Mr. Speaker, it is not a point of order. It is a request for an emergency debate. Is it appropriate at this time in routine business?
Lost his last election, in 1997, with 33% of the vote.
Mr. Speaker, it is not a point of order. It is a request for an emergency debate. Is it appropriate at this time in routine business?
Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, it is February 1997 and we are still talking about the GST. I remember when I first started taking interest in the federal political system. It was during the beginning of the GST debate. I got involved in Canada's political life about the time the GST was beginning to be debated.
I remember attending anti-GST rallies. They were held across Canada. I remember people from the various political parties speaking about the GST. There were members from the Liberal Party who spoke against the GST. I remember in particular a rally in Saskatchewan. I believe it was in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs was there. He was representing the Liberal Party. At that time he was an opposition member. He said "I see they have named this rally after me". It was the axe the tax rally. He came in with a bluster and a flurry and said how
terrible the tax was and how the government should not be spending so much money. Of course, as Canadians know, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is one of the biggest spenders we have ever seen.
The public sentiment against the GST began to increase. Canadians began to realize that this was not just a replacement tax for the manufacturers' sales tax but that it was a plan of the Conservative government to tax Canadians more intensely.
It was an easier dial to turn to tax the hides off Canadians. They also recognized and realized that the Conservative line that this was a tax that would be applied against the deficit to reduce the deficit was a bunch of baloney. They began to oppose the tax even more strongly.
The Conservatives got into a lot of trouble over the GST. They were having trouble in their riding associations. Their members were coming back to find that they had rebellion in their riding associations. There was talk of nominating new candidates to run in the next election. There were defections even in the Conservative caucus, members leaving to become independents or to join other parties.
It was not a very happy time for the Conservatives but power at any cost was the motto of the Progressive Conservative Party. It decided it was going to get this thing through. It rammed it through the Parliament of Canada. It rammed it through this House.
The Conservatives had a majority government, just like we have a majority Liberal government today. It gets its way. It just forces the MPs to vote in line with the Prime Minister's wishes, the PMO's wishes.
The Conservatives got that GST through the House of Commons. There was the filibustering. There was the indignation and all the routine we see in the House of Commons. The Conservatives had a pretty strong and pretty long whip. They whipped their members into shape and got that bill, eventually, through the House of Commons.
Then they sent it off to the Senate but the Conservatives had a bit of a problem in the Senate, sort of like the Liberals have had in the past two or three years where they were not always sure of getting their legislation passed through the Senate.
The bill got stalled in the Senate. Mr. Mulroney had to have power at any cost. He had to get this GST through. He had to have the source of revenue. His pride was on the line. What did the prime minister of the day do? He took a very arrogant step of expanding the Senate by eight members. This was unprecedented in Canadian history. He added eight extra seats. We call them the stacking stools. The Senate went from 104 to 112 senators.
Just the other day one of those senators from Saskatchewan was charged. I am sure members are aware of the charges that have been laid against one of those stacked senators, Senator Berntson. We do not know whether he is guilty or not. It just reminds Canadians of that old Conservative air where power had to be had and power had to be maintained at any cost. Tamper with democracy. Tamper with the parliamentary system, but we have to get this GST through. We cannot be stymied by Canadians. We cannot listen to Canadians. We have to have our way.
We know what happened to the Mulroney Conservative government. Those few Tories who are left today are still admiring his government. I do not understand why even the current leader today seems to think Mulroney was a great prime minister. I guess he liked his heavy handed ways.
Nevertheless, the Tories were defeated in 1993 because another party had come along. The official opposition said "we're going to scrap the GST, we'll kill it, we'll get rid of it for you". We have seen the video tapes. We know that is a fact. That is what happened.
Then the Liberals inherited the problem. They were not prepared to reduce the size of government. They like to spend over $100 billion on government programs. They wanted to increase revenues, not reduce revenues. They like big government. If there is big government, there is control, power and maybe Canadians can be manipulated.
The Liberals suddenly found themselves in a very awkward position, having made a promise that they were not particularly keen on keeping.
What did they do? They tried to avoid the problem. They pretended that it was not a problem. They pretended they had not said what they said. They tried to camouflage it with some wording from the red book even though Canadians knew they had campaigned and promised to scrap, abolish and kill the GST.
It finally got so bad they thought they would sacrifice one of their own to try to appease Canadians and make them forget they made this promise. The Deputy Prime Minister did some polling. She figured she could get re-elected. After they had carefully calculated everything, she tearfully resigned to keep her promise to scrap and kill the GST.
Then she went stomping back in the by-election and was re-elected and reinstated as the Deputy Prime Minister by the current government.
The problem did not go away. The government by this time is bringing in Bill C-70 that we are debating today, this blended sales tax. It does not eliminate or scrap or do anything with the GST other than try to heap its many implications on the provinces in a blended form with a provincial sales tax.
In Saskatchewan we have a provincial sales tax. It is far too high. It is the old NDP motto you have to tax them hard and often. We certainly pay in Saskatchewan with our provincial sales tax, but this sales tax is not on everything. If we blend this sale tax with our GST, suddenly our tax bill is going to go up substantially in Saskatchewan and it is not going to sell very well.
It was not going to sell very well anywhere in the country. This is becoming very embarrassing to the Liberal government, so it decided: "We have three friends in Atlantic Canada, three premiers and perhaps we can strike a deal; how much is it going to cost us?" That is the old Mulroney approach. "Let's sit down and make a deal. Is it going to be $200 million or $300 million or maybe $100 million a province to sign up for this blended sales tax". They are Atlantic premiers and they know how to wheel and deal. By the time the dealing was done it turned about to be $1 billion for three provinces to agree to a harmonized sales tax.
Where does this $1 billion come from? It happens to come from taxpayers, some of whom are from Atlantic Canada. I understand Atlantic Canadians are not very happy about this blended sales tax. They realize now when they go to the cash register it is costing them a lot of money. They also realize that federal taxes and federal revenues have increased and government is still large. The government is not only operating a blended sales tax but it is still operating the non-blended sales tax where provinces are not co-operating. The government has a mighty mess on its hands.
So what does the government do? Today here we are in the House of Commons and it has moved closure. I do not know how many times this federal government has moved closure but it is just the same way the Mulroney government operated. Power at any cost, control at any cost, to heck with Canadians, they do not matter. All they are good for is writing the cheques. As long as we can keep this big monster going, $115 billion government going every year, borrow money if we have to, but we do not care what we promise Canadians, we have to have this GST. We have to keep it because we have an insatiable appetite for money.
The Mulroney government fell flat on its face because it failed to listen to Canadians regarding the GST. I predict that the Liberal government will be even damaged more than it already has been. We know that its popularity is starting to sink like a stone in water simply because Canadians recognize it has broken its promise regarding the GST. Bill C-70 is as poor excuse for trying to keep a promise that has been broken.
Questions On The Order Paper February 3rd, 1997
For the fiscal years 1993/1994 and 1994/1995 which departments, agencies or crown corporations contributed funding to the following organizations: ( a ) Planned Parenthood of Canada and Planned Parenthood International; ( b ) Legal Education and Action Fund; ( c ) National Action Committee on the Status of Women; ( d ) Campaign Life Coalition; and ( e ) Realistic Equal Active for Life (R.E.A.L.) Women and what were the amounts contributed?
Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996
Mr. Speaker, I believe we have moved on to group No. 8. We support the amendments in group No. 8, Motions Nos. 24, 25, and 26.
Motion No. 24 suggests that a parliamentary review of the agency's business plan be undertaken before the bill is approved.
Motion No. 25 supports a parliamentary review of the agency's business plan before the bill is approved. It also supports the agency consulting with industry employees first. Accountability which is required by Parliament is essential.
I believe the committee did an excellent job of reviewing the bill. Excellent witnesses appeared before the committee. We were able to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the bill. However, when it came to implementing change, the powers of the committee were hampered because the government held the heavy hand on
the committee and insisted that its members not consider valid amendments and instead pressed ahead with the government's agenda, whether or not that was the best position to take.
To illustrate that point, I would like to mention the one amendment that was able to get through the clauses by clause session. It amended the preface of the bill. That amendment called for cost effectiveness. One would think that every member would think that is an essential measure for the bill. It would ensure that the new agency would be cost effective. The government said that was its intention. The witnesses said it was paramount. One of the key purposes of the agency is to make one food inspection agency more cost effective than having three separate agencies under three different ministers.
While this was a perfectly sensible and logical amendment, government members voted against it. Fortunately, two government members supported the amendment so there was a split. That was the only amendment which was put forward in committee on which government members were not unanimous. It struck me as being very odd that three government members on the committee would vote against cost effectiveness as a principle and guiding light for this new single food inspection agency. That tells me that government members are very hesitant for the agency to be accountable to Parliament. That is very sad indeed.
Another amendment we proposed at committee stage indicated that the fees set by the agency must be reasonable. The fees should not exceed a reasonable cost in providing the service or the use of that service.
Believe it or not, government members voted against that amendment. That shows us the wrong direction in which the government is going. A few months earlier when we debated the Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, which was studied in the agriculture committee, we were able to amend the act at report stage by inserting the word reasonable. It put guidelines on a government agency which said it could not be unreasonable.
Sometimes governments are unreasonable. We saw a lot of unreasonable things happen in the Mulroney government. Mr. Speaker, you were here then. You saw many of the unreasonable things that they did and you spoke about them.
Governments change from time to time. Mr. Speaker, you probably do not think this government is unreasonable, but governments from time to time are unreasonable.
The Liberal government says it is going to be reasonable. Of course we doubt that. It says that it will be reasonable, however, it will not implement a restraint or a constraint to ensure that these agencies deal with consumers and the industry in a reasonable way. The government says that it will ensure the agency will always be reasonable.
Sometimes governments are not reasonable. However, if the legislation says that the costs must be reasonable, they will have to be reasonable because it is the law of the land. If the bill is not followed, legal recourse should be available.
It was extremely disappointing that government members were opposed to amending the bill to ensure that the costs be reasonable for the services provided by the single food inspection agency. This is at a time when the government, under treasury board initiatives, is implementing cost recovery. The industry is saying that many times cost recovery is not reasonable. Strong statements were made by organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the prairie pools, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and food processors that said that cost recovery is not reasonable.
The House has no powers to hold the government and these agencies accountable. It is not there. We wanted to put it in the legislation. The government said: "No. We want the minister to have all power and the committee can meet and discuss these agencies at length then".
We can talk until we are blue in the face, but unless we have the support in legislation we do not have the clout. If an unreasonable government is in place then our hands are tied behind our backs. That is not the way government should work. That is not what Canadians want. That is not what was in the red book.
The hon. member who left the Liberal ranks a few days ago because he could not be reconciled with his party over the budget and then tried to get back into the party was told: "No way, José". By the way his name is not José but I am not allowed to his name.
However, he got up in the House and said to the Prime Minister: "You promised that government would be more accountable. It is in the red book". When he quoted the page he was booed by his colleagues. They called him a traitor for quoting the red book. It was shocking. The government is moving away from being reasonable and accountable. It is disgusting. It is wrong.
The House is studying the single food inspection agency and amendments by my colleagues from the Bloc. We put forward similar amendments in committee. As I mentioned earlier, Reform put its amendments forward at committee stage because under the new process there is supposed to be a better chance of reasonable amendments being considered in committee if they are presented before the bill is approved in principle. No way. That is another broken promise.
Even a simple amendment that said the cost would have to be reasonable was defeated. At a time of user fees and cost recovery, at a time of friction between the government and the industry, the government said: "No. We don't want to be accountable. The committee can look into anything but it has no power. There is no sanction in the legislation. We want to keep the minister's hands entirely free. We want the agency to be able to do as it pleases,
charge what it pleases for the services it provides". That is unacceptable. That is unreasonable.
The auditor general should be able to hold this agency to full account as well. We are concerned that the auditor general will not have sufficient opportunity to hold the new single food inspection agency accountable.
The other day the auditor general in a report to committee that the whole system of guidelines for cost recovery are vague if they exist at all, that there are unquantifiable factors out there, that the department has not done its homework and does not know what it is talking about when it talks about what the cost recovery levels are for our competitors, what the expectations for cost recovery are, whether cost recoveries are considered to be in the public or the private good.
He said that guidelines have not been put in place by the department of agriculture or by Treasury Board and certainly will make it much more difficult to determine whether this agency is being accountable and reasonable.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this chance to speak to this grouping of motions. As I said, we support them.
Perhaps this is my last chance to address the House and the Chair prior to the Christmas break. We are not sure what is happening here. I certainly want to wish all members a very merry Christmas and, Mr. Speaker, may you enjoy the holiday season. May you all be safe and have precious time with your families. We will look forward to seeing each one of you in the new year.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996
Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep my comments reasonably brief on Group No. 7 of the report stage of Bill C-60.
I do not believe I can support the two motions in this group because it looks like they will make it very difficult to contract out or privatize inspection services in the future. Although a provision in Motion No. 20 seems worthy of support. It calls for open bidding in the private sector for any goods and services procured by the new agency. We were recently reminded of how important that is when the auditor general uncovered another untendered contract to Bombardier.
Over the years we have noticed a very close affiliation between Bombardier and both the Conservative and Liberal governments. It is such a cosy relationship that it certainly makes one very uncomfortable. Any time there are untendered contracts without a proper bidding process, the taxpayer should be very nervous. Members of the Reform Party caucus are extremely nervous about the Liberal government's practice of offering untendered contracts to its friends in the corporate sector.
There is a broader question concerning the single food inspection agency: What kind of impact will these motions and the bill itself have on the effectiveness of the new agency? When we are trying to analyze the merits and problems of a new inspection agency it helps to make a comparison. We need something to illustrate our concerns.
An obvious comparison is the Pest Management Regulatory Agency which is currently under tremendous criticism by the industry. The PMRA is another institution that was amalgamated by Parliament. It has a fairly large staff. The amalgamation was supposed to save the taxpayers money and provide a valuable service to the industry. There was an outcry of protest from a diverse array of organizations such as the Crop Protection Institute of Canada, Prairie Pools Incorporated.
The CFA was very critical of the PMRA. The Canadian meat processors were extremely upset. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association has expressed its concern. The Ontario corn growers are very very upset at the costs the PMRA has forced them to incur.
That brings us to the issues of job security and job creation. The new food inspection agency will have the equivalent bureaucracy to the agencies and departments from which it will be birthed. Perhaps there will be jobs saved in the public sector but how many jobs will be lost in the private sector? How many jobs will be lost in the failure to see economic growth?
We know that products are not being registered effectively with the PMRA because of all the loops and hassles that the pesticide manufacturers have to go through to meet needless requirements of the PMRA. That is costing jobs. It is costing jobs in the agriculture sector. It is costing jobs in the manufacturing sector. It is slowing the growth of agriculture and affiliated industries that support agriculture. That is why these very astute agricultural organizations are so upset with the PMRA.
Imagine anything as diverse as the CFA, Prairie Pools, Crop Protection Institute, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Ontario corn growers, meat processors. Even the horticulture people are very upset with the PMRA. It has been very difficult for their industry to grow and expand because of the bureaucracy and the clumsiness of that agency.
When the witnesses appeared before us in committee we challenged the government about whether or not this new single food inspection agency might be going the same route. In looking at some of the clauses we are debating today, it looks as though it may very well be doing that.
I do not believe that the Bloc's amendments will correct it, but certainly if there was a call for bids and an open tendering process, it would certainly help. If the focus on job creation was more on seeing the private sector expand and grow, industry grow and creating new, long term jobs, that would be far more beneficial than providing security for the approximately 4,500 employees of the new single food inspection agency.
I think I have made my point. I am not trying to delay the debate. I know we all want to get out and enjoy the Christmas season. As opportunity affords, I will speak to other groups and raise other issues later on.
Questions Passed As Orders For Returns December 13th, 1996
What is the total dollar amount spent on advertising by the government and its Crown Agencies in fiscal years 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 by province, in each of the following mediums: television, radio, daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, monthly newspapers, billboards and direct mail?
Question No. 16-
Canadian Wheat Board Act December 13th, 1996
Mr. Speaker, I did not say this is an urgent issue but perhaps the minister has acted irresponsibly and improperly. So I would ask the justice minister what steps he will take to redress the improper activities of the minister of agriculture, which may be seen as interference by the minister in this case.
Canadian Wheat Board Act December 13th, 1996
Mr. Speaker, recently the minister of agriculture was publicly criticized by a federal court judge. Justice Muldoon expressed concern that the minister would introduce changes to the Canadian Wheat Board Act while he is presiding over a charter challenge to the existing act.
Why did the minister break with proper protocol and table changes to the Canadian Wheat Board Act while the existing act is being challenged in the court?
Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 13th, 1996
Mr. Speaker, my comments will be brief on group No. 6. This group of amendments deals with the staffing of the agency. It would make contracting and privatization of inspection services very difficult.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House some of the concerns we heard about this aspect of the bill in committee from people in the food processing industry.
Currently there is a tremendous amount of food inspection in some parts of the food processing industry. Maybe this is the wrong term to use, but we could almost say that there is overkill with respect to inspection. I was talking to the manager of a meat processing facility who said that the federal government insists that 28 inspectors be on site to do the inspection of meat in that facility. He told me that a facility of the same size in the United States that processes the same amount of food would require three federal inspectors. Perhaps three is not enough, but I would think that 28 is far too many.
I also talked to someone in the food processing business who said that the more federal inspectors there are looking over employees' shoulders the less diligence there is to ensure they are processing safe and healthy food. It is really not their responsibility to ensure the food is of good quality and safe for human consumption. There is an inspector looking over their shoulder every step of the way. If anything is not properly inspected it is not the responsibility of the employees of the processing plant. The focus is on the inspectors who have failed to do their job.
Many processing plants hire their own inspectors. They feel it is important to have their own inspectors on site to ensure quality
control and to ensure that a healthy product is being put on the shelves for Canadians to eat. Therefore, in some cases there is duplication.
Bill C-60 would move employees from three departments into one federal food inspection agency. Those employees are guaranteed two years of employment whether they are needed or not. This draws attention to the fact that the government is not looking at taxpayers' concerns. It is only looking at maintaining the bureaucracy at its present size. It is totally ruling out any possibility of privatization or downsizing of inspection services within the guidelines that are required to ensure safe and healthy food for Canadians. I point that out to the House as another glaring omission or failure of the Liberal government, one of many that has come to the attention of Canadians.
We oppose motion No. 14 in group No. 6 because we think it will make contracting out or privatizing of inspection services in the future very difficult. Several of these motions are unnecessary, such as motions Nos. 15, 16 and 17.
We support motion No. 18. It would give the standing committee the power to review the agency's appointment process. My Bloc colleague reiterated what I said before in this debate. Patronage is a problem which needs to be addressed.
Finally, we oppose motion No. 36. It requires the government to develop a code of conduct for the agency's employees before the bill comes into force. While that is not a bad thing, we do not believe it is necessary in this piece of legislation.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 12th, 1996
Madam Speaker, we are now dealing with group 5. A number of amendments were put forward by the Bloc to this part of the bill which deals with the ratification or review of appointments to the agency.
Reform introduced an amendment to Bill C-60 at committee stage. Our amendment stated:
No appointment shall be made under subsection 10(1) unless it is approved by a subcommittee of each of such committee of the House of Commons as is designated or established to consider
(a) agriculture matters;
(b) health matters; and
(c) fisheries matters.
Government members chose to oppose that amendment in committee. Had it passed, it would have ensured that members of Parliament with knowledge and interest in the areas of agriculture, fisheries and health would have been able to review appointments to the advisory board of the agency. They would have been able to review the staffing decisions of the agency. That would have addressed the patronage issue which my colleague from the Bloc so eloquently berated.
We support Motion No. 3. It ensures that persons appointed to the agency's executive by the minister are qualified. It is important that these executives not be the local Liberal who happens to donate the most money in the last election.
It is sad that the Conservatives and the Liberals are trying to outdo each other on patronage appointments. Under the Mulroney Conservatives, Marjory LeBreton was the de facto minister of patronage. They did not have a minister in the House, but they might as well have, it was so blatant. Nobody got appointed to anything by that Conservative government unless they met the credentials of being a strong Conservative Party supporter. Of course she got the biggest plum of all. She was appointed to the Senate, where she is now able to make her pronouncements after being a party servant for so many years.
The Liberals, not to be outdone, chose Penny Collenette to be their de facto minister of patronage to hand out the appointments. We saw it recently in the appointment of returning officers across the country for the next election. That is the mindset of the Liberal government.
That is the fodder that feeds the political machinery. Some hope that down the road, if they pay my dues, donate enough money to the Liberal coffers, pound on enough doors or if they support the right person who happens to make it to the Prime Minister's chair or the leader of the party at least, they will get their reward and be well cared for.
It is one's party faithfulness and loyalty that becomes the paramount criterion for being appointed to these various boards, without public scrutiny and merit being the primary factor.
We support Motion No. 3.
Motion No. 4 limits the agency's executives to one term. If there is proper scrutiny of who these people are I do not think that type of step is necessary.
We support Motion No. 6. It would allow the standing committee to review the appointments to the agency. The last part of the amendment is a formula to force the minister to make the appointments based on an exact province by province formula. This is an excessive measure. It is getting away from merit and into a quota system. I believe members are quite aware of our feelings on people being appointed to positions or being hired based on quotas rather than merit.
We support Motion No. 7. It would allow the standing committee to review appointments to the agency's advisory board. We argued that position in committee and the Liberals rejected it.
We oppose Motion No. 8. It would allow the advisory board to advise a provincial government or a union-we are not sure why the Bloc put that in. Perhaps someone can change our mind with a good argument.
We oppose Motions Nos. 9 and 10. Motion 10 would require that at least one of the advisory board members be from the agency's union.
We support Motion No. 11. This amendment would require the minister appoint as president of the agency the person that the standing committee deems to be the best candidate. This brings accountability and allows elected people to have a constructive role in matters concerning government agencies and the creation of these agencies.
We support Motion No. 12. It allows the standing committee to review matters related to the new agency such as the advisory board members' pay. One of the things that damaged the Canadian Wheat Board the most was the fact that no one knew how much the appointed commissioners received in salary. All sorts of rumours floated around about what they received. Finally there was a leak concerning their benefit package if they were to retire or be fired.
Farmers were shocked to find out that they were paying severance packages of over $250,000 to these appointed commissioners. It was all kept secret. A lot of ill feelings developed toward the Canadian Wheat Board and the commissioners because this fact had been kept secret. Therefore, Reform supports this motion because it opens things up and everybody knows the dollars that are involved and whether or not they are adequate or too benevolent.
We support Motion No. 21. This would allow a review of the agency's operations once a year by the standing committee. Anything that can be done to bring elected people into a more meaningful role in reviewing the work of agencies such as the food inspection agency is a very positive step.