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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parties.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

June 10th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec's minister of employment has insisted that the federal government show more flexibility in the employment insurance program in order to better meet regional needs.

With a $45 billion surplus in the EI fund, does the Minister of Human Resources Development not feel that she possesses a powerful tool that could be used to help the regions and contribute to their development?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. We want to work very closely with the new government in the province of Quebec. I feel very fortunate to have had a personal meeting with Monsieur Béchard last week. It was a full and complete meeting about issues that are important to him and issues that are important to me. I expect that we will continue to work positively together on this issue and many others.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I repeat what the Quebec minister of employment said, “We can talk for months about our provincial consensus, but at some point some money is going to have to be put on the table”.

Beyond her fine speeches saying that employment insurance is reaching all its goals perfectly, is the Minister of HRDC prepared to put the money on the table as Quebec and the provinces are demanding?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question gives me an opportunity to advise the House that last week in fact I did have a historic meeting with the ministers of education from the provinces and territories and the ministers of labour together.

We agreed jointly that we need to turn our attention to the issues facing Canadians when it comes to skills and learning. We have four areas upon which the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories will focus together and provide Canadians with what they need in the 21st century, the knowledge based economy.

JusticeOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, following the brutal killing of 10-year-old Holly Jones in Toronto, there have been a string of attempted kidnappings in the same Toronto neighbourhood. Parents across Canada are concerned about the failure of the government to implement an effective national sex offender registry.

When the Liberal registry comes into effect, it will be absolutely blank with no names on it. Why, after 10 years, has the government failed to do anything to install an appropriate national sex offender registry?

JusticeOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the legislation that is before the House and before committee would get through a lot faster if the party opposite would just support it and pass the bill. We had a motion from the member opposite to restrict it. Do those members think the system would be better without having a national sex offender registry?

We moved and we moved rapidly. We obtained federal, provincial and territorial consensus in October. We tabled the bill in December. The bill would move a lot faster through the House if we could just get cooperation from that side.

JusticeOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, we do not protect sex offenders in the way that the Liberal government does.

On another issue, the definition of marriage is a matter that falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament. In 1999 the House affirmed the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Today the Ontario Court of Appeal made a fundamental error of jurisdiction in redefining marriage.

Will the Minister of Justice protect the jurisdiction of Parliament by immediately appealing this decision and having the Supreme Court correct the Ontario court?

JusticeOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal as well as the one in British Columbia. It is an important social issue. I have asked parliamentarians to be involved in the debate. We need to have a national solution. The government's position will be known quite shortly since the decision tabled this morning has an immediate effect.

Canadian HeritageOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage. It is no secret that the Cultural Spaces Canada program to help improve the material conditions for artistic creativity and innovation in Canada has been a great success.

I would like the minister to confirm to us that the 2003-04 budget for this program will enable her to provide a positive response to all eligible projects from the regions.

Canadian HeritageOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to be able to say yes to all projects from the regions.

It is true that the project as it stands represents $28 million in infrastructure investments throughout the country, whereas last year the total infrastructure program budget was $360 million. In other words, more funding is needed, and we must also forge a partnership with the department responsible for infrastructure, in order to really be in a position to renew regional infrastructure.

Immigration and Refugee BoardOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the more the information leaks out about the immigration and refugee judges corruption investigation, the worse it gets. Now we find that one of the IRB judges was convicted of theft and also disbarred as a lawyer. This tells Canadians a lot about Liberal standards when it comes to patronage appointments.

What does it say to newcomers to Canada when they are made to answer to someone who is a known thief and who has been kicked out of his profession?

Immigration and Refugee BoardOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bourassa Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, as I have always said, we take these allegations very seriously.

Since the hon. member is also a lawyer, she understands the importance of respecting the legal system, so we are waiting for the RCMP to finish its investigations. If there are charges, the RCMP must be allowed to do its work. Then justice must follow its course.

Immigration and Refugee BoardOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, here is something else that the minister could take seriously.

Michel Venne is a Liberal supporter from the Prime Minister's riding. Last fall he pleaded guilty to five counts of professional misconduct and resigned from the law profession. Not to worry, he wound up with an IRB appointment.

Why would the Liberal government put someone who admits he is unethical and dishonest in a position of high public trust?

Immigration and Refugee BoardOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bourassa Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, once again, I will not comment on specifics, but I think that it is quite unfortunate that today an attempt is being made to discredit the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent board that has proven itself and whose members are doing an excellent job.

So instead of getting into specifics, let us instead congratulate the Immigration and Refugee Board on the job it is doing.

Parental LeaveOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec Minister of Employment reaffirmed yesterday his intention to go ahead with his own parental leave program, which is more generous than Ottawa's program.

If the Minister of Human Resources Development truly wants to help young families, what is she waiting for to accept the conditions put forward by Quebec, which are supported not only by the previous Government of Quebec, but also by the current one, the Bloc Quebecois and young families?

Parental LeaveOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the government is responsive to Canadian families and that is why we doubled parental benefits. The hon. member will know, if she looks at the report, that in the first year alone we have had an 80% increase in fathers staying home with their newborns.

As we have always said, we would encourage the provinces to add to our programs whenever they see fit, and such remains the case in this circumstance.

Election ExpensesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

If Bill C-24 had been in effect in 2001, the annual allowance of $1.75 per vote obtained would have allowed the five official parties in the House of Commons to pocket staggering profits.

Since the Leader of the Government knows full well that all the parties would fill their pockets with this disguised cash advance, can the minister explain why he rejects the idea of only reimbursing actual expenses?

Election ExpensesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there are two different issues here. Election expenses are reimbursed. The hon. member in question, who is from Quebec, is certainly also familiar with its system for annual contributions to political parties. The amount of $1.75 that she is referring to relates to that.

As for knowing whether $1.75 is enough, too much or too little, we maintain that it is the right amount for the bill. Nonetheless, following the next election, this will be reviewed to ensure that—

Election ExpensesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Manicouagan.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 125 workers at the shellfish plant in Baie-Trinité will not be able to work the 420 hours required to qualify for employment insurance. It would cost approximately $120,000 to put in place a program similar to the one on the Lower North Shore to save these workers from living off welfare for the next few years.

Will the government extend the temporary income support program to the plant workers and fishers affected by the drastic drop in shellfish landings?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Liberal

Claude Drouin LiberalSecretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

As you know, Mr. Speaker, this program was put in place for specific regions affected by the cod situation. We will look into the matter raised by the hon. member, but I do not think that the program is applicable in this case.

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food finds himself on the horns of a dilemma, or more appropriately on the horns of a mad cow. On March 23, 1990, the minister is quoted as saying:

If we look around the world it does not matter how a country is trying to survive, if it does not have a strong, viable, economically strengthened agriculture industry, then the economy and the future of that country is certainly in question.

There is no doubt that the agriculture industry is in peril and that the economy of this country is in jeopardy.

The dilemma is, does the minister help the industry or does he let it die? Or will he stop floating trial balloons and come up with real money for the cattle industry?

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, as I have explained to the hon. member in committee, the strength of the proposed business risk management program has, along with the programs we have had in the past year, paid out over $2 billion to Canadian farmers because of situations beyond their control, be it drought, poor markets, or whatever.

That program which is being offered now is even better than the programs that we have had in the past. We will work with the industry to build upon that in order to help the beef industry get through this situation.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on an amendment to Bill C-24 put forth by the government House leader with which we agree.

However, let us take a look at the nuts and bolts of the bill as it pertains to the amendment and why we would like to see this issue revised and looked at a year from now. We agreed with the objective of Bill C-24. How do we limit public or private influence in public policy? How do we limit the ability of deep pockets to have influence on public policy, something we all agree has to be removed? Does the bill do that?

I would submit that Bill C-24 does not do that at all. The bill wants to ensure that corporations and individuals do not get special favour on public policy, but the government is unable to eliminate that. The fact of the matter is that the big money donations, the $100,000 and $50,000 donations, do not happen above board. Those are the donations that have access to change government policy and enable certain groups to have access to untendered government contracts. Therein lies the problem. The bill does not address that. The bill deals with preventing groups from donating more than $1,000 and individuals from donating more than $5,000. That is not where the big money comes from. That is not was causes the influence.

What creates the influence are those big moneys that are happening under the table. There is also the fact that contracts may or may not be untendered and the awarding of contracts, in fact, violate Treasury Board's own guidelines.

How can we address this? An interesting thing happened in Europe where this issue was addressed. The question that was asked was, how can we ensure that big money cannot influence public policy? One option that was proposed was called: publish what is paid. I would extend that to something about publishing what is received.

I would suggest and submit that the way to prevent private influence of public policy is to ensure that individuals who donate to a political party or to an individual cannot donate more than $5,000, otherwise they must ensure that those moneys will be made public every year. Not only that, the recipient of those moneys, or the party that receives those moneys, will also have to publish the donor and the amount that they received. That would eliminate private influence of public policy.

The second is the issue of government contracts. We saw with the Groupaction scandal millions of dollars of taxpayers' money being wasted on three contracts that were utterly useless. Those contracts were given to a company that was a large donor to the governing party. The problem is, how do we eliminate that? How do we ensure that contracts will be awarded on the basis of merit and that money will not be passed under the table in return for those lucrative government contracts that exist?

Two things must happen. First, Treasury Board guidelines must be followed, and second, contracts above a certain amount of money, say $25,000 or $50,000, must be put out to tender. That, in fact, is the law and should be applied.

There is quite a debate between members of the NDP and our party on the concept of whether the taxpayer should be on the lamb for funding political parties. My party and I would say, absolutely not, not through the taxpayers' purse. If we, as elected individuals, choose to run for elected office, or if we, as a political party, cannot get the moneys from the individuals in the public ourselves, then we should not be running for office and should not be elected. We would ask the public as individuals seeking elected office or as parties seeking to be elected. We would ask the public individually for support, but we should not obligate the taxpayer through the public purse for those moneys.

That is what the bill does. The people who are watching would be shocked to know that for every single vote a political party received in the last election, the taxpayer will be giving us $1.50 every single year. Where could that money be better spent? Could it not be better spent for MRIs, hospital beds or hiring nurses and physicians to ensure that people will get the health care they deserve? Is that not a better use of the taxpayers' money? Or is it better to give those moneys to a political institution?

We would submit that those moneys should be spent on priorities like health care, defence, education and the social programs on which people who are less fortunate rely on. That is a better use of taxpayers' money. Taxpayers should not be giving millions of dollars to political parties every single year. In our view that is not a good use of taxpayers' money.

The amendment by the government House leader is a good one because it proposes that the bill be reviewed in one year. We hope it will be dramatically changed if it is not changed during this period of time. It is completely unfair that a billionaire in Ottawa received millions of dollars from the Canadian taxpayer, from our government, for projects. Viewers out there would be shocked to know where their money is going.

There is something called a technology partnership Canada fund which has handed out close to $2 billion to the private sector. How much of that money has been repaid? A shocking $35 million. This is taxpayers' money. It is not money that somehow appears from the ether in the middle of nowhere. This money comes from hardworking Canadians who made $16,000, $20,000, $40,000 a year and who pay a lot of taxes which are being given to multi-billion dollar Canadian companies and only a fraction of those moneys are repaid. That is absolutely ridiculous.

More shocking is that the people who receive those moneys make donations to the government. We have a multi-billionaire with multi-billion dollar companies receiving taxpayers' money in the form of loans that more often than not are never paid back to the government and by extension, to the people of our country. That is not right. Furthermore, that individual was a prime donor to the governing party.

The bill is deeply flawed. We are thankful in our country that we do not have the situation south of the border where it costs millions of dollars to run for political office. Thankfully we have limits on what we can spend. Let us never change that. Our current system enables people from all socio-economic groups to run for the highest office in the land and that is a good thing.

It is not a good thing that our current system, even with the bill, will enable big money to be used to influence the tendering of government contracts and potentially the implementation of public policy. The government could deal with that by publishing what it pays and what it receives. That would add the element of transparency in a system and improve the objective of the bill, which is a good one, by eliminating deep pockets from having influence in public policy.

On the issue of tendering of government contracts, we must ensure that Treasury Board guidelines are fulfilled, adhered to, and that the tendering of public contracts is indeed a public and transparent process. If we do not do that and the bill does not address that, then we will still have the influence of deep pockets and big money in public policy and in the tendering process. At the end of the day, it is not our money. It is taxpayers' money we are using. It is not the government's money. Above all, we must be respectful of that because it is our duty to use the money as wisely as possible.