House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.


Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to the issue of the budget implementation but I want to take a different approach to the issue. I want to talk about some of the things that were missing out of the budget. One of them in particular is some money to revise the whole justice system, the court system.

I want to speak to a particular issue that needed to be addressed across this land and I guess by giving one specific example it would help a great deal.

I want to tell members about a young girl by the name of Carley Regan. She was 13 years old when she was killed on January 6. She was run down by a driver who was actually under suspended licence. He should not even have been on the road.

Carley's parents, Barry and Lori, have gone through a living hell on this issue, in and out of courts. I can recall when we first went into court and met the crown counsel I specifically asked if, down the road, he would be plea bargaining anything without the family knowing about it. He specifically said there would be no plea bargaining in the case, that it was clearcut and so on. That kind of went by the way and then the court case started.

The individual who was driving while suspended was jailed for 14 months and had his licence suspended for 10 years.

Lo and behold, now the crown counsel has said that the big charge of dangerous driving has been dropped. This was the charge for which this fellow could have done some serious time. I am certain that plea bargaining took place because the crown had actually said that there was not have enough evidence.

This was a guy who admitted in the courtroom that he was at the scene. He admitted to driving while suspended. More important, the witnesses talked about the individual being at the scene of the crime and so on .

Once again we find in this system where justice is no justice at all. We see a fellow who has killed a 13 year old child and he receives a 14 month maximum sentence. That is basically one month for every year of Carley's young life. I find that not only disturbing but such an injustice. I know Barry, Lori and the rest of the family feel the same way. This is what happens time after time in this country.

I just do not know where this will all end but it is up to the government and to all politicians to come up with legislation to stop this carnage on the roads. We need to make sure there are mandatory sentences. We need to make sure people do not just walk into a court after killing somebody and then walk out with their driver's licence suspended and a very minor time in jail.

This whole issue of plea bargaining has to be revamped. More often than not victims are never told, as they were not in this case. They were just told the day before it was all announced. They were never told about the process that was going on behind closed doors. They were never told that their child's life was basically handled in the courtroom of injustice by a mere 14 months in jail for somebody who should never have been on the road in the first place.

I want to emphasize once again the seriousness of this situation which should have been addressed in the budget implementation by way of at least studying this whole issue.

I want to talk about Christopher Tubbs for just a minute. On October 11, 1999, my constituent, Christopher Tubbs, and his mother, Maureen, were hit by a driver who was speeding and ran a red light in one of the busiest intersections in Vancouver. Chris' mom was killed and he was seriously injured. The offender ran from the scene and was caught two months later speeding in yet another stolen vehicle. He had several prior criminal convictions. The carnage goes on and on without stopping.

Chris's comments are long and I will only repeat a couple of them. He said:

How can anyone call a crime of this nature criminal negligence? That sounds like a teenager out at night pulling a prank that went wrong and someone died. What happened to my mom and me was just plain having no regard for human life. With the speeds involved, running red lights, he was out to hurt someone.

I do not know what it is going to take to get the government to take a real indepth look at the problems involved on our roads and to get the judges and lawyers in our courtrooms to understand that what victims want is a modicum of justice. They do not want deals to be made. They do not want plea bargains to be made behind closed doors where the victims and their families do not know what is going on. They want to be involved. That is why I wrote the national victims bill of rights in the first place back in 1994. We received a little attention from the government, but the real problems are still going on.

The way to do this is to get it out of the government's hands because it just does not have the propensity to enact minimum sentences. It does not have the philosophical bent to charge and convict people who run down children when they should not be on the road in the first place. It is murder. It cannot be called an accident. People who drive on the road when they do not have a driver's licence or people who drive on the road under the influence of drugs or alcohol are individuals who are deliberately taking lives. That is murder and it has to be treated as such. We cannot continue in this country just to listen to the rhetoric in the courtrooms from lawyers who time and time again think more of the criminal than they do of the victim.

My sympathies go out to the family. It does not mean much from one politician or even the whole House of Commons when one loses their daughter. It is sad that we in the House of Commons have to watch time and time again young people losing their lives and families losing their loved ones, when all we in the opposition can do with a majority government is beg it to re-look at the laws of this nation and give victims their just due in the courtrooms of the country, and try to make our roads safer.

The idea that some lawyer or some judge said that the charge of dangerous driving was being dropped because there was not enough evidence when in fact that very person had been charged and had lost his licence for 10 years and had been jailed for 14 months for the same accident that occurred, yet crown counsel had the unmitigated gall to convince the rest of us out here that there was not enough evidence, I am ashamed of the system that we call a justice system. I have always thought that people deserved better than that.

More important, we have to remember this and try to do our best. I sincerely hope that Barry and Lori and the rest of the family go on, but I also hope that they will understand that things will change eventually when we move that government out.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first time I spoke in this budget debate, in February, I noted two facts about the budget before us.

The first was the impressive number of measures that stretched out over long periods of time; there was even one that lasted 10 years. We might mention the child tax benefit. A significant increase in the child tax benefit was announced, but this significant increase will not actually be complete until the end of 2007.

An impressive number of measures have been stretched out, so many that we could say it is a budget of illusions. In fact, any new Minister of Finance, any new Prime Minister, could come in tomorrow morning and modify the budget, change it, erase everything that was proposed, and start over again. In fact, the budget before us appears totally impossible to implement, given the circumstances, knowing there is a leadership race, knowing there will be a new Prime Minister, and also knowing that the budget will not match the orientation of the new Prime Minister. We can forget the budget as it stands.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

An hon. member

That is nonsense.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

5:50 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Someone says it is nonsense.

The second element I want to emphasize—and after this, I will analyze the budget—is that there is absolutely nothing in it for regional development. Since 1993, this government has made huge cuts to services to regions, in all sectors.

We must also remember that the cuts announced in successive budgets over the years are still in effect. What is more, the current Minister of Finance announced new measures and asked for an additional effort by the departments, asking them to continue making cuts in their budgets.

I have a very good example. This very day, a television production company in my riding of Matapédia—Matane, Les Productions Vic Pelletier, risks watching a large part of its production disappear in the next year, because of the $25 million cut in the Canadian television fund, announced by the Minister of Finance.

To quote just one of the actors, Robert Tremblay—whose work is well known in Quebec and whose shows are very interesting—said simply the following, “All the work done in the regions in a highly competitive field is being threatened”. He is referring to the fact that a television production company in Matane is fighting for its life, due to the funding cuts announced in this budget.

In general, this budget was seen as one that threw money all over the place but that, for regions such as ours, lacked heart.

In the past few days and in the past two weeks, there have been two serious and successive crises in regions such as the Gaspé, the riding of Matapédia—Matane, or Haute-Gaspésie, and the south, in the Avignon region, the riding of Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, as well as in all the provinces in eastern Canada.

There have been two serious crises. The first is the moratorium on cod. This moratorium speaks to the federal government's management of this resource over the past 30 or 40 years. This, because we stopped investing. We did not invest enough in research, especially to better understand the resource.

Last week, during our tour of the Maritimes, I met a researcher for Fisheries and Oceans who came to talk to us about budget cuts at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Today I would like to share with the House the image he gave me. He told me, “Today, when I think of what we know about the resource, I feel like a blind person driving a car in a white-out on a night that is pitch black”. He added: “The investments that have been taken away from us, the cuts for research at Fisheries and Oceans, have left us with insufficient knowledge of what is going on in the fisheries”.

The subject we were discussing at that time was crab, because that is what he specializes in. Imagine, then, what it is like in the groundfish or cod sector, or in the sectors where fisheries are affected. Since 1993 there have been drastic budget cuts at Fisheries and Oceans, and in particular at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography or the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, both of which are very important to us. Budgets have been frozen. Taking just the increase in the cost of living into consideration, this means a significant loss in terms of budget.

We have seen the problem of the crabbers. But who is paying for crab research? The crab fishers themselves, because Fisheries and Oceans has quit investing. The minister says, “Send me a cheque and then we'll investigate. If the crabbers do not send in money, there will be no research. That is more or less what the problem is. There will be so little funding that researchers will not succeed in learning enough about the resource.

There is one other element missing from the budget. Of course, it did reduce part of the airport security tax. But when there is no air service left in a region, this means nothing to us any more. Where investment should have gone was into air transportation, so that a proper system could be developed in our regions. Then there is the matter of the railways as well as the whole issue of employment insurance.

As for EI, I would like to touch on it again, because we are talking about the budget and we have also been talking about the $45 billion that have been pilfered from the EI fund. What is the government doing now for people who are having trouble making ends meet, workers and plant workers—most of them are women—who are affected by the moratorium on the Lower North Shore and the fishers throughout the Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands and across the maritime provinces? What is the government telling them? “We do not have the money needed to help you. We have already spent all the money we took from the EI fund. It either went to paying down the debt or we created new programs with it that interfere in the provinces' jurisdictions”. The government is telling these people that it cannot help them. It is telling the provinces that it is up to them to help these people.

Following a statement by the federal government saying, “We have invested; we sent $600 million to Quebec for manpower training”, Quebec's new minister responsible for the Lower Saint Lawrence and the North Shore, Mr. Béchard, answered back, “Yes, but we are short $200 million”.

Where is the $200 million which the federal government was supposed to transfer to Quebec for manpower training and other things? We could ask the same question New Brunswick did last week. Both the Government of New Brunswick and the Government of Newfoundland are demanding the same thing.

As to the programs that have been announced, especially in manpower training, we know very well that the provincial governments have their hands tied. They can spend that money on training only. How could we train the fish plant workers in two, three or four weeks, when they do not need training at this time, actually? What they need is a real form of assistance, a real assistance plan. What this government is providing now is not an assistance plan.

To conclude, this whole budget is a complete intrusion into provincial jurisdictions, and it misses its target in many ways. On top of that, its measures are spread out over a long period of time. Should we get a new Minister of Finance and a new Prime Minister, this budget would disappear completely.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was a pleasure to speak about this.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

6 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the budget implementation debate. I will do something that is unusual in two ways. First, I will talk about budget implementation, and second, I will talk about a tax measure which is unusual for me. It is something that I should do more often.

I understand that our taxation system is critical to productivity and creativity in the country. I tend to talk about other things. I would like to talk about report stage Motions Nos. 18 and 19 that deal with the federal capital tax. It is not the sort of thing that I would normally deal with, but these report stage motions propose to delete clauses 85 and 86 of Bill C-28. The two motions deal with the federal capital tax in different ways, but they are both in fact linked so I will talk about the two of them together.

Unlike income taxes which are paid when a corporation has taxable income, capital taxes must be paid even where a corporation has not been profitable. This is important because even people who are anti-business recognize that small and medium sized businesses are basic to our society, and in reasonable periods of time these businesses must be profitable.

Capital taxes, which are paid even when the business is not profitable, have been identified as a significant impediment to investment in Canada. That is a significant thing because we do need to attract business. A country of our size, although we are prosperous and wealthy, needs investment from outside the country.

The federal capital tax was introduced in 1989 as part I.3 of the Income Tax Act. The tax has been levied annually at a rate of .225% of a corporation's taxable capital employed in Canada in excess of a $10 million capital deduction. A corporation's taxable capital is generally described as the total of its shareholders' equity, surpluses and reserves, as well as loans and advances to the corporation, less certain types of investments in other corporations.

A corporation's federal income tax surtax, 1.12% of taxable income, is deductible against the corporation's capital tax liability. That is very clear and my colleague from Quebec understands that much better than I do.

In order to promote investment, the 2003 budget proposed to eliminate the federal capital tax over a period of seven years but beginning January 1, 2004. Clauses 85 and 86 of Bill C-28 would implement this proposal by increasing the threshold for application of the federal capital tax from $10 million to $50 million of capital for taxation years ending after 2003 and by reducing the rate of tax over the period 2004 to 2010.

Under the bill the federal capital tax liability would be eliminated for almost 5,000 medium-sized corporations in 2004. The federal capital tax would be fully eliminated by 2010. Report stage Motions Nos. 18 and 19, if adopted, would deny the benefits of these changes to Canadian businesses and would harm Canada's economy. Therefore, I will not be supporting report stage Motions Nos. 18 and 19.

There is an aspect of the budget I would also like to mention that is tiny in one sense and has not received a great deal of play. In the whole order of things, the billions of dollars we deal with and so on, it does not seem to be that much, and it is the palliative tax credit. This is the fact that at last, and I regret it is only in a very small way, people who give up work to look after a close relative who is dying will in fact get EI support, will get benefits from the system.

As a beginning, and I hope that it is just a beginning for this palliative care program, it is for four weeks. It may not sound like much, but people could take it and look after the person who is needing palliative care for four straight weeks. Or on the other hand, as I understand it, they could take a week at a certain point in the illness of the person and then go back to work and the person could be looked after by another relative and then they could take another week and a break and then another week and so on. In total, any way that they do it, I think it has to be a minimum of a week. It cannot be done a day at a time and I can understand that even though there might be some benefits from that particular approach.

I have to say that after many years of lobbying by some members, and by the way, members on both sides of the House, this is now in. Palliative care is a term which only a few years ago people watching this would not have recognized, but now in all of our communities there are groups and institutions devoted to the proper and appropriate care of people who are dying. Sometimes it is literally a bricks and mortar institution, a hospice, into which the sick person can move. Other times, as in the case of Hospice Peterborough in my riding, it is teams of people who work with the family and the dying person in their own homes. They will work around the clock if necessary, providing whatever care is necessary, ranging from counselling to the family to simply sitting with the family or with the sick person.

It is not a coincidence that this type of wonderful activity in our communities has arisen at the present time, because as we know our population is aging. There are great benefits to that. Years ago people used to die when they were 30 and 40. They were cut off in their prime from illnesses or overwork and their children would be deprived of them early in life.

Now people live to a much greater age, an extraordinarily greater age. This winter I have been to five birthday parties for people who were a hundred years old, in each case a woman. At these parties, the 100 year old person was not only present but was actively involved in the organization and what went on at those birthday parties. If I, as one MP, have been able to go to five in my riding, we can imagine how many more 100th birthdays there have been in my riding. Since I was elected nine and half years ago, I have sent greetings to over 200 people who were 100 or more. And you and I should know, Mr. Speaker, that all but one were female. Mine is but one riding of 301 ridings in the country, so that gives us an idea of how aging is affecting the pyramid. At the top of our age pyramid there are more and more people who, with their families, may not always but are most likely to need palliative care.

That is why I was particularly pleased that this time we started with this four weeks of palliative leave. I hope that future budgets and future people debating budget implementation will see a strengthening of that type of support for people looking after those who are dying and their families in this period in our history when our population is aging.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

6:10 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time you give me the opportunity to speak to the budget. You will remember that the first time I spoke, I kept to my own subject area, the budget provisions pertaining to better living conditions for women. At that time, I had said that this federal budget did not meet the needs or ease the concerns of women, and that, contrary to what the minister claimed, it did not recognize the fundamental link between social policy and economic policy.

For that first speech, I had to make a choice because I thought, probably in a naive way, that this budget would be reworked and amended until it really did meet people's needs. However, we must now admit that there are 19 amendments standing on the Order Paper and that the issue is still not settled.

Several of those amendments affect me and my constituents, particularly the school boards. For example, the Mille-Îles school board is now doing all it can in order to have a certain right recognized. I will come back to that later on. Besides that, the microbreweries also have to struggle very hard to keep afloat. There are many other amendments, and they relate to the whole budget.

I have to say that this budget is disappointing, I will, however, try to express some of the ideas brought forward by my colleagues from all parties. The budget really illustrates the size of the fiscal imbalance. If we had to remember one thing about the 2003 budget, it would be the fact that the federal government has a lot of money but that it iss not giving much to the provinces, while we all know that most of the needs are in the provinces.

The money is often dedicated to the wrong priorities. The money in the surplus is being spent in a number of areas of jurisdiction belonging to Quebec and the provinces. We all know that the federal government does not hesitate to create new agencies duplicating what is being done in the provinces. Education, health and childhood are good examples of that.

I am coming back to the forgotten ones. There are of course the women and the elderly, but there are also the self-employed workers, the unemployed and all those workers paying employment insurance premiums. It is well known that the people of Quebec and in the regions are seriously affected by the difficulty in getting access to EI benefits

Since most part-time workers are women and these other people, that their status is often uncertain, that they are often self-employed and that these jobs do not allow them to accumulate the 600 hours of work required to be eligible for maternity benefits, parental benefits or sickness benefits, women, amongst others, often have to rely on social assistance to meet their needs.

Relaxing the eligibility criteria of the employment insurance program would have demonstrated that the government recognizes the fundamental link between social and economic policies. Besides, women have asked their MPs, their representatives, that the EI fund surpluses be used to increase benefits, to extend the benefit period, to make the system more accessible and to improve maternity and parental leave. Unfortunately, there are no such measures in the budget. None of those changes have been made.

I could also talk about the ceiling on RRSP contributions. The government announced an increase on the limit for RRSPs, and even at the current $13,500, it is not something women can take advantage of. So, this change was discussed but not accepted.

I mentioned school boards earlier. In clause 64, the members of the Bloc Quebecois would like any reference to retroactivity removed. In his budget, the Minister of Finance announced his intention to amend retroactively those provisions of the Excise Tax Act dealing with school bus transportation. Through this retroactive measure, the minister will be able to set a new contribution for school boards, in spite of all the decisions handed down by the courts after December 21, 2001.

The purpose of this measure is clearly to strike down decisions in favour of the school boards with regard to a refund of the GST paid on school bus transportation. This retroactive measure is a very serious affront to the rule of law and the authority of a final judgment, which is probably unprecedented in the Canadian parliamentary system.

Let me remind hon. members that, in October 2001, 29 school boards in Quebec won their case before the Federal Court of Canada, which recognized school bus transportation as a commercial activity entitling them to a full refund of the GST. The Commission scolaire des Milles-Îles was one of these school boards. Under the court decision, Ottawa was to refund the overpayment on the GST, which amounts to approximately $8 million.

After many developments of a technical nature, last January, the matter ended up before the Tax Court of Canada, where the federal government did accept, in a settlement, to comply with the trial judgment, provided that the school boards withdrew their appeals to the Federal Court of Appeal. The federal government agreed to apply the judgment to Ontario school boards, whose case was pending. So, there was a setllement.

The budget brought down a few weeks later completely reversed this commitment by the federal government.

This is why the Commission scolaire des Milles-Îles and the other school boards are asking that the rights they had before December 21, 2001, which they protected by filing their claims with the Tax Court of Canada before that date and for which they received a successful final decision before the February 2003 budget, be restored and respected.

There are other elements that I want to talk about. They are the measures that were announced to respond to provincial health needs, and they are inadequate. When we debated the motion this morning to recriminalize abortion or to ask the Standing Committee on Health to study the issue of abortion once again, the women who sit in the House tried to drive the point home to our colleagues who introduced the motion that, if there were more funds for health care and if there were more funds to help mothers, children and families, we might not have had to discuss this motion on abortion.

I think that this budget is also disappointing with regard to housing. It was not taken into consideration in the 19 recommendations. Nor were the six weeks of compassionate leave. What are we going to do with these six weeks of employment insurance when a person has terminal cancer? We must provide more, sometimes three or six months, or even a year.

I will conclude by saying that this budget is disappointing. We did not win. We are not being heard at the Standing Committee on Finance. This is why the Bloc Quebecois will vote against this bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Manicouagan has seven minutes left before the end of government orders for today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

6:20 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, will I have the other three minutes tomorrow?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Of course you will.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

6:20 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The amendment moved by my colleague reads as follows:

That Bill C-28 be amended by deleting Clause 64.

With this amendment, we want to eliminate the retroactive aspect of this provision, which deals with the GST rebate for transportation services provided by Quebec and Ontario school boards and which would have the effect of retroactively striking down decisions handed down by the courts in favour of the school boards, not to mention that the federal government is also reneging on commitments made previously.

With this kind of attitude, the federal government is not complying with these decisions and not honouring its commitments. It is going way too far in acting this way, and it is not the only time it has done so. What about the historic surplus in the employment insurance fund, and the fiscal imbalance, where Quebec and the provinces are feeling the consequences of questionable management decisions. The House must show transparency.

For the 2003-04 fiscal year alone, the budget announces a record increase of 11.5% in spending, which will go up by $25.3 billion in 2002-03 and 2004-05. If there is one thing that stands out in the 2003 budget, it is the fact that the federal government has a lot of money at its disposal, compared to it needs. It is raking in the money, and piling up surpluses. It is collecting way too much tax.

Despite an 11% increase in spending—which is enormous—the Bloc Quebecois estimates that Ottawa will have a massive surplus of $14.7 billion over the next two years. This illustrates the size of the fiscal imbalance. Most of the provinces, on the other hand, will have deficits.

Is there anyone who still believes that the federal debt is higher than that of the provinces? From the way the Minister of Finance has decided to loosen the purse strings, he is sending a clear message: there is money; there will be more.

But how can anyone dare to spend public money this way? How can the fiscal imbalance still be denied? We asked the federal government to transfer additional fiscal capacity to the Government of Quebec and the provincial governments, so that they could intervene where needs are greatest. We asked for a tax point transfer, or additional fiscal capacity, of $4.5 billion in 2002-03 and $5 billion in 2003-04. The various measures in the 2003 budget will have no effect on reducing the financial pressure that is smothering the provinces. On the contrary, in the health sector, expenses are increasing faster than provincial sources of revenue, and part of that revenue comes in the form of transfer payments from the federal government to the provinces.

Quebec would have to have a surplus of $1.6 billion in order to provide services. Now, after the argument has been repeatedly made, despite the huge accumulated surplus, Ottawa gives Quebec a meagre $800 million. This proves that health is not a priority of the federal government. The figures speak for themselves. The federal government has announced an investment of $6 billion over three years, while it is hoarding a $30 billion surplus.

The first ministers asked that federal transfer payments for health be increased by 1% per year, until a 25% partnership level was attained, by the end of this decade. So, what happened to this realistic suggestion? Health is in the provincial jurisdiction. One day, the Liberals must understand and transfer the necessary funds the provinces are demanding.

The employment insurance situation is the best example of frustration one can find. Unions and employers are utterly frustrated with this diversion of the money in the EI fund. They support the Bloc Quebecois demand that this fund become a separate fund, so that the federal government will stop raiding it and contributors will set the contribution rates themselves.

The Bloc Quebecois was hoping the Government of Canada would create a separate fund before a new Prime Minister took up office. But, lo and behold, there will be a new round of consultations while billions continue to accumulate in the fund. Back in 1989, 93% of workers were entitled to EI benefits. We are down to 40%. It is unbelievable. Instead of lowering the premiums, the government should improve the plan so that 90% of workers qualify for benefits.

The unions and citizens' groups are in as good a position as you are to assess the needs. Why not listen to them? Your tendency to control everything is shocking.

What about the infrastructure program? The Bloc Quebecois has asked for the release of the money needed for the infrastructures that are necessary in Quebec. We asked for a substantial and long-term commitment. The increase in infrastructure spending is inadequate. On top of that, the government is in no hurry to transfer the money.

The Bloc Quebecois is asking for a massive reinvestment. There are still some communities in this country without roads and some of them are in my riding. In the easternmost region of my riding, from Kegaska to Blanc-Sablon, there is a 400-km stretch without roads. We know that region because it was hard hit by the fishery crisis. Of the additional three billion dollars announced in this budget, only 100 million dollars were allocated for the 2003-04 financial year.

That amount is totally inadequate given the huge needs; the health sector in Quebec should receive at least a fair share of the investment for 2003-04, and that means at least 300 million dollars more. After the next two financial years, of the three billion dollar total, only 250 million dollars will have been invested. Does the government not agree with Quebec and the other provinces that those infrastructures are badly needed?

We also ask that Quebec be in charge of all projects and resource allocation.

Since the period set aside for Government Orders is over, I will finish my speech tomorrow.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I regret to announce that I am very unsatisfied with the answers that were given to me by the fisheries and oceans minister. I have been told the same thing over and over since April 8, and the answer never applies to my riding. In other words, there is never a solution for my riding.

As a member of Parliament, I have the right to get clear and precise answers from the government. On April 8, not only did the fisheries and oceans minister not answer my question, but he questioned the needs of the people of my riding, particularly the people of the Lower North Shore, for whom I have been requesting assistance since December 11, 2002.

We burned nothing down. The citizens of my riding tried, by civilized means, to get their point across. To no avail. Today, 75 fishers are occupying the offices of MAPAQ and of Canada Economic Development. Must we destroy something to get the government's attention? I think it is time for the government to wake up.

I have been saying this for weeks. I am asking for an exclusive quota of seals for the fishers because they have no other expected source of revenue.

The moratorium on crab and on cod penalizes them twice over. Since the last fishery crisis, they have been encouraged to convert their fleet to snow crab fishing. This was only two years ago. And now, after we have pushed them to convert their boats into a crab fishing fleet, the government completely bans crab fishing. This is complete nonsense.

They keep talking about the $14 million for Quebec. However, it does not apply to the Lower North Shore. This area has been completely ignored.

To receive EI benefits, fishermen have to prove cod catches of at least 25%. They do not catch any cod. We are told that there is no more. They do not catch cod anymore. There is a full moratorium on cod and a full moratorium on crab. There are no measures for the zone allocated to them. It is very clear. None whatsoever.

Does the Secretary of State responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec realize this? I ask that the quotas formerly granted to the crab fishers in zone 16A be extended for one year until the studies separating zones 16A and 16B are completed.

If access to zone 16A, one of the best zones for snow crab fishing, were allowed this year, this would save the 43 businesses on Quebec's Lower North Shore. If an exclusive and specific regional quota for seals were set over several years, this would enable the stakeholders interested in the economic development of the region to work on a recovery project based on the plan submitted on April 1. The developers could work on the implementation of a first, second and third processing plant. Clearly, a guaranteed supply is needed.

The proposals are realistic, objective and fair. Is this approach not better than inadequate employment insurance benefits? Is it not better than going through the same thing all over next year?

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and his department are actingin bad faith on this issue. The seal skin processing project was brought to his attention in an e-mail dated February 14. Yet, in his answer in the House, on May 1, and I conclude by quoting his own words, the minister said:

These quotas are being apportioned within the various regions through regional discussions.

Then, on May 8, at a meeting, the minister assured me that there was a quota and that he was keen in seeing this business plan succeed. However, it will not work with half-measures.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

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


Georges Farrah LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for raising this question today. This is, in fact, a question of the utmost importance and great urgency; obviously, I am well aware of the current situation affecting the Lower North Shore.

Along the Lower North Shore, communities are small and isolated, which increases the economic difficulties they are experiencing. These people depend on fishing for everything and, consequently, with everything that is happening with the fisheries, their suffering is understandable. So it is very appropriate that the hon. member raise this question in the House.

Unfortunately, we have the situation along the Lower North Shore, particularly in zone 13 with regard to crab, as well as cod. The minister decided a few weeks ago to impose a moratorium on cod, although, if I am not mistaken, most fishers in this region are after crab and not cod, although a few are. So, this region is in zone 13 and there is no crab fishing this year, since the biomass did not allow the department to develop a fishing plan; this would have endangered the resource.

There is also another factor, related to cod fishing. The moratorium has effectively prevented cod fishing and groundfishing.

So, obviously these decisions were not made lightly. The hon. member will doubtless agree. This is an unusual situation and that is why we are working to develop a plan to help the Lower North Shore.

The member has just referred to Economic Development Canada, and the fact that the $14 million project might not necessarily apply, since there are not many cod fishers left. So the fishers that are the victims of the zone 13 closure for crab will not benefit, because this only applied to cod

Even there—and I do not know whether the secretary of state has indicated this—we are working to integrate these communities into the project, given the urgency of the situation.

In the days to come, the minister will be in a position to announce other fisheries plans, and we trust that these will be able to include something for the people of the Lower North Shore. I can assure the hon. member that, at my humble level, I am bringing all possible pressure to bear in order to see that the Lower North Shore is eligible to be included in any future fisheries plans, so that these fishers will have access to at least a minimal resource.

However, the hon. member has also mentioned the seal catch. The minister has demonstrated some openness when it comes to raising the seal hunt quota in this region. Looking at the traditional takes on the Lower North Shore, we can see that they have been at more or less the same level for the past few years. If fishers could have more access to seal, and be better equipped for this type of hunt, there is no doubt that the department is fully prepared to offer supplementary seal hunt quotas, among other things, in order to give these fishers access to a resource that is in abundance and not the object of any moratorium.

All this to say that we are very much aware of the situation and of its urgency, so I want the hon. member to know that we are putting everything we can into the balance to ensure that there is some good news to announce within the next few days. We know that the situation is urgent.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not enough to be aware of the situation and of its urgency. The time has come to act.

This is a very real problem. The company is ready to hire 50 people for seal processing. For that, it must be guaranteed at least 35,000 seals. Therefore, it is waiting for an answer. Even though the seal quota has been raised to 350,000, it is useless for the Lower North Shore. With the unprecedented quantities of ice we had last winter, it was impossible for the boats to go out. On a first-come, first-served basis, when the Lower North Shore fishers are able to hunt, there will be no more seals. The quota will have been reached.

The situation is simple. A proponent is ready and is waiting for an answer. The minister says one thing to me and the public servants say something else. The minister is completely overwhelmed. I call on the Prime Minister to take steps. The situation is urgent. Now is the time to act.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Georges Farrah Liberal Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think we agree on one thing: it is urgent that we take action. As the member mentioned, the problem with respect to the seals is not that the people of the Lower North Shore do not have access to them—we already have a quota and they can use it—but they have a hard time getting to the seals, given the ice conditions this year. Whatever the situation might be, if these people cannot go hunting, even if we keep a quota for them, will they be able to get to the seals with the condition of the ice this year?

All this to say that there is a possibility. We are looking at the regional level, at the Quebec level. As the member said, he talked with government officials. In Quebec, we will try to arrange for a specific quota to be authorized and allocated specifically for the Lower North Shore. If we can achieve that, we will gladly do so, given the urgency of the situation and the potential for economic development based on this resource for the people of the Lower North Shore.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, on May 7, I put a question to the human resources development minister about the crab crisis. My question read as follows:

My question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. More than 1,800 plant workers have been affected by this crisis and find themselves without work. There is a $44 billion surplus in the EI fund. What plan of action has the minister come up with to help the provinces affected, like New Brunswick and Quebec, to compensate workers for loss of income?

And this is what the minister answered:

—it is because the employment insurance fund is in such good shape that the benefits will be there, not only for fishers but fish plant workers. I would remind the hon. member that every year the Government of Canada transfers $90 million to the jurisdiction of New Brunswick so that it can deal with issues precisely like this one.

Last week, I asked the same question in the House and the member for Beauce, who is the Secretary of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, said clearly that there was no more money left in the EI fund, that it had all been spent.

Here, the minister is telling us that the fund has so much money that the government can provide benefits not only to fishers, but also to plant workers. In her response, the minister mentioned $90 million that was given to New Brunswick. Later, we will be able to read that more than $600 million was given to Quebec for labour market training and for cases such as this.

Let me give an example of the problem we are dealing with. On Friday, I confronted New Brunswick's labour minister and said to him, “The federal government is giving you $90 million. What is that about?” He answered, “No, the $90 million agreement is for long-term training. The agreement contains a clause that says that we cannot use this money for emergencies like this. This money must be used for training programs”. Quebec has said the same thing, that it cannot use this money.

So, there are two versions. I can understand what the province is saying, that the $90 million was given specially, because it was calculated. The federal government said, “We need to give you $90 million to train all these people”. Then, there is a crisis all of a sudden, and the federal government says, “Use the $90 million”. However, if money is taken from that amount, if Quebec dips into its $600 million that was provided for a specific program, then the people who were supposed to get training will not have the money, because it will have been used to solve the current crisis.

Can the minister tell me if the federal government—given that the fishery problem and the quotas come from the federal government—is able to help the provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec and give additional money in response to the crisis? Those who are suffering are plant workers who had nothing to do with this. They are the victims.

I would like to have more information on the program. I would also like to know how they see the program, because in New Brunswick, the labour minister said the opposite of what the Minister of Human Resources Development is saying.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec


Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I simply want to tell my colleague that the Government of Canada is very concerned with the situation, particularly with the crisis that New Brunswickers are currently going through.

It is very sad to see workers who depend on a resource that is being depleted faced with such a situation. We cannot sit idly by. We must get involved and this is what the Government of Canada is currently doing.

For example, my colleague mentioned that $91 million is being transferred from Human Resources Development Canada to New Brunswick, as well as $600 million to Quebec. This is for manpower training programs, but there is some leeway in these programs. There are even programs in Quebec where some people can also receive benefits during the training period. So there is some leeway in this regard. But this does not solve the problem.

Despite this, on top of this $91 million that is under the responsibility of the New Brunswick government, Human Resources Development Canada is still involved with other partners. We are constantly in contact with people in the field.

Local committees were established in 2000, four of them in Quebec and one in New Brunswick. HRDC implemented various projects in order to help seasonal workers in New Brunswick. We provided $360,000 for the creation of two service centres, in order to help seasonal workers in New Brunswick find a job during the off season. We are trying to do something in that regard.

Since the creation of those two service centres for seasonal workers, 421 people have joined the program in the northwestern part of New Brunswick. Of those people, 219 were able to find additional work, either part-time or full-time jobs. Some 219 jobs were filled that way. Of those 219 workers who got help, 123 were helped directly and 96 indirectly through heightened awareness of employers.

This simply shows that even if we have a program like employment insurance, we are trying to find ways to help regions with seasonal workers during off seasons. However, this does not solve a crisis, and I believe we are all aware of that.

We even brought in changes to employment insurance in order to fill the needs of seasonal workers. Thus, we eliminated the intensity rule, and that benefited frequent users of the system, many of them seasonal workers. My colleague from Gaspésie, Mr. Farrah, did some extensive work on that issue in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

Workers are in a precarious situation, but HRDC is working every day to support these people and find a solution.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I would like to remind hon. members that they are not allowed to refer to members by name, but only by title or riding.

The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst has one minute to answer.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

May 12th, 2003 / 6:45 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to hear from the Liberal member that the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok had worked on the committee studying the employment insurance program.

We must remember that the bill we worked on after the 2000 election is identical to Bill C-44, which existed before the election, that is before the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok was elected.

For our listeners, there is nothing new in Bill C-2 regarding employment insurance. It is the same bill. The member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok said, “I am making a heartfelt appeal to the minister to change the EI Plan”. Nothing has changed since he was elected and they are talking about his alleged performance on the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

The question I asked last week had to do with the crisis situation. I agree with the member that the government has given $90 millions to New Brunswick, but it also reduced employment insurance by $278 million a year. My question is this: What will the government do in a crisis? That is the question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I should say first that there is no such thing as a surplus in the EI fund. Some say there is, but there is not. In the past, with the plan put in place by the Progressive Conservative Party, there were deficits year after year, and they were covered by the consolidated fund.

There has been a new plan since 1994. There were a few years of deficits, but we now have years with a surplus which can be used to lower the contribution rates.

In 1997, for example, the provinces took charge of the design and implementation of the programs I mentioned earlier. They can target these programs to address various problems. They can have programs providing targeted salary subsidies, targeted income supplements, measures to help self-employed workers, and job creation partnerships.

What we need is action to address current problems, but also to prepare the manpower on an ongoing basis so we do not experience the same problems again. These are human problems that are hard on families.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1)

(The House adjourned at 6:52 p.m.)