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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was system.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for St. John's West (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won her last election, in 1993, with 55% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 1995 April 26th, 1995

Madam Speaker, I was not in my seat at the time the vote was taken but I would like the record to show that had I been I would have voted with the government.

National Volunteer Week April 24th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, the week of April 23 to April 29 is National Volunteer Week in Canada. This week communities all across our great nation pay tribute to those people who volunteer their time and skills to help their fellow Canadians.

National Volunteer Week was first proclaimed in 1943. Now, over 50 years later, we take this week to recognize the contributions that volunteers make to our way of life. From the people who sit on the boards of community support organizations such as St. John Ambulance to hockey coaches who give up their Saturday mornings to show children the joy and value of team work volunteers give the most valuable gift of all: their time.

In particular I take this opportunity to recognize the contributions of a constituent of mine, Mr. John O'Regan, who was named volunteer of the year by the Newfoundland and Labrador Chamber of Commerce for his many years of outstanding and dedicated community service.

I invite all members of the House to join with me in paying tribute today to all Canadians who volunteer their time and skills to make Canada the great nation it is.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995 March 31st, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

As the hon. member knows, many factors have influenced our budget ever since it was brought down a month ago. These factors will continue to have influence. However, he is also well aware that over the last two years we have met our budget targets through the efforts of the minister. I am sure that effort will continue. Yes, we are concerned with rising interest rates. I am sure that is no secret to the hon. member as the minister has spoken on that a number of times.

I do not believe and I am sure the hon. member, based on some of the statements he has made earlier in this House, is very well

aware that we cannot reduce the deficit on the backs of those who most need our assistance. They are a very vulnerable group.

Perhaps throughout the next year the minister will again need to do some readjusting as various factors affect our financial position.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995 March 31st, 1995

Mr. Speaker, when I was speaking earlier today I was referring to the Canada social transfer.

By announcing the changes to its transfer payments this year, to take effect next year, the federal government has given the provinces plenty of notice of the changes so they may have time to prepare.

Statistics show that under the CST total transfers, including equalization to the most needy provinces such as Newfoundland, will actually increase in 1996-97 compared with 1994-95. Total transfers including equalization to Newfoundland in 1996-97 will increase by $28 million compared with the 1994-95 levels. This demonstrates the federal government's commitment to both national standards and equalization among provinces.

Other initiatives to social security under the budget include an announcement that changes are to be introduced in September to reform unemployment insurance. These changes are to result in a reduction of 10 per cent to the overall size of the unemployment insurance program. In undertaking these reforms the Minister of Human Resources Development faces many challenges and has an abundance of conditions to rely on.

This past fall the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development undertook extensive consultations with Canadians on the topic of social security reform. During these consultations witnesses came forward time after time to tell the committee unemployment insurance systems often discourage people from getting back to work. People tell stories of being denied unemployment insurance because they wish to upgrade their skills while others get paid to stay home. Others tell of declining benefits while individuals whose spouses earn over $100,000 a year collect generous benefits.

The impetus for any change in the unemployment insurance system must be to design a system that has as its underlying goal helping people get back to work while providing the limited resources available to those most in need.

The Minister of Human Resources Development will keep these goals in mind when he prepares to make the necessary reform to the unemployment insurance system.

On the scheme of social security reform the finance minister has promised to release a paper on the changes required to the public pension system in order to ensure its continued sustainability as our population ages. The underlining goal again in this review will be to ensure those most in need receive the limited resources available. Therefore old age security benefits will be provided on the basis of family income as is currently the case with the guaranteed income supplement. In addition, the Canada pension plan will be reviewed this fall to ensure its continued sustainability.

Another area I would like to address is the impact of the budget on small business. Small business is the engine that drives our economy. Today over 99 per cent of all businesses in Canada employ fewer than 100 people. The small business sector accounts for 40 per cent of Canada's GDP. More important, it now accounts for over half of all the private sector employment.

A recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business cited the deficit-debt as its number one concern. The finance minister listened to this concern and is maintaining his commitment to lowering the deficit, thereby providing the environment needed for small business to prosper. A lower deficit also means lower interest rates for small business borrowers.

The inability to access financing has also been cited by small business groups as an area of major concern. To this end the government has announced it will be working with the banks to devise meaningful performance benchmarks for small business financing. It is expected this process will be completed by the fall of this year. This will make loans more accessible to small business which in turn will generate job growth.

The government has further demonstrated its commitment by maintaining tax preferences for small business such as the $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption for small business shares and a lower tax rate on the first $200,000 of income.

These measures in conjunction with measures to reduce the paper burden should ensure continued job creation through the small business sector.

I wish to speak on a topic closely intertwined with my home province of Newfoundland, changes the budget will bring about in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

I congratulate the Minister of Finance on maintaining his commitment to the TAGS program. Under the budget the total funding of the program remains at $1.9 billion over five years, including the $1.7 billion of new funding announced last year. This funding is to help Atlantic Canadians to adjust to the devastation in the ground fishery, a situation over which they have no control.

Atlantic Canadians are a proud people. Given the opportunity, they would much rather work than receive government assistance.

The funding is meant to help them to adjust to the sad reality that the ground fishery has been mismanaged and overfished by foreign vessels. Again the minister, through his commitment to this funding, has ensured that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Other measures such as the merging of the coast guard with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will enable Canada to strengthen its conservation efforts even more outside the 200 mile zone at a time when it is most needed.

In summary, I am pleased to pledge my full support for this budget. It shows that the Liberal government can do more than simply talk about deficit reduction. By setting reasonable targets for deficit reduction and then meeting them, this government has earned the trust and respect of the people of Canada. More important, this budget has managed to reduce the deficit largely through expenditure reductions while ensuring that those in society who are most vulnerable are protected.

While it is not with any great pride that many of these expenditure cuts were introduced, it was out of necessity to ensure that our economy stays on the road to recovery and our social system can remain sustainable in the future.

Fisheries March 31st, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about an issue that has been at the forefront of the news in my province of Newfoundland and indeed, all of Canada, the conservation of the turbot stock.

I congratulate the Prime Minister and the fisheries minister on their unfailing commitment to the preservation of the turbot stock on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks.

Last week I attended the 22nd annual meeting of the Canada and European Parliaments and had the opportunity to discuss with them fish conservation. I spoke to many European parliamentarians, including those attending the European fisheries committee. Many of these people expressed support for Canada's efforts to conserve turbot stocks from overfishing.

As a result of these talks a joint resolution was signed by members of both the Canadian and European delegations to these meetings. The resolution recognized the need to ensure that turbot and other fish stocks are fished in a sustainable manner so they can be conserved for future generations.

I look forward to further progress being made on this issue at the UN conference on straddling stocks that is presently taking place in New York.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995 March 31st, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the budget of the finance minister for 1995-96.

The budget was about keeping promises: the promise contained in the red book to reduce the federal deficit to 3 per cent of GDP by 1996-97, the promise made by Liberal governments past and present to preserve a sustainable social safety net that provides for those who are most in need, and the promise to ensure that all Canadians in all regions share equally in the necessary burden of reducing the deficit.

Through a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases the finance minister reduced the deficit for 1995-96 to $32.7 billion. This is the second year in a row the deficit has been reduced. I am proud to be a member of a government that backs up its talk on deficit reduction with action. Unlike the previous Tory government and some members of the third party, the finance minister realizes there is a purpose to deficit reduction and that deficit reduction is not an end in itself.

As a result of the huge debt that has been run up by the last government, Canadians last year saw roughly 33 cents of every taxation dollar go toward paying interest on the debt. This meant less money available for services that Canadians deserve and respect.

The large debt also creates a climate of instability which discourages business investment and job growth. The purpose therefore of deficit reduction is to guarantee Canadians an environment for sustained growth and job creation both now and into the future.

The government understands and respects its obligations to Canadians to stop the practice of borrowing from future generations to finance the spending habits of today. Therefore it is not with enthusiasm that the government set about reducing spending but rather out of necessity.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand this point. In fact a recent poll confirmed it: 69 per cent of Canadians said they approved of finance minister's budget, even though a large number of those who approved of the budget expected to be somewhat worse off under it.

I refer to some of the remarks made by my colleague from Ottawa West. She said that some of her constituents spoke to her about their concerns under the budget but were willing to accept the cuts and to live with the budget.

Not only is the budget remarkable for the progress it makes toward the goal of reducing the deficit. It is commendable for the way in which it achieves deficit reduction. Reduction in the deficit was achieved largely through expenditure cuts.

For the second year in a row the government did not increase personal income tax rates. I congratulate the minister on his willingness to listen to Canadians and to refuse to take the easy way out by raising taxes. While personal tax rate increases may have been easy they would not have been equitable.

Rather, the finance minister has managed to reach his deficit reduction primarily through expenditure cuts. For every $1 of revenue increase contained in the budget there are $7 in spending cuts. These cuts are reached largely through a rationalization and downsizing of government while ensuring that the spending cuts do not jeopardize the social programs Canadians value so dearly.

I should like to comment on three specific areas which the budget affects: social programs, small business and changes to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

While many Canadians including myself were encouraging the minister not to raise personal income taxes as part of his campaign to fight the deficit, equally compelling was the need to maintain the hallmark of Liberalism, our social safety net.

It was the Liberal government that built the social safety net and it is the Liberal government that is committed to maintaining our social programs. The problem was to adjust the programs to reflect the challenges and realities of the nineties.

Too often complaints were heard about how the social security system did not aid those most in need. At the same time it was becoming obvious that the social safety net was in many instances not providing incentives to Canadians to become less dependent on assistance.

Helping individuals to get back to supporting themselves must be a fundamental goal of any social system. In an attempt to encourage innovative and timely approaches to social security the government has established the Canada social transfer. This payment to the provinces will combine payments for health, post-secondary education and social assistance into one payment called the Canada social transfer. It will allow provinces the flexibility to pursue innovative approaches to the programs.

In conjunction with the transfers the federal government will impose national standards on all provinces as a condition of receiving funding. It will ensure that our commitment to provide for the most vulnerable in society will be maintained. For example, the Canada Health Act and its standards of accessibility, portability and universality will remain intact. Further, the Minister of Human Resources Development is to meet with his provincial counterparts to work out a set of national standards to govern post-secondary education and social assistance.

It has been said that the provinces will receive less funding under the Canada social transfer than previously. However the government has shown its commitment to social programs by cutting its expenditures in this area much less than it cut expenditures in other areas. Further, by announcing the changes in its transfer payments this year to take effect next year, the federal government has given provinces plenty of notice of the changes so that they may have the time to prepare.

Statistics show that under the Canada social transfer total transfers including equalization to the most needy provinces-

Petitions March 3rd, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition signed by over 200 residents of my riding of St. John's West. The petition is in relation to a decision to destaff lighthouses in Newfoundland.

The undersigned residents of Canada draw to the attention of the House that Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the most treacherous coastlines in Canada. Even with the latest technology many lives have still been lost while navigating these coastal waters. Many lighthouse keepers have assisted mariners with lifesaving measures above and beyond the capabilities of technology. Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to recognize the valuable service provided by light keepers and to reconsider the destaffing of lighthouses.

Earlier this week I made a statement regarding this important issue. I fully support this request and ask Parliament to reconsider the decision.

Lighthouse Keepers March 1st, 1995

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to bring to the attention of this House a long and storied Canadian tradition, that of the lighthouse keeper. Recently, Transport Canada announced that the remaining lighthouse keepers in Canada would be replaced by an automated system.

Today I would like to speak about two historic and treasured stations located at Cape Spear and Cape Race in my riding.

Cape Spear, Newfoundland is the most easterly point in North America. It is where man meets the sea. The lighthouse station at Cape Spear, in operation since 1835, is still manned by a lighthouse keeper. Yet on the 160th birthday of this lighthouse, Transport Canada wants to have machine meet the sea at this historic point.

The second lighthouse, Cape Race located in southeast Newfoundland, has for decades been the reference point for European ships bound for the Americas. Since 1856 European ships have approached a manned lighthouse station at Cape Race.

I urge Transport Canada to re-examine its decision regarding the demanning of these lighthouses. One hundred and sixty years of history and tradition-

Young Offenders Act February 22nd, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. As I stated at the beginning of my comments, this bill is not perfect. It is a first step toward revamping the present act.

To speak to the comment he made on the victims of crime, as we go along with this bill and the amendments that will come subsequent to this process, these facts will be dealt with in time. It is certainly a problem and one I am sure the committee will be looking at in the future.

Young Offenders Act February 22nd, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I too rise today to comment on Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act.

This bill was the subject of justice committee hearings from June 23 to December 8, 1994. During these hearings, victims groups, groups of offenders, witnesses from children's aid societies, as well as representatives from judges' groups, bar associations and school boards all made recommendations to the committee.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of these individuals and groups for taking the time and effort to present their positions to the committee. I would also like to congratulate the members of the committee for their work on the bill during these hearings.

This bill is not perfect. No bill ever is. I believe that to understand the purpose of this bill one must first understand the purpose of the Young Offenders Act generally.

The Criminal Code of Canada sets out Parliament's goals and initiatives in the area of criminal sentencing for adult offenders. Conversely, we have enacted a separate statute, the Young Offenders Act, which legislates the sentencing process for young offenders. This is in recognition of the fact that young offenders often commit crimes for vastly different reasons than the motives behind adult crime.

The goals of punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation are often achieved through different methods with young offenders than with adult criminals. The primary difference often recognized by experts is that many young offenders have a much better chance of being rehabilitated and becoming productive members of society than adult offenders. Tied in with this is the idea that for many young offenders the commission of a crime is an isolated incident in their lives, whereas for adult offenders, the commission of a crime more often signifies a larger pattern of lifestyle.

Unfortunately, events over the past few years in Canada have shown that not all young offenders fit the stereotypical mould of a young person who in committing a crime made an isolated mistake. Perhaps the most striking example of this was the tragic death of Nicholas Battersby last spring here in Ottawa. Mr. Battersby was shot in a drive-by shooting in broad daylight just blocks away from this House. Four young offenders were accused of this crime. I believe one of these youths has already pleaded guilty to this offence.

We also hear of swarmings in Toronto. This is the term for a phenomenon where a group of youths harass and beat a lone individual, sometimes simply for the clothes he or she is wearing.

These and other tragic stories show Canadians one thing: Some young offenders, long before they reach the age of 18, have become hardened criminals and the Young Offenders Act is simply inadequate to rehabilitate them or to protect Canadians from them.

We hear stories of youth who state that they commit crimes without any worry of being punished for their acts. We hear young Canadians openly saying that they would continue to commit crimes because the punishment available under the Young Offenders Act until the age of 18 simply does not scare them.

It is with this backdrop that the Minister of Justice has brought forth this legislation, Bill C-37. I would like to speak now on some specific measures in the bill.

The first measures contained in the bill are, in my opinion, the most important and fundamental amendments to the Young Offenders Act. The amendments proposed to paragraph 3(1) of the present act send a clear message to the judiciary who are responsible for enforcing the act. The protection of society is a primary objective of the Young Offenders Act. This preamble is most important.

Much of the time, the varying goals of the criminal law are in conflict. Some measures while they contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders may place the public safety at greater risk. I am here today to say that Parliament, the judiciary and other stakeholders in this debate must never forget that the safety of the public can never be compromised.

While some measures may be seen as contributing to the rehabilitation process, these benefits must be contrasted with any threat they present to the public safety. This is the fundamental struggle of any criminal justice system. Nowhere is the dilemma more prevalent than it is with the young offenders system.

While studies and common sense dictate that as a group young offenders are much more amenable to rehabilitation than adult offenders, we have learned the hard way that young offenders can also be serious threats to the public safety. The Young Offenders Act therefore must recognize the dual and conflicting role that it must play. The amendments proposed to paragraph 3(1)(a) send a strong message to the judiciary that Parliament

expects the judiciary to consider public safety and rehabilitation when considering the Young Offenders Act.

The other amendment which this bill proposes to paragraph 3(1) is to affirm that young persons must accept the responsibility for their actions and for their contraventions. Again, the whole purpose of the Young Offenders Act is to recognize that the young persons accept this responsibility in different ways than do adults. However, they still must accept responsibility for their actions and also the responsibility of rehabilitating themselves.

On the theme of protection of public safety, I would like to turn to the amendments proposed to section 16 of the Young Offenders Act. These amendments would provide that 16 and 17-year old offenders who commit murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter would be tried as adults unless the youth court orders that the youth be tried as a young offender. Under the present Young Offenders Act an offender can be tried in adult court, but only if the crown successfully petitions the youth court for such a transfer.

Presently, a young offender who is charged with any crime will automatically be tried in youth court unless the crown can convince a judge that circumstances merit otherwise. Under this bill a 16 or 17-year old charged with murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter will be automatically tried in an adult court unless a judge, on application, can be convinced otherwise.

I know I am repeating myself but it bears repeating. This is a very important step. Effectively, a reverse onus will lie with a young offender charged with these crimes to show a judge why he or she should not be tried in adult court.

The effect of these amendments will be to increase public safety while also recognizing that in certain cases an offender charged with these offences may be best dealt with under the Young Offenders Act.

This amendment is also consistent with the principle that young persons must accept responsibility for their actions. This amendment is of fundamental importance.

The present maximum sentence available under the act of five years for a 16 or 17-year old who commits murder is inadequate. As many of us know, some young people who have committed murder openly mock this sentence.

This amendment sends a message to all Canadians and to young offenders. That message is that while there may be valid reasons for giving a young offender a second chance, a young offender accused of these serious crimes must convince the court of these reasons.

These amendments therefore address the competing interests between public safety and rehabilitation, particularly when serious crimes such as murder are at issue.

In particular, I would like to bring the attention of the House to section 16(1.1)(b) which under clause 8(1) of Bill C-37 states that when considering whether a young offender should be tried as an adult or in youth court, the protection of the public will be paramount. If the judge is unable to reconcile this objective of public protection with other objectives, then the youth will be tried as an adult. This in my opinion is an ideal method of dealing with this dilemma of reconciling the protection of the public and other objectives of the criminal justice system.

Youth crime, like any other crime, demands a reasoned response to address all the goals of a criminal justice system such as general deterrence, specific deterrence, rehabilitation and public safety. However, when the other objectives conflict with the goal of public safety, public safety must take priority over other considerations.

I therefore support the amendment whereby 16 and 17-year old offenders must show the court why they should be tried in a youth court. In fact, it is unfortunate in my view that this amendment applies only to 16 and 17-year olds. It could easily have been expanded to all young offenders with consideration of the age of the offender becoming a key consideration which a judge would consider in determining whether or not an offender should be tried in youth court. Perhaps this could be something that might be addressed later in phase two of the study on the Young Offenders Act.

In conjunction with the amendments in Bill C-37 dealing with the transfer of 16 and 17-year olds accused of murder or attempted murder, the bill also raises the maximum penalty under the Young Offenders Act for first degree murder to 10 years from five years. In addition, the maximum penalty for anyone convicted of second degree murder will be raised from five to seven years. Again, these provisions in my opinion address the concern that we live in a society where a sentence of five years is not adequate in all cases to deter crime and to protect society, or to rehabilitate the young offender.

Bill C-37 will also provide for victims of youth crime to make impact statements at the sentencing of a young offender. Too often with our criminal justice system, victims complain that they are victimized twice, once by the crime and again during the court proceedings in relation to the crime. We hear stories of victims who are not even informed of when the offender will be sentenced. Victims complain that they have no input in the criminal proceedings.

While it is obvious that the judge in any case must be the final arbiter of a case, in order to adequately dispose of a case the judge must have the representations of all the affected parties before him or her. This includes representations from victims of crime detailing the impact the crime has had on their lives. Only with this input will judges truly be able to pass a sentence that fits the crime.

In closing, I would like to encourage all members of this House to support Bill C-37. I believe it provides amendments which recognize that the Young Offenders Act must obtain a balance of rehabilitation, public safety and deterrence. Unfortunately, in some cases the Young Offenders Act as it now stands does not adequately address the proper balancing of these interests.

This bill provides an excellent start on the process of reducing crime by youth by providing for measures that will take into consideration the issue of public safety. I encourage all members of this House to realize that any criminal justice system must have as its goal the balance of the objectives of public safety and rehabilitation. This is particularly true of any criminal system designed for young persons.

While it is true that young people are much more amenable as a whole to rehabilitation, the public must be adequately protected from all crime no matter who commits it. The amendments proposed to the Young Offenders Act as contained in Bill C-37 address the balancing of these objectives. This balance is lacking in the act as it now stands.

Finally, let me add my voice to others who have mentioned in this House that this bill does not represent the whole story of reducing crime by young persons. Most of the Young Offenders Act by definition deals with offences already committed. The other half of the equation of course is crime prevention.

In order for any initiative to reduce crime to be successful, the whole equation must be looked at. The 12th report of the Standing Committee on Justice released in 1993 pointed this out. It identified that in order to reduce crime we must attack its roots such as unemployment, illiteracy, physical and sexual abuse of children, the glorification of violence, and dysfunctional families.

Studies have shown that crimes in neighbourhoods are drastically reduced when programs designed to keep youth occupied are instituted. Similarly, programs that attempt to help young Canadians get off the streets will also help prevent crime.

It is vital that the roots of crime be addressed in order that public safety is ensured. These steps in my opinion will be wise investments in the future of this country. Therefore I congratulate the Minister of Justice and the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in taking the first steps in reforming the Young Offenders Act with Bill C-37.

I also encourage the government to continue its efforts to eradicate crime by taking the initiatives that aim at preventing crime before it is committed.