House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 81, it is my duty to inform the House of the motion to be addressed Monday, May 26, during consideration of the business of supply.

It reads:

That this House, acknowledging that health issues transcend political borders as seen with the recent outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, express its support for the admission of Taiwan as an Observer to the World Health Organization and call upon the government to actively urge other member states and non-governmental organizations to support this goal.

This motion standing in the name of the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia is votable. Copies of the motion are available at the table.

The House resumed from May 14, 2003 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 for the third time and passed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:05 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the most recent budget brought down by the Minister of Finance.

There would be a lot to say about this last budget, but I will try, in the next 20 minutes, to stick to the basics and to the most fundamental aspects of the Minister of Finance's presentation.

First, let me tell the House that, since 1994, every year, before the budget is brought down, the Bloc Quebecois holds some consultations with the Quebec people to complement the ones made by the Standing Committee on Finance, to determine exactly the needs and the priorities of Quebeckers in the budget, in addition to those of Canadians.

Until now, we have not been very mistaken on the priorities given to some budget items, but that the government has not been able to follow up on in the many successive budgets since 1994. I will get back to those priorities for Quebeckers and Canadians.

In addition, let me point out a certain exercise the Bloc Quebecois has been engaging in twice a year since 1995. It involves a very sophisticated device, but one which has become very familiar to most taxpayers, namely a calculator, a little pocket calculator on special this week or $3.95 at Jean Coutu. Taking the figures for government revenues and expenditures—in the first quarter, for example—we simply extrapolate, using the rates of growth provided by the major financial institutions. This could be the Mouvement Desjardins, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank or Wood Gundy—any of the outfits who deal with economic growth.

So, we simply extrapolate with certain adjustments that come from our observation of the trends in budgetary revenues and expenditures year after year. As for the state of public finances, in calculating the budgetary surplus—something the former Finance Minister and potential successor to the current Prime Minister made forecasting errors about, in the size of the surplus and deficit, at the beginning, of around 200% per year, on the average—we have every reason to be proud, because our forecasting errors are around 3 to 4%, which is the margin of error one usually expects when making this type of forecast.

And yet, it was the $3.98 pocket calculator and a few connections, especially in the major financial institutions, that enabled us to get these results. I am always shocked to see the forecasts and results from the Minister of Finance, year after year. He must be doing this on purpose, presenting us with such fantastical figures as those he has been dealing in since 1995.

It began with the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard as finance minister and continues with the current finance minister, who is also hoping to become Prime Minister. I wonder whether or not being able to count is a prerequisite to standing for election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, that is as a potential Prime Minister. Moreover, the first sizeable deficit leading to debts that accumulated year after year within the federal public service was created by the current Prime Minister, who was once, himself, Minister of Finance. It makes one believe that history repeats itself with all these successions, that is, succession as finance minster and succession as Prime Minister, too.

The same thing happened again this year. My colleague, the member for Joliette, who still uses the pocket calculator bought at Jean Coutu for $3.98, was right on in estimating that the surplus for the 2002-03 fiscal year would be somewhere around $10 billion. It so happens that we have just been told that, indeed, the surplus for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, would be just over $10 billion.

When my colleague took over as finance critic, I gave him the pocket calculator, and it is still working just fine. We have been using the same $3.98 pocket calculator since 1995.

How can we obtain such accurate results when, just a few months ago, the Minister of Finance was telling us that the surplus for the previous fiscal year would be around $3.5 billion or $4 billion? He was wrong again. It is not $3.5 billion or $4 billion, but $10 billion, just as we had predicted.

What does that do? What it does is that the government, which should be addressing the real priorities of Quebeckers and Canadians, is not meeting these priorities, claiming as an excuse that it does not have the money to do so. That is what we are seeing year after year.

Since memory is not infallible, when the Minister of Finance opens his mouth and says that we must be careful because the surplus will not exceed $2 billion, $3 billion or $4 billion, people believe that they do indeed have to be careful. We are always afraid of going back into a deficit, and rightfully so.

If anyone is being responsible about the management of public funds, it is the Bloc Quebecois. It is the only party that told the former Minister of Finance, some five years ago, it would support anti-deficit legislation, balanced budget legislation, requiring him to be accountable. It is a matter of being accountable for the aboriginals. It would perhaps be a good idea to include the management of public accounts too. The system is far from being as transparent and as accountable as we are being told.

The Bloc Quebecois is responsible with regard to the management of public funds. But being responsible does not mean accumulating astronomical surpluses. Does the House know what an astronomical surplus is? It means that the federal government is taking more money from taxpayers than it needs to face its challenges and administer its programs.

This is serious, because people are overtaxed, particularly in terms of federal tax. I have often compared federal taxation to Quebec's taxation system and Ontario's, for example. We could also talk about Nova Scotia's tax system. The Bloc did a comparative analysis of all these income tax systems. As a result, we see that Quebec taxpayers, like those in the rest of Canada, start paying federal income tax when their income exceeds $12,000 or $13,000. The poverty line is nearly three times as high. There is no provincial income tax for those earning less than $12,000 or $13,000. Yet, taxpayers do pay federal income taxon such amounts.

For example, a family of four would pay no provincialincome tax on earnings under approximately $23,000 or $24,000, but this is the base amount for families to start paying federal income tax. Under Quebec's income tax system, this same family of four would start paying income tax only on earnings over $43,000. That is a huge difference.

Does this mean that the federal government is taking too much tax money from a middle income family of two adults and two children? It should not be taking as much, particularly from a family like that with an income of $23,000. It makes no sense.

The federal government is amassing huge surpluses. It is a matter of billions, whereas the forecast was—how convenient—a maximum of $4 billion. It is the same every year. Does this also mean that what the Minister of Finance has been doing to the employment insurance fund—theft, pure and simple—with the federal government's blessing, every year for the past six years, is unjustified? Mosat definitely, because this is theft, since the federal government does not contribute a cent to that fund. The money in it comes from the workers and the employers, who pay into it in order to insure those who had the misfortune to lose their job, not in order to line the pockets of the Minister of Finance.

Does this mean that there is not only no ethical justification, but probably no legal justification as well. The CSN has a case before the courts at the present time. Does this mean that not only is it unjustified on these bases but also unjustified on the very basis of the federal government's arguments, which are that we would be running a deficit again if not for the surplus? That is not true.

With a $10 billion surplus, the government would not have needed to steal this year's forecast surplus of $4 billion from the employment insurance fund. It also means that more than only 39% of EI applicants could have qualified for benefits. That figure is quite low. It means that 61% of applicants who have lost their jobs or who are in regions with seasonal employment and who have to cope with the infamous gap could have collected employment insurance. However, because of the Minister of Finance's greed, and the government's greed, and because of the lack of expertise in managing public finances, which are being hoarded year after year, these people are still being refused EI. The same will hold true for this year.

Incidentally, there is a protest movement that is starting up again across Quebec, and we hope that it will catch on in the Maritimes and the rest of Canada. The Maritimes are also hit harder than most other regions in Canada. There is a movement that goes by the name “sans chemise” that has started up again; it is based in the Charlevoix region. At one point, the government wanted to reorganize the regions to set the number of weeks of work needed for people to qualify for EI.

The “sans-chemise” said, “No, you cannot do that”, because it would exclude about a third of EI applicants if the government went ahead. So there was a demonstration and the “sans-chemise” were born.

The movement has started up again, because people find the whole situation unbelievable. So far $44 billion has been pilfered from the EI account, and the tradition has been maintained in the latest budget; $44 billion has been stolen and could have been used, in part, to ensure that more than just a minority of applicants qualify for EI benefits.

Some of this $44 billion could have been used to help softwood lumber workers, for example. On Wednesday I heard the Minister for International Trade say that the government has already done a great deal. Of course, we agree with the minister, but success still eludes the government. And employment insurance could have been a catalyst with regard to the impact of this international trade decision.

I heard the secretary of state for economic development and member for Bruce say “Quebec did nothing”. Quebec has done a lot in this area even though it does not come under its jurisdiction. The government is very good at talking about jurisdiction when it suits its purpose, but when it does not, when the time is not right, it does not talk about it. However, international trade is an area of federal jurisdiction and the federal government is responsible for any proceedings relating to countervailing duties imposed by the Americans or sanctions against our exports.

One would have thought that the federal government would have taken part of that $44 billion to help the hardest hit workers and to broaden eligibility criteria. When the situation is such that only a minority of the targeted clientele can benefit from a policy, it means that policy is not working, because any given policy is meant to benefit the clientele as a whole. If it does not, changes are needed.

Three years ago, members a House committee unanimously agreed to change the insurance employment plan. Even the Liberal members voted in favour of doing that. That mollified somewhat the coalition of the “sans-chemise“. They thought, “If a committee of the House of Commons is unanimous in this respect, it means the employment insurance plan can be changed and that we can count on at least some of the 15 recommendations being acted upon, particularly the recommendation asking that restrictions on eligibility be reduced”. But no. Three years later, we are back to square one. Nothing has changed. It is business as usual with this budget. Of course, premiums have been lowered and we are very happy about that. However, there is always a way to find balance in life. And that also goes for managing the employment insurance plan.

Contributions may have been reduced, and this qualifies as an indirect tax cut, but at the same time benefits must be increased. The government must take a good hard look at itself and say, “The plan is no longer working; it is time to change it”. But no, someone stands up in every day this place and sings the same tune every time we ask questions—I would almost feel like saying plays the same broken record—and tells us, “We have done a lot; the EI plan is much improved”, and sits down. Then, that someone stands up again and says, “This is unwarranted; the criticism is unwarranted”, and sits down again. Meanwhile, 61% of the unemployed are not eligible for benefits.

This is one of these situations. We are told that the $44 billion has been spent. We know very well what it was spent on, but it should be entered in the government's books as a debt to the workers, employers and unemployed, who have not been able to rely on employment insurance for the past six years and continue to be penalized because of the federal government's inaction.

Once again, the budget ignores the humanitarian considerations that should guide all parliamentarians, and government members in particular, out of concern for serving the people we are supposed to be representing, and serving them well.

Many references are made in the Speech from the Throne to aboriginal issues. I would like to clarify a few things. This is my third throne speech since 1993, and it is still fashionable, it still looks good to state in the introduction that the first nations have needs that must be recognized, that the good federal government will do everything in its power to help its aboriginal people. Putting things that way smacks of colonialism.

In the last budget, there is practically nothing for the first nations. In the past 10 months I have been able to observe how much the first nations are suffering all over Canada. There was even a UN observer who came here for about a week and a half. He went around to a number of reserves in Canada and he was completely flabbergasted. He thought that situations like that could only arise in Africa, for example. He found that even within Canada, one of the G-8 countries, one of the eight most industrialized countries, there were many reserves that did not even have running water and drinking water. He also saw that people were living in unhealthy housing. He also noted that underemployment could reach 95% in certain first nations communities. That means that only 5% of the people are working, if we look at it the opposite way. Such situations prey on the mind.

Despite all that, at the present time, there are 500 specific claims negotiations with first nations that are pending. There are 500 more coming along. For example, the negotiations on self-government could have been completed with a few million dollars more in the budget for the first nations. Unfortunately, the money is not there.

Another 500 claims will be filed over the next two years. Instead of concentrating on improving the first nations' socio-economic conditions and tackling the real issues, we are being handed garbage like Bill C-7, which no one wants.

I have just come back from Kenora, in the riding of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. There were 8,000 first nations representatives. It was not the chiefs, as this minister claims when he says that only the chiefs oppose the legislation on governance. No, there were 8,000 aboriginal children, adolescents and adults, who were not chiefs. They spontaneously took to the streets in the riding of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to ask for his head.

He does not get it at all, and his attitude harks back to colonialism. The bill reeks of racism, and the government continues to claim that this will relaunch plans for self governance, thereby accelerating the process by which the first nations obtain this right. I did not say that the minister was racist. I said that the bill was racist, with all due respect.

Much more could have been done with this budget. Unfortunately, the other side of the House has no imagination and is unable to show openness and above all to recognize the inherent right of the first nations to self governance.

As a result, Bill C-7 continues to hurt communities which have already suffered for 130 years under the Indian Act and which are continuing to suffer also from unqualified prejudice that cannot withstand ten minutes of analysis. People still think that aboriginals do not have the right to want more than the federal government is willing to give, although all the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada and the United Nations, have said that they are nations and, as such, entitled to respect. It is our duty to negotiate with them on an equal footing.

I am completely opposed to this budget for these reasons.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Surrey North.

It is my pleasure today to rise and join in the debate on Bill C-28 regarding the 2003 budget. Before the bill was tabled in the House of Commons, Canadians, and in particular my constituents in Nanaimo—Cowichan, were hopeful that the government would actually realize what was happening in the real world outside of Parliament Hill. Canadians were hopeful that the government would begin to come to grips with the disappointment and disbelief that has arisen out of past budgets presented by the member for LaSalle—Émard.

My constituents have expressed to me, in the strongest possible terms, the conviction that the government does not even know that they exist. My riding on Vancouver Island is one of the western most ridings in this country and simply put, out of Liberal sight, out of Liberal mind. Indeed, the staff in my riding at one point had a letter from the Prime Minister's Office wanting to inquire about someone who lived on Victoria Island. Members can imagine how crushing a blow that is to our ego out there to realize that the Prime Minister's Office does not even know the right name of the island on the west coast of Canada.

My constituents were truly hoping for tax relief, but received none. Instead, they received $17.4 billion in new spending initiatives over the next three years. The simple truth is, and it is an easy truth to understand, that while the government attempts to lay claim to tax reduction, the budget says that for every one dollar in tax relief the government puts in additional $7.56 in spending. That is the new math. That is not a tax reduction budget; that is a tax and spend budget.

I would like to speak to several specific points in the bill. There is no question that tax changes for small business and the eventual elimination of the capital tax would benefit many Canadians. We have called for this for a long time. The government has paid far too little attention to the small business community in this country. This is only a feeble step in the right direction. Small business is Canada's economic backbone and has been ignored for far too long.

I am pleased with the proposed 40% reduction in the air security charge, something that the former finance minister refused to do. I eagerly wait to see if the current finance minister will actually deliver on these promises or if there is any real difference between these two members as they vie for the leadership of their party. In a country the size of Canada and the speed at which business of all sorts is conducted, air travel is absolutely imperative. The current air tax reduction of 40% is a good start, but it will continue to discourage air travel in Canada. I know and have heard from many business people in my own riding about the negative impact of the air tax. This tax should now be eliminated, not simply reduced.

The next point is child care. The Canadian Alliance believes that child care options should be given to parents, not to bureaucrats. I believe that the family is the cornerstone of society and we will prosper or collapse on the basis of that strength. We support a $3,000 per child, up to age 16, deduction for families and therefore allow them to choose the best child care option for their children and family by keeping the money in their own pockets.

With the national child benefit, Canadians once again see how the Liberals give and the Liberals take. The Liberals give the national child benefit to low income families with one hand and then tax thousands of dollars away from these very same families with the other. If the Liberals were so concerned about Canada's working poor, why would they tax them so heavily? They tax them through rising Canada pension plan premiums. They overcharge them through their employment insurance premiums as well as through low income contingent GST credits. The Liberals simply have not given working poor Canadians a fair break in the budget.

The spending on health care is another issue covered by the bill. Perhaps there is nothing that affects Canadians more than health care. Whether it is for our aging parents, our growing children or ourselves, each one of us here and across the country is impacted by health care and the costs of the system. Simply put, the money is now on the table and it is time to get on with the job of real health care reform.

When will the federal government realize that it cannot stay mired in the past? This path of health care has led to the many problems that we are currently attempting to deal with in Canada. The Liberals balanced the books largely on the backs of the provinces' own health care budgets. This was not acceptable, and it is not acceptable today. The Canadian Alliance will hold the federal and provincial governments accountable to ensure that new health spending buys real change, not simply more of the status quo.

An issue that affects all Canadians, but most notably many constituents of mine in Nanaimo--Cowichan, is the budget allocated to aboriginal affairs. Despite the billions of dollars the government has spent on aboriginal programs over the past decade, the standard of living for aboriginal Canadians remains appalling. I have visited numerous reserves, homes and sat with councils and understand this issue as well as anyone in this chamber.

I support the reallocation of departmental funding for key issues such as health, education and capital infrastructure, such as water and sewage. Let me be perfectly clear on this. I do not support the role of an increased bureaucracy. The absolutely last thing that aboriginal Canadians need is one more hurdle to jump over, one more hoop to jump through and one more piece of red tape to cut through.

Aboriginal Canadians need real assistance. Neither native nor non-native Canadians can afford to be saddled with any more administrative costs with which to deal. The number of mouldy homes, non-potable drinking water and non-existent sewage systems is simply not acceptable.

This is not a problem that has just cropped up recently. This is an issue that has been with us for years. It is an issue that existed when our present Prime Minister was the minister of Indian affairs 40 years ago, and had an opportunity then to change things and make things right. Now aboriginal Canadians are living with the failed promises and the poor attitudes that were displayed in those days. The Prime Minister of this day did not do then what had to be done to change the life of aboriginal Canadians in this country.

The Liberal government likes to talk a good story under the guise of being protectors of the environment. The Liberals have already wasted over $3 billion without a plan for Kyoto, and at this date have absolutely no results to show for it. Throwing more good money into the Kyoto cookie jar will simply lead to more waste and misuse and will not protect the environment for Canadians. The Canadian Alliance supports the need for targeted funding for new green technologies that will bring real environmental benefits to Canada. There are viable options available, yet to date this government refuses to consider them or to implement them.

An issue that is important also to many Canadians, but in particular importance to the many active and retired Canadian armed forces personnel who live in my riding, is the appalling way this Liberal government has undermined our military. This also shows up on the radar screen of a lot of polling that we do. The Canadian Alliance agrees with the Auditor General as well as many other organizations calling for an immediate increase of $2 billion per year in our defence spending. The Liberal commitment of $600 million per year falls far short of what is necessary to sustain our armed forces let alone start to rebuild it.

The examples are almost endless and they are shameful, indeed scandalous: the ill-fated replacement helicopters that have caused the death of armed forces personnel; a lack of camouflage uniforms for Afghanistan and the necessary equipment when we sent our troops into battle zones or put them into harm's way; now the government's refusal to spend any money on any heavy lift capability, expecting our allies to do the job for us; as well as underpaid personnel which leads to a deteriorating moral among our armed forces personnel. That is simply scandalous. It has to change and a Canadian Alliance government would make sure that that change takes place.

The government is making some token gestures toward tax changes. The move to increase RRSP limits to $18,000 by the year 2006, to increase the small business deduction limit to $300,000, to eliminate the capital tax over the next five years and lower the resource tax rate in line with the general corporate rate are positive moves. Unfortunately, from our point of view they are being implemented far too slowly and they fall short of what could and should be done.

I presume that my time is drawing to a close, but I would like to say that there are other issues I would love to talk about such as foreign aid, amendments to the federal-provincial fiscal arrangements, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, the employment insurance compassionate care benefits and of course the Liberals favourite tax, which they were going to scrap and abolish, the GST. However I do not have time to speak about all those things even though I would love to.

The bottom line however is this budget is a tax and spend budget, not unlike many budgets that have been presented in the House by previous Liberal governments. It builds on the broken promises brought in by the current Prime Minister. It builds on the boondoggles to which Canadians have been witness at HRDC and the failed gun registry.

Canadians can see through this Liberal smoke and mirrors show. They recognize that there is no significant tax relief for them in the 2003 budget. Instead the Liberal government has increased spending by 20% over the next three years. I would challenge the government to go to the people and ask if they really feel that kind of spending is in line with the priorities of Canadians. Canadians are growing weary of this, and I will continue to oppose this budget until real tax relief is available to all Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for his comments. Of course, I do not agree what everything he said. However, I believe there is a lot of common ground.

I would like to ask him two very specific questions. I would like to know if he considers, as I do, that the February 18 budget is a budget that throws money around indiscriminately. We see that it contains 74 expenditure measures, 14 tax measures and that none of these gets our attention. I would like to know if the member agrees that, in this budget, a lot of money has been thrown around without really solving an essential and priority problem for Canadians and Quebeckers.

Second, I would like the member to tell me—he referred to employment insurance premiums--whether he considers that it is normal, or totally abnormal, that, this year again, at $2.10 per $100 of insurable earnings, the employment insurance fund will rake in a surplus of $2.8 billion, as the Minister of Human Resources Development confirmed yesterday. This will bring the debt accumulated by the federal government with people paying into employment insurance to almost $45 billion. Is it normal that the government has used EI premiums to pay down a part of the federal debt?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's questions are indeed good ones.

In response to his first question, yes, it is a budget that tends to sprinkle money across the country, going to favourite pet projects that often will reward friends of the government, and it is attached only to the government's priorities for Canadians.

I do not think if Canadians were asked if the spending priorities of the government were in line with theirs, there would be much of a consistency in their answer and the government's response in this budget. Unfortunately, Liberal governments, when they do finally get into a position where they have surplus funds, do not tend to take the right decisions that will affect the majority of Canadians across the country long term.

This government is not proactive. It does not come up with great plans that lead the country into the future, with a 5, 10 and 15 year plans that look down the road as to what might happen for the country. Instead, it is a very reactive government that continues to react to crisis. It goes from crisis to crisis, finally being forced to take action on some huge issues, not building up any kind of confidence within Canadians with any kind of proactive plan for many things. That concerns me greatly.

In terms of the EI fund, we know that this has gone on for years. Even though the government boasts of having lowered EI premiums, it continues to take far too much out of the pockets of Canadian taxpayers by way of these kinds of taxes. It does not give Canadians back in return what they deserve.

In my own riding at a time when the EI fund was boasting of billions of dollars of surpluses, HRDC did not renew contracts to organizations in my community that had previously done retraining and counselling of laid off workers. In my mind the spending of EI funds should be used for workers. That is the workers' money and it should be spent on workers. It should not sit someplace in a government fund which is too easily raided by the government to balance its budgets or to go into some kind of general revenue to be put to a pet project for the government.

That is scandalous and it is wrong but the government continues to do it and workers are paying the price.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

May 16th, 2003 / 10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the people of Surrey North to participate in this budget debate.

The government balanced the budget a few years back by downloading costs either directly to the taxpayers or on to the provinces. Taxes have been high for far too long. Ottawa continues to maintain an artificial annual budgetary surplus created by high taxes,and every year it uses the surplus as a slush fund.

Unfortunately there is no government-wide search for duplication or wasteful spending. Although there is much need to eliminate waste and reduce spending in non-priority areas, there is at the same time much need for increases in important areas that the government has neglected.

At this late stage in this year's budget debate, many of my colleagues responsible for critiquing particular cabinet portfolios have already spoken. For my part I will concentrate my remarks on the criminal justice portfolio. This is an area that could be bolstered by an increase in spending with funds salvaged from areas of non-priority spending. First I will touch on the youth justice system.

The Liberals' new Youth Criminal Justice Act that came into effect on April 1 of this year is a prime example of what I am talking about. The provinces, municipalities, probation officers and virtually anyone involved in our country's youth criminal justice system told the federal government that more resources would be needed to implement and administer the new youth justice system that the Liberals were designing. However, the government went ahead and passed legislation creating a whole new youth justice regime that the provinces are expected to administer.

Everyone was looking to this budget for the resources that the provinces would require to run the new system but there was nothing in the budget to address those concerns. The new Youth Criminal Justice Act forced on the provinces by the government fails to accomplish what Canadians wanted because of its extreme complexity and lack of funding. The provinces continue to pick up the lion's share of the costs involved, around 75%.

The Liberals claim that they do not have the money to carry out the originally agreed upon arrangement to pay into a fifty-fifty cost sharing scheme but unbelievably, they still expect the provinces to come up with the money for their plan. This situation is shameful.

Our youth need a criminal justice system that serves their needs. Some youth need help so they can be steered away from a life of crime. This takes money and it is a worthwhile investment yet there was nothing in the budget for youth justice. And the government crows about its so-called children's agenda.

Second, I want to talk about children in danger. For some time now, I and others, have called on the government to implement a nationwide Amber alert program. Amber alert uses radio, TV, electronic billboards and emergency broadcast systems to immediately alert the public about abducted children whose lives are in peril.

Some provinces have developed their own programs without any support from the federal government. Although it was not successful in preventing the recent tragic death of Holly Jones in Toronto, we did see the Ontario program in operation this past week. Amber alert has saved lives in other jurisdictions, however, provincial programs stop at provincial borders. A truly effective program must be national. Canadians want the federal government to show some leadership by instituting a nationwide amber alert program for the sake of our children.

It would have been nice to see such an initiative provided for in the budget but the government did not respond. Again, it brags about its so-called children's agenda. There was nothing in the budget for children in peril.

Finally, I want to discuss the issue of marijuana cultivation, grow ops. Yesterday I had the opportunity to question the Solicitor General during his appearance before the justice committee to answer questions concerning the recent federal budget. I used my time to focus on marijuana grow ops, a major problem in my constituency of Surrey North.

In Surrey alone, there are an estimated 3,500 to 4,500 grow ops that generate annual revenues conservatively estimated to be in excess of $2 billion. That is in my constituency alone.

Much of that marijuana is exported to the United States as currency for the guns and cocaine that are then smuggled back into Canada. The grow ops are run by violent criminal gangs and are located in quiet residential neighbourhoods where children play. My constituents are concerned and they are angry. They fear for their own safety but more important, for the safety of their children.

Day after day, letters, e-mails, faxes and phone calls come into my office from constituents demanding that something be done about it. The criminal intelligence directorate of the RCMP issued a report on marijuana cultivation in Canada which is dated November 2002. For some reason it only found its way into the public domain on April 24 but that is a question for another day.

The report indicates that grow ops have increased sixfold since 1993. As I said to the Solicitor General yesterday, the sixfold increase happened under his government's watch.

The report also says that the grow ops have reached epidemic proportions. That is the RCMP's wording, epidemic proportions, and it cites the lack of resources for law enforcement as part of the problem. Since the report was dated November 2002, I must assume that the Solicitor General received it in the prebudget phase.

The Solicitor General said that he did inform the finance minister as to what the RCMP had told him. Either the Solicitor General downplayed the serious nature of the RCMP's concerns or the finance minister did not listen because I do not see anything in the estimates or the budget to directly address the issue of marijuana grow operations.

There have been drive-by shootings, murders and assaults. Just the other night over 60 shots were fired at a residence in that area. No motive has been established but such incidents have occurred before and found to be cases of mistaken identity in that the wrong house was targeted. Innocent lives are at risk.

Other communities in Canada face the same problem. A number of our colleagues on the government side, members from Ontario, have raised the issue of marijuana grow operations in their constituencies. They too understand the negative impact they have on communities, yet we do not see any resources directly targeting these operations. Worse yet, there appears to be no strategy in place to reduce and eliminate these scourges in our neighbourhoods.

Resources for our law enforcement agencies to take down grow ops should have been a budgetary item. There should have been tax dollars specifically earmarked for this effort but there are none.

The Solicitor General told the committee yesterday with great pride how people come from all around the world to examine our criminal justice system. What he did not say was that international criminals examine our system too and they come here to set up shop with whatever criminal activity they are engaged in because the government has a legacy of lax laws and lenient sentences.

This is especially true when it comes to marijuana grow operations: high profit and low risk. Getting caught is considered nothing more than the cost of doing business.

The Solicitor General recalled visiting Surrey and learning from the local RCMP about the problem. He called it serious and admitted that it should be challenged head on. He said that we have to do more. The fact is that the resources to do more are not in the budget. He concluded by declaring that in the next few weeks the government will bring forward proposals that will in a more comprehensive fashion challenge the grow operations, to increase penalties and take them down.

Those are lofty words but words nonetheless and hollow words without the commitment of resources to back them up. Certainly there will always be competing priorities for tax dollars. The job of government is to establish those priorities in the best interests of the people of Canada. Sadly the government does not appear to place the safety of our children and communities very high on its list of spending priorities.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:50 a.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member from the Canadian Alliance who spoke at length about the navy. He also spoke about the Solicitor General.

I think that he has read the budget just as we, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, have done. I would like to hear what he has to say about fiscal imbalance. This budget demonstrates that federal taxes are increasing while federal transfers to the provinces are decreasing, even though that is where the needs are. The federal government is raking in the money. In Quebec, the Séguin commission has shown that fiscal imbalance is a very serious problem in Canada. All Canadian provinces have said that the federal government will have to withdraw from certain areas of taxation so that they can get the money they need to meet the expectations of Canadians and Quebeckers.

I would also like the member to make a few comments on the issue of employment insurance. What does he think about the infamous gap and about the $45 billion, which the government collected from workers and employers and which has disappeared all of sudden? It has just vanished into thin air. I would like to hear what he has to say on these various issues.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the previous speaker spoke quite eloquently toward the problems with the employment insurance fund. This has been an ongoing issue. This is certainly something I have received many complaints about in my constituency, the fact that the government is taking far more than it needs to keep the fund afloat. We can understand why there has to be a certain amount of surplus for a rainy day, but the idea of essentially taxing workers and employers to fund its own pet projects is something that is of extreme concern to Canadians when that money could be put to far better use.

As far as the imbalances in the provinces that the member speaks of, again it is an ongoing problem. We have seen downloading and downloading year after year. We only have to look at what happened in the provinces when the health transfers were cut. Certainly my province of B.C. has suffered enormously because of that.

Then we look at the boondoggles and the HRDC scandals of a couple of years ago and we still find problems. Every time some of these programs come across our desks, as they do on all members' desks in this place, we have to wonder what the blazes the government is doing. The gun registry has cost $1 billion. Could that money not have been spent in better places?

I spoke of youth justice and the problems that are occurring in the provinces trying to fund that. We know the problems that the police are running up against with child pornography, trying to have the resources available to take that out. It is an incredible problem yet the government keeps piling up resources to throw around.

I expect fully that we will see some of these issues answered just before the next election when the money starts to flow. We talk about infrastructure. I expect to see a lot of infrastructure money flow into my constituency before the next election when the government tries to buy votes with the employment insurance that people have paid in this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

From past experience, I know that members do not always appreciate being asked to start a speech for a minute or two and then are interrupted for members' statements. Without prejudice, I say to members on either side of the House, someone may want to ask a question or make a comment with regard to the budget implementation bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has a tremendous interest in youth justice and justice generally. I know the reason for that interest is partly a familial one, his family having been a victim in one major issue.

I want to ask the hon. member a slightly different question. He has a very practical bent of mind and understands what some of the problems are with regard to infrastructure, particularly highways.

I am sure my hon. colleague knows only too well what has happened to the price of gasoline for example, and the fact that the federal government collects huge taxes on each litre of gasoline that is purchased. The hon. member is from British Columbia where there seems to have been some kind of discrimination against the spending of moneys that have been collected from the taxes levied on gasoline bought in British Columbia.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would care to comment about the relationship between the money that is collected by the federal government from the sale of gasoline and the spending of money on infrastructure, in particular highways. The hon. member lives in the Surrey area where there is an awful lot of heavy duty traffic. I wonder if he could comment on that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I do not doubt that the hon. member for Surrey North would love to have a great deal of time to answer a very pertinent question. However, given the time of day, I must proceed to Statements by Members. I will begin with the hon. member for Northumberland and I certainly appreciate the cooperation of the hon. member for Kelowna.

Olympics and ParalympicsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, my constituents and I would like to congratulate and thank the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation for its continuous hard work to win the right to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. Canada is still competing against Austria and South Korea to host the world in 2010 and in this Olympic competition there is only one medal.

We have a great team made up of great players and I know we can win the gold for Canada. The team, led by Mr. Jack Poole, includes volunteers and governments, first nations and athletes, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, and leaders from the business and finance communities from right across the country. We thank them for their good work.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic bid is a true Team Canada project. I ask members to please join the citizens of my riding in congratulating the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation for its success to date. Let us go for gold. Let us bring the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games home in 2010.

HockeyStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to congratulate the Kelowna Rockets hockey team, their coach Marc Habscheid and their general manager Bruce Hamilton.

The Kelowna Rockets were pegged in a pre-season poll to finish last in the western conference. Due to the excellent skating, speed and defence, this team won the Western Hockey League championship and is competing for the Memorial Cup next week.

“Defence wins championships” is what the Rockets live by. It paid off for them in the west and will figure strongly in their battle for the Memorial Cup. In addition to strong defence, fast transition became the trademark of the team. Bruce Hamilton said, “Our transition is based on stick-to-stick passing because good passing gets the puck out quicker when the opposition dumps the puck in”.

Special recognition is also warranted for Marc Habscheid. He was named coach of the year. We all need to recognize the important role people like Mr. Habscheid play in the development of championship hockey players and citizens among our youth. We wish them well for the Memorial Cup. Yay Rockets.

Foreign OwnershipStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, in an age of integration, harmonization and deregulation, I believe the time has come to have an open and frank debate about the level of foreign ownership in Canada.

Foreign investment has had positive effects, improving our standard of living and economic output. Foreign ownership, however, has resulted in key sectors of the economy being controlled by non-Canadian interests.

Since the investment review division's records were begun in 1985, until June 2002 there had been a total of 10,052 foreign takeovers, of which only 1,394 were actually reviewed. Not a single takeover application has ever been rejected.

It has been pointed out by author Mel Hurtig that “excessive foreign ownership leads to hollowing out--cities without head offices or corporate leaders”.

A Decima poll showed that 72% of Canadians opposed foreign ownership in the media and telecommunications industries, 60% in the telephone industry and 66% in the newspaper industry. In a recent Maclean's poll, 81% of Canadians agreed that Canadian ownership of businesses operating in Canada was necessary in order to maintain a strong Canadian identity.

Canadians have made clear their views. It is time to engage them in the wider debate.

Wheels in MotionStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the members of the House that on June 14 the City of Thorold in my riding of Niagara Centre will be sponsoring, along with local Scotiabank branches, the only event in the Niagara region in support of Rick Hansen's Wheels in Motion initiative.

In the words of the Rick Hansen Man in Motion Foundation, “Wheels in Motion is the new annual signature awareness and fundraising event, brought to you by locally organized volunteer teams to help improve the lives of people with spinal cord injury”.

Participants in this fundraising event will be walking, running, biking, skateboarding and using wheelchairs and collecting money through pledges. I wish to extend congratulations to all involved in organizing this event and best wishes for success.

Commonwealth War Graves CommissionStatements By Members

11 a.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to the attention of the House the important work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which is celebrating its 86th anniversary on May 21.

Through the years, the commission, supported by Veterans Affairs Canada and our Commonwealth partners, has contributed greatly to the commemoration and remembrance of the achievements and sacrifices of those who gave their lives for peace during the first and second world wars. This includes over 110,000 Canadians who paid the ultimate price.

Sir Winston Churchill once said that these beautifully maintained graveyards and monuments would, “preserve the memory of a common purpose pursued by great nations in the remote past and will undoubtedly excite the wonder and the reverence of future generations”.

I salute the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for its mission of caring for those sacred places which will help future generations better understand the magnitude of the sacrifices made by our Canadian troops and those of our allies.

Lest we forget.

National Mining WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, May 12-18 marks National Mining Week in Canada. As a world leader in the export of minerals and mineral products, the mining industry makes a significant annual contribution of over $36 billion to our economy.

In British Columbia, the mining industry is a major employer. However, due to the recent closure of several mines over the past few years and the lack of new mining developments, the industry has suffered over 1,200 job losses since the year 2000.

The town of Tumbler Ridge in my constituency is anticipating the opening of a new coal mining project by Western Canadian Coal that will yield an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of coal a year. It is hoped that this mine will employ hundreds of people who have previously been laid off due to the recent closure of two other coal mines in that community.

While we recognize mining week let us also acknowledge the important role the federal government should be playing to foster economic growth within this vital industry.

Aboriginal Awareness WeekStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, May 20-23 is Aboriginal Awareness Week. Next week is set aside to honour and increase awareness of aboriginal peoples in Canada and in the workplace. Inuit, first nations and Métis make up the fastest growing population in Canada.

Government of Canada departments across the country will host Aboriginal Awareness Week celebrations, which will include speeches from elders as well as other guests, demonstrations by artists, musicians and dancers, opportunities to try aboriginal foods and more.

Let us increase communication and promote greater understanding and cooperation across cultures. Let us recognize the contribution of the first peoples of Canada to our country.

Journée nationale des PatriotesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, May 19 will mark the Journée nationale des Patriotes. As Patriote of the year 2003 for the Jean-Olivier Chénier chapter, I am proud to remind Quebeckers of the courage of those who sacrificed themselves for their rights, in the early 19th century.

The Patriotes fought for justice, freedom and democracy, the very foundations of our institutions.

Quebec has its own identity, its own culture, and its own institutions. It owes them to people like the Patriotes, were not afraid to stick up for their convictions, even if it meant putting their lives on the line.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I pay tribute to the exceptional courage of the Patriotes and their families, and in particular to Dr. Jean-Olivier Chénier and his comrades from Saint-Eustache.

Official Visit by Prime Minister of FranceStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, as you are no doubt aware, the Prime Minister of France, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, will be in Ottawa next Wednesday at the start of his first official visit to Canada. He will be in Canada a total of four days.

He will be accompanied by ministers of foreign trade, industry and cooperation and la Francophonie as well as business leaders. Hon. members hardly need reminding that, in addition to our strong cultural ties, France is also the second largest foreign investor in Canada.

Prime Minister Raffarin and his Canadian counterpart will be discussing bilateral trade, the international situation and cultural diversity, along with commemorations of the 400th anniversary for the first French settlement in North America.

The government sees these commemorations, which will start gathering momentum next year, as a wonderful opportunity for drawing attention to the richness of our relations with one of Canada's two mother countries.

Vive la France. Vive le Canada.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, what a double standard: 218 aboriginal communities across our country have boil water advisories right now and are in a high risk health situation. Children, the weak and the elderly face serious health consequences if they drink, bathe in or even eat food prepared in the water of their communities. Something so simple as wetting a toothbrush is a danger.

Let us ask ourselves: If these were non-aboriginal communities, would this not be an urgent priority of the federal government? Would this not be a crisis? It is, and this week the government announced a pitiful spending program for aboriginal infrastructure. Over the next half decade it will only try to address one in five of the water systems problems. That is pathetic.

Yet in the coming fiscal year the dozen federal departments that each deal with aboriginal issues will devote 15 times as much money per year to their communications budgets. Sadly, it appears that this government seems to care more about selling Canadians on the job it is doing than actually doing the job itself.

World Telecommunications DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is World Telecommunications Day. Canada has a distinguished history of innovation in the telecommunications field, starting of course with the invention of the telephone by Canadian Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.

In this era of modern communications, Canada is recognized as a leader in the digital economy and information society. Our policy of connecting Canadians, our innovation agenda, ensured that Canada was the first country to connect our schools to the Internet, digitalize our national heritage, encourage e-commerce and use information and communications technologies for economic and social development.

Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the UN, has identified this year's theme as “Helping all of the world's people to communicate”, with a primary goal to narrow the digital divide and lay the foundation of a truly global information society.

Canada will be working with members of the UN to achieve this goal at the World Summit on the Information Society at the end of the year. All Canadians can be proud of this country's leadership in the future of world communications.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday thousands of first nations people stood up in Kenora, in the heart of the riding of the minister for aboriginal affairs, to tell the Liberal government to kill Bill C-7.

Jack Layton was there and Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton was there. And the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has fought tooth and nail in committee to stop Bill C-7, was also there.

Other members of the House say they too oppose Bill C-7, but first nations and the NDP worry that the government will do to first nations on governance what it did to taxpayers on the GST: say one thing and do another. We say that is not good enough. Across Canada first nations are speaking loudly against Bill C-7, and after centuries of not listening, it is time the House did.

Clearly Bill C-7 is dividing a Liberal caucus already in chaos and disarray. Why prolong the agony? It is time for a free vote on Bill C-7 so every member of the House can stand up and be clear with first nations where we stand, and that includes the former finance minister.

Salon du livre ancien et du livre d'histoireStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with enthusiasm that I have agreed to be the spokesperson for the very first Salon du livre ancien et du livre d'histoire, to be held on May 24 and 25 at Collège de l'Assomption, which has been designated a cultural heritage site. Given the interest in history, heritage and genealogy, this event is a guaranteed success.

Naturally, history will hold an important place at this antiquarian and history book fair, but so will literature, the arts and sociology. Book lovers and others will be delighted to see and touch the treasures put on display by the booksellers.

Visitors will also be treated to a display of rare and antiquarian books from the college's archival funds and an exhibit on genealogy. In addition, a designer bookbinder will be talking about his trade and his passion.

Throughout the fair, visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about Jean-Baptiste Meilleur, who was recently recognized as a person of national historic significance by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

We wish the first Salon du livre ancien et du livre d'histoire de l'Assomption every success.