Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was rights.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Cape Breton Highlands—Canso (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 1997, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

North Atlantic Treaty Organization September 24th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Parkdale-High Park for his question and for his strong representation of Canadians of central and eastern European descent.

Since the collapse of the Berlin wall, Canada has played an active role in urging the NATO alliance to reach out to countries in central and eastern Europe.

At the NATO summit of 1994 Canada enthusiastically joined the other allies in agreeing that NATO should enlarge. At the same time, Canada is working to ensure that NATO enlargement is done in a way that will increase the security of all countries in Europe and that the creation of new dividing lines is avoided. This means that we will work to enhance NATO's partnership for peace program and to strengthen the OSCE as a key element for the European security architecture.

Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act September 20th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. members of the official opposition and the hon. member of the Reform Party who spoke in support of Bill C-54 today. This bill to amend the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act is part of the continuity of Canada's firm, active and measured campaign worldwide and in the U.S. to convince the American administration and the American Congress to withdraw the Helms-Burton law and to change the course of action they have taken with this legislation.

Canada has lead this campaign in every international forum on this issue, at the World Trade Organization, the European Union, the Organization of American States and many other multinational organizations, where we have taken the lead in opposing this law.

The bill we are introducing today is a further element in our campaign to convince the U.S. to reconsider and withdraw their law, which affects their trade relations with many other countries.

It is indeed regrettable that these amendments are necessary. Our trade and political relations with the United States on the whole are very strong, but we cannot ignore the U.S. Helms-Burton act. It clearly interferes with business between Canadian companies and Cuba.

Basic principles of international law are at stake here. In effect the U.S. is unilaterally extending its reach into business between other countries. We cannot accept that quietly. We have to respond. We must give Canadian companies the means to protect themselves. That of course is what we are doing in this legislation.

I want to underline that this is responsive legislation. We are responding to a U.S. initiative that affects Canadians. We did not choose to start this quarrel.

Someone might say that a clash was inevitable because Canada and other countries have followed a different path than the United States in dealing with Cuba. My answer is that disagreement with our Cuba policy does not justify Helms-Burton. There are other ways under international law for the U.S. to resolve its dispute with Cuba.

Helms-Burton is indeed a disturbing development in U.S. foreign policy. I am aware that the U.S. administration had strong reservations about Helms-Burton before the shooting down of a U.S. civilian aircraft by Cuban planes in February.

I am also aware that in July President Clinton did suspend the right of U.S. companies to sue foreign firms under the claims provision of Helms-Burton for six months. I note that the President's special envoy, Stuart Eizenstat, said in Ottawa that the U.S. is in no way telling Canadians to stop trade and investment with Cuba.

But Helms-Burton remains a threat to Canadian businesses dealing with Cuba. The legislation is on the books. It does give President Clinton or his successors the power to permit filing of claims by U.S. companies against Canadian or other foreign firms. The U.S. has already informed some Canadians that they will be denied entry to the U.S. because of this law.

It is also unfortunate that Helms-Burton is not an isolated case. The President has signed into law the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act which again thrusts the United States into the trading relationships of other countries. The details of the two laws are different but the principle is the same.

Are these signs of a change in direction in U.S. foreign policy? Do they mean that the U.S. is ready to put aside the normal rules of international trade to achieve its own ends? I would like to answer no. I would like to say that the long U.S. tradition in support of open trade and internationally accepted rules is as strong as ever but I am not so sure.

There are some good signs. President Clinton has publicly endorsed the World Trade Organization and the U.S. is using the WTO dispute settlement mechanism to resolve some trade disputes. It has participated actively in a number of international negotiations in such areas as telecommunications and financial services, and it continues to press for more open trade around the world.

On the other hand, the U.S. has had a tendency to throw down the gauntlet in recent international trade negotiations. In some cases it has left the impression that it will not settle for less than the whole ball of wax. As well, the momentum of the free trade clause seems to have slowed, at least in the U.S. Congress. An example is last year's decision to refuse fast track authority to the president to negotiate admission of Chile to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

I do not want to overstate this. The U.S. is one of the most open and generous countries in the world. More than 95 per cent of Canada-U.S. trade flows freely without any impediment. The U.S. continues to show in the G-7 and other international meetings that it wants to work jointly with its partners on economic and political issues. I am convinced that remains the wellspring of U.S. policy.

But we cannot allow measures such as Helms-Burton to pass by without resisting. It is only by being firm and by working co-operatively with other countries that we can ensure Helms-Burton does not become a pattern. That has been a key element of our policy throughout the Helms-Burton debate.

On the domestic side, we are introducing these FEMA amendments as our response to what is clearly an infringement of Canadian sovereignty. The main purpose of these amendments of course is to give Canadian companies the tools to defend themselves if U.S. courts rule in favour of American claimants who sue them under the Helms-Burton act.

Under the FEMA changes, Canadian firms can attempt to recoup these damages by suing the American companies in Canadian courts. There are other changes which give the attorney general the authority to block application of unreasonable U.S. laws in Canadian courts. I hope these changes will help deter American firms from acting against Canadian companies under Helms-Burton. At least it will give them something to think about.

We are not limiting our action to the domestic front. Canada has played a leadership role in developing a co-ordinated international response since the President signed the Helms-Burton act into law. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Trade and the Secretary of State for Latin America have raised the issue with colleagues in other countries and in international organizations. It has been discussed with visiting leaders from other countries. This co-ordinated international action is having some effect.

Mexico is introducing similar legislation to ours. The European Union is considering action through the World Trade Organization. The Organization for American States has asked the Inter-American Juridical Committee to investigate whether Helms-Burton is consistent with international law. These actions taken together may contain the damage of Helms-Burton. Beyond this my hope is that this experience will have an impact on legislators in Washington and that this will discourage such extraterritorial measures in the future.

We cannot however rely on hopes. We must take concrete steps to protect our interests. That is the purpose of these FEMA amendments and that is why I support them.

Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act September 20th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I have agreed to switch spots with my colleague, the hon. member for Terrebonne, so that he could speak now. I will speak after.

Ghislain Dufour June 14th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the man who, as president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec for the last ten years, set that organization's course, will soon step down from his position.

Mention the name Ghislain Dufour in Quebec City and you evoke a powerful symbol. This was a man who gave management in Quebec a consistency and a visibility without precedent in the annals of politics.

A federalist, as well as an ardent defender of Quebec's interests, Ghislain Dufour is an eloquent example of the fact that it is possible to work for the renewal of the Canadian federation while remaining deeply attached to Quebec.

For some, the resignation of Ghislain Dufour will mean the loss of a powerful ally, while for others it will mean the departure of a formidable foe. But for all Quebecers, the image that will remain is that of a man who gave a face and a voice to management in Quebec.

Gaelic Cultural Awareness Month May 17th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, beginning this year May has been declared Gaelic cultural awareness month in Nova Scotia. This month is being designated to celebrate the important role which the Gaelic language has played in the history of the province.

The descendants of the highland Scottish settlers, the Gaels, have contributed greatly to cultural diversity in Nova Scotia and throughout North America. Their language and culture have influenced countless individuals, communities and institutions. Canada's first two prime ministers spoke fluent Gaelic.

I congratulate the Nova Scotia Gaelic Council on its efforts to promote Gaelic and I invite members of the House to celebrate Canada's cultural diversity and the importance of all minority languages in Canada.

Employment Insurance Act May 14th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. This is essentially the point I wanted to make. Given the new reality, and we do not know it completely yet, in the unemployment sector, an income support program for the unemployed must do more. Such a program must of course provide an income, but it must also help people move from one job to another and constantly renew their skills, working capacity and employability, so as to best meet future labour market requirements.

Otherwise, our program will always be misdirected and it will be increasingly at odds with the needs of Canadians. This is why we have launched the process. We are starting with this reform. We will continue to have to change it, to improve it, but we are starting with a system that will be more flexible and that will better meet the needs of the 21st century. This is why that reform is so important.

Employment Insurance Act May 14th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, even though the bill does not necessarily reflect all the recommendations heard by the parliamentary committee while conducting hearings across Canada, I can say that the restructuring of this program was a basic desire expressed by the witnesses we heard.

Moreover, one of the things we heard-and this is a very important contribution the committee made to this debate-is that, in any UI reform, people would prefer that the government broaden coverage and ensure that more people have access to the program, rather than restrict access and increase benefits.

I must conclude, but there are many other lessons that we could have taught the committee and to which I could refer to in describing this bill, but I think the hon. member has a good idea of what I mean.

Employment Insurance Act May 14th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on third reading of this important legislation. I begin by congratulating both the current and former ministers of human resources development and their parliamentary secretaries for bringing this legislation forth and for steering it through the House.

I congratulate the officials in the Department of Human Resources Development for preparing such detailed impact analysis and explanations of these measures. I also commend the members of the parliamentary committee which reviewed the legislation as well as those who participated in the social security review the committee carried out in 1994 for their sustained hard work in developing these reforms.

As far as opposition members are concerned, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Bloc Quebecois members, especially the hon. member for Mercier, the hon. member for Lévis and the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup. While they opposed this bill, they played their role as opposition members with diligence and professionalism, thereby contributing to the enhancement of the reforms in question.

I want to mention as well the exceptional work of the members from Fredericton-York-Sunbury, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Halifax West and Malpeque whose amendments to Bill C-12 dealing with the fixed divisor, the intensity rule and the problem of discontinuous weeks have greatly improved the bill and the new employment insurance system.

When the former minister of human resources development back in January 1994 unveiled the government's intention to proceed with a comprehensive review of Canada's social security system no one expected it would be easy to achieve these reforms. It would have been difficult at any time but all the more difficult when the fiscal climate required that fewer, not more, resources were available to put into the revamped social programs.

This made the choices more difficult but the need to get the programs right and the need for reform all the more imperative, especially in view of the dramatically changed situation that has taken place in Canada since many of these reforms of the program were put in place.

Central to the reform agenda was the need to modernize and renew the unemployment insurance system. Since it was introduced in 1940 as a system of short term protection against job loss, UI has evolved to become the central pillar of Canada's social security system and for many people in seasonal industries in Canada a regular component of their family income.

Unfortunately there has also been growing evidence that UI has become an obstacle to job creation. Not only has the level of premiums needed to finance UI benefits been a drag on small businesses' ability to create jobs, but the level of benefits have created distortions in the economies of communities most in need of job growth.

Observers have argued that UI has hindered mobility, encouraged excessive patterns of short term jobs followed by UI at the expense of more stable employment relationships and has discouraged young people from acquiring the skills they need to function effectively in the changing economy.

Yet while there has been much evidence provided to demonstrate the UI program has inhibited job creation and has pointed to the direction for reform, it is much harder to prove in advance that altering the program will lead to the jobs the people dependent on UI want. This has always been the dilemma facing UI reform. Faced with this dilemma, the government's approach to reform has been sound. The changes in Bill C-12 are designed first and foremost to foster a more supportive climate for job creation.

The new employment insurance system recognizes there are great variations in the ability of regions in Canada to create jobs. Hence it does not try to impose a uniformed system on all Canadians.

Instead of generating savings by restricting access to the program, as the government might have done, the EI system broadens access to the program. Not only will more people be covered under EI than under UI, they will have access to a range of income and employment support available even beyond the duration of their benefits. This is because of first hour coverage and that hours replace weeks as the basis for determining eligibility for EI benefits.

With an hourly based system, many part time workers who were unable to qualify under the old system will be able to earn the right to draw EI benefits. As well, it will be easier for seasonal workers who often work long hours during a short period of time to qualify for EI benefits.

It will not be possible to get the same level of benefits with the minimum amount of work to qualify under EI as it has been under UI. Maximum benefit levels will be lower under the new system. However, the new system protects those on lower incomes who are

unemployed through a number of measures, including the family income supplement which will guarantee that individuals who are unemployed can received up to 80 per cent of their earnings replaced through the new system.

As well, the amendments to the initial employment insurance legislation in committee have improved the fairness in this system. For example, the amendments dealing with the fixed divisor and the problem of discontinuous weeks now changes the method of calculating the level of benefits in order to minimize the adverse effects of the problem of discontinuous work in terms of the level of benefits.

The amendments proposed to deal with the decline in benefits under the intensity rule also minimized the impact of that aspect of the program to those on higher incomes by protecting those who fall under the family income threshold stipulated by the program.

The monitoring function, which is an essential feature of the implementation of this legislation, will ensure the government follows very carefully the progress of implementation of this reform and also that we monitor carefully how the impact of these changes will affect those Canadians, particularly those in high unemployment areas. The central purpose of the legislation is to foster a job creation climate, which is what we want to see as a result of the implementation of these reforms.

Many Canadians, including those most closely associated with this debate, are tired of reform. They want stability in these programs. They want this talk of reform to stop. They want to get on with their lives. They want to think of something else. They hope that as this bill heads to the Senate we are nearing the beginning of the end.

I share their fatigue but I do not believe we can stop yet. We still have a lot more work to do when it comes to reshaping Canada's social security system for the 21st century. We are not at the beginning of the end, to quote Churchill, we are more like at the end of the beginning.

The employment insurance system which Bill C-12 describes is an important start toward creating a new system for the 21st century. It has some very important features to it which represent a significant improvement over the existing program, but I still prefer to see it as an important start and not as the final word on this program.

This may seem premature since Bill C-12 is not even passed yet. However, in the time that remains I want to speak about the future and what is next on this agenda.

No one doubts we are living in an era of profound social and economic change and uncertainty. Peter Drucker calls it the age of social transformation. The consequences of the information revolution have penetrated every facet of our lives and in a few short years have dramatically altered the pace and depth of change. Nowhere is the upheaval more pronounced than in the world of work.

Whether one is a qualified pessimist such as Jeremy Riffkin, who predicts massive unemployment and growing income inequality because of the displacement of workers due to this profound change, or whether one is a qualified optimist such as William Bridges, who sees opportunities for growth, creativity and freedom in the new post-job economy, one thing seems clear about the future. The requirements for success in the world of work as we approach the 21st century are different than they have been for the preceding one.

Individuals have to be flexible, willing to make lifelong learning a fact of life, willing to accept a greater degree of instability and uncertainty in terms of their jobs and be much more innovative and entrepreneurial. These are the characteristics that make the difference.

The employment insurance system must do more than simply provide income protection against job loss. It must be a support to individual Canadians.

Under the unemployment insurance system which was developed in the 1940s the reality of the world of work was much different. Unemployment insurance was meant to provide basic short term support to individuals waiting for their temporary unemployment to change, knowing their skills were essentially the ones they would need for the rest of their lives.

The new world of work is much more complicated. The new employment insurance system has to be designed to respond to the growing changes taking place in Canada if it is to work with other policies of the government to create a strong economy and to support individuals in that economy.

Employment insurance represents an important advance in the thinking of the support of the unemployed. Increasingly, individuals need support to keep them moving through a series of changing job situations. New skills, attitudes and flexibility need to be acquired. These are the realities of the world in which we live, realities we as a government must find a system which will enable individuals to produce.

UI and now EI is a national program. It should remain a national program. Reforming this pillar of Canada's social security system should not be seen, as it has too often been, purely in defensive terms, but as a fundamental positive exercise in nation building.

Canadian Human Rights Act May 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the debate on this issue did not start with this legislation a couple of weeks ago. It has been going on for years. The same debate has gone on in the passage of provincial legislation which was put in place going back to the 1970s. It is a debate which has been taking place for a long time and is ongoing.

The member makes a point about us ramming this through the House and about the 43 other laws that will be changed. The bill is very simple and straightforward. If there are laws which need to be amended they will have to be brought before the House. Then members will have an opportunity to debate those changes.

However, this is a very simple and straightforward bill which amends one particular law in a very precise way.

Again, to extrapolate all of these hypothetical scenarios is not faithful to the legislative process the House is engaged in.

Canadian Human Rights Act May 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, there are good sound legal reasons why each of the amendments was not accepted. The reasons differ with each amendment.

The problem with the member's question and the line of inquiry he is opening up and the attack which has been made on this legislation is that the member is not dealing with the legislation. The member is dealing with hypotheses, projections of what might occur in other legislation if this legislation is passed. He says, quite emphatically, that if the Canadian human rights law is changed by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, he is not opposed to that. That is what the Canadian human rights law that we are amending deals with in this instance.

The Criminal Code, the charter of rights and freedoms, all of the other laws that are hypothetically raised as spectres that will happen if this change is made are totally irrelevant to the legislation that we are debating today.

If there has to be a change made in the future to some other law to deal with concerns such as the one the member has raised, those laws will have to be debated in Parliament. If they are debated in Parliament then the views of all sides of the House will be raised in connection with those laws.

However, to raise all these hypothetical scenarios which have nothing to do with this law, as the member admits, is again the fear-mongering which has been taking place in order to confuse Canadians who are seriously considering the ethical and human rights questions which are directly related to this legislation. That

is a dangerous line of inquiry. The issue is too important to be dealt with in this very fuzzy fashion, if I might use that term.