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House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to my eminent colleague from the NDP. He made many references to the first nations, the aboriginal nations, but he never mentioned the existence of the nation of Quebec, no more than the budget speech did.

We see that the budget speech undoubtedly takes its inspiration from the social union framework of 1999, by which the government gave itself permission to deal more directly with citizens and corporations, bypassing the provinces.

Does my hon. colleague agree with the fact that the government, probably with the goal of constructing an increasingly unitary and increasingly centralized country, is making direct interventions with regard to students, the handicapped, early childhood, and wants to deal more and more with municipalities, or set up a national securities commission, to which Quebec is opposed, because Quebec is a nation? What does he think will be the fate of the nation of Quebec in this big, beautiful Canada, if, in his opinion, the Quebec nation does exist?

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have never denied the existence of the Quebec nation. The NDP has recognized it very clearly and I have no problem recognizing it today.

It is a question of leadership on the part of the federal government. Obviously, in many issues, there is a lack of leadership by the federal government. There is a great imbalance when it comes to Quebec and funding in national programs; that is certain. We recognize this, and our leader, Jack Layton, spoke eloquently about this issue. That is why many more Quebeckers know that there is an alternative progressive party in Quebec, which will produce very interesting results in the next election.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on the budget.

It would have been nice right before an election to have a budget with which we could go into the election saying that we cannot trust the Liberals to keep their promises, that they will never follow through on what is in the budget. That is just the way the government is before the election.

However, I have to admit that I was greatly shocked, simply because I am used to the usual Liberal way of doing things. They will talk from a social perspective, much like the Prime Minister did in the throne speech, that everything is wonderful and they are going to do all these things and they make all these promises. The Prime Minister could not do it in the budget. Something must have caught his conscience and he said, “I do not know if my corporate friends will support me in the next election if I do not follow true to them.”

Quite frankly, going into an election, I am pleased with the budget. I am darn pleased. After the election if he came forward with the usual kind of budget which gave everything, of course we would cheer. This was quite an interesting twist to things. I hope Canadians realize that if the Prime Minister, a month after the throne speech, could not follow through on a promise, then they had better not plan on the Prime Minister following through on any of the promises he was making on the side to people all throughout his leadership campaign.

I am sure he is even doing it now saying, “I could not put it in the budget right now because it would have looked bad. I am still going to make sure people get this and this”. I think we all expect that is what the Prime Minister is doing out there.

This is a budget that reflects the government's lack of priorities. It reflects the government's lack of vision. The budget reflects a government that is so out of touch with the people of Canada that it is incredible.

The Prime Minister probably travelled throughout Canada on his leadership campaign and spoke to a good number of Canadians. It is quite apparent which Canadians he spoke with, but he should have got a fair idea of what Canadians wanted and it is not there.

Let us follow up on the issue of health which the member for Burnaby—Douglas mentioned, which is the number one priority of Canadians. If there is anyone in the House who is willing to stand up and say Canadians do not consider health care to be their number one priority, then they should stand up and be counted because they are out of touch with Canadians as well. Health is the number one priority.

Canadians understand that the dollars have to be there to pay for the services. They understand that. Quite frankly, to my colleague from across the way, the secretary of state for privatization, we fully understand that. We did in Saskatchewan in the early years of medicare and we have continued to do that. In the province of Manitoba we want to make sure that the funding is there so that we can follow through.

Canadians want the dollars put into the budget for health care. They want to have a stable economy. They want us to have the money to support additional programs, but with a government that would finagle with putting over $200 million into Liberal patronage funds, it does not care about Canadians. The government does not care about Canadians and about ensuring that the dollars are there. The Liberals are just looking out for, not even 40 acres, probably it is about two acres as it is just that little group of whoever is around the minister of the day.

Canadians want to see the dollars go into health care, as do we. They want to see an overview of the system. Where changes to the management can be made to improve the system, let us do it. Canadians want the money to go into health care. Canadians want a not for profit health care system. Canadians absolutely do not want someone profiting from the ill health of someone else. The government's shameful example is not acceptable.

I want to also mention the situation with aboriginal health. The aboriginals are the most vulnerable group within our country because of the conditions they have been forced to live in, as a result of government policy over the years. It put them on reserves with inadequate housing, inadequate water and sewers and a lack of amenities that would be necessities in any white community.

I am going to say it because it is darn well true, the amenities in any white community were not put into the aboriginal communities for which the federal government is responsible, and it was a number of federal governments. The result within those communities has been poverty, poor living conditions and ill health within the communities.

There is something I recently found out. First nations should get their health care provided just like the rest of us. They have what they call non-insured health benefits. Any one of us can pick up an insurance policy to get some extra benefits. Everything that is covered by medicare gets paid by medicare. It is the insurer of last resort for those things that one is covered for. I want to talk about what Health Canada is doing to aboriginal people.

Assume that an aboriginal person would get an insurance policy to cover him or her for those additional things. Individual first nations members would pay for it themselves. In case anyone thinks it is coming out of the taxpayers' pockets, it is not. Individual first nations members pay for it. What does Health Canada tell them? They are told that the insurer has to pay for all of the individual's health care, and they operate differently. The most vulnerable people in our society are being treated like that by the government. It is not acceptable.

The government spouts off about all the dollars it is putting into education and research. Let us hear a really important part of this which maybe the government passed over, or maybe Canadians did not hear. It is additional funding to improve the capacity for the commercialization at universities, hospitals and other research facilities. We wonder why we get nervous when there is a secretary of state for privatization, when one of the government's major goals is the commercialization of universities and research.

Tell me, how much commercial profit is there if someone has an illness that only deals with maybe a small percentage of the population and drug companies are not going to make a profit by treating them? Do we think any effort is going to be made to find improvements for that condition, to find aids to assist with it and to do the research? If there is no commercial profit, do we think that is going to happen?

That is why a focus on the commercialization of universities and research is not acceptable. It is a disgusting vision for any nation, that all we would be looking at is the commercialization and that it would be espoused as something great.

This has been mentioned already, the broken promise, and it is happening to communities and cities with the gas tax. I hope people do not lose sight of that because if it was not in this budget, we are not going to see it, and anyone who believes the Prime Minister is really off in another realm.

The GST rebate is very commendable but it would make more sense to not have municipalities have to pay it in the first place. Is there not a way of putting in place a system where municipalities are registered as GST exempt for certain products so they do not have to pay it?

Why would we put in place a whole rebate system where we say that something is not covered anymore or that they will have to pay it on something else further down the road? It would make a lot more sense for municipalities and for that matter school boards and other educational institutions, not to have to pay it.

The government was very proud of its commitment to education, proud of ensuring that it is forcing students to have an even greater debt load in order to get their education.

A simple thing would have been to provide funding to keep tuition fees down. We can forget all the fancy little tricks that were put in where people get a certain amount of money if they have a child under a certain age, as long as they are not getting the national child tax credit in that family, then they will get a certain amount, all these little loopholes.

The Prime Minister as finance minister found all the loopholes he possibly could in the tax system, but we had hoped that there could have been a whole lot more vision and commitment for Canadians.

My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas also mentioned the failure to aboriginal people and there is no question about that. That was a real disappointment. The Prime Minister had gone around saying that he was going to be there for us. He did not last a month before he turned his back on the aboriginal people of Canada, once again. I hope they will not let the Prime Minister get away with it.

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1:30 p.m.

Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the issue that the hon. member talked about, which was the commercialization of research, which is apparently disgusting in her mind. The Government of Canada has made a focus on research and development a priority. That is two words: research and development. It has put universities back in the game so that we are now regarded as leading in that area.

I had a really interesting conversation with Dr. Robert Birgeneau, the president of the University of Toronto, who whenever he sees us never fails to thank us for all of the research chairs and granting councils.

When the minister did his pre-budget tour, one of the things that continually came up was the fact that we were failing to commercialize the research that we were doing. As a consequence, we were kind of getting the worst of both worlds. We were creating the research and then somebody else, presumably outside the country, was benefiting from the research. We were not going to get any productivity gains out of it. We were not going to get any of the enhancements in life that Canadians are justifiably entitled to out of their research dollars.

Therefore, I put it to the hon. member, how does she square that circle? This is sort of a half economic theory. The NDP seems to like to spend money, but it certainly does not seem to like to create any of the conditions that might create wealth so that the lives of Canadians are enhanced. Why is she objecting to Canadians benefiting from their own research?

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1:35 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is certainly no objection to benefiting from one's research. I would suggest that there are probably a good number of scientists and researchers whose benefit is more than just the almighty dollar and the commercialization of the product.

My concern over the government taking this course is that it has become solely focused on the commercialization aspect. I have sat in on numerous industry committee meetings where we talked about all this stuff. I was extremely disappointed that as a nation this was becoming our major focus, instead of supporting scientists and researchers who want to do their work for the benefit of humankind.

I think of the scientists of years ago: Banting, Best, Salk and all the ones we were taught about as we were growing up. Their commitment was for the improvement of humankind. I am sure many of us would speak very highly of them forever on.

We had a situation where it was no longer commercially beneficial to produce a certain type of insulin, so the companies quit making it. It was the first insulin produced here in Canada. The company had been sold off, so it quit making it. Therefore, the individuals who wanted it could not get it. They were forced to go to another kind that did not work as well with their systems. This was done because it was not commercially beneficial. That is the problem with a sole focus.

I do not suggest for one moment that research should not have an opportunity to benefit; however, I have listened to a number of researchers who really do not want to go that route, but they are forced into that route. Otherwise, they will not get the assistance they need to do their research. That is an issue.

When the government is going to put taxpayers' dollars into these projects, there should not be the sole intent of a commercialization of the product. That is what the issue is about.

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1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. I simply want to come back to an earlier comment by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas. He said that Quebeckers will have an alternative progressive party, as if they did not already have one in Quebec, in the next election.

My friend from Burnaby—Douglas said that the New Democratic Party had recognized the Quebec nation. I agree that he has done so, and even though his party has also recognized Quebec, it has not given any substance to this concept. As they say in English:

You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?

His entire party, with the exception of two members including himself, voted in favour of the so-called clarity bill, preventing this nation from truly exercising its right to self-determination.

What is the point in recognizing a nation if that nation is not free to decide its future?

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1:35 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the question for the member for Burnaby—Douglas. I will indicate that as New Democrats we believe in the right of self-determination for Quebeckers and for first nations. However, we also believe in a unified Canada. In the scope of recognizing the right of self-determination, there are a good many of us who will do our darndest to promote a unified Canada.

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1:35 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

It is a great pleasure for me too to speak on the budget speech itself. Obviously, many things included in this budget have not been emphasized by the opposition, because that is not how the game is played. Its role is not to make the government look good.

I want in particular to stress, with regard to the financial management of Canada, certain essential points that ensure that Canada is now and will be able in the future to position itself and fulfill its obligations to Canadians as well as its international responsibilities.

In the period between 1980 and 1990, there was an average annual deficit of $30 billion. In fact, we only calculated ten times $30 billion, for an accumulated deficit of $300 billion. For those listening, each year a government tables its budget and says that, this year, the deficit is $50 billion or $40 billion, this means that this amount has to be borrowed on the market and added to a growing debt. It is as if someone buys a car on credit for $20,000 and also buys other things on credit. That person's debt increases accordingly and will have to be repaid on an annual basis.

When the government's financial structure was reorganized, after the Liberal Party came to power in 1993, the Conservatives had left an operating deficit of $42 billion in addition to the debt. So, the accumulated debt that had to be repaid was nearly $600 billion. This debt was further increased by an amount borrowed annually to ensure a balanced budget.

In the space of six years, the $554 billion debt has been reduced by $52 billion. That is nothing to be sneezed at. Are hon. members aware that, in the recently tabled budget for this year, $35 billion out of $187 billion is earmarked specifically for the debt, the debt charges? That is $35 billion out of $187 billion.

By reducing the debt by $52 billion over the past six years, the Government of Canada has been able to save $3 billion annually in interest it is no longer paying. The objective of this budget is to further reduce the debt so as not to leave that financial burden for those future generations. If we are to guarantee pension funds for Canadians, we must be absolutely sure to have a sound financial foundation, one that is clean and clear, meaning that it will not be necessary to make payments and borrow every year.

In this case, Canada has been able to reduce its debt by $52 billion, which makes for a ratio to GDP that is something of a record. Moreover, the IMF recently described Canada as the country with the best financial management of all G-7 countries in the past 10 years. Those are not our words but the worlds of international bodies which analyze the situation in various countries and hold Canada up as a model.

Among the G-7 countries currently experiencing budget structuring problems, we need look no further than France, which is a member of the European Union. It has to make adjustments in order to meet the criteria for EU membership. Last year's budget was a deficit budget, which leaves it with a larger deficit than the criteria for European membership stipulate.

All of the G-7 countries have been looking at deficits. The only one currently with a balanced budget for the past six years, and about to add a seventh is Canada. So, we are a model to look to.

However, here we navel gaze and we try to analyze the performance of a government by comparing it to that of another government. Of course, we could mention all sorts of things. However, when it comes to the budget, if we make comparisons with all the other countries, I think we are a model for the world. This is what we call to show fiscal prudence with taxpayers' money.

What has been the impact of balancing budgets and reducing the debt over the past seven years? What has been the impact of saving about $3 billion in interests annually by paying off the debt? These measures have allowed us to keep interest rates very low.

I remember that, in 1970, when I bought my first property, I got a 5.25% rate. Now, in 2004, 34 years later, the rates are the same. The bank lowered its rate again in recent weeks. This means that a young person who wants to buy a house now will pay an interest rate that is basically the same as in the seventies. In fact, in real terms, the rate is now lower, because the dollar was worth more in 1970 than now.

So, managing public finances very prudently, gradually paying off the national debt and tabling balanced budgets have ensured that we can now maintain interest rates at a fairly constant level. This benefits Canadians and it allows investors to come and settle here, thus helping our economy grow. Such savings help create wealth, and also allow us to invest in the health and social systems that our fellow citizens truly need.

There is one thing that went unnoticed in the budget. We saw that, according to the New Democratic Party, the Conservative Party and all the opposition parties, the biggest loser is the public. Oddly enough, there is something that the opposition failed to mention about the budget. It is a measure that may not necessarily be included in this budget, because it was announced a while ago, to be implemented over a five year period beginning on January 1, 2001. In other words, this measure is still in effect this year.

The finance minister at the time had announced a $100 billion tax reduction plan over 5 years. Is the House aware how much that represents for that year as a tax decrease for everyone in Canada? It is a decrease of $32.3 billion that the people will be entitled to. That is a tax decrease for this year, 2004-2005, of $22.3 billion for the citizens. That is not mentioned. When they say that the people did not get a tax reduction, it just shows that political memory is very short-term. Something like three or four months.

In 2000-2001, the finance minister—who is now the Prime Minister—announced a plan to reduce taxes by $100 billion over 5 years. This year the same formula applies. Canada will enjoy a tax reduction of $31.1 billion, of which $22.3 billion goes to individual citizens and $4.4 billion to businesses.

It also puts more money in the taxpayers' pockets. It makes it possible for Canadians to get into the market and invest.

A while ago, I mentioned interest rates remaining very low, but I also want to talk about the more than $30 billion decrease in taxes that is going into people's pockets. When we do the math, what does it mean? It enables people to spend.

In recent years, particularly in 2002 and 2003, these measures have led to a construction boom across Canada. So, construction materials were purchased, companies had to manufacture these materials and expanded their operations. This resulted in jobs being created.

All these measures by the Liberal government have ensured that today nearly all sectors are receiving investments to consolidate the Canadian economy and ensure it improves each year.

After September 11, as everyone remembers, there was a major economic slowdown in the United States.

Everyone thought that this would seriously affect Canada. As a result of the budgetary measures adopted at the time by the federal Liberal government, Canada weathered the economic ups and downs affecting North America. Canada's economy stayed on course.

The proof is that our unemployment rate is one of the lowest around. Unemployment is approximately 7%. This is incredible. Canada has created the most jobs per capita of all the western countries. Nonetheless, measures were implemented to ensure that today Canada's economy has a solid foundation. Furthermore, this gives all Canadians hope for the future.

In order to guarantee pensions for future generations fifty years down the road, we need to plan today. In my opinion, this budget is extremely progressive and will ensure that Canadians have a strong economy in the coming years.

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1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I took particular note of the member's argument that we have to compare ourselves to other countries.

I came across a study a couple of months ago from the International Monetary Fund that looked at the OECD countries, at the demographic problems regarding our countries and at the unfunded liabilities that exist in societies, and they quantified the debts. Can anyone guess what country was in the worst shape out of all the OECD countries in the world? Canada was dead last.

When we take in unfunded liabilities and our demographic problems in Canada added to our existing debt level, the debt to GDP ratio goes from 42% to 400%, an unsustainable level.

I have heard nothing from the government about this report. The Liberals seem to have selective memory syndrome. They want to take a slice of something and look at it, and they do not want to look at something like that. That is a pretty credible report and it is frightening.

I look at what our young people may be facing because of the government's mismanagement, of its head in the sand attitude and of its platitudes. Somebody will pay for this mess later on. The train is coming down the tracks and the sound is not very good.

I would like the member's response to that international monetary report. Does he think it is an incredibly poor report or what?

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the main challenge facing our country in the years to come is demographic. This applies to Quebec equally, the place I live, and the place where I was born.

Our greatest challenge is a demographic one. Canada ranks second, after Russia, in geographic size. We have a population of 31 million. So we have a huge area to cover with that total population.

If we compare that to the United States, they are 300 million strong, or 10 times our population. Quebec's population is close to 8 million, and our territory is three or four times larger than France, with its 70 million. So we have a population problem. That is Canada's problem.

Returning to Quebec, we have the same problem. It makes our lives expensive. Any improvements we want to make are costly. For instance, if we want to put in a highway between Montreal and Quebec City, there are only 7 million of us to pay for it. When one is built between Boston and New York, there are 50 million people to pay for it. There is the effect of mass, the effect of volume.

So, in order to give a more precise answer to my colleague, I must say that the major challenge for Canada at this time is demographic. A heavy stress must be put on immigration. We must open up our borders and welcome people coming from overpopulated countries, so that Canada may become a host country for people from all over the world.

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1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

With the cooperation of the House, I would perhaps give a little more time for questions and comments, to avoid giving the floor to someone for only a few minutes before proceeding to statements by members.

The hon. member for Champlain.

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1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the last comments made by the member opposite. He said, “The major challenge for Canada at this time is demographics”. I would say that the challenge currently facing us is democracy.

It is incredible what you are doing to democracy. You know, when you are busy bragging about your—

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is not so much whether or not you are looking at me that matters. Comments must be made through the Chair, and not directly at a colleague who may or may not share the same point of view.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will speak through you, of course. I am deeply shocked when they praise the zero deficit in a balanced budget.

I would like to know if my Liberal colleague would be proud of his accomplishment if he had paid off his debt by taking his neighbours' salaries and palming the expenses off on them? That is exactly what Canada is doing. I am not proud of this balanced budget.

The budget was balanced at the expense of the employment insurance fund—which does not belong to them—to the tune of $45 billion, in addition to the $3 billion that was stolen from seniors. The balance also rests on cuts to health services and education for Quebec and the other provinces. It is easy when the government grabs money in areas outside its jurisdiction, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. In Quebec, 55% of our taxes go to the federal government. We have to get down on our knees to get that money to come back to Quebec. When it does come back, we hear about it for years, as though we had asked for a handout. Yet, we do not even get what we are owed.

Personally, a balance like that does not make me proud. I would be proud if the federal government had balanced the budget honestly.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member for Champlain has asked me that question.

The people's money belongs to the people; it is managed by governments that are elected by the people. That is our basic principle. We are talking about democracy and they are talking about theft because it is the only word in their vocabulary.

I would like to ask him this question: in his former government, in Mr. Parizeau's time, how much did you steal from the people when you decided to freeze the savings of the people of Quebec in the Caisse de dépôt during a referendum? When you decided to—

The BudgetGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. It appears that the generosity of the Chair may not always be the wisest way to proceed. I would simply like to remind the hon. member on the government side that when he is speaking to his colleagues, all interventions must be made through the Chair.

If we want to continue our debate in a proper parliamentary manner, it would be wise to conform to the usual practices and make our interventions through the Chair.

We will now proceed with members' statements.

New Horizons ProgramStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, for many years now, I have been fighting to restore the New Horizons program, which granted subsidies to seniors' groups for projects, thereby contributing to their well-being. This program highlighted volunteer initiatives by seniors for seniors, which also encouraged them to get involved in activities to stay physically fit.

On numerous occasions, during Quebec and national caucus meetings, I had indicated my desire to create a program to better meet the needs of seniors throughout Canada with additional funding.

In closing, I am pleased that budget 2004 also allocates $8 million in 2004-05 and $10 million annually thereafter to the New Horizons program. These funds will help our seniors take part in social activities, lead an active lifestyle and contribute to their communities.

Canadian Food Inspection AgencyStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the avian flu is in my riding of Abbotsford. I have met with our provincial minister of agriculture and our province's chief veterinarian to further understand the problem.

I have also met with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to assess the damages. For three hours last night I listened while producers asked many questions of the CFIA. It is important for everybody to know that this flu affects birds and not people. I want to applaud the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for such a thorough investigation of the issue.

I also want to say that the government will be reimbursing farmers for destroyed birds, but we want the government to understand that there are other costs, such as cleanup, lost production time and lost birds due to the flu, that have to be looked at. We will be back to the government on that issue.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the federal member of Parliament for the large northern Ontario riding of Algoma—Manitoulin, soon to be renamed Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing, I have had the opportunity to become very involved with our first nations. I have often said that we have much to learn from our aboriginal citizens and neighbours. Foremost, I find the natural spirituality of our first peoples to be inspirational.

It is important that Canadian society at large help to protect and preserve Canada's aboriginal heritage by working in partnership to support local initiatives to preserve aboriginal culture. If we do not act now, then many of the languages and stories of Canada's original inhabitants may be lost forever.

I want to commend the Kinnomaadoog project of the M'Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. By working to preserve the stories and languages being passed on by community elders, this project is doing us all a great service.

I want to thank the leaders and participants in this excellent project.

Gérard ParadisStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, Gérard Paradis, a Canadian from Laval-les-Îles, has gone to Colombia under the auspices of Canadian Executive Service Organization, CESO. This organization contributes to activities as part of Canada's contribution to stimulating development in economically disadvantaged countries through the efforts of highly qualified volunteers.

Mr. Paradis' expertise will help a chemical company improve the distribution of its products and develop a strategy for marketing new and improved products. Volunteer work has a profound cumulative effect on nearly all sectors of our society by encouraging their growth and development.

I join the people of Laval in thanking Mr. Paradis and the millions of volunteers working throughout the world to improve the lives of those most in need.

Ordre de la CouronneStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to announce that two Oblate Fathers, who have spent their lives in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, Father Charles Choque and Father Josephee Meeus, have been awarded the Ordre de la Couronne.

This special recognition from King Albert II of Belgium was awarded to Father Choque and Father Meeus for their long and exceptional commitment promoting the culture, values and spirituality of the Inuit with whom they ministered.

The Ambassador of Belgium, Mr. Daniel Leroy, will confer the order upon the two fathers in Rankin Inlet at the end of May.

I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating the new knights.

Renfrew CountyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the innovative way to assist eastern Ontario in bringing diversity to our local economy would be to designate Renfrew County with northern status. It has been recognized on both sides of the House that eastern Ontario needs more effective economic development.

The people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke share many of the challenges of a resource based economy with their neighbours in northern Ontario. In the past, the decision to extend northern status south of the French River was based on politics. From border closures to ruminants, the softwood lumber dispute, SARS, West Nile virus and rising energy prices, the people of Renfrew County and the city of Pembroke need a break.

I call upon the Prime Minister to cherish his Ottawa Valley roots and rise above petty partisan politics to grant Renfrew County northern status before an election is called. It is all about Canadian jobs.

Dominic AgostinoStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Canada lost a great parliamentarian and a great Canadian. Dominic Agostino, MPP for Hamilton East, died leaving a gaping hole in our political landscape.

Over the years, Dominic served as a school board trustee, a city and regional councillor, and at Queen's Park since 1995. A fearless fighter, Dominic was energetic, passionate about his community of Hamilton, his province and his country. He dedicated his entire adult life to fighting for the underdog.

Along the way, he earned the respect of his political allies and his opponents, described by one as Mike Harris' worst nightmare. His huge family of friends will miss him greatly. I will miss seeing Dominic at political events where he always had a huge crowd of admirers around him enjoying his ideas, his humour and his loyalty.

I know all colleagues will join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to his family. Those of us who knew him will have many fond memories to cherish of a wonderful person we were lucky to have had enrich our lives.

Jean VigneaultStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week Saint-Hyacinthe and area lost a major figure, when Jean Vigneault, editor in chief of the Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe , editorial writer, radio personality and voice of conscience, died more quietly than he had ever lived.

Jean Vigneault loved a good fight, particularly a political fight. I have more than once been the victim of his tongue and pen, and they were always sharp. Yet I knew him to be a man of unfailing social commitment, well aware of his influence and making admirable use of that sharp pen to bring about improvements for the common good.

Our last battles on the same side were about employment insurance and keeping the faculty of veterinary medicine. We were at least partially victorious.

Although we did not share the same point of view about the future of Quebec, I kept hoping to be able to convince Jean Vigneault of my views, and as a result of all our discussions we just naturally came to be friends .

My sincere condolences to his wife and family. We will long remember Mr. Vigneault, and our best memories will be of his powerful jibes in the print media.