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House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was langley.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

There is no such thing as an amendment to the throne speech.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Nevertheless, we did present an amendment to the motion inviting the government to make a reference to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that the workers contributing to this program would be the main ones to benefit from it.

There is one other very important matter. We know that everyone who has taken an even slightly enlightened look at the key trends in Canadian federalism realizes that there is what is termed a fiscal imbalance. This imbalance is a situation in which the federal government collects far more revenue of various kinds, income and other taxes and so forth, than what it needs to use these funds for.

The issue was not examined by a partisan body. We are talking about the Conference Board, the equivalent of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, if you will. It estimated that, over the next ten years, the federal government's situation could result in an accumulated surplus of $160 billion. We are not talking about fifty years, we are talking about a decade, a timeframe within which economic forecasting can be credible and accurate.

This brings me to another issue I care a lot about, health care. It takes the cake. If we were to grade the federal government on its handling of the health file, it would get an F . It took the mobilization of all the provincial premiers. I would remind the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell that an F means failure.

You will recall that last year at this time every single premier, not just a Quebec sovereignist premier, were mobilizing. Every single provincial premier of Canada, Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat alike, got into the act. They bought ads in newspapers to alert public opinion to the fact that the federal government had been particularly irresponsible.

Why irresponsible? We will recall—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I did not get what the voluble Minister for External Affairs said. We will get back to the issue of the wall dividing Israel and Palestine and the way his government voted on it. I will mention it towards the end of my remarks and establish a link with the throne speech.

That said, through you Madam Speaker, I would like to address my remarks to the former health minister as I remember that the Foreign Affairs minister held that portfolio for a brief few months. It took ads in major newspapers across Canada to take the federal government to task for not paying its fair share.

By the way, I will add that the September conference did not solve the problem. The Romanow commission as well as the Clair and Kirby reports—eight provinces out of ten had their own working group on health care—demands a 25% share of health care expenses be borne by the federal government. With the new investment by the federal government, it will reach 23% to 24% in a good year.

If ever we needed another reason to hold a debate on sovereignty, the fact that the federal government can destabilize provincial public finance is certainly a good one. Do not think for a minute that when the current Prime Minister was minister—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

It is important.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Through you, Madam Speaker, I would rather not get involved in partisanship. However, I cannot help but notice something.

The Liberals had been elected in October. The Prime Minister refused to summon Parliament before January because he had to attend NATO meetings. When the current Prime Minister, who was finance minister at the time, brought down his first budget at the end of February, something was done with no warning whatsoever. Without conducting any type of negotiation with its partners in the federation, the federal government cut transfer payments to such an extent that the public finances of the various provinces became destabilized.

When Quebec achieves sovereignty, we will have just one Parliament. Quebeckers—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau, QC

When will that be?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I cannot give the Minister of Foreign Affairs a specific date at this time.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

It will be done in a highly democratic manner, which should reassure the hon. member for Papineau.

I cannot help but recall that in the history of the sovereignist movement, there have been three extremely charismatic leaders who have founded political parties to ensure that sovereignty would be democratically voted on from time to time. Of course I am talking about Pierre Bourgault, René Lévesque and Lucien Bouchard. They have been among the most charismatic and knowledgeable leaders in Quebec.

That said, with the permission of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I will not commit to a precise schedule, but we in both the Bloc and the Parti Québécois will not stop being optimistic about one day achieving sovereignty.

Our optimism is strengthened by the profoundly unfair policies and actions of the federal government. The potential for destabilizing public finances by cutting into transfer payments as was done in 1994, 1995 and 1996 helps Quebeckers understand why sovereignty is necessary.

I would also like to say something about health and about the agreement that was reached on September 15. Along with the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes and the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, I attended the conference of first ministers. We followed their work closely. The agreement of September 15 poses a number of problems, that is certain. We will have an opportunity to look at it again, perhaps in more depth. I made a motion in committee and it received support; we are inviting the Minister of Health to appear and explain the agreement to us.

There are problems of accountability, among others. The former health minister, who is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was very fond of suggesting that there was no procedure for accountability in health care in Quebec. The minister does suffer from selective amnesia. We could quote the text to him, if he wished.

I would like to tell the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose serenity honours us, that in the National Assembly there are accountability mechanisms, such as the social affairs commission, the health commissioner and question period every day when the Assembly is in session.

I would now like to speak about a very sad matter, and I shall do so with all the solemnity it deserves. I was very sorry to hear some news yesterday. I hope that we can count on the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier, and on all members of Parliament.

We will recall that, in 1997, Allan Rock proposed a federal-provincial-territorial agreement on the hepatitis C issue. We are well aware that some of our fellow citizens have been infected through tainted blood or blood products. The number one recommendation of the Krever commission was that hepatitis C victims not be compensated on the basis of any kind of chronology.

As we speak, there is $1.1 billion available for compensation, of which $200 million has been used. In all good faith, the federal government expected to reach 20,000 hepatitis C victims, but has only reached some 7,000 to date.

That is why we have to achieve a consensus on improving the compensation package, so that individuals infected before 1986 and after 1990 can be eligible. I am sure that all parliamentarians in this House will agree to give in to this demand dictated by common sense, and, fundamentally, by compassion.

So, this is a very troubling issue. I cannot imagine the status quo being maintained any longer. That would not make sense. We are working hard at committee.

Madam Speaker, would you ask for the unanimous consent of the House to allow me to carry on for five minutes?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a brief comment and then a question. I believe that the measure of the success of a country is not an economic measure, but rather a measure of the health and well-being of its people.

I believe that the throne speech lays out in broad terms the next steps for building on that health and well-being. I believe that building Canada is an intricate and ongoing work in progress and that the throne speech must take into account where we have been, where we are and where we would like to be. It is not a laundry list or a wish list of all the members' items. Nor is it reflective of the priority of a matter if it is not mentioned in the throne speech, because the throne speech is the next step, building on where we have been.

With that as a preamble, here is my question for the member. Would the member agree that we have to continue the process of building Canada and improving the health and well-being of all Canadians?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree that we must continue the process of building Canada so that two nations can speak to each other as full equals, and this is the sovereignty association project.

I believe we must recognize that there is not room for two nations in the same political system. Quebec is not a province. This does not take anything away from Saskatchewan, from Prince Edward Island, from the rest of English Canada. Quebec is a nation and nations must achieve self-determination. The right to self-determination is recognized internationally.

The best thing that could happen to Quebec and to Canada would be for these two nations destined to become distinct countries to participate in the community of nations as complete equals, without borders, with a common market, and a tradition of generosity that will be a credit to our two peoples. This is the project that is very dear to the heart of the Bloc Québécois.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, first I want to thank the member for his kind words and wishes. I want to express the same to him. I wanted to get back to what he said. I have two short questions.

First, he talked about Quebec's conditions, that is the reason why Quebeckers should vote for sovereignty. He cited a few examples. However, if we solved these problems, which he calls the fiscal imbalance or whatever, would he then decide to become a federalist? That was my first question.

My second question is this: Quebeckers said no twice, in 1980 and in 1995. They will probably say no again the next time. Is there a time when this process will stop or does he think that it should continue until the end of time?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier for his question. As he was referring to two unsuccessful referendums, I thought, at first, that he was talking about Newfoundland. I now understand that he was referring to Quebec.

Democracy is not a process of slow combustion. In a democracy, when politicians are elected on the basis of their political agenda, the people expect them to do what they were elected for. I know that some people may be against sovereignty. However, the Parti Québécois has never hid its true intentions. Every time it held a referendum, it had a clear mandate to do so.

On the issue of asymmetrical federalism, I want to point out that we do not want a piecemeal approach where we would be granted one, two or three powers. We want all the powers, and I do not think this is possible under the current federal system.

I would like the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier to think about this: does he know of a nation which achieved sovereignty and then gave it up? Once Quebeckers come face to face with their destiny and opt for sovereignty, I believe they will never give it up. However, since we have some values in common with English Canada, we will share some of the powers with them, where it is useful to do so. We have always talked, of course, about a common currency and a common economic market, and that is part of our project.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Werner Schmidt Conservative Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I was really rather surprised that the hon. member who just spoke in answer to another question said that Quebec is a “nation”. I wonder if the member could define what he means by nation. There are different ways, I suppose, in which we can define nation, but I thought Quebec was a province of Canada and I thought Canada was a federation of all the provinces working together.

He also made the observation that Quebec takes nothing from the rest of Canada. I would like to ask him, then, about what has happened over the years where that cooperative element has in fact worked, where indeed the tax structure has created situations where there may have been a fiscal imbalance, and I am sure there is, but the fact still remains that Quebec was a beneficiary of certain financial agreements and arrangements that exist within Canada.

Could the member explain a little more clearly exactly what he means by Quebec being a nation?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

In international law and as sovereignists have been explaining for three decades already, what makes a nation is very clear. There are five essential elements: a vernacular language, which is, in our case, French, among others; effective control over a territory; a people demonstrating a will to live together; democratic institutions; and a history.

Very simply put, this is what a nation is. Nations have a right to self-determination. Two international conventions recognize this. This is why Quebec is destined to become a sovereign state in the world, which will not prevent it from forging associative links as determined by its interests and common values.

I am very surprised that our colleague has not realized that Quebec is a nation, since we have cast the net wide. When we maintain that Quebec is a nation, it is something that is not unanimous, but there is a relative consensus in Quebec.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned the criteria in international law for what constitutes a nation. One of the elements of that criteria is geography. Could the member comment on the fact that a significant portion of Quebec's geography is occupied by native peoples, specifically around James Bay by the Cree nations. How does he see this issue relating to the territorial integrity of Quebec?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, perhaps our hon. colleague will remember this man named René Lévesque, who, in the early 1980s, recognized the nation status of 11 first nations.

Quebec is a pretty good model when it comes to its relations with the first nations. As sovereignists, we have always acknowledged that we need to have a relationship, cooperation and special recognition for the first nations. I think that the policies put in place by René Lévesque and his successors ought to be an inspiration for all the members of this House who are respectful of the rights of the first nations.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is seeing the whole thing with a great deal of optimism when he says that we will agree on just about everything, that we will have a common currency, that there will be no borders, that there will be a comprehensive treaty between Quebec and Canada. He is putting on very rose-coloured glasses to look at a hypothetical situation.

I have a very short question. Does the hon. member realize that, prior to building his country, he must first destroy mine?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I will simply say two things. Obviously, the hon. member cannot criticize me for being optimistic by nature, even very optimistic.

I know he will understand that the right to self-determination belongs to the people of Quebec and that the rest of Canada will understand that it is in its best interests to be part of a common market and to ensure that the junction of our respective interests benefits both sides.

Indeed, I do think it is possible to build a new country on the basis of an association.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in this historic House as the second member of Parliament for the riding of Thornhill. I take this privilege and trust very seriously and will work to re-earn their trust. I am a voice for all my constituents because everyone deserves a voice.

Having a father who at 15 years old fought for the Algonquin regiment of the Canadian forces in World War II, I say in his memory today, I am very proud to serve in this House. I would like to acknowledge the hard work of my predecessor, the Hon. Elinor Caplan, and her longstanding dedication to public service.

I represent a riding that is very dynamic and diverse in nature, a community of multi-generational families, a community rich in volunteers, present and past, including Craig Kielburg of Free the Children, and a community that I believe represents the very best of Canada. In many ways Thornhill is Canada and Canada is Thornhill.

One prime example is Mosaic, a grassroots interfaith organization which is both unique and notable. Fundamental to its mandate is the very underpinning of the values of Canada, the values of inclusion, respect and equality, values which must be continuously reinforced and defended, particularly at this time in history. I was very heartened by the strong and definitive message regarding zero tolerance hate and hate crimes contained in the throne speech. This is clearly one of those times in history that requires courageous and proactive leadership to ensure that there will be no comfort level for hate in any form.

In this regard, among other initiatives, we need to direct funds to our schools to teach our children at the earliest possible stage anti-hate and anti-racism education to ensure history is not repeated and maintain our credibility as a just society. These types of measures, along with others, will ensure that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms continues to guide our way of life. Any attempt to erode or compromise our charter must be fought vigorously. There is too much at stake.

I am particularly pleased to hear in the Speech from the Throne our government's strong resolve to reaffirm our commitment to improve and safeguard our long admired health care system. This is essential and goes to the heart of what Canada is all about. As an 11 year breast cancer survivor, I, along with my government, am steadfastly committed to implementing this objective. I was very fortunate to receive state of the art treatment and care in a very timely fashion. Unfortunately, this is not always the case today.

Cancer, like many other catastrophic diseases does not simply affect the individual but profoundly affects entire families and generations. I sat recently in the home of one of my constituents. She told me her surgery and treatment may be delayed. This is totally unacceptable. Simply put, we must ensure that we get back to the previous level of service, and I am confident that we will.

Our throne speech, with its emphasis on reducing wait times and reforming primary care, shows that we get it. Our groundbreaking comprehensive approach, including encouraging prevention and healthier lifestyles, combined with clear targets and evidence-based benchmarks, bodes well for us being successful in this most critical area. This is also part and parcel of our demonstrated commitment to strengthen accountability in all areas of government. The bottom line is, my constituents want to know that when their children or their parents they are caring for need timely health care, they receive it.

As a former city councillor, I have worked on the front lines to improve transit and transportation infrastructure and build healthy, safe and sustainable communities and cities. I am very pleased that enshrined in the throne speech is our plan to allocate a portion of the gas tax to improve our cities and communities across Canada. Just in the city of Vaughan alone, our current local roads and sewer water main infrastructure needs list is approximately $100 million, and this is repeated across Canada. This significant commitment also signals a new spirit of cooperation. Any barriers that diminish the quality of life of Canadians must be eradicated. Having the privilege of serving on the national caucus cities and communities committee and being the new chair of the GTA caucus, I look forward with great enthusiasm to advancing our government's initiatives in this area.

My constituents and Canadians everywhere welcome this direction, which puts them first and casts aside self-serving counterproductive partisan positions that divide us. They expect us to work together, all parliamentarians, building on our best assets, our people, our values and our unique and cherished way of life, one for which is certainly worth fighting.

It is about time that all levels of government worked together to find solutions that affect Canadian lives on a daily basis. This refreshing approach, embraced across the country, is resonating everywhere. Its benefits will be multiple and far reaching. Let us build on this model.

Our forward thinking approach is reflected in the throne speech, which encourages increased clean and renewable energy. Our intent to strengthen and increase our current wind power initiatives is particularly positive and underscores our growing commitment to take responsibility for our environment.

I would like to extend my wholehearted support for our government's plan to implement a national early learning and child care system. As a mother of five grown children and former school trustee, I know how important this initiative is and what it will mean to all of us in our futures in our families. This, coupled with the forthcoming assistance to seniors and caregivers of people with disabilities, speaks volumes about the respect and support for those who have contributed so much to our society.

We have many inspiring examples in my riding of senior clubs that are enriching our community. To name a few, we have the Garibaldi Seniors, the Pinecrest Seniors, Centre Street Seniors, Thornhill Seniors in Vaughan and the new seniors facility in Thornhill Markham. I applaud them all.

As a member of the new status of women's committee, I am very pleased that our government will be bringing forward legislation to protect women against the trafficking of persons. This is absolutely vital to the well-being and security of women here and around the world.

Our throne speech heralds a new era, a new way of thinking, a new way of doing business, a reaffirmation of the best that we have achieved in the past and a recognition of the changing needs and climate of today.

Canadians want us to succeed. Our goals are lofty as they must be and are facilitated by a bright fiscal picture which will allow us to continue to pay down the debt and at the same time invest in essential services, strengthening our foundations and improving the quality of life for all Canadians. Canadians are relying on us to achieve these goals. We cannot afford not to. There is too much at stake.

We have been charged to follow this course and we have walked through the door with great hope and promise. We are not turning back.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want congratulate the hon. member on her election to the House of Commons. On behalf of I am sure all my Liberal colleagues, and perhaps even all colleagues, we want her to have a very long parliamentary career. We know she succeeds a member of Parliament who was truly outstanding and we know she will be just as successful in representing the people of Thornhill and, indeed, all Canadians.

In the hon. member's she very eloquently raised the issues involving health care. Those are issues with which I very much agree.

One issue that was raised earlier by another member was additional funding that may be available for those people who suffered from contaminated blood prior to 1986. Our minister has indicated his willingness to reopen that file. I hope he and his provincial counterparts, because this was a federal-provincial agreement, are willing to reopen this issue to assist the victims of hepatitis prior to 1986.

Has my colleague in her brief tenure here had representation from constituents who are also victims? Does she agree with me that this is indeed a good process? The Minister of Health is on the right track. He has said that he wants to reopen the file with the provinces. Will she join me in supporting the Minister of Health in doing just that.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I wholeheartedly support the direction that we are taking. I believe everyone in the House does.