cell research and is signed by a number of Canadians, including some from my own riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House the fact that Canadians do support ethical stem cell research which has already shown encouraging potential to provide cures for Canadians. They also point out that non-embryonic stem cells, also known as adult stem cells, have shown significant research progress without the immune rejections or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to support legislation which promotes adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary for Canadians.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish to inform the House that, because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by eight minutes.

The House resumed from March 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18, 2003, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with a feeling of responsibility that I rise today to address Bill C-28, the budget implementation bill and to voice my opposition to the bill. I will get into some of the reasons why as I go through the bill.

In simple terms for all Canadians the bill is a blueprint for the Liberals to spend freely taxpayers' hard earned dollars, establish a legacy for the retiring Prime Minister and create an even larger and more bureaucratic government. The last time I checked with any of my constituents, none of these priorities were at the top of their wish lists.

The Canadian Alliance believes that rewarding the taxpayer should be the primary goal in the country. The Canadian Alliance has not forgotten who pays the bills in Ottawa. It is a shame that the Liberals have.

In fact it is the middle to low income Canadians who need all the help and benefits that a strong federal government should provide for them. There was certainly more than enough surplus to finally reward these hard working Canadian families by lowering the GST and personal income taxes. Instead, the government has ignored the priorities of average Canadians and has created more slush funds for grand scale promises that inevitably will be mismanaged.

Before I jump ahead of myself to oppose the irresponsible spending promises of the Liberal government, let me take a moment to realistically look at the figures of the budget.

The budget announces $17.4 billion in new spending initiatives over the next three years but cuts taxes by only $2.3 billion. This represents an increase in program spending of 88%, an 88% increase in spending in comparison to a mere 12% for tax reduction. We cannot afford in Canada to keep building budgets that outstrip more than the economy is growing. By outstripping growth, we will be back in a deficit position if we continue to do this.

Why does the government consistently misspend and mismanage money from the taxpayers today, while ensuring that taxpayers tomorrow will be paying for these programs indefinitely. When I look at newly born granddaughter, I do not want her to foot the bills of this free spending Liberal government in the years to come.

The new finance minister had a golden opportunity to put the brakes to free spending and chart a new and rewarding course for the majority of Canadians. Unfortunately, this minister has opted to continue the path created by his predecessor. The Liberal track record of broken promises and boondoggle after boondoggle speaks for itself.

We have seen a 500-fold overrun in the net cost of the firearms registry, $1 billion spent and growing on fraudulent and inadequately administered human resources development grants and millions of dollars in advertising contracts that are now under investigation by the RCMP. It is a long list and it is not a list of which to be proud.

I would like to quote the leader of the Canadian Alliance on the government's wasteful record. He said, “Each wasted billion was a billion wasted opportunities for Canadians”. That is exactly what that is. For every dollar wasted--

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There does not appear to be a quorum in the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lethbridge.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I strongly support the statement of the Leader of the Opposition because it honestly reflects the irresponsible spending habits of the Liberal government and the lost opportunities for not just my own constituents but for constituents in communities across the country.

It is the Liberal government's addiction to spending that drove our taxes higher than ever. The myth that there is a Liberal tax reduction is simply that, a myth. Canada's blooming surpluses are all the evidence we need to prove that Canadians are being grossly overtaxed. Where are the breaks for the majority of Canadians? Where are the benefits for those who have worked the hardest to scrape by and foot the ever growing taxes levied by the government?

Working Canadians have the right to ask: If the Liberal government has cut taxes then why can they not see it on their paycheques? This backward budget reflected backward Liberal promises: $2 billion scattered on an unspecified Kyoto measure but a mere band-aid for the crumbling armed forces.

The Canadian Alliance agrees with the Auditor General and many other organizations that call for an immediate increase of $2 billion per year for the defence budget. The Liberal commitment of $600 million per year falls far short of what is necessary to sustain our armed forces, let alone to start to rebuild it.

While the finance minister has promised to fill the accountability loopholes created by his predecessor, once again the Liberal track record speaks for itself.

How can the government be trusted to implement massive new spending increases for nearly every department, when it has proven its lack of management experience which has cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars in cost overruns? Need we remind the House of the gun registry's severe mismanagement and incompetence. Bad management turns good intentions into Liberal waste. It is simply cruel to Canadians in need to promise grand new schemes that will never pan out due to mismanagement.

The Canadian Alliance would immediately stop runaway Liberal spending. We support targeting most new spending only to priority areas neglected under the Liberal's watch. We agree with the increases in health funding announced in the new health accord but in general the Canadian Alliance believes that spending should only increase at a rate matching increases in population and prices.

There are a few other specific points I would like to bring to the attention of the House with regard to the budget.

We believe child care options should be given to parents, not to bureaucrats. We support a $3,000 per child deduction for families, allowing them to choose the best child care option for their children.

Regarding the national child benefit, the Liberals could give this benefit to low income families with one hand, then tax thousands of dollars with the other hand. If they are so concerned about Canada's working poor, why do the Liberals tax them so heavily? Heavy Liberal taxes are collected through rising CPP premiums, overcharges on EI and low income contingent GST credits.

Since the money is on the table for health care, now is the time for real reform to take place. The Canadian Alliance will hold the federal and provincial governments accountable to ensure that new health spending buys real change, not just more of the status quo.

The Liberals have already spent over $3 billion on Kyoto with no results to show for it. Simply throwing more money at it has led to Liberal waste and misuse. The Canadian Alliance supports targeted funding for new green technologies that will bring real environmental benefits.

A 40% reduction in the air tax is a good start but it will continue to discourage air travel in Canada. This tax should be eliminated, not reduced. That speaks for itself with the trouble in which our air industry is.

The government's move to increase RRSP limits to $18,000 by 2006, increase the small business deduction limit to $300,000, eliminate the capital tax over five years and lower the resource tax rate in line with the general corporate rate are positive steps except they are being implemented too slowly and fall short of what is actually needed.

Despite the good intentions the Liberal government has suggested in the budget, I remain opposed to it due to the government's terrible reputation for mismanagement and incompetence. How can Canadians place their trust in a free spending, non-responsible Liberal government when we know we will be paying for these actions for years to come?

In closing I want to mention that last Friday I was at the opening of a new library addition in the town of Coaldale in my riding. It was pointed out to me at that time that the federal government pointed citizens to libraries to use them for Internet access to fill out the gun registry, to do their income tax and to send in things like that. However there is little support from the federal government for libraries. I indicated that I would bring this to the attention of the government and that I would be do more in the future on that issue. This is one area that some of the money could have gone to improve the life of all Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to explain how women feel about February's budget.

The federal budget, we believe, does not respond to the needs and concerns of women. Furthermore, it is far from recognizing the fundamental connection between social policy and economic policy, despite what the Minister of Finance says.

This budget and this government have ignored women and will continue to do so.

In October 2000, during the World March of Women, women demanded that the federal government take steps to end poverty and violence. Three years later, these demands have not been taken into consideration, and nothing has been done to help women cope with the poverty they, in particular, face because they are more vulnerable.

Usually, poverty is measured in terms of income. However, poverty also results from other factors and from a lack of access to various resources.

Housing is the first such factor. It plays an extremely important structural role. A roof over one's head, safe adequate accommodation, a place to raise our kids and be self-employed is essential.

Currently, 25,000 low income households in Quebec are battling the shortage of rental units, and over 300,000 other households are grappling with unaffordable housing.

This situation would not exist if Ottawa had not unilaterally stopped all participation in the construction of social housing since 1994, and if it had invested in this area as women and Quebec organizations advocating for renters had asked.

Unfortunately, the federal government insists on investing in affordable housing for, apparently, young persons and self-sufficient seniors. Under the affordability and choice today program, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is granting home builders subsidies of up to $20,000 each to build this type of housing that will encourage urban areas to become more dense.

Since the owners set the rent, this type of housing has proven inaccessible to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society. As a result, homelessness is increasing, a problem now affecting women and their families on a longterm basis. At the same time, discrimination against those seeking housing is increasing.

If this government truly wants to support a socio-economic program, it must consider social housing as an investment that ensures a community's long-term interest, which this budget does not do.

Women also suffer a great deal from a lack of access to employment insurance benefits. Since women hold the majority of part time jobs, since their status is often precarious, since they make up the greatest share of the self-employed, and since these jobs do not allow them to accumulate the 600 hours required to qualify for parental leave, sick leave and maternity leave, women are often forced to turn to social assistance to meet their needs.

By making the rules of eligibility for employment insurance more flexible, this government could truly demonstrate that it recognizes the fundamental relationship between social and economic policy.

Women had called for “the surplus in the employment insurance fund to be used to increase benefit payments, extend the benefits period, increase access and improve maternity and parental leave”.

Also, women need true maternity or parental leave. Nothing in this budget mentions the federal government's intention to negotiate with Quebec to reach an agreement for the transfer of employment insurance premiums to Quebec so that it can create a parental insurance plan.

Quebec's parental insurance plan is a new income replacement program designed to replace and strengthen maternity leave and parental leave under the federal government's employment insurance program. With improved eligibility—because self-employed and seasonal workers would qualify—and greater benefits, such as an income replacement rate of up to 75%, women could have children under much better and easier conditions.

A fourth factor that causes poverty is that, right now, old age security does not provide enough to live reasonably. The majority of seniors are women who live alone.

The budget contains nothing in terms of tax measures or other measures for seniors. There are no increases for pensions or old age pensions. Yet, income levels for this segment of the population have been declining steadily. Since women make up more than half of this group, they are the ones, for the most part, that are paying the price.

Safety is also an issue. For many women and children, poverty is often directly linked to family violence. The women taking part in the World March demanded that the federal government allocate “$50 million to front-line, independent, feminist,women-controlled groups committed to ending violence against women, such aswomen’s centres, rape crisis centres and women’s shelters”.

Yet there is no mention of this in the 2003 budget. Judging by the statistics on this phenomenon, which show clearly that it is increasing, what conclusion can one reach about a federal government that has nothing to say about it.

Now for the six weeks of compassionate leave mentioned in the federal budget. Taking care of a disabled person or a person requiring long term care implies that women, who are generally the ones to assume these responsibilities, will quickly become more impoverished, because they have fewer hours available to work for pay.

As a result, any pretence that allowing six weeks of employment insurance on compassionate grounds to those looking after a sick parent, child or spouse will compensate for lost earnings is a kind of “magical thinking”. When people are on EI, they are not making money. On the contrary, they are losing it. On employment insurance people merely exist, period. One might well ask how much money the government makes from the role of natural caregiver.

In closing, I will touch on the fact that the government also announced in its budget a higher ceiling for RRSPs. Even at the present level of $13,500 for this year, I hardly need point out that there are very few women to whom this measure applies.

We could also discuss inadequate health measures. The response I will get is that improvements have been made to the national child benefit and access to child care. In actual fact, however, these actions are so tentative that they will have only minimal impact on women's struggle against poverty.

In Quebec, the Landry government has already put measures in place that meet women's needs, but it is hampered by the fiscal imbalance, which the federal government does not acknowledge.

If the money invested by the federal government in useless programs, in waste and in insufficient transfer payments could go to women, surely their living conditions would be improved.