House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was public.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as NDP MP for Dartmouth (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2000, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Idol September 16th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to represent the community of Cherry Brook, which is part of my riding of Dartmouth. It is also the home of Canadian Idol finalist Gary Beals.

All summer long Gary has demonstrated the spirit of his community with his soulful tunes. His commitment to his family and his faith continues to remain strong throughout the intense media attention and the stress of weekly performances.

Gary is a theatre student at Acadia University and has sung with its gospel choir. He started singing in the Cherry Brook United Baptist Church at the age of 12.

In Cherry Brook, in Dartmouth and all over Nova Scotia, people are hoping for the best for this young man. We hope he will win the final tonight, but no matter what the results are, I expect we will all continue to hear about Gary Beals. We wish him good luck and we wish to thank him for taking up this challenge.

Canadian Television June 13th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this week the heritage committee released a review of the Broadcast Act showing the government's shameful legacy of mismanagement of the Canadian TV system.

One example is the finance minister's announcement of no new money in the budget for the Canadian television fund. Instead, he has decided to borrow $12.5 million from next year's fund.

Will the finance minister today heed the heritage committee's report and its recommendation and restore funding to the CTF, or will he allow Canadian drama to simply wither away?

Statutory Instruments Act June 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I understand the confidentiality of a particular case but I want to make the point again that this man, Mr. Foster, spent four years in a very vulnerable, very ill condition of disability, trying to work his way through the system. At the end of that period, he won a review tribunal appeal. At that point, it seems to me that it is up to the government to respect the decision of the tribunal and to give this person, who is in a very vulnerable state, the assistance that he needs.

If we cannot be there for people who are severely disabled, then this program is a sham. It is not working. Clearly we need to ensure that it is working for Canadians. It is not working now. I hope that message is being sent loud and clear.

Statutory Instruments Act June 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity tonight to ask the government side about an important issue which I raised a couple of weeks ago in the House. This is the issue around a CPP disability case for a Regina man named Mr. Foster. I want to raise it again in hopes of coming to some sort of understanding of the government's actions in this case.

Basically, here it is. Mr. Foster is a 60 year old man from Regina who has been unable to work since having two strokes in the late nineties. After four years of denied applications, appeals, poverty and illness, Mr. Foster finally was advised that the review tribunal had accepted his appeal, yet incredibly he has been told by her department that it will overturn the appeal.

Mr. Foster worked for 32 years as a caretaker of an apartment building before suffering his strokes, and he contributed to CPP throughout that time. He first applied to CPP disability in 1999 but was rejected, saying that he could still do light work. His next appeal in March 2001 was denied, citing lack of new evidence. Mr. Foster then tried to get a neurological assessment but it would cost $1,000, which he could ill afford.

At this point, Mr. Foster already was quite discouraged. He started the process in 1999 and about two years later he was not much further ahead. His wife had severe diabetes and they were living off her disability income, which was not enough. In 2000 they were forced to declare bankruptcy. His adviser was worried because Mr. Foster's mental capacity was starting to deteriorate.

Finally, after a cognitive screening by an occupational therapist, which essentially stated he was unemployable, Mr. Foster's appeal was accepted on February 10, 2003. After almost four long years, Mr. Foster finally got what he deserved in the first place, namely his CPP disability, except that Mr. Foster was advised recently that the minister would try to overturn his successful appeal with no explanation. It is the explanation that I am hoping to garner today.

Perhaps the details of this case seem tedious but I outlined them to show the lengthy and unnecessary process which persons with disabilities are forced to go through. I wish I could say that this case is unique, an anomaly, but that is just not true. The one uniqueness of Mr. Foster's case is that he persevered in his appeals for four years, thanks to the support and persistence of his adviser and his family. Most applicants do not have the strength to go that far, but it should not be so difficult to obtain this support in the first place.

Will the minister explain to me how it is that her department has come to the conclusion that Mr. Foster does not deserve the support of the CPP program, a program into which he has paid throughout his working life in the sincere hope that he would never have to access it? Why on earth is the department denying this man what is rightfully his and to what he is entitled?

First Nations Governance Act June 3rd, 2003

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the amendments at report stage of Bill C-7, the first nations governance act.

I wish to recognize the ferocious and passionate work of the member for Winnipeg Centre and the number of hours, days, weeks and nights that he has worked and burned the midnight oil to draw attention to the flaws in the bill, and also to bring some kind of quality to this legislation.

The question remains though, what quality does the bill hold? How can we do justice to the bill or any of the amendments when they are grouped in such a complex and nonsensical fashion, when they have been dumped into the House despite the very eloquent and well reasoned protests of some members from different parties.

We are dealing with a piece of legislation which will fundamentally affect the lives of aboriginal people. The committee had only a matter of hours to look at 40 or 50 amendments. It defies reason. It seems so unfair to expect anyone to decide on whether they can support or not support some of these amendments given the fact that they have had no time to reflect.

I would have to say that the word reflection is not a word that I would in any way use with this disastrous piece of legislation.

I will speak to two of the motions which are in the first grouping. Motion No. 1 was put forward by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. It reads:

That Bill C-7, in the Preamble, be amended by replacing lines 15 and 16 on page 1 with the following:

“nance that are in accordance with their individual traditions and customs”

The preamble was amended at committee stage to include reference to effective tools of governance that could be adapted to individual traditions and customs. This change to the preamble would assert that Bill C-7 is intended to provide first nations with effective governing tools that respect their individual traditions and customs, not the other way around.

There has been no attention to first nations values and traditions throughout the entire bill. Some first nations may wish to adopt codes or elect their leaders by following traditional aboriginal methods. However, Bill C-7 would not allow them to do so.

The government's initiative does not address the real challenges faced by aboriginal people: unemployment, insufficient housing, dismal education statistics, inordinately high suicide and infant mortality rates, and the lack of safe drinking water in many places.

Bill C-7 represents the analysis and speculations of non-aboriginal consultants and the wishful thinking of federal bureaucrats. It is not in any way in accordance with the individual traditions and customs of aboriginal people.

I have had the opportunity in the last months to sit on the subcommittee for children at risk. I have been working for the last several months on a study on aboriginal children from ages zero to 12 in the city. It is so clear to me from what I have heard in the committee that the bill does not address the real challenges facing aboriginal people, such as unemployment, fetal alcohol syndrome and such as just incredible poverty that passes through generations, such as the problems inherent in coming out of families which have been crippled by the residential school system, by a system which never allowed families to actually pass on their traditions to their children, never allowed people to know how to be parents, how to relate as parents to their children or their children to parent. It is cutting off at the core the fundamental essence of aboriginal society, which is value for children.

The focus of much of the discussions in that subcommittee was how to overcome the crippling socio-economic conditions facing the first nations people. At the same time, there was such a sense of pride. They are a people who have integrity, strength and richness, and they simply want to work with us. They do not want us to formulate their rules or communities and how they are structured.

One of the main things that I heard from witnesses at the subcommittee was the need for aboriginal-centred support programs. Collectively, aboriginal peoples have led a different life than most Canadians, mostly because of the oppressive treatment by the Canadian government. Time, resources and support are needed to heal. One of the witnesses described it as the “multi-generation grief resulting from colonization”. That is the legacy which the government and this society have visited upon native people.

That is why it is so important for culturally relevant programming, and it is also important to realize that one size does not fit all. This bill in fact cannot impose on all native people a method of governing themselves or of being governed. None of the witnesses spoke of government dependency, but rather of partnership and horizontal collaborations to create an integrated policy framework. Things like aboriginal head start programs were good examples of the type of programming needed.

I would like to point out that this bill does not really address any of the needs of aboriginal people who live off reserves, even though this is increasingly the case. The so-called consultation process that this bill undertook did not in any way take into account the aboriginal customs and traditions, and we have heard that over and over. We heard it in committee and we are hearing it now in the House. We also heard it from native groups. The consultation program was fundamentally flawed and insulting to native people. Almost every single organization and individual to appear before the committee strongly denounced the bill, and yet the government continues to force it through Parliament.

The government claims that it consulted over 10,000 people. This includes Internet consultations and 1-800 numbers. However, the first round of the consultation process held in the winter of 2002 had an extremely low turnout at the consultations, and most people who came out to these meetings last year really came out to talk about basic, immediate poverty issues like schools, water and housing. First nations did not want to deal with a massive document that they did not understand. They had come out to talk about bread and butter issues. To say that a widespread consultation occurred on this is a fraud and denigrates the entire process.

The RCAP report, the royal commission on aboriginal people, is a document that native people in this country felt strongly about. It had extensive and legitimate consultations with first nations and experts within their communities and public across the country. It provided a blueprint for a new era of respect and cooperation between the Government of Canada and the first nations people. What happened to those recommendations? Why we are not seeing them as the overlay of the blueprint of this piece of legislation defies reasoning.

I would like to move on to Motion No. 14 which is put forward by the NDP and it reads:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 34 on page 4 with the following:

“least 30 days before the vote is conducted”

This is an amendment concerning the issue of the amount of time bands have to make codes available to their band members before adopting them from 15 days to 30 days. The amendment would allow for more time to contact band members living off reserve, but does not make it impossible for bands to adopt codes rapidly in case of emergencies.

In conclusion, when it comes down to imposing it through a specific--

Public Service Modernization Act June 3rd, 2003

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-25. We in the House know how important this legislation is. There are some 170,000 civil servants in the country and I am told that if the RCMP, the armed forces and several others are added to that figure, the number gets up to almost half a million workers. This is an important piece of legislation that involves 16 bargaining units. We have a lot of work to do on this front to make sure we have a healthy and vibrant public service.

The role of the civil service has been the subject of no fewer than 37 indepth studies in the last 40 years. It is something that we certainly are trying to get right, but I am not sure how successful we have been.

I have received many letters, as have my colleagues, from people in the public service who have described the contents of Bill C-25 as a slap in the face. I would like to deal with some of the specific problems they have talked about, but first I would like to give a bit of a context for the bill.

We have to keep in mind that the 1990s was a terrible decade for our public service employees. There were seven or eight years of wage freezes with zero per cent increases. There was total devastation with the program review, where one-third of the civil servants were laid off. Many workers were demoralized by job cutbacks. Even though the civil service was reduced by one-third, the amount of work did not change. Employees were struggling with giving service to the public with fewer resources and fewer people to do the job. MPs know that this is the case because we see and hear from our constituents constantly about voicemail and never hearing a human being's voice at the other end of a government phone line because there have been so many cutbacks.

The ultimate insult was when the former president of the Treasury Board took the entire $30 billion surplus out of the employees' pension plan without even considering the fact that a surplus in a pension plan is the property of the employees. A pension plan should be viewed as wages being held in trust until such time as they are needed. When the pension plan went into surplus, the entire surplus of $30 billion was taken out of the employees' pension plan.

The government views surpluses very differently than the New Democratic Party does. In our time here we have certainly seen the massive EI surplus which has grown and grown over the last decade. That money also has not gone toward the purposes for which it was intended. It has gone into general revenues. At the same time a number of unemployed Canadians find that they are unable to collect EI because of the tightening of eligibility rules. The last I heard, only 40% of unemployed Canadians were able to receive EI.

A couple of years ago, the CLC estimated the amount of revenues taken out of Canadian cities because of cuts to EI. At that time the hit for my own community of Dartmouth was estimated to be $20 million. There would be $20 million less per year to be spent in our economy, to be used to support families, to provide a level of security at one of the most difficult junctures in people's lives, that is, when they are faced with unemployment.

The EI surplus also has disappeared. That money has been thrown into general revenues and is not being utilized for the purposes for which it was intended.

As I have said, during the process called program review in which the former finance minister got rid of the deficit, one-third of our civil servants were laid off. In my community of Dartmouth, there are thousands of families in which one or both spouses work for the federal public service. There are offices for DND, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, HRDC, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Heritage Canada, Environment Canada, Canada Post, ACOA, which is the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, just to name a few.

We have the regional headquarters for the National Film Board. Until the deep cuts in the 1990s, it was a very important production centre for Atlantic filmmakers and a training ground for young, talented creators getting their start in film. Like dozens of other important government agencies, the Film Board saw devastating cuts in the 1990s. Many people were forced to take a package a number of years before they wanted to leave, stopping them in mid-career when they were just reaching their potential in their field. It is a tragedy how much collective wisdom and knowledge has been lost because of the government's shortsighted program review which saw thousands and thousands of dedicated and caring public servants go out the door.

Now there is Bill C-25, another bill to modernize the public service. The question is how successful is this effort? It falls short in many very important areas and I would like to mention some of them.

Bill C-25 waters down the merit principle by allowing only one person with the essential qualifications of a position to be considered for the job and removing relative merit from the public service employment act. This means that a manager could easily appoint one of his or her favourites to a position.

Bill C-25 also limits the grounds for complaints in a staffing process to abuse of authority and language of choice. Whether or not candidates were tested in their language of choice will be easy to prove, but abuse of authority is almost impossible to prove. This means that very few individuals will be able to successfully challenge any staffing decision that is made.

Bill C-25 also broadens the definition of essential services and gives the employer the exclusive right to determine the level and frequency of services during a strike. This means that the right of strike will be severely curtailed, if not removed completely.

Bill C-25 as it presently stands also gives the employer control of the designations process in a way that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to know which employees are designated and which are not. This means that there will be more problems on the picket line, not fewer.

Bill C-25 also calls for a striking worker who, perhaps unknowingly, prevents a designated worker from entering the workplace to be convicted of a summary offence. This means that the government does not trust its own workers to act responsibly.

Another area that is of very great concern to the New Democrats is that Bill C-25 continues to exclude fundamental workplace issues, such as staffing and classification from collective bargaining. This means that the government has no real interest in working more collectively with unions.

We have heard from some of our Bloc colleagues and also from members of the NDP who have worked hard in committee to try to get some of these important issues addressed. We see again and again a government which we do not believe recognizes the important contributions that the public service makes. Canada's public servants dedicate so much of their lives and talents to make this country work. They make our trains run on time and deliver our mail. Our military, coast guard, immigration and postal services are the meaning of this country and public servants work together to provide those services. The government is not giving the public service the due that is required.

The NDP and the Public Service Alliance of Canada have raised issues in committee, such as the merit principle, grievance procedures, the definition of essential services, strike breaking procedures, staffing and classification for collective bargaining. It is clear that until these issues are dealt with satisfactorily, we will not be able to support Bill C-25 as it currently is drafted.

Library and Archives of Canada Act May 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in the comments of my fellow committee member around the issue of the potential merger of the National Library and the National Archives. As he will know, the 1990s saw enormous cuts to these two institutions which are the pillars of our cultural heritage.

A couple of years ago, Roch Carrier, the head of the National Library, came before us and spoke powerfully about the impact the cuts were having on the storage of our heritage. Our committee at that time recommended that the national librarian, the national archivist and the Department of Canadian Heritage initiate a planning process to examine the long term space and preservation needs of the National Archives and the National Library.

What we need along with a recommendation, is a financial commitment to make that kind of planning process worth its salt. I guess I would say the same of this bill. If a bill is going to be enacted, we have to make sure that the political will is also there to give the bill some meaning.

I would like to know how the member feels about that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 May 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say otherwise but in fact the budget has brought about more restrictive amendments to the disability tax credit, completely in opposition to the NDP resolution that was passed unanimously by the House. With the exception of the Minister of Finance, everyone in the House stood and made strong arguments to the government that we wanted to see more humane and compassionate treatment of persons with disabilities under the federal Income Tax Act.

The amendments that were made to the budget actually continue to hammer away at people in some very restrictive areas around feeding and dressing. The wording was changed somewhat but it is the same wolf dressed up in sheep's clothing. We did not really see any kind of real relief for persons with disabilities.

The kind of changes that are needed in this tax credit program are immense. They need to be incorporated with a wider definition of disability which would go through all our government programs, including the Canada pension plan disability program and the medical tax credit. We need one definition for disability. We need forms for doctors to fill out that will actually reflect real human beings and not just frustrate the process. We need forms that will get to the depth of the disability in order to provide reasonable income support for persons with disabilities.

As the member mentioned, we need a refundable tax credit, which is not in place at this point in time. There is no income support at the federal level for a large majority of persons with disabilities who simply never reach the level of income that is required to benefit from the tax credit.

We are a long way from meeting the needs of persons with disabilities under the federal Income Tax Act.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 May 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-28 today, the implementation of the budget. It gives me an opportunity to speak once again on some of the issues I have heard about from hundreds of constituents, which we in this House all know translates into thousands of Canadians.

I would like to speak on a couple of issues. One of them is the impact the budget has on persons with disabilities. There is also the impact it has on people who work on and enjoy heritage, culture and creativity in this country. Finally, I would like to speak about the impact of the budget on the needs of native children and on children in general.

I will start by saying that I have spoken out many times in the House about the disability tax credit and the fact that it does not meet the needs of Canadians. I am afraid that continues to fall on the deaf ears of the government.

On May 12, I moved an amendment to the draconian changes to the disability tax credit. I moved to have those amendments withdrawn from the budget, but that was to no avail. These changes go completely against the will of the House of Commons as expressed on November 19, 2002, when we all voted together as a House on a motion put forward by the New Democrats, which was:

That this House call upon the government to develop a comprehensive program to level the playing field for Canadians with disabilities, by acting on the unanimous recommendations of the committee report “Getting It Right for Canadians: the Disability Tax Credit”, in particular the recommendations calling for changes to the eligibility requirements of the Disability Tax Credit so that they will incorporate in a more humane and compassionate manner the real life circumstances of persons with disabilities, and withdraw the proposed changes to the Disability Tax Credit, released on August 30th, 2002.

At that time the Minister of Finance reluctantly withdrew the changes, only to reintroduce similar ones in the bill. That was a very major disappointment to people in the disability community and to the House. We feel that it was a contemptible act on his part. This credit is already so restrictive that officials from the department have admitted at committee that Terry Fox, if he were alive today, would not be considered as having a disability under the draconian interpretation of this law.

This is not a bill that has persons with disabilities in mind. I would like to review some of the changes within the budget that impact on persons with disabilities. First, the employment assistance for persons with disabilities program was renewed, but only with a $13 million increase over five years, which is less than the rate of inflation.

The disability tax credit, which amounts to about $400 million annually and goes to 450 million Canadians, provides a reduction of about $1,000 per recipient. The budget adds another $25 million this year and $80 million more per year starting in 2004-05, so what is wrong with this picture? The tax credit is still not refundable, so Canadians with severe and prolonged disabilities with no or low incomes still get nothing out of this credit. The proposed changes in the amount of the tax credit are insignificant, other than the normal increase due to indexation. The proposed changes to eligibility are designed to restrict eligibility: to reverse court decisions that said the eligibility was too restrictive.

The pilot project to recognize episodic and mental health disabilities through a consultation group is a welcome first step, but these types of disabilities need to be incorporated into the mainstream programs under the DTC and CPP and probably will need more than $25 million.

The child disability benefit, which will provide $1,600 more per year for disabled children in families that are eligible for the national child benefit supplement, is a good measure, but only families earning less than $33,000 will get the full credit.

I would like to move on now to the area of culture. The budget shows, in my estimation, very little concern for preserving and promoting Canadian arts and heritage. There is not a penny for the CBC and there is minimal cultural investment elsewhere. Specifically, there were increases of $150 million over two years to the Canadian television fund to increase Canadian programming, $20 million over two years for historic places, and $17 million over two years for Katimavik.

For cultural and heritage programs, the government added $187 million over two years, $150 million to the Canadian TV fund over two years, and $20 million for historic places, as I have said. However, by not renewing the $60 million to the CBC there will be cuts to real annual programming of $29 million for English TV, $18 million for French TV, $5 million each to English and French radio, and $3 million for new media.

Critical to cultural survival in this country is the future of Canadian television drama. This budget cuts the Canadian television fund by $25 million for what appear to be unknown reasons. As time goes by and more and more people come to the House and talk about the crisis in Canadian drama, it is an absolute mystery why the finance minister will not put that critically needed money back into the system, where it would then go toward triggering other moneys.

As many people have pointed out, the changes that were made in the budget for the film and TV industry in fact take money from Canadians and give money to Americans. In fact, there is a tax break for foreigners producing in Canada and a cut for Canadians who are trying to make their own culture here. As a result of the reduction in CTF funds, many Canadian made shows may have to be cut and others are in peril. Canadian TV dramas have gone from twelve to four currently in production.

As well, thousands of jobs are at stake. An actor who was here recently pointed out that the $25 million means much more than its face value because the money is then matched by private donors. If our government is unwilling to support Canadian TV content, why would private donors be willing?

Nor is Canada unique in providing government funding for television production, because most countries around the world also provide support. I know that some people see television production as an extra or a luxury when money is needed for so many other things. However, without Canadian made drama we would be left living our experience through American made dramas and would have a completely distorted sense of reality.

Trina McQueen's report to the CRTC about the dire straits of Canadian drama quotes Canadian producer David Barlow, who said:

If a society consistently chooses the dramatic fantasies of another culture, they come to believe that their own reality is not a valid place on which to build their dreams. Their reality simply isn't good enough for dreaming.

In 2003, that is a sad and tragic state for us to find ourselves in.

As a playwright I know first-hand how difficult it is for our Canadian artists and creators to earn a living. It is amazing that they continue to persevere as they do. We are all richer for it, yet there is nothing in the budget that really acknowledges the sacrifices that artists make, particularly as their average income is about $13,000 a year.

This budget does not recognize the needs of income averaging for artists. The budget does not in any way reflect the needs of artists to be eligible for employment insurance. Another way to acknowledge the contribution of our artists is through income tax breaks on the moneys earned by artists through their creative works. This is what my current private member's motion proposes. I know there are government moneys available through agencies such as the Canada Council for the Arts, but the council, for example, accepts only about 25% of the applications, and artists can apply only twice over four years.

I know that some have argued against treating artists as a special interest group in the tax system, but the reality is that our tax system has had many special interests, including students, persons with disabilities and persons contributing to their RRSPs. Why not spend additional credit on our artists in acknowledging their contributions?

Money for culture seems to suddenly appear when the Prime Minister's legacy is at stake, such as the $100 million for the political history museum in Ottawa. One wonders how much of that will be devoted to the Prime Minister's wing. While money definitely should be allocated to Canadian museums, I am wary of opening up yet another museum in Ottawa when so many regional museums need funding and this is not allocated in the budget.

I recently spoke to people at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum about their situation. As other museums across the country are saying, they need money to keep the lights on. They need money to hire curators and to collect artifacts. The regional museums across the country, of which there are over 2,500, need money to provide clean, dry storage for their artifacts. They need money for promotion. They need money to make sure they can collect the pieces of heritage from their regions and put them in a form that local residents will be able to see, value and understand as being part of a larger patchwork of heritage across the country.

As I said, there are over 2,500 non-profit museums and related institutions across Canada, which attract more than 50 million visits each year. With few exceptions they have been languishing under severe funding cutbacks for many years and are not funded adequately. Many buildings are crumbling and roofs are leaking. Collections of great local and national significance are threatened. Our collective memory is fading.

I would like to say that this budget has been a major disappointment in terms of heritage. The Canadian Museums Association and the New Democrats are saying that what we need is a comprehensive museum strategy instead of haphazard announcements that are more political than anything. We need to make available more funding for existing museums, particularly outside the national capital region.

To go back to the whole issue of the importance of museums, it is important to realize that more Canadians--and this is a very interesting statistic--go to museums than they do to sporting events. Local museums are like canaries in the mines: if the museum is in dire straits, it likely means that the town is in dire straits and that in fact there is trouble in many other sectors of the community already.

There have been many disappointments in the budget, but particularly critical are the cuts we see to Native Friendship Centres and the lack of any really effective anti-poverty strategies that would benefit the lives of aboriginal children. I would like to talk about the need for funding for children's programs, particularly for aboriginal children.

I have had the pleasure since February of this year to sit on the subcommittee on children and youth at risk. We have been conducting a study on the conditions of aboriginal children in Canada, both on and off reserve. I have met some exceptional people through this exercise and have heard some amazing testimony. No one spoke of any kind of government dependency, but rather of partnerships and horizontal collaborations to create an integrated policy framework for the development of young first nations children.

It is important to look at first nations children because the aboriginal population is much younger than average. Children 14 and under make up 33% of the aboriginal population in Canada, compared with only 19% in the non-aboriginal population. As well, sadly, more aboriginal children live in poverty than any other segment of the population. In fact, aboriginal people in cities were twice as likely to live in poverty as non-aboriginal people, yet little attention is given to aboriginal children living off reserve, particularly in cities, where they are most likely to be in poverty.

One of the few places that provided programs and support uniquely for aboriginal children was the native friendship centres, but this bill reduces the funding to these centres. Native friendship centres offered programs such as head start for young children and went a long way toward building a happy and healthy future for these kids. Therefore it is inexplicable in my mind as to why this funding was reduced.

When a program is working well why is money taken away from it? Why is it not added on? Why do we not learn lessons from that and create even stronger programs?

The way to deal with poverty among aboriginal children is obviously to deal with the poverty that exists within aboriginal families and families living in poverty in general. The budget has been very weak in dealing with the real needs of poor Canadians. The budget does not deal with what we need, which is a truly effective anti-poverty strategy.

What the budget does not deal with is the fact that we need a national day care strategy inspired upon the Quebec model. We could also use a national initiative to raise the minimum wages in all jurisdictions above the poverty line.

We need a national welfare standard that is above the poverty line. We also need effective strategies for ensuring full access to comprehensive disability supports. A national poverty strategy would also look at an enriched child tax benefit with assurances that all welfare families would be eligible.

We need to see the elimination of inter-provincial residency requirements and fee differentials for long term care, all health procedures, post-secondary education and other services. We need a coordinated strategy to build low income housing and end homelessness. Of course a national poverty strategy would include the realization of food security for all in Canada and a substantial reduction in the rate and depth of poverty in Canada.

I now want to say a couple of things about post-secondary education. I think everyone in the House is on the verge of attending graduations at the high schools in their ridings. Each of us will sit there very proudly watching as these young people go up to the stage with their dreams ahead of them. Many of them will go on to universities with plans to go into medicine, engineering, the arts, social work or into working with children. However their dreams depend on being able to afford post-secondary education.

The budget has been a disaster in terms of providing any real moneys for young people and for universities to actually provide affordable education. We are all seeing students in our ridings who get into university and who get a student loan only to find out after a year or two that they cannot afford to continue. Some have to work at two jobs while trying to keep up with their courses but they fall behind. Their debts are growing, their marks are falling and they are becoming overburdened by debt at the age of 19 and 20.

We are seeing a huge tragedy occur among the people who we had hoped would step into our shoes at some point and provide the energy and the idealism to make this the kind of country in which we all want to live. Our young people have found a very hard rock and an unlistening government in this budget.

I feel that the budget has been unfortunate in so many ways. It has missed the point in being able to build a stronger Canada. For persons with disabilities, for artists, for first nations children and for our students, this budget, like the ones before it, continues to ignore the realities facing all Canadians.

Canada History Centre May 26th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, while Canadians from coast to coast are worried about SARS, West Nile virus and mad cow disease, the Prime Minister announced $100 million for a museum in his own honour today.

How will the museum show the Prime Minister's legacy? Combatting mad cow fears by eating a steak in Alberta? Alleviating fears of SARS by dining in Toronto's Chinatown?

Will the museum exhibits show the disastrous results of millions of dollars of cuts to Canadian social programs and the legacy of the government waffling on every issue instead of taking strong leadership?

One hundred million dollars could have gone a long way to compensate and help health care workers working overtime in Toronto and farmers losing business because of international bans on our products, but I guess instead $100 million also makes a pretty big shrine for the Prime Minister.