Tuesday, December 10, 1996
Bill C-74. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 7277
Bill C-75. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 7277
Bill C-361. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 7277
Mr. Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville) 7277
Motion agreed to on division: Yeas, 134; Nays, 86 7279
Bill C-70. Consideration resumed of motion for secondreading 7280
Mr. Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville) 7295
Mr. Mills (Red Deer) 7299
Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River) 7303
Mr. Bernier (Beauce) 7305
Mr. Scott (Fredericton-York-Sunbury) 7305
Mr. Lavigne (Verdun-Saint-Paul) 7306
Mr. Harper (Simcoe Centre) 7311
Mr. Harper (Simcoe Centre) 7312
Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe) 7312
Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe) 7312
Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata) 7313
Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata) 7313
Mr. Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing) 7316
Mr. Martin (LaSalle-Émard) 7316
Bill C-70. Consideration resumed of motion for secondreading 7316
Mr. Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) 7323
Mr. Harper (Calgary West) 7332
Amendment negatived on division: yeas, 86; nays, 147 7335
Motion agreed to on division: Yeas, 147; Nays, 86 7336
Bill C-297. Consideration resumed of motion for secondreading 7337
Bill negatived on division: Yeas 103; Nays, 112 7337
Consideration resumed of motion; and of theamendment 7338
Mr. Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead) 7349
Mr. Mills (Red Deer) 7354
Mr. Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) 7366
Mr. Scott (Fredericton-York-Sunbury) 7370
HOUSE OF COMMONS
Tuesday, December 10, 1996
The House met at 10 a.m.
Mr. Paul Zed (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the
Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):
pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in
both official languages, the government's response to three
* * *
Mr. Bernard Patry (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.):
pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, the reports of the Canadian section of the
International Assembly of French-Speaking Parliamentarians, as
well as the financial report of the meetings of the 22nd regular
session of the IAFSP and its executive, held in Antananarivo,
Madagascar, July 6 through 10, 1996.
* * *
Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (York North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I
have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fifth report
of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development
concerning Bill C-66, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code
(Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act and to
make consequential amendments to other acts.
* * *
Hon. Sergio Marchi (Minister of the Environment, Lib.)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-74, an act respecting pollution
prevention and the protection of the environment and human health
in order to contribute to sustainable development.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
* * *
Hon. Ron Irwin (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-75, an act
providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the
Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
* * *
Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, Ref.)
leave to introduce Bill C-361, an act to allow taxpayers to inform
government of their views on levels and priorities for the
expenditure of tax revenues and to provide for parliamentary
review of the results.
He said: Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing the people's tax
form act. It is well known that the vast majority of Canadians
oppose grants and handouts to business, special interest groups,
bilingualism, multiculturalism, affirmative action, the CBC, the
National Film Board, etc., but either the Liberals and the Tories do
not listen or they just do not care.
If the government receives millions of people's tax forms filed
with tax returns every year it will be difficult if not impossible for
government to ignore the collective will of the majority of
taxpayers. Direct democracy and the power of populism can work
and even though the people's tax form is voluntary, I am convinced
that millions of Canadians would use the form to send a real
message to government about which programs they support and
which ones they do not.
My bill also allows for the tabulation, analysis and review of the
results by Parliament in time for the budget review process every
fall. The people's tax form act would remove billions of dollars of
unwanted, ineffective government programs and programs used
purely for politically reasons.
I would also like to thank all of those who seconded my bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
* * *
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I have
two petitions today and the first comes from Hull, Quebec.
The petitioners draw to the attention of the House that our police
and firefighters place their lives at risk on a daily basis as they
serve the emergency needs of all Canadians.
They also state that in many cases the families of officers and
firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty are left without
sufficient financial means to meet their obligations.
The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to establish
a public safety officers compensation fund to receive gifts and
bequests for the benefit of families of police officers and
firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the
second petition comes from Edmonton, Alberta. The petitioners
draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home
and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession
which has not been recognized for its value to our society.
The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to pursue
initiatives to assist families that choose to provide care in the home
for preschool children, the disabled, the chronically ill or the aged.
Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (York North, Lib.):
pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present to this
House some petitions signed by residents of York North.
The first petition calls on Parliament to ensure that government
creates opportunities for youth through internship programs,
information technology, improved Canada's student loans, summer
student job programs and programs directed to youth at risk.
Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (York North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the
second petition calls on Parliament to ensure that Canada remains a
strong and united country.
Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (York North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the
third petition calls on Parliament to work toward a fair and
sustainable income program for seniors, ensuring those in need
receive adequate and stable support.
Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (York North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the
fourth petition calls on Parliament to ensure that the government
continues to aggressively pursue and apply new technology with
the aim of creating opportunities for Canadians.
Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (York North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the
fifth petition calls on Parliament to promote international trade and
encourage government to conduct more trade missions to create
more opportunities for Canadians.
Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (York North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the
final petition calls on Parliament to encourage the government to
enter into another infrastructure agreement with the provinces to
improve our nation's productivity and well-being.
* * *
Mr. Paul Zed (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the
Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I ask
that all questions be allowed to stand.
The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Douglas Peters (Secretary of State (International
Financial Institutions), Lib.)
That in relation to Bill C-70, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the
Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the Debt Servicing
and Reduction Account Act and related acts, not more than one further sitting shall
be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of this bill and fifteen
minutes before the expiry of time provided for government business on the day
allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill, any
proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this
order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill
then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further
debate or amendment.
The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will
please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the
(Division No. 199)
LeBlanc (Cape/Cap-Breton Highlands-Canso)
MacLellan (Cape/Cap-Breton-The Sydneys)
McLellan (Edmonton Northwest/Nord-Ouest)
Grey (Beaver River)
Harper (Calgary West/Ouest)
Harper (Simcoe Centre)
Hill (Prince George-Peace River)
Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca)
McClelland (Edmonton Southwest/Sud-Ouest)
Mills (Red Deer)
Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre/Sud-Centre)
The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
* * *
The House resumed from December 9 consideration of the
motion that Bill C-70, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the
Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act,
the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act and related acts, be
read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. George S. Baker (Gander-Grand Falls, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, I was not intending to speak but since you called my
riding I certainly have a few words to say.
The question before the House is whether the Minister of
Finance, who is probably one of the best finance ministers that
Canada has ever seen, who has the best record of any finance
minister Canada has ever seen-I had better be careful-with the
exception of the gentleman who became the finance minister in the
fall of 1977. The boss became finance minister at that point. There
is one exception.
What we have is the rational legislation of the great Minister of
Finance and the irrational logic of all the opposition parties. It is
what separates Liberals from Reform and Tory and Bloc members.
Imagine discussing a bill in this Chamber and having the official
opposition advocate that the GST should be changed so that it
includes food and prescription drugs. Just imagine that.
Reformers stand in this Chamber and say: ``We do not like what
the Liberals are doing. We would like to have the tax extended to
include food and prescription drugs'', as the representative for the
Reform Party stated in the House with respect to this bill.
Imagine the transport critic for the second party in opposition,
who is just like the Tories, advocating a tax on fuel to improve the
roads. Imagine that. An increase in the excise tax is being
recommended by the opposition parties.
The finance minister has the best record in Canadian history,
with the small exception of the minister of finance in the fall of
1977; the boss. The finance minister is saying to the opposition
parties: ``No, we cannot afford to tax people more on fuel and on
gasoline, as the opposition parties are suggesting''.
Not only that, they are also advocating helping the rich out a bit
more. They suggested that our first priority should be to remove the
taxes on jewellery. That was their priority yesterday in this
They want to do away with the Canada pension plan. The
Reform Party is exactly like the Tory Party. At the Tory convention
two months ago they said: ``Let us get rid of the Canada pension
One other thing distinguishes the Liberals from the Tories and
the Reformers. The Tories' policy meeting passed a resolution to
experiment with medicare. That is exactly the same policy as the
Reform Party of Canada. The policy statement of the Reform Party,
its budget, which I always keep here in my desk, but I am not
allowed to show it-
Mr. Silye: Read us something. Be accurate.
Mr. Baker: The hon. member for Calgary Centre is saying: ``Be
accurate. Read something from it''.
Here are some of the recommendations of the Reform Party. On
December 3 the hon. member for Calgary Centre said: ``Make it the
broadest possible tax. Let us tax everything: groceries, prescription
drugs''. Tax everything.
Mr. Silye: Keep going, George. Keep going.
Mr. Baker Mr. Speaker, I can certainly do that. I will quote from
the medicare section. The Reform Party says: ``The original
medicare model is not only intolerably expensive, it is
What do we have here? We have the opposition parties-and of
course we cannot leave out the Bloc. The Bloc is on the record as
supporting any tax forgiveness for wealthy people as long as they
travel to the United States. It is on the record as being in favour of
doing away with any double taxation on estate taxes. That only
deals with people who make over $600,000 a year. That is the Bloc
Here we have the opposition parties saying no to the
Government of Canada. They say they want more taxes on ordinary
people. They want to do away with medicare. They want to do
away with the Canada pension plan. They say they have a better
What is their better way? The Tories and the Reform Party say
they want to get there faster. Where? They want to eliminate the
deficit faster. That is their policy. Where are we today under this
Minister of Finance? Which country in the industrialized,
democratic world has the best record for economic growth this year
and next year according to the OECD and the IMF? It is Canada.
The most recent figures are out. Which nation of the G-7 has this
year the best record with the deficit and the GDP ratio? This new
statement is from the IMF and the OECD made up of 28 nations,
economists that hold their meetings in Paris and decide on those
macro economic questions. Is it Germany, Britain, Japan, Italy, the
Some hon. members: No.
Mr. Baker: Is it Canada?
Some hon. members: Yes.
Mr. Baker: We now have the country with the best economic
growth according to the OECD and the IMF of any of the
industrialized democracies in the world. We now have, as well,
Canada leading every other industrialized democracy in the world
in the deficit to GDP ratio.
The IMF made an interesting statement the other day. It said that
the best record for interest rates was guess which country? Canada.
These opposition parties that stand in this Chamber together with
the Tories who try to hide, the Tories who have a policy to do away
with medicare, do away with the Canada pension plan, to put taxes
on groceries and prescription drugs, who want to put on additional
taxes so they can build highways. They want to put toll gates on our
roads to pay for them. Then they stand in the Chamber and say no
to the great Liberal response to the problems in our economy. They
stand and say no. We want to tax ordinary Canadians. We want to
give tax breaks to the rich.
However, we want to reduce the deficit more, while at the same
time have a government that has the best record of any
industrialized, democratic economy in the world. That is why
Canadians are going to say no to these opposition parties and yes to
the Liberal government.
Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak at second reading of
the bill about the GST.
First of all, I would like to say to the hon. member for
Gander-Grand Falls, who so eloquently described his affection
for the Minister of Finance, that I previously found him to be more
objective in his analyses than he was a few minutes ago.
When we say the best Minister of Finance, I think we should
qualify that statement. He just went with the flow. Even Mickey
Mouse would be a better Minister of Finance than the one we have
today, considering the economic climate. This is a Minister of
Finance who maintains the tax loopholes for the rich.
Is that what the best Minister of Finance is supposed to be like?
The hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls usually comes down
hard on giving preferential treatment to the wealthy. However, his
government, for which he now seems to act as a yes-man,
maintains the privileges of the wealthy. Is that what being the best
Minister of Finance means? The best Minister of Finance after the
one we had in 1977, who is now the Prime Minister?
Remember that the Minister of Finance we had in September
1977 ran up the first major federal deficit. Is that what the best
Minister of Finance in 1977 was supposed to be doing? I am very
disappointed in the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls. He is
usually a better analyst.
As for Canada's performance, I may remind him that the
Canadian unemployment rate is around 10 per cent and that we will
need more than 900,000 jobs in Canada to revert to the same labour
market conditions we had before the recession. Is that Canada's
best performance? We just received some statistics indicating an
increase in the rate of child poverty. Is that Canada's best
performance? We have one of the poorest records in the world in
overcoming poverty, and all the while we maintain the privileges of
the rich. It is awful to hear such things.
Is the best Minister of Finance the one who signed the political
agreement with three maritime provinces that will cost us $1
billion? Is the best Minister of Finance the one who wasted $1
billion on an agreement that will not resolve the GST? If that is the
case, it is time we woke up and it is time for the yes men on the
other side to wake up as well. The arrangement is less and less
justifiable before the voters, in my opinion. The farce has gone on
Canadians outside the maritimes are going to have to pay about
$1 billion for an agreement that settles nothing and that scuttles a
promise the Liberals made even before the last election campaign.
They told everyone they would abolish the GST, the bloody GST.
They lied to the people. It is a horrible thing to do. And the people
believed them and voted for them.
What do we end up with today? A monumental farce, an
agreement worth $1 billion to harmonize the GST with the taxes of
three maritime provinces. It really takes the cake when they present
it as an extraordinary accomplishment by the best Minister of
Finance, who is second only to the 1977 Minister of Finance, who
is now the Prime Minister. It is quite a show.
Canadians have not been fooled. They know very well they are
going to have to pay for this agreement, which resolves nothing. It
is nothing more than a local agreement with three maritime
provinces. In Quebec, we will pay $250 million for this agreement.
Worst of all in this story is the fact that Quebec harmonized its
provincial sales tax with the GST at no cost whatsoever to the
government. It did not cost a penny.
We did it because our intentions were good, because we wanted
to improve trade and because we wanted transactions to take place
as smoothly as possible. We did not want small business to be stuck
with two completely different systems operating in parallel. We did
all that. We even administer on behalf of the federal government
the infamous goods and services tax. And we did not get a penny in
compensation for it, not a single penny.
Now the government is presenting us with this agreement
reached with the three Atlantic provinces. They are buying off the
people in the maritimes for $961 million, that is nearly $1 billion.
It is a disgrace to present such a bill, and particularly to impose a
gag order to limit debate on this bill.
They do not like to hear the truth, to hear that they have been
deceiving the public. Their commitment was not to hide the GST
nor to sign an agreement with three Atlantic provinces, hoping that
it would be used as a model nation-wide. That is not was they
promised in the election campaign; they ran on the promise of
scrapping the GST.
We all witnessed the show the Deputy Prime Minister put on
when she resigned and, half a million dollars later, made a
triumphant comeback, having cleared her name. It is terrible to put
on a show like that, and the people have had it. After spending
$500,000 on this show, we are now spending nearly $1 billion on a
historic agreement with the maritimes.
The worst part is the incredible lack of transparency in all this.
After this historic agreement-historic mainly for its cost of nearly
$1 billion-was signed, the provinces, not only Quebec, but also
Ontario and British Columbia, asked the Minister of Finance what
formula was used to work out this huge amount.
The Minister of Finance obstinately refused to make it public,
knowing full well that this formula, if it exists-which is doubtful
because this is a political agreement and political agreements do
not require formulas-was not tailored to the specific situation of
the three Atlantic provinces.
I am convinced that the federal mandarins who were present
when the harmonization agreement was struck with Quebec, in
1991, must have thought: ``We must be careful, because Quebec is
the only province to have completed this harmonization process
and it did not ask anything from the federal government''. Quebec
is so nice that it did not ask anything from the federal government.
Therefore, once Quebec decided to go along with harmonization,
these mandarins must have devised the formula so as to completely
exclude the Quebec situation. But let them make it public. If they
have the courage of their convictions, if their formula is so good,
then let them make it public, so that we can see how the finance
minister managed to find $1 billion in his pockets and generously
give that money to the maritime provinces. One billion dollars.
Liberal members are boasting that books are exempt from the
GST. This is great, and I want to congratulate Bloc Quebecois
members, because they are the ones who, from the beginning, with
the eight founding members of the Bloc Quebecois in this House,
and out of all the members of all the parties in this House-and I
see the hon. member for Longueuil-rose to ask that the GST not
be imposed on books.
In Quebec, there is no provincial sales tax on books. This tax was
eliminated. The finance minister tells us: ``All the books that will
be bought by educational institutions and organizations promoting
literacy will be tax exempt''. We say great, but the government
must do more. Culture should not be taxed. All books should be
exempt from the GST, as called for by the eight founding members
of the Bloc Quebecois. I see my colleague, the member for
Rosemont, who is also in the House and who used to rise almost
every other week, because we did not have many opportunities to
speak back then, to demand that the GST be taken off books.
Members of the Bloc Quebecois were the only ones to meet with
representatives of the literary community, all of them. The Liberals
refused. The Conservatives refused; I understand. We were the only
ones to do so.
So I congratulate the minister for this small part of the bill, but I
would like to see him go further, and heed the Bloc Quebecois's
call to stop taxing culture and literacy.
The Deputy Speaker: Dear colleagues, before giving the floor
to anyone else, I must tell you that we voted on the hon. member's
amendment yesterday and that debate is now on the main motion.
As you know, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot
addressed the motion at length yesterday, for 50 minutes I believe.
This is the fault of the Chair, which should not have given the floor
to the hon. member. I ask my colleagues not to speak twice on the
same motion in future.
I am certain that my colleague shares my opinion that we may
not speak twice on the same motion. This is the Chair's fault, and I
take responsibility for this error.
Mr. Loubier: Mr. Speaker, I have a small question. Yesterday,
the debate was on the amendment I proposed. Today, it is on the bill
as such at second reading. It should be possible to speak twice in
two days, because the debate is a different one. I am asking for your
opinion on this.
The Deputy Speaker: It seems that we are now debating the
main motion. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot spoke
for almost one hour yesterday on the main motion. He proposed an
amendment at the end of his speech. He perhaps thought he had
spoken on the amendment yesterday, but the hon. member spoke
twice on the same motion.
I am sure he will not do this again in future. I am counting on my
colleague not to speak twice in future. It is an error.
Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is a
pleasure to speak once again to Bill C-70.
First I must decry the fact that the government has moved time
allocation, a form of closure, on this piece of legislation. I need to
point out that since the fall session began, the government has
pushed through precisely nine bills and here we are ramming
through important pieces of legislation in the last week. That is
I have to speak to some of the accusations made by the member
for Gander-Grand Falls. I would simply say that if he was not
completely misleading the Canadian public, he certainly was
quoting hon. members out of context and I must set the record
The hon. member from Gander was saying that the Reform Party
wanted to raise taxes. Let me make it very clear that our party will
provide the average family of four in this country with a $2,000 tax
break by the year 2000, $15 billion in tax relief for Canadians. That
is part of our fresh start platform.
The hon. member also spoke about the government's record of
low interest rates. I have to address that. The reason we have low
interest rates is that this country's economy has been so soft. That
is why we have had low interest rates.
Noticeably the member did not speak about unemployment. I
would think someone from Newfoundland must address
unemployment. In 1995 the G-7 said that Canada had the worst
record when it came to unemployment in the G-7. Out of all seven
nations Canada had the worst. Why would a member from
Newfoundland not address something like unemployment? That is
ridiculous. Obviously the government's record is so bad that the
hon. member could not bear to raise the issue of unemployment.
By the way, the Reform plan would take 1.2 million low income
Canadians completely off the tax roles. I want to make that clear.
Somehow the member for Gander-Grand Falls left people with
the impression that we were going to tax low income Canadians
more. We are going to take 1.2 million low income Canadians off
the tax rolls. These are people whom the Liberals are currently
taxing, including the member for Gander-Grand Falls who has
voted in favour of every budget the government has brought in.
The member for Gander-Grand Falls apparently is no friend of
the unemployed. He is no friend of working Canadians who are
being taxed to the hilt. I think the member for Gander-Grand Falls
has a lot of explaining to do to his constituents.
Specifically on Bill C-70, we need to remind people that this bill
came about because of a broken promise, a very sorry beginning
for this legislation. Going back to before the last election, members
on that side of the House said: ``The GST is completely
unacceptable. It is terrible. We will rip it out if we become
The member from Gander spoke of the finance minister. The
finance minister when he was in opposition said that the GST was
terrible and that they did not want to have anything to do with it.
The Prime Minister has been in this place on and off since 1963, 33
years. You do not even get that much for murder in this country but
he has been here that long. He sat here knowing very well that there
was a possibility the Liberals could form the government and he
said: ``We do not want to have anything to do with the GST''.
What happened on October 18, 1993? The current Deputy Prime
Minister said on national television in a CBC town hall meeting
that if the GST was not gone, she would resign. She led everyone to
believe that the Liberal government would get rid of the GST. We
know that individual MPs campaigned on the promise to get rid of
What did the Liberals do? Did they get rid of the GST? The
record is very clear. The government did not get rid of the GST.
Instead because it had no takers for its harmonization proposal, and
it was desperate to come up with a reason or a justification for
breaking its promise, it ran out to the Atlantic premiers with $1
billion and said: ``Please come on board so we can say that we
fulfilled our promise in some way, shape or form''.
A billion dollars. And what was the result? Now a tax regime is
being established in Atlantic Canada that is going to visit all kinds
of sorrows on the people of Atlantic Canada. Beyond that, it creates
all kinds of other problems. It is extremely divisive. When one area
of the country is rewarded with a $1 billion compensation package
but other areas are told that they are on their own, what happens?
We get division.
We get problems with national unity obviously. That is the
government's whole approach to the issue of unity: divide and
conquer, split people apart. The government has done it from day
one and continues to do it. Lately it is talking about distinct society
again. I cannot believe it, but it is part of its whole approach.
What does this harmonized sales tax do specifically in Atlantic
Canada? The government claims it will create jobs but the facts
simply do not bear that out. We know already that stores are closing
in Atlantic Canada because they cannot afford to implement all the
necessary changes associated with bringing the harmonized sales
tax to Atlantic Canada.
Greenberg stores is based in Quebec but has stores throughout
Atlantic Canada. It is closing stores because it cannot bear the
start-up cost of this new harmonized sales tax. Seventy-nine jobs
are already disappearing in New Brunswick. It just escapes me that
we are not hearing from New Brunswick MPs. They are not
standing up and saying: ``We have to do something to protect these
jobs''. Somehow the members from New Brunswick are strangely
silent. Where are they? Why are they not standing up for their
If something like that were happening in my riding or anywhere
in Alberta where all those Reform MPs are, or in British Columbia
or any Reform constituency I would like to think that those
Reformers would stand up even to their own leader and
government and say: ``This is unacceptable. We will not put up
with this. We have received clear direction from our constituents
and they do not want us to vote in favour of this legislation''. But
the Liberals are like sheep. They are completely quiet. They have
been cowed by the Prime Minister and the power of that office,
which is ridiculous. It is absolutely counter to democracy.
The hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls spoke about
democracy. He is a member who has spoken out in the past and has
been relegated to the very end of the row, almost out the door. He
can stand up and try to revive his flagging career all he wants
knowing that the minister of fisheries may not be long for cabinet.
However at some point he apparently wronged the Prime Minister
in some way and now he has been relegated to being almost out the
door and probably has no chance of getting anywhere which is
unfortunate. That is how this government deals with people who do
not toe the line.
Let me speak about some things that will happen in Atlantic
Canada as a result of Bill C-70. We have received letters from the
Retail Council of Canada, as have hon. members across the way. It
has warned about the tax in pricing aspect of Bill C-70, about how
it will hurt many large retailers. It has talked about the millions of
dollars it will cost. In a very up front manner it said that those costs
will be passed on to the consumers in Atlantic Canada.
Consumers will bear the cost of the deal that is being
implemented in Atlantic Canada because the government was so
desperate to come up with some kind of rationalization for not
fulfilling its GST promise. Atlantic Canada has to pay for the
government's broken promise. Atlantic Canadians have to pay
literally out of their own pockets for this broken promise. But that
is not all. Right now we are only talking about the large chains.
What about the small businesses?
Greenberg stores is not a large company and it is laying off 79
people with another 71 possibly going. The other day I heard a
story about a Halifax businessman who sells magazines.
Approximately 8,500 journals come into his store on a weekly or
monthly basis. Because of this legislation he will have to change
the price on every one of those magazines. I do not care how hard a
person works, that cannot possibly be done every week.
Does the government care about all these common sense
objections to this deal? Again the government members are
strangely silent. Where are the members from Atlantic Canada?
Where is the member for Halifax who sits in this place and so often
speaks up? She is strangely silent. Not a word. Why are they not
standing up for their constituents? Why are they not standing up
when they know it will cost jobs, when it means higher costs for
consumers? I would think that is a basic responsibility of any
member of Parliament.
What about the defence minister? He represents a riding in
which one of the Greenberg stores closed. Should he not be on his
feet as a cabinet minister? Should he not be defending his own
I cannot believe they are allowing this to be pushed through on
closure without so much as saying this is wrong, we have to at least
fix some of the details. They are silent.
Other bodies have spoken of the problems this will cause in
Atlantic Canada as well. The Real Estate Association of Canada
talks about a $4,000 increase in the cost of a new house in Atlantic
Canada. What is the government doing?
There has been no initiative from the government coming
forward and saying ``we are going to deal with that, we will fix it''.
It is going to let the people of Atlantic Canada bear a $4,000
increase in the cost of a new House simply because it had to rush
through that deal to try to save the Deputy Prime Minister. That is
If you make a mistake, as the government, if you break a
promise, why do you not acknowledge that you have broken a
promise, throw yourself at the mercy of the electorate and take
your medicine? To try to somehow cover it up and then make
people in Atlantic Canada, the most vulnerable economy in the
country, pay for it is cruel. I do not know how else to put it.
As we near the end of this debate, sadly the government has
pushed through closure. I urge hon. members across the way to
somehow screw up the courage to stand and defend their own
constituents. Sixteen thousand people in New Brunswick alone
have signed one petition in opposition to this legislation.
If hon. members across the way will not listen to me and my
colleagues in the Reform Party, perhaps they can somehow find it
in their hearts to listen to their own constituents. That is the least
the people of Atlantic Canada can expect from their MPs.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
today we are debating a bill that has come up very suddenly. It is a
bill that, as of last week, was not even on the government agenda,
the so-called GST harmonization bill, really the GST hiding bill
that the government is trying to now push through as quickly as
possible while people in the country are busy getting ready for
Christmas and have their minds on other things. It is very typical of
There are four main concerns that Reform has about this bill.
One is that this new form of the GST will kill jobs. It is bad for
business, it will kill jobs. This is in a part of the country that can
least afford to have this kind of action taken against its economy.
Second, this new form of GST that the Liberals are ramming
through the House is bad for consumers because it will
substantially raise the cost of many goods.
We know our economy is driven 60 per cent by consumer
spending. Now we will have even more difficulty, even more of a
burden placed on the backs of consumers who are trying to provide
the necessities for themselves and their families.
Third, this new form of GST that the Liberals are pushing
through in Atlantic Canada is bad for taxpayers because it means
that taxes will be increased.
The fourth thing is that this new form of GST being put forward
by the Liberals is breaking a Liberal election promise, a strong,
unequivocal, firm, clear commitment by this Liberal government
to scrap, kill and abolish the GST.
These broken promises continue to disconnect Canadians from
the electoral process, increasing the level of cynicism and
increasing the level of distrust and disrespect for elected people
and for the institutions of government. This is a very worrisome
and sad situation in this country.
This bill was put forward and then closure was immediately
voted through the House. The government is sneaking this bill
through. Invoking closure yet again, as I said the last time I spoke
on a closure bill, this seems to be a weekly if not almost daily
occurrence by this government. It is disrespecting the democratic
checks and balances of our system to simply push its agenda
through with as little opposition and as little opportunity for
examination as possible. This is not democracy as it was meant to
I will not repeat some of the concerns that I raised in my last
speech in this House on this issue except to say that Canadians who
are watching the proceedings of the House on a daily or occasional
basis need to take note of how this government is arrogantly and
undemocratically flouting the conventions and the democratic
checks and balances that have been put into place. I believe we are
going to be paying a heavy price for this increasing erosion of the
democratic process in our country.
In 1990 a member of Parliament who is sitting on the
government side and also sitting in cabinet said: ``The goods and
services tax is a regressive tax. It has to be scrapped and we will
scrap it''. The minister of defence now has a different tune to sing
just five or six years later. He had the chance to keep strongly made
promises, to act on the outrage that he and many of his colleagues
expressed about the Conservative government GST and now he is
totally backtracking and not to be heard from in this debate. The
present minister of defence did not say: ``It must be harmonized
and we will harmonize it''. No, he said: ``It has to be scrapped and
we will scrap it''.
On May 2, 1994 the Prime Minister said with regard to the GST:
``We hate it and we will kill it''. Now he is saying ``we really like it
and we will bring it back in a form that will gouge even more
money out of taxpayers and citizens in the Atlantic provinces''.
When the government fails to carry out these clear election
promises, these clear representations to Canadians who place their
faith, trust and confidence in this government and in government
members, Canadians feel increased cynicism with their
government and their country. This is something that is very
disturbing and it is going to be a very difficult situation to deal with
as time goes on.
I would like to spend a few minutes talking about an aspect of
this new replacement GST of the Liberals called a notional input
tax credit. At present when a good or service is introduced into
economy the GST is paid on those goods. When the goods go
through the economy again in the form of used goods, the GST
does not have to be paid on that good because it was already paid
the first time it came into the economy. That was in the past.
The Liberals have seen a golden opportunity to vacuum even
more money out of the economy to fund its waste and its spending
and its inefficient, bloated government. Now when a consumer
buys a used product he will end up paying the GST yet again even
though the GST has already been paid. In fact, that GST will be
paid over and over every time there is a transaction involving those
goods. This is something called tax cascading, which is kind of a
nice term. Canadians would probably call it stacking the taxes, a
tax on tax on tax. In fact, the taxpayer will have to pay tax twice,
three times, four times and maybe more on the same goods.
This is nothing more than another Liberal tax grab. It is also
sneaky because the Liberals have not introduced this increased tax
take. The honest way is to put the tax bill before the House and
have it properly debated. It simply changed the definition of what
the GST will apply to. The GST will be paid over and over.
This will have a very negative effect on any business dealing
with used goods. It will kill jobs, raise consumer prices and suck
more tax dollars from the pockets of Canadians. There is very little
profit in many of these businesses already.
We know and the Liberals have acknowledged time and time
again that taxes kill jobs. For example, the Liberals said that taxes
on employment income, taxes such as UI premiums, make it more
difficult for businesses to operate at a profit, to expand their
economic activities and for the economy to grow and to create
business and employment opportunities for Canadians.
Yet we see that taxes are something that the Liberals simply
cannot do without. There have been over 35 tax increases in one
way or another from this government in its years in office. Its total
tax take has grown by $28 billion over its term in office; $28 billion
that the government is taking out of the pockets of Canadians, out
of the hands of business people, job creators and entrepreneurs and
investors, workers and consumers, and putting it into the hands of
politicians and bureaucrats. It is no wonder we continue to have an
abysmally high rate of unemployment in the country. It is no
wonder that Canadians have to work harder and harder and find less
and less discretionary disposable income and find it more difficult
to make ends meet.
The standard of living of all Canadians is being lowered. The
Liberal government is making a big show, a big production out of
caring about the rate of poverty and the children in our country who
are living in poverty. At the same time, it is pushing through
measures such as this which contribute to the increasing poverty of
members of our society, taking more taxes from the most
vulnerable members of our society by this type of tax increase and
doing it in a very hurried way to make sure that people do not see
what is going on.
There is a lot of misinformation, a lot of distortion by members
opposite when they get up to speak, trying to cover up what is
really happening. However, we need to get the message out to
Canadians that this is not the way to attack child poverty in this
country. It is not a way to give the poorest and most vulnerable
members of our society a leg up. It is only a way to get more money
into the pockets of the government.
The harmonization is a red herring, a feeble attempt to convince
taxpayers that the Liberals have kept their GST promise. Other
provinces have been clever enough to see through this and have
rejected this scheme. I urge the House to reject this scheme and to
protect the people in the Atlantic provinces from this kind of tax
grab on the backs of Atlantic Canadians.
Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, I wish to tell Quebecers and Canadians that there are three
good reasons why Bill C-70 ought not to be passed by the House of
The first, and perhaps the most serious, is that it sends a very
ambiguous message to Canadians and Quebecers about what this
government's word is worth. During the last campaign, they were
saying that they were going to scrap the GST, that it would no
longer exist, that they would make it disappear. Once in power,
they began to hum and haw and to mark time, but in the end they
did not respect their contract with the voters.
Running for office is like signing a contract with each voter,
stating what one commits to doing, what one commits to
defending, and, if elected, one will respect that contract. There is a
very ambiguous, and very negative, message being sent to all those
who might think of getting into politics: this government says one
thing while campaigning to get elected, and does another once in
power. It did the same thing with job creation and unemployment
insurance. This is totally unacceptable, and very bad for
In the next election campaign, when the Liberal candidates come
knocking on the doors of Quebecers, voters will be entitled to ask
whether what is set out in their platform is true, if their actions will
match their words, if all their commitments are merely a smoke
screen to win votes so they can do as they please as soon as the
election is over. The Liberals will have a real problem relating to
this question of a systematic lack of respect for the promises they
have made on major issues.
The second element, and this is particularly true for Quebecers,
is the frustration that is felt when we see one billion dollars in
compensation-no one on the other side of the House has
questioned the accuracy of this figure-given to three Maritime
provinces for harmonizing the GST.
Harmonization is all very well, but I think we should realize that
this is a repeat of an age-old practice of Canadian federalism,
which is to try and cure the ills of one region in Canada at the
expense of the other regions, in an attempt to buy political peace.
After introducing employment insurance reform that penalizes the
maritimes and eastern Quebec to a considerable degree, a form of
compensation has been found, a kind of pacifier for the people of
the maritimes. They are offered compensation for harmonizing the
However, Quebec, which proceeded with this harmonization
several years ago, did not receive any compensation at all. Quebec
did its job and made the system work. All public servants who
administer the GST are with the Department of Revenue in Quebec
City, and they remit the amounts to Ottawa. It all works without
any compensation. Here again, we see the double standard we have
seen so often in the history of Canadian federalism.
This has some major economic impacts. We use this, for
instance, in the new riding of
where the Témiscouata area borders on New Brunswick. This is
one of many measures we are evaluating to find out how federal
monies get to New Brunswick and how they get to Quebec, and
whether these two parts of Canada are being treated equally. The
study we are doing now focuses on all grants and assistance
programs currently available.
We have here a clear example of a situation that may lead to
unfair competition between two regions. One government will
receive funding to harmonize the tax, while the other did not.
There will necessarily be additional costs for the Quebec
government. Products from New Brunswick will be more
attractive because of the federal government's compensation,
which was not given to the Government of Quebec. There is an
injustice here that warrants our criticism.
In its concern for tarting up the transformation of the GST, the
federal government was prepared to pay any price for peace. The
people of the maritimes won the jackpot. The people of Quebec,
however, did not come begging, saw no need for compensation and
harmonized the taxes at no cost to the government. Western Canada
did not harmonize.
The situation has therefore created several Canadas. It does not
work. It proves that, when the federal system is allowed to run on
its own, this is the sort of monster we end up with. There will be
two different types of taxation in two bordering provinces: in the
maritimes, the taxation system is subsidized by the federal
government; in Quebec, the federal government did not subsidize
harmonization. Double standards are still unacceptable.
I would like to take the few minutes I have left to point out that
this bill represents what I would call a partial win for the Bloc
Quebecois. Those members who represented the Bloc Quebecois
before the 1993 election had systematically made representations
to ensure that the GST would not apply to books.
After all the representations that have been made, the bill before
us today provides that books bought by groups involved in literacy
programs, libraries and similar organizations will be tax free.
Because of the major cultural impact books have on our society, the
Bloc Quebecois feels that all books should be free of tax.
I think we should keep up the fight because, as we can see, this
would benefit not only Quebec but all of Canada. English Canadian
culture certainly needs help in holding its own against American
culture. Because markets are permeable and the fact that the same
language is used in English Canada and in the U.S., books are
among the main tools used to spread culture. This would have been
an opportunity to give books published in Canada an edge, by not
subjecting them to tax. Any way you look at it, the propagation of
knowledge benefits society as a whole. But this is not reflected in
I think the government could show its good will by making all
books tax-free. I think all Quebecers and Canadians would gain
from it. This is a measure that will probably be discussed in the
next election campaign. At that time, we will have to make sure
that each party will honour its commitments.
This Liberal government will certainly have a major credibility
problem during the election campaign, primarily because of issues
such as the GST, employment insurance and the promise to create
jobs. The current unemployment rate, which remains above 10 per
cent, is the highest in a number of years. This figure includes
people who are actually looking for work, but not those who have
given up because they were unable to find jobs.
There is a shameless waste of human resources in our society.
Changing this situation must be our governments' top priority. We
have no idea what kind of commitments this government will make
the next time. What is more important though is whether or not it
will fulfil these commitments.
If the past is any indication of the future, it is not encouraging for
Canadian voters, because each time they will have to decide
whether or not to believe in a Liberal government commitment,
they will remember that the Liberals did not do what they had
pledged to do with the GST, and with employment insurance, as
they simply implemented the reform prepared by the
As for employment itself, again the commitments made were not
fulfilled. The morning after the election, the Liberal government
set out to tackle the deficit. This was fine, but in the process it
overlooked another obligation, which is to ensure that our society's
human potential is being used. In this sense, the bill before us is
disappointing. It perpetuates an inequity in the Canadian federal
system, which is the fact that different parts of the country are
In western Canada, the government is subsidizing an airline
company that has trouble making profits because of a major
management problem, while in Atlantic Canada it gives a
compensation of $1 billion to harmonize the GST. In the middle,
there is Quebec, which made real efforts to harmonize its tax, but
which is not getting the benefits that other provinces are receiving.
When will fairness prevail? I do not believe the solution to this
problem lies in the current federal system. In any case, I am asking
Quebec and Canadian voters to be very demanding, during the next
election campaign, regarding the commitments that will be made
by Liberal candidates.
The evidence is before us: This government had pledged to
eliminate the GST, but instead it comes up with cosmetic changes.
The GST is still here and the commitment made during the election
campaign was not fulfilled. This is why I feel the House should
reject this bill.
Mr. Werner Schmidt (Okanagan Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
Bill C-70 is the harmonization of the sales tax.
I could not help but think about the word harmonize. It comes
from the word harmony. Harmony means to create agreement,
concord, to create an apt or aesthetic arrangement of parts. It is
a progression of chords, to use a musical definition, to produce
a pleasing effect. To harmonize then would be to make a form that
is pleasing and to provide a consistent whole, to add notes to a
melody to produce harmony and to bring into being or to create
I thought to myself, I have heard a lot about this sales tax and it
seems that none of those definitions really apply to this particular
development. I looked up the antonym of harmonize. The antonym
of harmonize is discord. Discord means to have disagreement,
strife, to disagree or to quarrel, to be different or to be inconsistent.
I thought to myself, which of those two words best describes the
harmonized sales tax? Harmony, a consistent aesthetically pleasing
whole where the parts agree with one another or discord, where
there is disagreement, strife and division. I came to the conclusion
that this tax has the wrong name. It should be called the discord tax
or government by discord, not harmony. It is creating the opposite.
Does it provide a beautiful, harmonious sound of working
together in a melody of taxation? I do not think so. I am reminded
of the member for Mississauga West. What did she say? She said
that the people hate, they do not just dislike the GST, they hate it.
Most people that I know like harmony and hate discord. It strikes
me that is probably the situation.
The other word that comes up and is a source with regard to
harmony says it creates peace. There is all kinds of evidence that
this has done anything but create peace. It looks like it does not
even have the potential of creating accord.
This is a tax of discord. It has created conflict among provinces.
It has created conflicts between provinces and Ottawa. It has
created conflicts among citizens. It has created conflicts between
government and business. It has created conflicts between
consumers and retailers. How many more conflicts do we want?
And they call that harmonization. It is the exact opposite of
How is it possible that all these kinds of conflicts could occur?
How does that happen? First of all it costs more. Can you imagine,
Mr. Speaker, that three major retailers in Atlantic Canada have
stated that their net annual deficit will total $27 million once
harmonization is implemented? Are you aware that the Retail
Council of Canada has said that by forcing stores to bury the new
tax prices, the harmonization tax regime will cost retailers at least
$100 million a year? That is the implementation of the tax. That is
not revenue for the government.
Why? Because there will be a duplication of information
systems and the rewriting of software, the repricing of prepriced
goods, the duplication of advertising costs as it goes from the
various catalogues and the various brochures that have gone out to
the various consumers, the warehousing and distribution costs.
That is no small cost.
Then a study was done by Ernst & Young. This very reputable
national accounting firm said that a midsize national chain with 50
stores in the Atlantic provinces would pay up to $3 million in
one-time costs. Those 50 stores would pay $3 million in start-up
costs. After that they would pay $1.1 million per year to comply
with the regional tax in price sales system, which we know means
that the total price includes the tax. The amount of tax paid is
hidden in the price on an article when it is taken to the cashier.
The Canadian Real Estate Association says that harmonization
will increase the cost of a new house by $4,000 in Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland and by $3,374 in New Brunswick. All the nice
young families will just love having to pay an extra $4,000, will
they not? The answer is no they will not.
Consumers will pay more for funeral services, for their
children's clothing, for auto repairs, electricity, gasoline and home
heating fuel to mention only a few of the things that will cost more.
The more severe problem is that it does not abolish the GST.
The member for York South-Weston said it best. He said it
quickly and concisely as he is able to do. He said: ``Scrapping and
harmonization are not synonyms. Harmonization is a red herring''.
How accurate he was and how clearly he described exactly what is
It also makes a lie out of statements such as when in 1990 the
current Minister of Finance said: ``I would abolish the GST. The
manufacturers sales tax is a bad tax and there is no excuse to repeat
one bad thing by bringing in another one''. That was six years ago.
In 1994, four years later, after the Liberal Party formed the
Government of Canada, the Prime Minister said: ``We hate it and
we will kill it''.
In 1995, a year later, a Liberal backbencher, the hon. member for
Mississauga West, said: ``I think the GST is going to become a hot
point. I think if we do not do something about it our credibility is
gone. People in my riding hate the GST. It is not one of those mild
`we do not like it', they hate it. If the GST is merged with
provincial sales taxes voters will not be satisfied unless the overall
tax take is simultaneously reduced''.
It is already clear that all of those statements have been proven to
I want to move to the next rather significant development which
took place in August 1995. Going back to the Minister of Finance
who in 1990 said that it was a bad tax, he said in August 1995: ``I
think it is very clear that what small business wants and what
consumers want is a harmonized tax''. Was he listening to the
Is the minister listening to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
now? Is he listening to the people of Alberta? Is he listening to the
people of Ontario? Is he listening to the people of British
Columbia? If he were, there is no way he could make that statement
and say that he is telling the truth. I do not know to whom he is
talking. He is talking to somebody, but it is clearly somebody other
than the people to whom I have just referred. It cannot be an honest
statement. Either he has been listening to different people or he is
deliberately misrepresenting what he heard the people to say.
We need to go beyond that. This harmonized tax violates good
government. It violates good management practices like the
province of Alberta has put into place. In that province there is no
provincial sales tax. Why? Because Alberta was able to balance its
budget without a sales tax. That is a lesson not only this
government should learn, but every provincial government should
learn as well. The harmonization tax does not permit and reward
good government and good practice.
After all that, we also have to conclude that this tax is a bad deal.
The Atlantic provinces were bribed with a $1 billion infusion of
borrowed money which future taxpayers will have to pay for.
Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia refuse to get involved.
They are not even willing to talk about harmonization. The support
is weak in Saskatchewan and in Prince Edward Island. That is
harmonization? That is harmony? That is accord? That is creating
peace? It is the exact opposite. It is divisive. It is conflicting. It is
strife engendering. That is what it is. It is a bad deal.
The Ontario Minister of Finance said that the blended sales tax
using the GST base would cost Ontarians over $3 billion in extra
taxes. He has put the kibosh on any harmonization talk and scheme
in this province. That is the issue which is at stake here in this bill.
It was done to give the government the appearance that somehow
it has dealt with the GST and that somehow it would make people
think the GST has been abolished. How ignorant, how stupid does
the government think the people of Canada are? The people of
Canada are anything but stupid and neither are they unable to
understand what is going on in this issue. It is very significant.
One more thing. How did the Liberals do it? They made it
incomprehensible. I draw attention to Bill C-70, 335 pages of what
the harmonization tax is about. It is not to say anything about the
income tax act which is over 2,000 pages long.
Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Vegreville, Ref.): Madam Speaker, in the
little time I have allocated to me today I would like to talk about the
so-called harmonization of the GST from two different points of
view. I will talk about the deal itself and the fact that it is a bad
deal, that it will hurt business and kill jobs in Atlantic Canada and
across the country. Also, I will talk about the lack of integrity in
government. The more important part of my presentation today
will be to point out that this government has completely lacked
integrity on this and a lot of other issues and Canadians should find
First, about the deal itself, it is clearly a bad deal for business.
The premiers of the Atlantic provinces had to be bribed with a
billion dollars just to accept this deal. Of course Prince Edward
Island has not accepted it. The Liberal Government of Prince
Edward Island was defeated recently partly because of the
consideration of this deal. Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia
have completely refused to talk about the issue, while
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island really have
been less than positive about the deal.
To accurately call this harmonization of sales taxes, it would
have to apply right across the country. What we have is a deal only
for three Atlantic Canadian provinces. That hardly makes for
harmonization of the GST. Let us not call it harmonization. Let us
talk about it for what it really is.
The Ontario finance minister said that this deal will cost
Ontarians over $3 billion. That is a lot of money. I am sure the
people of Ontario who elected many of the Liberal MPs on their
promise of abolishing the GST must be very upset about what has
happened here. Not only has the promise to abolish, scrap, kill the
GST been broken, but in an attempt to cover up this broken promise
according to the finance minister of Ontario, it will cost the people
of Ontario $3 billion just for the deal with the Atlantic provinces.
The people of Ontario cannot possibly be very happy about this.
This policy demonstrates what has already been demonstrated by
this government many times before: the lack of a broad vision, the
lack of well thought out comprehensive policy on issues. Too often
we have had piecemeal legislation, which is the case again here.
This legislation applies to only three provinces out of the ten. It is
called harmonization but clearly it is not.
What will this legislation do for businesses and jobs? This is the
most important issue to consider in terms of this deal. It will be a
big job killer. Several people who are involved and who will be
affected by this deal have made that clear.
The three major retailers in Atlantic Canada have stated that the
annual retail deficit will total $27 million once harmonization is
implemented. One private sector retailer in Atlantic Canada was
contemplating opening two more stores in 1997 but has scrapped
that plan because of this deal. That means jobs lost.
Both privately owned and publicly traded stores are reluctant to
explain the problems they face as a result of harmonization so as
not to jeopardize customer confidence and the value of their stock.
They must be careful in even talking about the effects of this deal.
However, the Retail Council of Canada has said that in forcing
stores to bury the new so-called harmonized tax, the harmonized
tax regime will cost retailers $100 million a year. Not only is this
so-called harmonization which affects only three Atlantic
provinces going to cost the other Canadian provinces $1 billion
over the next three years, but it will also cost Atlantic Canada
retailers $100 million. That will mean job losses. Business people
will have to work even more hours which will mean more time
away from their families. That is unacceptable.
An article in the December 4 Globe and Mail discussed the
so-called harmonization and some of its impacts. It stated that the
major increases will be on items such as home heating fuel and
clothing which will be taxed at 15 per cent instead of the 7 per cent
GST that is now applied. The tax will increase on essential items
that nobody can avoid buying, such as heating fuel and clothing,
and this will drive the prices up substantially.
In the Globe and Mail article the Retail Council of Canada said
that businesses will have to spend $28 million to get their pricing
systems ready by April 7. ``This is a huge blow to Atlantic
retailers'', said Peter Woolford, senior vice-president of the
council. ``Retail profits average about 2 per cent of sales'', he said,
and this is going to cut even further into those narrow margins.
Mr. O'Brien, Atlantic director for the Canadian Federation of
Independent Business, said that in the case of one magazine store in
Halifax, the owner will have to change the prices on as many as
8,500 journals a week. We are not talking about some
megabusiness but about one small business owner who will have to
change the prices on 8,500 journals a week. His comment is that he
will have to work another seven hours a week when he is already
working 70 hours a week. This is completely unacceptable.
It is completely unacceptable to make changes that will make for
more totally non-productive work for business owners and that will
extend the hours of already overworked business owners, operators
and workers in this country. We need less government interference.
These people need more time to spend with their families. Clearly
this bill will mean just the opposite in Atlantic Canada.
Of course it has an impact across the country. A billion dollar
increase in costs will mean more taxes for Canadians in other
provinces. That means more working hours and less time to spend
with families. This will damage the already strained situation of
I would like to close by talking about lack of integrity in
government. I want to begin with some quotes from the Prime
Minister and the finance minister in 1990, when they were getting
into full gear for the election campaign.
The Prime Minister said in the Toronto Star in 1990: ``The
Liberals will scrap the goods and services tax if they win the next
general election, leader Jean Chrétien says. `I am opposed to the
GST, I have always been opposed to it and I will be opposed to it
From the finance minister: ``I would abolish the GST'', April 4,
Then in 1992 as we got into the heat of the election campaign the
Liberal leader was quoted in the Toronto Star, December 21, 1992:
``With the federal election only months away Liberal leader Jean
Chrétien faces two questions that are being posed with increasing
urgency. Does he stand by his word to scrap the goods and services
tax? The answer was given by the Prime Minister's
communications director, Peter Donalo when he said that the leader
is committed to doing away with the thing and to tell Canadians
before the election where he would make up the money''. Of
course, that has not happened. It is totally unacceptable that has not
happened. A promise was made and clearly the promise has been
In closing I would like to quote a comment from the member for
Kingston and the Islands at a meeting here in Ottawa. When the
member for Kingston and the Islands was asked about the GST and
the fact that a promise had been broken, his comments was: ``We
changed our minds''. I do not think Canadians will view it with that
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple
Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Madam Speaker, before I get into any
remarks that I would call GST specific, I would like to comment on
something that is happening here today, which is the use of time
allocation again by the Liberal government on this debate. That
makes 26 times that this heavy handed throttling of Parliament has
been practised by this government.
It is a rather curious phenomenon that is taking place. It actually
started in the Trudeau years. His was the first government in
Canadian history that opposed free speech in Parliament. It was the
first government that began to routinely use time allocation and
closure. Prior to the election of Mr. Trudeau, these two means of
throttling debate had been used only 23 times in the entire history
since Confederation. I think it was first used by Sir Robert Borden
during the first world war.
Then Mr. Trudeau came along and what did we get? Forty-four
uses of time allocation or closure in 15 years. That is a bit of an
escalation. Then in the Mulroney years they were used 63 times in
eight years and nine months, a new record, a new champion on the
But what is happening under the current Liberal government? It
has only been in office for a short time, three years and one month.
Already it has used time allocation or closure 31 times. This is
unprecedented. It is contemptible that any government would treat
any parliament in this manner.
Today the Liberals are showing their contempt for Parliament in
two ways. One is through time allocation. The other is contempt for
their fellow members in that only one of them has even bothered to
come in and listen to this debate. I refuse to blow air into an empty
room. I request a quorum count.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): Please ring the
And the bells having rung:
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): We have
quorum. The hon. member may continue with debate.
Mr. McTeague: Madam Speaker, a point of order. I find it rather
hypocritical of the hon. member for Swift Current-Maple
Creek-Assiniboia to call quorum when several members on this
side of the House have been sitting here attentively and nothing on
the Reform side, including the opposition.
Mr. Assadourian: And the Bloc Quebecois.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): We are
resuming debate. The hon. member for Swift Current-Maple
Mr. Morrison: Madam Speaker, I suppose I should feel guilty
for disturbing the free lunch of the Liberals. In case they follow the
usual practice of getting a quorum and then quietly sneaking out
like naughty children evading the headmaster, I am prepared to
stand here and call quorum all afternoon if necessary.
With regard to the question of closure, it is unthinkable that the
government of a democratic country could use this heavy-handed
blunt instrument to bludgeon Parliament with the regularity that
this government has done. I do not know what the final outcome
will be. Perhaps at some point in the not too distant future it will
simply dissolve Parliament and say: ``We do not need it any more.
Let us have permanent closure, permanent time allocation''
because that is the Liberal idea of the democratic process.
Remember, 31 times it has moved time allocation or closure in
the short period of three years and one month. That is one-third
more times than those blunt instruments were used in the entire
pre-Trudeau era in this Parliament, back in the days when people
actually believed in democracy and when Parliament was still a
place where people came together to debate the issues and arrived
With respect to this marvellous HST that is being brought in by
this bill in the Atlantic provinces, it is pretty easy to see why the
government is so desperate to hide the GST. However, it is only
going to be able to hide it in three provinces because nobody else is
willing to get on board.
I would like to quote a comment by the hon. member for
Mississauga West with respect to the GST. She said: ``I keep
hearing from the finance department that Canadians are getting
used to the GST and now accept it. If anyone really believes that I
do not think they are in touch with reality''. Bravo to the member
for Mississauga West because she sure had that right.
Then the hon. finance minister said: ``We have to do something
about this GST because we made a mistake. We are sorry, but it was
an honest mistake''. That is not good enough. Let us face it, despite
their public pronouncements, the Liberals never had any intention
of killing the GST. Instead they had this cockamamie plan to run
around and hide it, meld it in with provincial sales taxes and then
maybe nobody would notice. Long term planning, harmonization
of the dreaded GST.
The fact that it is going to cost citizens of the three
non-harmonized provinces something in the order of $900 million
in subsidies does not bother this government. What does it care, it
is only money and this is a Liberal government. It is going to hurt
small businesses in the three Atlantic provinces. What does the
government care, it is not in business. It is made up of politicians
and politicians do not care what happens behind that cash register.
We are going to have it because the hammer has been brought
down. Democratic debate has again been forbidden in this place
which was designed for the democratic debating of the issues.
I see the Speaker is signalling me, my time being up. I do thank
all of those good Liberals who allowed their lunch to get very
slightly cold. Members will notice that I did not fulfil my threat of
continuously calling quorum.
Mr. Elwin Hermanson (Kindersley-Lloydminster, Ref.):
Madam Speaker, it is good to hear that Saskatchewan is being
heard from in the House of Commons this afternoon. I know
Saskatchewan has some pretty strong views on taxation. We know
a lot about paying taxes. Like many Canadians, we feel we pay
more than our fair share of taxes. We are not very excited about Bill
C-70, to harmonize or blend the sales taxes.
We have talked about the Liberals a lot in the House of
Commons. It sounds like a broken record but it is not. It is broken
promises which are serious business. It is important for Canadians
to know that Reformers are holding the Liberals accountable for
their broken promises here in the House of Commons. I think this
has been said a number of times but it needs to be repeated because
these are important people who have made these statements.
The current finance minister on April 4, 1990 when he was
sitting on this side in opposition said: ``I would abolish the GST''.
That is pretty plain and simple. I can understand that. Canadians
understood that and they elected a Liberal government because
they had a pretty good hunch that the current finance minister
would hold that position in a Liberal government.
The current Prime Minister on September 27, 1990, just a few
days after his finance minister had made that statement, said: ``I
want the tax dead''. I know when something is dead. Coming from
the farm I have seen dead animals. We bury them and they are no
more. They are gone. They are forgotten and we do not deal with
them any longer.
The GST is not dead. It is alive and kicking. In fact, it is growing
new hands. It is going to pick more pockets through a blended sales
tax, a BST. That is a fitting name for the Liberals' approach to tax
reform, call it BST. Again, coming from the farm I know what BS
is and this is an accurate name for this sales tax.
I want to tell the House about what is happening in
Saskatchewan. We already have a 9 per cent sales tax, one of the
higher sales taxes in Canada. There is only a province or two with a
higher sales tax. We take the GST of 7 per cent and add it to our
provincial sales tax and we have got 16 per cent or actually a little
over 16 per cent sales tax on most of the goods we purchase. If it is
services, because it is not a blended sales tax, we pay only the GST.
As as farmer, if I go to my accountant or if I take a piece of
machinery to a mechanic for repair or, as we all do if we have to get
a haircut, we pay the GST but we do not pay the PST. It is on goods
Liberals think that they are not getting enough revenue from
taxes and they have to blend it so that the provinces and the federal
government can extract more from us, particularly in the service
industry which all of us rely on so much.
What did the Liberals do? They thought the provinces would just
jump at this chance of having a blended sales tax. They forgot one
thing. Provincial governments also have to get elected. They were
concerned and said ``how are we going to sell this BST, taxes going
up on new items that currently are not being taxed or at least taxed
at as high a level as it would be under a blended sales tax?'' There
is a little problem with the provinces. They did not jump on board.
The Deputy Prime Minister could not keep her promise and had
to resign, albeit a rather odd resignation, having done a poll first to
see whether she could get re-elected before she resigned. I guess
that is the way the Liberals think. Put honour at the bottom of the
list and check out expediency and pragmatic opportunity first.
In any event, so be it. The Liberals were in trouble over the
reform of the sales tax. Killing the GST was out of the question.
They were trying to cloak that in some new scheme called blending
or harmonizing the sales tax. They finally were able to sell it by
offering three Atlantic provinces $1 billion. Whose dollars? A
billion of our dollars, taxpayer dollars, to blend this new sales tax.
The Liberal premiers of the Atlantic provinces went along with
this buyout. Suddenly they found out that Atlantic Canadians were
not so excited about it. They realized that the bottom line is they
are going to pay higher taxes. One province did not go along with it
because of course that province had to go to the electorate sooner
than any other province, the province of Prince Edward Island. The
Liberals found out that they were not very popular in Prince
Edward Island as that government went down to defeat. I believe
that the blended sales tax was a part of the reason the Liberals' ship
sank in Prince Edward Island.
We have an NDP government in Saskatchewan. Believe me,
NDP governments know how to tax. They like to tax about as much
as Liberals do. We have a 9 per cent sales tax in Saskatchewan. We
are killing jobs and sending business to Alberta where there is no
provincial sales tax. We have high taxes on our phone bills; we
have high taxes on our power bills and the rates are going up; we
have increased our gasoline tax, meanwhile our roads are in
shambles; we have a high provincial income tax; provincial crown
leases have increased; municipal reassessment is being done in
Saskatchewan, which is increasing the cost to the taxpayers. Of
course the taxpayer, no matter what level of government it is, is the
The NDP got a sudden shock in Saskatchewan the other day
when it lost a byelection in North Battleford, a seat it had held for
most of the last 40 years. People in Saskatchewan were telling the
NDP that they do not like the high taxes. They do not like the NDP
nickeling and diming them to death. They are not prepared to pay
more and more for less and less. Surprise, surprise. In
Saskatchewan the NDP lost a safe seat. A new Liberal MLA was
elected in the riding of North Battleford.
The Liberals have also selected a new provincial leader. Of
course they have had all kinds of problems. They have been
shooting each other in the foot and stabbing one another in the
back, as Liberals are prone to do once in a while. Out of the whole
mess they had to choose a new leader. What did the new provincial
Liberal leader in Saskatchewan pronounce almost at the beginning
of his mandate? He said: ``I think we should harmonize the federal
and provincial sales taxes''.
I was jumping for joy. That will ensure that Liberals will not
be re-elected as members of Parliament for Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewans simply do not want higher taxes on services. We
are opposed to it. I believe the Liberal leader is already
backtracking. In later press releases and interviews he has talked
about reducing the provincial sales tax more than he has about
blending or harmonizing the federal and provincial sales taxes.
Politicians, when they make as big a blunder as the new Liberal
leader made, are pretty quick to change their ways before they
totally annihilate their political future.
Harmonizing, he thought, would save Saskatchewan taxpayers
money. Obviously Saskatchewan people do not think so. That is
why he is changing his tune and talking about tax relief rather than
a new tax.
Where did he get the idea that tax relief might be sold to
Canadians? He has probably looked at Reform's fresh start, for one
thing. He has probably listened to the people, the common sense of
the common people, who are saying ``we do not want more taxes,
we do not want to see how imaginative you can be by introducing
some kind of harmonized sales tax''.
What Reform has offered Saskatchewan is not some new
program, not a new tax scheme. It has offered tax relief. In the case
of the province of Saskatchewan it would mean that $440 million
would be left in taxpayer pockets. That is money they would not
have to send to Ottawa.
In Saskatchewan we send everything out of the province. We
send our young people out of the province. We send our raw
products out of the province. We send our opportunity and our
future out of the province. We send our tax dollars out of the
province. Only Reform has talked about leaving tax dollars in
Saskatchewan, in the hands of the people of Saskatchewan, so that
they can make the best decisions as to how that money will be
spent. That idea is going over extremely well.
We are looking at how we can keep things in Saskatchewan and
how we can make that province grow. Reform has put forward a
fresh start proposal which would leave $440 million in taxpayer
pockets, rather than losing it through the BST, which was so aptly
named by the Liberal Party.
My time has just about expired, and so I will set the record
straight. The NDP tax high, Liberals tax high, Reform spells tax
relief. That is what Canadians want. That is what the people of
Saskatchewan want. That is what the residents of
Kindersley-Lloydminster want. That is why I am speaking on
their behalf in the House of Commons.
Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley East, Ref.): Madam Speaker,
it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of the residents in my area of the
country on the GST issue. It was a very profound issue in the last
It is interesting and maybe not surprising that nary a Liberal will
stand to try to explain, defend or otherwise obfuscate what they are
doing about the blended GST, BST, HST or whatever they want to
call it. Liberals today are hiding. They are laying low, hoping this
will blow over. Of course it will blow over. It will blow over
because the government forced closure again, for a record number
of times. It is almost an admission of the incompetence of House
management. They say ``we just cannot manage our affairs well
enough to get this stuff through the House and what we have to do
is force closure so there will not be any debate on these subjects''.
We have seen that happen on routine bills, on very divisive bills
and on very controversial bills. It does not seem to matter.
It seems to be that the routine now is bring in a bill. If they
cannot manage their House time properly, they can cancel the
debate. They do not let democracy interfere with the workings and
machinations of the government. They just tell them how to vote in
the backbench, cancel the debate and see if they can get away with
So far if I could chastise for a moment the national media on this
for letting them get away with this, it is beyond me. We stand up
here and repeatedly say that this is not right, it is not fair, it is not
due process. It is not a chance for Canadians to debate something as
significant as the GST.
Think back to when the GST was brought in. The bells rang for
two weeks in this place. Things here were held up for two weeks.
The Liberals were all in favour of that. Yet here today we are not
allowed to debate for two days changes to the GST.
It is a shame. It is a shame on the media, too, for not reporting it.
It should be on the Liberals' case saying that democracy is not of
interest to these people. It should be broadcasting that from coast to
coast. It probably will not. I will leave it to the readers and the
media watchers of the world to figure out why that is.
I would like to talk today for just a couple of minutes about the
politics of division that are being practised on that side of the
My colleagues have gone through what is wrong with this tax per
se, about the increased costs to the consumers, about how it is
driving business out of Atlantic Canada, there very place where
they are trying to draw business in, how it is a half baked scheme
that does not have the support of the chambers of commerce and
other business groups in Atlantic Canada.
That is already in Hansard. That is in the record but if I could
talk a little today about why this bill is symbolic of the type of
politics that seems to be acceptable to the Liberals.
What they have done here, of course, is pit one region of the
country against the other. It is not a new idea for a Liberal. It is
not new at all. They practice that pretty well constantly. ``Let us
play Atlantic Canada against the rest of the country. Then we will
go back to Atlantic Canada and try to buy its votes somehow. We
will try to buy it off somehow and promise it something in the
next election campaign. In the meantime, play one part of the
country against the other''.
We stand in the House and ask the Minister of Finance to explain
himself when it is going to cost so many thousand jobs. He stands
up and says ``the Reform Party hates Atlantic Canada''. The proof
is in the pudding. This harmonized sales tax is going to hurt
In turn, the Liberals blame it somehow on the Reform Party.
Who do they think brought in this tax, but the finance minister
himself? Who thumbed their noses at the businesses in Atlantic
Canada? The finance minister and the whole front bench.
They do not mind, play one area against the rest. What about last
year in my own province of British Columbia. British Columbia
was trying to control its welfare costs. It brought in a residency
requirement. The federal government said ``no way, if there is
federal money involved, you have to have access for all Canadians
through this federal program''. It fined British Columbia some $30
some million for bringing in the residency requirement.
It is interesting in Quebec now the fees for universities
subsidized by the federal government are twice as high for
non-Quebecers as they are for Quebecers. In other words, if
someone from my province wants to go to la belle province and get
their university education, their tuition fees are twice as high.
Just to rub salt in their wounds, there are 50 countries of the
world that can get cheaper rates at their universities than one can if
from British Columbia. An argument on both sides of that equation
can be made but the issue is why is it okay to punish British
Columbia for having a made in B.C. policy. Maybe they should
have. It is okay to punish there but do not say a word over here.
When it comes to another province or another region, we will not
say it. We will just let British Columbia take it in the ear.
For that matter on the distinct society question itself, again
symbolic of this government it says: ``We are going to push
through the distinct society clause and it does not matter who
protests. It does not matter whether British Columbia, Alberta and
Ontario, the three largest provinces outside of Quebec are dead set
against it, we are going to push it through''.
The Liberals pushed the veto through the House of Commons,
which makes it virtually impossible to ever change the
Constitution. I do not know what kind of idea that was from the
Prime Minister. It was made on a napkin at the parliamentary
restaurant during lunch break, I guess.
The minister brought in these proposals and said that they are
going to be pushed through. The Quebec Liberal Party endorsed by
the federal Liberal Party says: ``We have to have distinct society
and we have to push it through''. What has that accomplished? The
Bloc Quebecois, the Parti Quebecois and Mr. Bouchard all say it is
nonsense anyway, that it is not going to solve anything, that it is not
going to bring us together and that they are not going to believe in
Canada more with this.
They took it out west where I live and asked: ``Will you guys
accept this in full?'' Eighty per cent of Canadians in my area of the
country said: ``No way. We are not going to discuss this. We will
discuss devolution of powers to all provinces, certainly. We will
talk about a smaller role for the federal government, certainly. We
will talk about areas of jurisdiction where there is overlap and we
should get rid of that, certainly. But writing distinct society in our
Constitution is just not going to happen''.
The Liberals over there seem to think that by bringing in this
controversial idea and by pushing it on the west and on Ontario it
will somehow bring us all together, that somehow we are going to
sing solidarity forever in 10 part harmony. It is not going to happen
but the Liberals continue to do it.
It is the same thing with the harmonized sales tax. The Liberals
bring it in and what happens? Right away the premier of Alberta
asked: ``What is going on? You gave a billion dollars to Atlantic
Canada in order to harmonize the tax? What about Alberta which is
paying the bills to harmonize this, in order to buy the favour from
the Quebec premier?''
The people in British Columbia rightly said: ``Wait a minute.
You are saying a separate program for a separate region of the
country with a separate pay off, a buy out and a Liberal handout is
going to be paid for by people in our province in part?'' The people
of Quebec would rightly say: ``Wait a minute. You have a sales tax
over there and we have to pay the bills when right across the border
is a province which is getting a pay out in order to blend its sales
tax and enhance the reputation of the finance minister?''
This government practices the politics of division. Time and
again, whether it is distinct society, whether it is different rules for
different regions of the country, whether it is the harmonized sales
tax, whether it is the UI system, whether it is how to get a
government grant, which region of the country one lives in plays a
big part. Probably the icing on the cake is that those who are
heavily connected with the Liberal Party, either a company, a
government or their contacts, have a licence into the hallowed halls
of power that sit in the throne room.
I hope Canadians will take the government to task over the
Christmas break and tell it that special deals for special regions are
off and that they should not happen. The national media should be
the first to report that.
Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, for the past three years I have been sitting here listening to
debates. Of course, I have been sitting here all day listening to what
has been going on. Madam Speaker, would it be out of order to
make a simple request, that I stand here for 10 minutes and say
nothing? Complete silence. Madam Speaker you are shaking your
head. I wonder why.
If I stand here and talk for 10 minutes it makes absolutely no
difference because the government does not listen. In fact the
government does not listen to me as an MP and it does not listen to
the people of Canada. If we had total silence and did not debate
anything, if the opposition was silent, the government would
continue to do what it is doing, which is to run roughshod over the
desires and wishes of Canadians.
The government has invoked closure on approximately 30 bills.
Each time it does that, one question seems obvious: Why? Why is it
invoking closure? I have observed a pattern over the past three
years I have been in the House. Each time the government does not
want Canadians to know what is going on, when it does not want a
topic properly debated, it invokes closure.
Mr. Loubier: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not
think we have a quorum in the House. I call for a quorum count.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): We shall
proceed with a count of members present.
And the count having been taken:
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): We have a
Mr. Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville): Madam Speaker, I
sometimes wonder if when we have warm bodies in the House it
makes any difference. I still do not think it helps anything. The
government is not listening to what we have to say.
We began today's debate with one of the members opposite
making some blatantly false and misleading statements. It is
interesting that the Liberals continue to propagate this not just
within this House but outside this House as well. They continue to
make completely false statements. The member also explained that
this is the best finance minister, except for the one we had in the
mid-seventies who is the present Prime Minister.
If the Liberals are going to set that person up as the best finance
minister we have ever had, they are saying that the deficits begun
by the Liberal government, the deficits that led to our tremendous
present debt were good. They are saying that the past finance
minister, the present Prime Minister, who started us on the road to
overspending had the right idea. I cannot accept that. To set him up
as the best finance minister we have ever had is totally false and
misleading. That has to be the sorriest statement I have heard in
this House to date.
I made the point that approximately 30 bills have been rammed
through the House. Full debate was not allowed on those which
indicates this is a very undemocratic institution. The people of
Canada must ask what is really going on here. Fundamental to this
debate on taxes and on the GST is the question of why we need it.
Why does the government need to continue raising all of this
I discovered an interesting coincidence. This morning I
introduced the people's tax form which is a voluntary tax form that
all taxpayers could return with their income tax forms every April.
On the forms they could indicate to the government the programs
they support and the programs they oppose. It would be an
indication to the government of what the people of Canada want.
In light of the debate we are having today, would it not be
interesting to include on that form a question which asks people
what they would like done with the GST? Do they want it to be a
hidden tax as this government is proposing? Do they want it hidden
in the prices of products so when the government decides to
increase the tax it will not be very visible and the government will
not get all the negative publicity it hates? If the government were to
ask the people of Canada, I wonder what their response would be.
I believe that Reformers are speaking up on behalf of the people
of Canada. The silence of the Liberals indicates that this
government does not want to debate the topic.
Each time the government raises taxes, we have already
indicated in many previous speeches over the past three years that
these taxes kill jobs. It is very simple. As long as people are paying
more money in the form of taxes into the government coffers, they
cannot spend that money on other things that create real jobs. They
cannot buy goods and services which really creates a better
lifestyle for all of us. Every time they send millions of dollars to
Ottawa it is as if that money is put in a big black hole. It is not an
effective way of producing jobs, I can guarantee that. In fact, taxes
kill jobs. Studies have been done. They are out there.
Taxes also hurt families. The GST really hurts our average
family in Canada. How do taxes hurt families? Forty-six per cent of
the average taxpayer's income now goes to government. It has
come to the point where both parents feel they have to work in
order to maintain a decent standard of living. One parent works for
the government when we have a tax level that is so high. It hurts
families because those parents would like to be spending more time
at home with their children. Studies have found that the high tax
level has really hurt families.
The Liberals then turn around and appear to be compassionate.
They are going to have a big program to target child poverty. Who
has created the poverty? It has been these very people who now
pretend that they are going to help people in some way. Reducing
government programs so that we can reduce taxes should be our
priority and fundamental to the entire discussion we are having
If we ask Canadians, as I have done, what their priorities are in
spending and what things they would oppose, we would get some
very interesting answers. If the government actually listened to
Canadians, it could scrap the GST because it could reduce taxes
which is what has to be done.
I took a survey which has been tabled in the House along with
the people's tax form bill that I introduced today. I believe the
survey in my riding will not be substantially different from surveys
taken across the country. What was the number one program, the
sacred cow for the government, that people opposed? Official
bilingualism. They felt that the government has been wasting
money in this area for decades. The second thing Canadians
opposed was funding for special interest groups. In my riding, the
third thing they opposed was gun registration. Members may think
that is just because I come from basically a rural riding, but I will
tell a story.
I spoke at the University of Toronto and half of the audience
were young females. It was a good cross-section of the entire
population. At the beginning of my speech I took a little survey. I
asked them how many thought that gun registration was a good
thing and a wise way to spend our money. The vast majority of
them raised their hands and said they thought it was a good idea. I
then asked if they minded if I explained it to them. I told them how
it was going to take quite a bit of tax money to implement and in
the end people would have a piece of paper lying beside their gun.
To make a long story short, by the time I was done explaining to
them what it was all about, I took another survey and the exact
opposite happened. There was virtually no support for this.
What happens is that if we properly inform Canadians as to what
some of the programs are that this government is implementing,
the support drops and they feel it is not a wise way to spend our tax
money. In fact, they would rather spend it on health care, family
crisis centres and those kinds of things, not the sacred things this
government is implementing.
I wish I could go on longer, but I will conclude. Let us look at the
fundamental problem. The government is wasting money on so
many things that are totally unnecessary and this could be scrapped
if it did away with those things.
Mr. Jim Silye (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I rise
today to finally address Bill C-70.
I find it ironic that the first thing the government does is it
invokes time allocation again. When the Liberals sat here in
opposition and the Conservative government did it, the Liberals
cried about how it was anti-democratic, how it was restricting
freedom of speech, and how it prevented people in all parts of the
country from speaking out on an issue that is as important as this
This bill is going to cost taxpayers in excess of $1 billion. The
sum total of the bill's ramifications will be in excess of $1 billion. I
will get to another amendment on getting rid of exemptions on the
ways and means motion in a second.
Why put this kind of pressure on members of Parliament by not
allowing proper time to debate an issue? Why push this through the
House of Commons real fast? Is it because the government has
used an incentive of $961 million to get these Atlantic provinces to
buy into a program that is going to cost Atlantic consumers more in
the long run? Is it to make three provincial premiers look good
today, while in the long run they are going to lose their jobs? I
predict what just happened in P.E.I. will happen to the rest of them.
People across the country have one thing in common: if it affects
their pocketbooks they get upset. When they find out in Atlantic
Canada that this harmonization is strictly helping business, that this
tax inclusive pricing will tend to lead to higher prices in the long
run without them knowing it, there is going to be a huge rebellion
in those provinces in the next election.
How can the government justify invoking closure on a bill like
this? It goes back to the March 6 budget of this year and here we are
today in December. Does the government not know how to plan an
agenda? Does the government not know how to present something
in the House of Commons so members can totally debate it?
We have been here for three years and I have counted 26 time
allocations and three closure motions. For those people who do not
understand the three closure motions, closure allows time to talk
out the issue until 11 o'clock that day. That gives more time for
members of Parliament to discuss it.
What does the government do? Twenty-six times it has used the
hammer of time allocation, not closure. This means the debate ends
at the end of Government Orders which is usually around 5.30 p.m.
This debate will be over at 5.30 p.m. tonight and it denies us an
extra five and a half hours to debate the issue.
Where are the Liberal members from western Canada? Do they
agree that we should give $1 billion of taxpayers' money outside
those provinces? They are too chicken to say anything. I challenge
them to stand in the House and say something. I challenge the
members from B.C. to speak for 10 minutes in support of the
finance minister on this issue. I challenge all of Atlantic Canada
Liberal members to get up and support this and say how wonderful
it is. I expect them to do that and justify it.
Twenty-three per cent of the bills that we have been debating in
this House have used either time allocation or closure. Let us look
at the statistics a little further. One hundred and twenty-three bills
have been passed in the three years to date and half, or close to half,
of those bills have been supported by the opposition. That reduces
it to 62 bills. That means whenever the opposition, either the Bloc
or the Reform, puts a little pressure on the government by trying to
show how a bill can be better, or tries to improve it through
amendments or whatever, the government has invoked time
allocation and closure 29 times. That then increases the percentage
to almost half.
This government does not appreciate debate. This government
does not welcome debate. Its members are hypocrites when they
say they listen to the public. They are duplicitous when they tell the
Canadians public that members of Parliament are given lots of time
to speak. We are not. Our ability to speak out on this issue has been
severely restrained and it is time for us to tell the Canadian public
what is happening.
A payment of $961 million was made to three provinces in
October of this year. It was charged off to last year's budget, to last
year's income statement, to last year's deficit ending March 1996.
This finance minister is setting a bad precedent. That is not just my
opinion, that is the opinion of the Auditor General of Canada. That
is in the public accounts.
Yes, the auditor general signed off on the financial statement. He
did not have any reservations about them because he felt the
bottom line of $28 billion is a true number but not because it
includes the $961 million. He would not have included that. It is
because there were other circumstances. I got this from the
testimony of members of Treasury Board and the auditor general in
the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. It is because there
were other areas of revenue, small amounts and bigger amounts,
that add up almost to the same amount. Because he saw those
offsetting amounts he did not have a reservation. If those other
amounts had not been understated by the government he would
have had a reservation in this last year's presentation.
Mr. Strahl: Shifty books.
Mr. Silye: Yes. Cooking the books is what it is.
It is a fine line but a lot of people have compromised on it. If we
had proper time to debate this, and if the member opposite would
sit and listen for a while instead of just jabbering off and trying to
interfere with my speech, he might learn and understand that this is
a bad precedent. It is bad for Canada.
Politicians cannot be allowed to cook the books. The finance
minister needs to stick to generally accepted accounting principles,
stick to government precedents and not change the rules as he goes
along just to make himself and his government look good on their
promise to achieve 3 per cent of GDP and to get this out of the way
so he does not have to show it in this year's statement.
That is why we are upset about time allocation. It restricts the
time that members have to say what they want to say. We have to
waste half our speech to get this message across to the Canadian
public that our democratic rights are being infringed on when we
are being denied the opportunity to speak.
Another thing that really upsets me when it comes to finances is
yesterday, in answer to a member from the Bloc Quebecois, the
finance minister bragged that he has not raised taxes in three years,
that personal income taxes have not increased in three years.
Mr. Assadourian: Hear, hear.
Mr. Silye: Is that true, hon. member across the way?
Mr. Assadourian: Yes.
Mr. Silye: There is another member who does not understand the
facts of what the Prime Minister has done. There are two ways
taxes are raised. One way is to raise the rate. The other way is to
reduce the exemptions or the deductions or to tinker with the tax
base on which one has to pay that rate of tax. He has not raised the
rate, but he has surely and often in a number of ways tinkered with
Let me give an example. From now on if ever the Prime Minister
or the finance minister says that he has not raised personal income
taxes-and I dare him right now to say it after I have put this into
the record-his nose will grow like Pinocchio every time he says it.
The current rule in the Income Tax Act for labour sponsored
venture capital corporations is that you are allowed up to 20 per
cent of the net cost not to exceed $5,000. In layman's terms that is
what the rule says basically. Now the government is reducing that
for this year. There is a transition from 1996 to 1997. It has
amended section 127.4 to provide that an individual's tax credit is
limited to a uniform 15 per cent of the net cost. That means it has
been reduced to $3,500. It means that those people who were
putting money away, working for companies that sponsored these
RRSP type investments now have to pay tax on another $1,500 that
prior to this they did not have to pay tax on. That is a personal tax
The finance minister has increased personal taxes to the degree
of disposable income for families on a personal basis going down
by $3,000. I just hope that this finance minister has the courtesy to
admit this and never again say in this House that he has not raised
personal income taxes. That is as close to the Pinocchio syndrome
that we have in this House. I would use another word, but I respect
the Chair and I know that I cannot use language like that.
My final comment is that there is a member from Newfoundland
who was talking about what I said about harmonization. We are
against this nickel and dime, two bit effort to harmonize. If a
package was presented to us that harmonized with all provinces we
might consider supporting it. We would have to see it first. We have
not seen it yet.
Second, if the government is going to harmonize and we do want
to have the lowest rate, we have to look at the possibility of taxing
everything that we can. This is what the member from
Newfoundland will not put in his speech. To help the poorest and
the neediest of the needy you have an increased rebate program to
make sure that those people do not suffer. This would really tax the
rich and that is what the Liberals like to do-
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): Resuming
Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George-Bulkley Valley, Ref.):
Madam Speaker, we have had a lot of the truth spoken here by the
Reform Party members in the last couple of hours, as usual.
I heard a most astonishing thing in the House. A day or two ago
the Minister of Finance said in the House, on national television
and in front of all members, that the Liberal government had not
raised personal income taxes one cent since it formed the
government in 1993. A lot of words went through my mind when
he made that statement. The closest description to a term I cannot
use in the House would probably be something like stable waste. It
was such an outrageous statement. The Reform member has just
pointed out in clear terms that the Pinocchio syndrome is present in
so far as the Minister of Finance is concerned and other Liberals
who harmonize with him on that theme.
There are two things I want to talk about today. One is the
recurring scenario of the Liberal government limiting debate on
this most crucial subject.
We all understand that the GST is probably the most hated tax,
the most railed against tax, the most despised tax in all of our
taxation system. That was clear from the minute it was brought it. I
wish I could say that it was the Liberals who brought it in. That
would make my day. However, I cannot do that because we know
that it was the Conservatives who brought it in, under Brian
Mulroney, who incidentally still has his protege sitting in the
House, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, who now leads the
We have all heard the hon. member for Sherbrooke say that some
day Canadians will realize what a great Prime Minister Brian
Mulroney was. We hope he keeps on saying that because we will
keep reminding Canadians that it was the Mulroney Conservatives,
and the hon. member for Sherbrooke was part of that government,
that rammed the GST down the throats of Canadians without a
question of whether it was fair or honest or whether the way it was
done contained a hint of integrity.
In spite of all the things that Canadians hated about the GST and
the Mulroney reign of terror in Parliament, the one thing that they
hated the most was the way the Tories used to shut down debate on
crucial issues. They used to limit the time that MPs would be
permitted, on behalf of their constituents, to put forward their
We watched in absolute astonishment as the leader of the Tory
Party did that. He did it time and time again, with the full support
of the hon. member for Sherbrooke, who was part of the cabinet
and who now leads the Tory Party. He continues to say that the
former Prime Minister, Mr. Mulroney, was a great leader. We will
remind Canadians of that.
The amazing thing is that the Liberals, when they were in
opposition, used to speak in utter outrage at the way the Tory
government limited debate. Time and time again Liberals rose,
individually and in unison. They railed against the government for
this trampling of democracy. They were so self-righteous. They
called the Tory government the worst dictator that this country has
ever seen. They would rail against it.
I want to make a statement that the number of times the Liberal
government has brought in closure on debate since it moved from
one side of the House to the other would make Brian Mulroney
look like a saint when it comes to putting closure on debate in the
I think it is such a perfect example of hypocrisy when the
Liberals spent day after day slamming the Mulroney government
and now they are doing it themselves, only twice as bad. It is
almost an embarrassment to sit in the House and watch democracy
be trampled on. I said before that the ghosts of the great
parliamentarians who once sat in this House and represented the
great Liberal Party of years past and who knew about democracy
must be hanging their heads in shame when they see these Liberal
members trample on the sacred ground they laid here. And let us
make it clear that there was a time when that party understood the
fundamentals of democracy. They fought for that state of
democracy only to see this Prime Minister throw it aside like
garbage. It is almost an embarrassment to sit in the same House
with a party that does that sort of nonsense.
I think we will move on now to the harmonization plan and talk
about some of the comments from the provinces about this great
Liberal harmonization plan.
The province of Ontario said that if the plan were implemented
in Ontario it would cost Ontario consumers from $2 billion to $3
billion more a year in purchases. The Canadian people have seen a
decrease in their disposable income over the last 25 years like they
could never have imagined or dreamed would happen. They have
seen personal income taxes raised by the government in the last
three years. They have seen our national debt go to about $600
billion. They have seen our health care and our social safety net
gutted, having the heart ripped out of it by the $50 billion we are
paying to service the debt. And now the Liberal government has the
audacity to present the harmonization plan which is even going to
make what disposable income is has left appear to be even less. In
fact, it will be less because a tax is a tax is a tax, no matter where it
is put or where it comes from; it can only come from one place, the
I share my colleague's thoughts about this harmonization plan. I
share the thoughts of the great Parliamentarians who have gone to
the great House of Commons in the sky and who look down and see
the way these Liberals are trampling on democracy.
All I can say is again, as with many bills in the House, it is truly a
sad day for democracy, a sad day for the Canadian taxpayers. We
will stay here and fight for the Canadian people. We will fight for
their freedom and their tax freedom.
Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, Ref.): Madam Speaker, as we have
heard, this is a sad day for all of us in Parliament. We have had
approximately 30 other sad days like this when the government has
used closure to shut down debate in the House of Commons. Not
only do we not believe in democracy in the House but we also, as
we have seen time and time again, have no vision for the country in
this House either.
This is a despicable act that the government continues to put on
Canadians; the lack of vision. I am afraid for our children and our
Having travelled extensively this year, seeing the vibrant,
booming economies of the Asia-Pacific, seeing the booming
economy of Germany, looking at so many countries that have long
term plans, standing in Potsdam plaza and seeing $7.5 million
being spent to rebuild Berlin is a vision. This country has none of
We have a Prime Minister who is tired, a Prime Minister who has
nothing to offer the country, who will come up with a plan because
he has a dream to bring himself to some kind of glory and maybe
get named by the United Nations or something.
It is a disgrace what this government is doing and how it is
mishandling the governing of this country. It is hard to believe that
as we close each session, all of a sudden we get to a great rush to
get legislation through.
The only legislation that we are going to discuss tomorrow will
be a prebudget debate, which is promised in the red book. Everyone
is excited to get right to it because, again, it is just Liberal
Yet there is an issue like the GST in this harmonized tax which
affects every Canadian, men, women, children, seniors. Everybody
in this country is affected by this and the government uses closure
on it to shut down debate.
What kind of leadership is that? What kind of vision, what kind
of plan does this government have for this country? When the other
side of the House was over here, it called the PCs everything it
could think of in all those many times that they used closure.
It certainly is different how things change when those members
cross the floor. Let us all of us stand here and say ``that cannot
happen to us, we cannot let it''. Canadian people have lost respect
for this place and it is because of those kinds of actions by
governments like this one.
We need to reform this place. We need to change this place
dramatically. This place is not working. This place is not respected
by the people of Canada. The people here are yesterday's people
led by yesterday's man.
We are going nowhere into the future. We are going to be out
competed by the countries that I have mentioned, by southeast
Asia, by the European Community. They will knock us off in terms
of our position and our quality of life if we do not learn how to
compete, if we do not have a vision that goes longer than six
months at a time in this country.
A good example is how many Liberals are not here to listen to
this kind of statement. Where are they if this place works? Where
Enough of incompetence, lack of planning, lack of vision, lack
of guidance for this country. The Canadian people know that
already and will get that message. I am confident in the people of
We have problems like $600 billion in debt. We have problems
like $50 billion in interest payments. We spend $14 billion in
education. We spend $16 billion on health care, $20 billion on
pensions and $50 billion on interest payments. This country has
We have to turn it around for our children and our grandchildren.
We must do that. We must have that vision. What about this GST?
We heard lots of comments about it. In my riding we had rallies of
6,000 people and more who said that the GST was a bad tax, a tax
that would not work.
We had an association that put out thousands of bumper stickers.
Every car in my riding had a bumper sticker on it saying what its
owner thought of the GST. The group is called Canadians AGAST.
It had rallies. One of the biggest was over 6,000 people who told
the politicians what they thought of the GST. Of course, the
Liberals were on that bandwagon as well.
Think of the comments that were made by the now finance
minister, the now Prime Minister and the now Deputy Prime
Minister. ``We are going to get rid of this terrible tax. We promise
we will''. Why have the Canadian people lost their belief in this
place? It is obvious why they have lost it. It is because in here
members say one thing when they are on this side and another thing
when they are on the other side.
Even though interest rates are where they are today, people are
not investing in businesses or in their communities. People are
going to the underground economy. They are taking their money
out of this country.
Let us think about this. One hundred and fifty-three students who
have graduated after a five year course are saying they have a job
and are thankful to have a job. However, 90 per cent of these
students have a job outside of this country. Those faces, which I can
see in front of me, have said they cannot stay in Canada. There
were 700 graduate students hired in Sweden in the last couple of
years. Those are people who are potential taxpayers and the future
of our country. Why are they leaving in droves? It is because they
would have to work at McDonald's if they stayed here.
There is no future for this country without a vision. We know we
have a country today that has the potential to be the very best and
stay the very best into the 21st century. However, it is promises that
are not kept and the changing of one's position all the time that
have caused us all concern.
People in the Liberal Party are no different than the Kindys and
Kilgours of the last Parliament. We can now throw in the Mills and
the Nunziatas. If Liberal members disagree with their party they
are out on their heels.
There are so many people in business who are disgusted with this
tax. There are also many people in Atlantic Canada who are
disgusted with this harmonization. In my riding, we have many
people in the service industry who are fed up with the
administration and the nature of this whole tax called the GST.
We must keep our promise and not harmonize but eliminate the
Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan-Shuswap, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, Okanagan-Shuswap is probably the best place in Canada
and maybe even in the whole world. It is a great place to live.
Unfortunately we have the same problem as most people in
Canada have. We are here today to speak to Bill C-70. In case
people out there do not understand exactly what this bill entails,
here it is. It is totally unbelievable. It contains 335 pages on how to
harmonize a tax. I would hate to figure out the cost of each page.
Believe me, Madam Speaker, you probably will not make that
much in your lifetime nor in mine nor in a number of other
lifetimes in this House.
This government has spent hundreds of hours and days trying to
figure out how to broaden the tax base in this country.
Let us take a look at what they mean by broadening the tax base.
I want the people who are listening and every member in this
House to understand that whenever a politician talks about tax that
means they are going to raise the level of tax. That is what it means,
no matter what they say.
The Liberals spent days, weeks, months trying to figure out a
way to soft sell this to the people. They spent millions of dollars to
figure out one word that the public might just accept: harmonize.
All they had to do was look it up in the dictionary but I suppose that
would have been too simple.
So now we are looking at this harmonization of taxation. We try
to debate this issue but the government has decided that we do not
need any more debate in this House. It does not want any debate in
this House. The government would not like the people outside this
House or off the Hill, those people who have a life outside of these
walls, to even know what goes on in this House and therefore will
An hon. member: You mean we cannot debate it?
Mr. Stinson: The government says ``No, we will put a time
allocation on you people. We will see that you only debate it for a
certain length of time, and that's it. You will be curtailed to a
certain length of time''. This is in Canada, in the House of
Commons. I do not know what is going on here. I know a lot of
people did not spill their blood and die for this type of set-up. And I
call it a set-up because that is exactly what it is.
The other day I mentioned a parasite, a bug we have out west. It
is called a tick. It latches on to human beings and sucks the
lifeblood out of them. Likewise there is politickitis, a two legged
insect that is found in government. Ninety per cent of all
politickitis sit on the frontbenches; 10 per cent sit on the
backbenches. I will not deny that.
A politick is a politician in power who latches on to the taxpayer
and sucks the living blood out of them just as this government
has been doing since it got in here. And there has been no change.
I well remember the 1993 election campaign. I remember how
we were going to be rid of this GST. Since the Liberals have come
to power there is a new name for it. It is called ``get stuffed,
taxpayer''. That is exactly what it is and that is exactly what the
Liberals are telling the average taxpayer. ``Get stuffed, we're not
interested in it''. And they get away with it.
But it will stop. The taxpayers will make sure it stops. Sooner or
later taxpayers are going to throw this bunch out. It is only a matter
of time. They are tired of politicians knocking on their doors every
four years. They are tired of politicians getting down on their knees
and begging the electorate to put them back in power. They
promise they will not do it again.
I have a question for you, Madam Speaker. Name for me one
policy, one tax that a government put in which defeated that
government and that an incoming government got rid of? There is
none. The new government just expands upon it. It raises more
As I sat and thought about how the government is broadening the
tax base, I came to one conclusion. The main reason it has done this
has to be, beyond a doubt, that it needs money for its pension plan.
It has to be. The MP pension plan has to be in serious trouble. It is
the million dollar pension plan which members opposite will take.
That is what it is going to do with the money. That is what
harmonization is all about. It has absolutely nothing to do with the
In most places that is called legalized theft. That is exactly what
it is. Liberals said it was not personal tax. Every tax in this country
is a personal tax. When I buy something, whether it be a shirt,
shoes, fuel for my car or for my house, the tax on those items is a
personal tax. When they say it is not a personal tax they are
snowing the public. It goes on and on. They get away with it
because they implement time allocation and closure. Is that a
democratic society? No. We have long past the point of being a
As a matter of fact, I would probably characterize us, along with
many members of the House-and I am sure many members
opposite would agree with me-as having probably the greatest
dictatorship in the free world. It sits right here in this Parliament. I
cannot believe it. I cannot believe that we have allowed it to go as
far as it has. What is happening in this country is absolutely
ridiculous. It is being fostered by many members opposite. When
those members disagree, they are kicked out of the caucus. ``Do not
come back into our caucus. I will not sign your papers''.
An hon. member: They think it is funny.
Mr. Stinson: Yes, they think it is funny over there. They think
this is the way to do business. They tell their members that if they
disagree with them they should keep their mouths shut. ``Get out of
here. We will disband your organizations and you will never be
allowed to come in here again''. Is that democracy? I think not.
I have a feeling that underneath the propaganda machines that sit
over there some of them could make what happened many years
ago look very tame.
It has to make us wonder exactly how far some hon. members
will go in order to get elected. It does not take me long to picture
these people ringing the doorbells come the next election. They
will say ``We got rid of the GST, we harmonized it. It is still there.
It is still sucking your paycheque, but we harmonized it''.
When they go back to the people and say ``trust me'', I want
everyone to understand that for sure their fingers will be crossed.
They have not done anything above board yet.
Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.): Madam Speaker, before I start I
would like to congratulate my colleague for his most excellent
speech. We can always tell when a Reformer is speaking from the
cacophony of bleating babble which comes from the other side.
We are talking today about another Liberal broken promise.
There is a whole bunch of them. We have referred to them over and
over again in our interventions on this bill and other bills.
First of all, we are talking about the promise to scrap, abolish
and get rid of the GST. We are also talking about the Liberal
promise to introduce democracy into this House. The people on the
other side of this House yelled, screamed and ridiculed the Tory
government for doing exactly what they are doing today.
I would like to respond to some of the comments made by the
hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls. I have respect for this
member and I am aware that on many occasions he has had the
courage to stand up and challenge his own government, to
challenge his own leader when there was an issue that was going to
affect his constituents. He knew and realized that the government
was wrong and he challenged it. I congratulate him for that. If more
backbenchers in the Liberal government did that then possibly we
would get better government. Unfortunately most do not have that
During the intervention of the member for Gander-Grand Falls
he was trying to paint this wonderful rosy picture of how great a job
this government has been doing for the last three years. He referred
to statistics with regard to the deficit and other industrialized
nations. For the life of me I cannot understand why this member,
who has been very lukewarm to his own government for the last
three years, is all of a sudden on side with it. I imagine he has his
own reasons for that.
In a valiant but vain attempt he painted his government in the
best light that he possibly could. He said the government's record is
good. We know what the government's record is on the GST. We
know what the government's record is on invoking closure. Let us
talk about a couple of other issues, issues that are not only near and
dear to me but near and dear to many people in my constituency.
Let us talk about the broken promise of the North American Free
Trade Agreement for a few minutes. When this government
campaigned in 1993 it said it would abrogate the North American
Free Trade Agreement unless it worked for Canadians. It had some
concerns about the agreement and it wanted to make sure it could
go back and renegotiate it and make sure it worked for Canadians.
Let us examine the government's record on the North American
Free Trade Agreement. What is the single most important trade
issue between Canada and the United States? What is the single
biggest net export to the United States that means the most jobs in
Canada? It is Canadian softwood lumber. Canadian softwood
lumber is the single biggest net export to the United States.
What has this government done in renegotiating NAFTA and
standing up for Canada's interest in the North American Free Trade
Agreement? When Mickey Kantor talked to the Prime Minister or
his office or the minister of trade and said he wanted to do a deal
that is going to limit Canadian imports into the United States, the
minister said ``how high do you want us to jump and when can we
come back down again?'' The government rolled right over on it.
This is an issue that affects four provinces significantly and
every province either directly or indirectly. There are hundreds of
thousands of jobs hanging in the balance. This government and this
Prime Minister who promised Canadians they were going to make
the North American Free Trade Agreement work for us have turned
their backs on these people and allowed American trade officials,
Mickey Kantor in particular, to dictate to us how we are going to
run our softwood lumber industry.
I want to talk for a minute on who benefits from this. Most of the
timbered land in Canada is owned by the crown and is granted as
tree farm licences. Various sawmills and pulp mills get rights to
harvest in these areas but the land is owned by the crown.
In the United States it is different. Most of the timbered land in
the United States is owned by private individuals and corporations.
Incidentally, most of the timbered land in the United States is
owned by a handful of wealthy corporations that have the money
and the power to go to Washington, D.C. and lobby for their
interests. They are the ones who are benefiting. They are the ones
whose asset value has increased as a result of this quota system.
They are the ones who are able to demand more money for their
timber in the United States.
And who is losing? The first big losers are the consumers in the
United States who on average pay $3,000 more now than before the
quota for the construction of a new home. The American
consumers have been held up by their own lobby groups and by the
wealthy timber owners in the United States. And the other big
losers are the Canadian producers and the people who are
employed in those industries. They are the ones who are paying for
I cannot understand for the life of me where the leadership is
from the government benches, the Prime Minister and his trade
minister. They allow the North American Free Trade Agreement to
be abrogated by the Americans so that it works in favour of the
Americans at every step and turn when it becomes an issue that is
important to them. But when it is an issue which is vitally
important to Canada, there is no leadership whatsoever. They roll
over and play dead. This is another example of a Liberal broken
The Prime Minister takes these trade junkets all over the world
and spends millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars doing it. He goes
to South America, Europe and Asia, all the while telling people he
is there to promote Canadian business and industry. He hands over
millions of dollars in subsidies, grants and no interest loans to well
heeled companies like Bombardier. However when it comes to an
issue that is vital to British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and
Quebec, what does the Prime Minister do? He just rolls over.
A lot of potential jobs will be lost as a result of this. Sawmills in
my riding, in Terrace, Smithers, Hazelton and Prince Rupert are on
the verge of closing. They have announced closures and are cutting
back or laying off people just before Christmas because of the lack
of leadership from this government.
It reminds me of another Liberal promise. Does anyone here
recall the promise about jobs, jobs, jobs? Well the jobs, jobs, jobs
in my riding are going gone, gone, gone because this Prime
Minister and his trade minister cannot represent the interests of
Canadians when it comes to trade with the United States. That is
the track record of the government.
I cannot believe it. I am ashamed as a Canadian. I am absolutely
appalled and ashamed that the government is so weak-kneed and so
willing to accept what Mickey Kantor and the trade department of
the United States demands of us rather than standing up for our
While we are talking about Liberal broken promises, the promise
to scrap, abolish and kill the GST, the promise to introduce more
democracy into Parliament and do away with votes on closure so
that we would have the ability to debate these issues at length, there
are other broken promises as well which are costing Canadians jobs
right now. Broken promises are costing my constituents their
This is totally unacceptable. The government should
demonstrate leadership. The Prime Minister should demand a
meeting with the President of the United States and put this issue at
the top of the agenda and work for the interests of Canada for a
change instead of going on golfing holidays with his friend Mr.
Clinton while Mickey Kantor beats up on our trade officials.
I am appalled and ashamed of being a Canadian today when I
look at how easily American interests have rolled over us and
forced us to do their will.
In closing, when the government brags about keeping its
promises, when the government brags about how well Canada is
doing economically, it is totally ignoring the unemployment rate in
this country. It is totally ignoring the people who are concerned
about losing their jobs, and there are a lot more of them now as a
result of the softwood lumber issue. It is totally ignoring the cost to
the people of Atlantic Canada for paying the harmonization cost of
the GST. It is totally ignoring the fact that the rest of Canada is
going to foot the bill for this billion dollar bribe.
The government is totally ignoring many of the most serious and
important promises it made during the last election campaign. We
will be reminding Canadians in the very near future of all these
Liberal broken promises.
Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George-Peace River, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, I must say at the outset that it is going to be a really tough
act to follow. My hon. colleagues from Okanagan-Shuswap and
from Skeena who immediately preceded me have done an
absolutely superb job of representing their constituents and the
views of Canadians on this very important topic.
I might hasten to add that there is a real problem in this House of
Commons when we see the Liberal government bringing forward
time allocation 26 times in this Parliament. This is the 26th time we
have gone through this to date, where this government has limited
debate, shut down debate, shut down the democratic process to ram
through a piece of legislation.
And the Liberals have the audacity to go before the Canadian
people and talk about democracy. And they will have the audacity
in the next election to try to tell Canadians that they have lived up
to their red book promise of restoring integrity, restoring
credibility in Parliament and in the political process in this country.
The Canadian people will reject that as the nonsense it has become.
When that party, the Liberal Party of Canada, was on this side of
the House, its members ranted and railed. They criticized the Tories
every chance they got for bringing in time allocation or closure.
Yet, 26 times the government has used time allocation and four
times it has brought in closure for a total of 30 times it has shut
down debate in this place in just a little over three years. Actually it
is in under three years because the 35th Parliament did not start
sitting until January 1994. It has shut down debate 30 times on 123
I am sure that at some point in time someone is going to do the
arithmetic and figure out that on a percentage basis, this Liberal
government in the 35th Parliament of Canada has used time
allocation and closure more often than the Mulroney Tories. That is
despicable. It is a disgusting record for a government that said it
was going to restore integrity in the system.
On to the GST-
Mr. Cannis: Finally.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River): I can hear all the
heckling going on over there. They are amazed because they cannot
face the truth of what has transpired in this Parliament. They
cannot face the truth. That is the problem that exists over there.
Mr. O'Reilly: Tell us the truth.
Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River): Okay, the GST. The
hon. member says he wants to know the truth. I am here today to
tell the truth, to tell the people in TV land exactly what the truth is.
What did the Liberals say during the 1993 election and in the
time leading up to it? I will tell you what they said. Did they say
they would harmonize the GST?
Mr. Solberg: No.
Mr. Mitchell: Yes, read the red book.
An hon. member: Page 22.
Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River): No, of course not. Did
they say they would hide the GST? No. Did they say that they
would blend the GST? Of course not. That is not what they said.
Mr. Mitchell: Read it into the record.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): Resume your
debate, hon. member.
Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River): Thank you, Madam
Speaker, for attempting to restore the decorum in the House. It was
getting a little loud on the other side.
I am sorry that the government did not decide to use the term
blended sales tax. I am quite sure of the reason it decided to go with
the harmonized sales tax instead of the blended sales tax. I am kind
of sorry about that because they would have had the BST.
Canadians would have really appreciated having the letters BS
attached to tax, the BST, especially in regard to the promises made
by this government during the 1993 election. That describes
exactly their promise to get rid of the GST. They should have called
it the BST.
Now that we know what the Liberals did not say, what did they
really say on the hustings, on the doorsteps and in the
all-candidates forums during the 1993 election campaign? We
know what they said. They said they were going to kill the GST.
They said they were going to abolish the GST. They even said that
they were going to get rid of the GST totally. That does not sound
much like harmonizing to me.
It is ironic that the Liberals are no different from the Tories. That
is why we hear Canadians from coast to coast to coast saying
Liberal, Tory, same old story. It does not matter which party they
vote for. Once they get into power they do exactly the same thing.
There is no difference.
Do we want to see exactly how much difference there is? Let us
refer to the notes from a speech by the hon. member for
I am pleased to see you in the chair, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps we
will see some decorum restored to this Chamber. I am pleased to
see you there.
The member's speech was entitled ``Honesty, Ethics and
Accountability: Does it Exist in Canada's Political System''. This
is what the member, who used to be a Liberal, said:
So the problem with today's political system is not the people we have in place,
but rather the problem with our system in Canada is the system itself. The system is
what is fueling public cynicism and distrust.
My removal from the Liberal caucus in April is the perfect example of the
reward/punish system I have referred to. I was removed for voting against the federal
budget because it failed to fulfil the Liberal Party's election promise to replace the
GST. Prior to the vote, I wrote to the Prime Minister to advise him that I would be
voting against the budget. I reminded him that while we were in opposition our
efforts to eliminate the GST was one of the most significant battles we fought during
the Mulroney administration. While in opposition, the Liberal Party vigorously
opposed the GST in the House of Commons. Liberal senators undertook an
unprecedented effort to kill the legislation and we forcefully campaigned against it in
the last election.
It is trite to say that every government has a moral obligation to keep its major
election promises. In my view, the last federal budget represented the final retreat
from the promise to replace the GST. I think that the government's announcement
that it intends to harmonize the tax has verified this. Voting against the budget was
the only way that I could reconcile what I had said and done in the past in the House
of Commons and what I had said to my constituents on their doorsteps with the fact
that the government-
I thank the hon. member for his compliment to the
Chair generally in his remarks. The four of us are very appreciative
for any compliments that come our way.
As it is now almost two o'clock, we will proceed to Statements
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
Mr. Harold Culbert (Carleton-Charlotte, Lib.):
Speaker, this past Saturday I had the pleasure of joining the
Goodine family in Woodstock, New Brunswick at a special
reception in order to pay tribute to two young boys who through
their quick actions and calmness under pressure avoided a tragedy
for their 13-year old friend Billy Goodine.
Jason Brown and Darren Vickers were honoured for the
responsible action that they took in July during a serious biking
accident when Billy Goodine was seriously injured.
To elaborate further, Billy Goodine's neck was broken in the fall
which could have led to full paralyses or even death. However,
Darren and Jason's refusal to move Billy, coupled with excellent
ambulance care by the St. John Ambulance and several weeks of
hospitalization and rehabilitation, Billy was able to return home
and to school on September 27, 1996.
We hear much about today's youth but-
* * *
Mr. Osvaldo Nunez (Bourassa, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, today,
December 10, 1996, we celebrate the 48th anniversary of the
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This
important document sets out basic international standards
concerning fundamental human rights and freedoms and promotes
the respect and dignity of all human beings.
During the last half century, we have observed considerable
progress in this regard: the Berlin Wall came down, a number of
dictatorships were replaced by democratic governments, and the
end of apartheid in South Africa gave new hope to the African
continent as a whole.
However, many countries are still living under oppressive
regimes, and, in some cases, in states of civil war. Over 25 million
refugees worldwide are the victims of persecution.
It is our fervent hope that Canada will devote more attention
to defending human rights and freedoms, at home and abroad.
* * *
Mr. Bob Ringma (Nanaimo-Cowichan, Ref.):
with the holiday season fast upon us, I want to remind Canadians
who contemplate getting behind the wheel of a car after they have
been drinking of one sobering statistic.
Each year on average in Canada, drunk drivers kill two and half
times more people than do murderers. In 1994 alone this meant that
1,400 Canadians lost their lives because someone decided to have
one more for the road.
I want to remind Canadians that the Liberal justice minister has
done nothing to address this obscenely offensive situation. The
government has had ample opportunity to redress the problem.
Most recently this opportunity has come in the form of a private
member's bill presented by my colleague, the member for Prince
George-Bulkley Valley. The bill would have mandated a
minimum sentence of incarceration for those who kill as a result of
driving while impaired.
Reform's message is: Don't drink and drive. But Canadians are
wondering if the justice minister has a different message.
* * *
Mr. Gilles Bernier (Beauce, Ind.):
Mr. Speaker, a number of
sawmills in Quebec are unhappy with the softwood lumber quotas
they were assigned in late October under the agreement negotiated
with the United States in the spring of 1996.
They are questioning the way in which the quotas were arrived at
by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. How
is it that, according to the Financial Post, BC sawmills were given
quotas representing between 75 and 85 per cent of their 1995
production, while Quebec's were between 60 and 65 per cent?
While many sawmills were going to reduce their production by
10 to 15 per cent, many are now thinking about shutting their doors.
The whole quota assignment process must be reviewed. Otherwise,
there will be more loss of employment in Quebec. Or better yet, I
suggest that there be a review of this agreement, which has left
people unhappy on both sides of the border, both in the United
States and in Canada.
Mrs. Brenda Chamberlain (Guelph-Wellington, Lib.):
Speaker, we all know that small businesses are the backbone of the
economy. In Guelph-Wellington more than half the businesses
have less than 10 employees. Many of these barely weathered the
recession and they welcome good economic news. That is why the
proposed Bell Canada rate increases will be an unfair burden for
small business leaders in my community and in ridings across
Ontario and Quebec.
If the proposal is accepted, telephone rates in my riding for
business customers will nearly double. Over 1,500 of my
constituents have signed a petition, distributed from my office,
opposing these increases.
Small businesses deserve our support. Fifteen hundred people in
Guelph-Wellington have joined me in saying that the proposed
Bell Canada increase is a wrong idea at a wrong time.
* * *
Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton-York-Sunbury, Lib.):
Speaker, I recently hosted a public policy forum in Fredericton on
Canada's finances. The discussion included dealing with the
deficit, the role of the private and public sectors with respect to
economic growth and the HST.
The majority of individuals at the forum expressed the view that
the country's social services cannot stand another round of cuts,
that the government has hit expenditures as much as it can. They
proposed we look at high end tax reform as there is a sense that
large corporations and Canadians in the higher income brackets are
not paying their fair share.
Discussions about the role of the public and private sectors in the
economy focused on whose role it is to create jobs and how to do it.
Forum members suggested government does have a role to play in
intervening in the economy to protect disadvantaged Canadians
and regions, to show leadership in dealing with global adjustment,
school to work transition and lifelong learning.
I thank all who participated and in particular my colleague from
Parry Sound-Muskoka. I advise the House that I have forwarded
reports to the Minister of-
* * *
Mr. Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Lucien
Bouchard dismissed the constitutional position of the Quebec
Liberal Party as ``old hatM'', adding that he could not believe in it.
In his opinion, ``Quebecers have moved far beyond that position. It
has become totally irrelevant''.
The PQ leader ought to read what his old friend and political
advisor Daniel Turp had to say recently, and I quote: ``The ultimate
solution for Quebecers is renewed federalism, and a greater
transfer of powers to Quebec. It is their solution of choice''.
The QLP's constitutional position is a fairly faithful reflection of
what Quebecers want, as expressed in the 1980 and 1995
referendums. When will the leader of the PQ, who has nothing else
to propose except the separation of Quebec, accept this? At least
the crown prince, Daniel Turp, has seen the light.
* * *
Mr. Philippe Paré (Louis-Hébert, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, on
December 10, 1948, the members of the United Nations
Organization signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In
so doing, the political leaders of the time wished to record their
determination to ensure that the horrors of the second world war
would never be repeated.
The countries which have joined the United Nations since that
time have also been bound by this declaration, which is as valid
today as it ever was. One needs only to glance at a newspaper to
realize that, in many parts of the world, numerous human rights
violations are still taking place to this day.
On the occasion of this anniversary, we must recall to mind the
events which prompted the international community to adopt this
declaration, and we must remind ourselves that human rights are an
integral part of every human activity, whether political or
In this era of universalization, where world wide trade turns its
back on social considerations, we must keep the commitment that
joins us together clearly in mind, and we must make sure that our
actions are in line with our words.
* * *
Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.):
Mr. Speaker, during the last
election Liberals made a campaign promise that they would
abrogate the North American free trade agreement unless it worked
What is Canada's biggest net export to the United States? Is it
designer jeans? Is it electric shavers? Is it toasters? No, it is
softwood lumber, by a wide margin.
How are the Liberals handling the single most important trade
issue on Canada's behalf? The Prime Minister went on a golfing
holiday with President Clinton while Canadian trade officials
rolled over and meekly accepted a quota on softwood lumber. This
was after Canada won three separate arbitrations on softwood
While the minister brags about keeping promises and spends
millions on trade junkets to Asia, sawmills in my riding, in Terrace,
Smithers, Hazelton and Prince Rupert, are cutting back and laying
It reminds me of another Liberal promise about jobs, jobs, jobs.
* * *
Mr. Len Taylor (The Battlefords-Meadow Lake, NDP):
Speaker, today the Minister of the Environment tabled the long
awaited changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. As
usual, what the government says about protecting the environment
is very different from what it does.
CEPA used to be the supreme environmental law in this country,
in that it could override other acts and other departments. The new
act will now only apply if the substance of concern is not covered
by any other act, and the minister can only intervene if a province
fails to do so. This effectively downgrades CEPA from being the
most important pillar and centrepiece of environmental law into a
law of last resort when nothing else applies. This legislation will
take us backwards, not forwards. It effectively forces Environment
Canada out of the environmental protection business and allows the
harmonization agreement with the provinces to take precedence
The environment committee last year called for the act to be
strengthened and revamped, not weakened in the manner proposed
by the Minister of the Environment.
* * *
Mr. Raymond Lavigne (Verdun-Saint-Paul, Lib.):
Speaker, in November we saw an impressive increase in the
number of construction starts in Quebec.
Our government is delighted that its economic policies have
produced results. Thanks to the lowest mortgage rates in the last 30
years, Canadians who want to buy a home can now make their
dreams come true.
In the Montreal area, there were more than 748 active
construction sites, 54 per cent more than last year during the same
period. Construction starts have increased by 288 per cent in the
Sherbrooke area and by 108 per cent around Chicoutimi.
If it were not for the political uncertainty in Quebec today, all
these figures would be twice as high.
* * *
Mr. Ted McWhinney (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.):
British Columbia is taking the lead in the research of new forms of
transportation fueled by battery power.
We welcome the recent federal investment in fuel cell research
in co-operation with Ballard Industries. It will help to prepare
Canada for the transportation challenges of the future. Research
and development of new technologies will be essential as Canada
and British Columbia take a leadership role in trading
organizations like APEC.
As evidence of the important role played by the federal
government in B.C., it now funds 30 per cent of the research in
Research builds new links between industries. Shared research
can help to build a strong country from coast to coast. New job
opportunities will be created if we work together to transfer the
research into new products and services.
These are the challenges we face and the opportunities we have
in Canada. Let's take advantage of them.
* * *
Mrs. Georgette Sheridan (Saskatoon-Humboldt, Lib.):
Speaker, Saskatchewan is vitally interested in the future of
agricultural research. Farmers, food processors, marketers and the
academic community are all working in partnership with
Agriculture Canada for the national good.
Through Agriculture Canada research labs, important work is
being conducted to ensure the safety of the national food supply, to
develop new crops, to investigate environmentally friendly and
economical herbicides and pesticides to improve crop production
and to identify new markets for Canadian produce and agri-food
Leading the way in the area of research and development,
especially in biotechnology, the research labs have developed
better methods for growing and storing Saskatchewan produce.
Innovation Place, through its harnessing of government, academic
and private sector resources, is an excellent model for the effective
partnerships that ensure the successes we have seen in research and
They underscore the continued importance of the federal
government's leadership role in the area of research and
development in western Canada, a role to which my Liberal
colleagues and I remain committed.
* * *
Mrs. Maud Debien (Laval East, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, today we
celebrate the 48th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. I would like to draw your attention to the
determination and courage shown by several women's groups who
established the permanent Arab tribunal on violence against
women this week in Rabat, Morocco.
Recent events in Afghanistan are a clear indication of the need
for such a tribunal. In fact, the first ones to suffer as a result of the
political situation in Kabul are women. They have been excluded
from public life and fired from their jobs and are compelled to
abide by medieval customs.
The rights of women have been ignored in Afghanistan for many
years. The restrictions imposed by the Taliban, such as closing
girls' schools, prohibiting women from leaving their homes to go
to work and the rule obliging women to cover themselves from
head to foot are dramatic examples of violence and crimes against
women in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.
I wish the permanent Arab tribunal on violence against women
all the courage and energy it needs to proceed with its difficult task.
* * *
Mr. Bill Gilmour (Comox-Alberni, Ref.):
tonight the Prime Minister will be holding a town hall meeting to
be aired on the CBC with Peter Mansbridge.
Town hall meetings should be an opportunity for Canadians to
share their concerns with their federal representative or the leader
of the country. However, participants in the Prime Minister's town
hall meeting will not be allowed to ask their questions or voice
their concerns. Instead Liberal organizers are controlling
participant questions to fit the Liberal agenda.
An individual from my riding was not allowed to ask a question
on his issue of concern and instead was given a directive on what he
Obviously the Prime Minister's town hall meeting will be
nothing more than a staged event, a puppet show, a pre-election
announcement from the Liberal government.
Shame on the Prime Minister and the CBC for the misuse and
abuse of what should be a democratic process. If the Prime
Minister is so confident of his success to date, why will he not
allow Canadians honest participation in this town hall meeting and
open the floor to real debate?
* * *
Mr. Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, in
today's highly competitive global economy, the need for
co-operation between government, universities and the private
sector in the area of research and development has never been
One of the best examples of the importance of such research is
the RH Laboratory at the University of Manitoba which specializes
in blood plasma refractionation. The RH Laboratory is a world
class facility which has contributed much to the successful
treatment of children with blood disorders. Not only have they
produced cures for very serious diseases, but they also produce
high quality permanent jobs for Canadians.
Their success shows what can be done through co-operation
between the federal government, universities and industry.
The University of Manitoba exemplifies this type of
co-operation, from mobilizing world markets with the research
done on the canola breeding program to the centre for disease
control, the centre of excellence in new composite materials,
research on medical devices and the list goes on.
The payoffs from these initiatives have translated into high tech
industries, economic prosperity and a better life for all Canadians.
* * *
Ms. Judy Bethel (Edmonton East, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the
Prime Minister's task force on commercializing technology
gathered the collective wisdom from western Canadians who know
how to discover, develop and apply the science and technology
created in our government labs.
We learned first that Canadians can be proud of the excellent
work being done in our research laboratories; second, that we have
the potential to be world leaders in many fields; and, third, that new
partnerships are the key to unlocking this potential.
These new partnerships must include all those who are key to the
successful transfer of technology. Each partnership must value the
contribution of the others. Each partnership must accept that the
main goal is to be successfully commercialized as science and
technology in our lab.
New ways of getting research out of the lab, on to the factory
floor and into the home will mean new jobs and new opportunities
for Canadians. New technologies will allow rural communities to
share in the latest research. New linkages between researchers and
businesses across the country will increase the potential to compete
in world markets.
I know our Prime Minister values the advice we have received
and will act on it in the best interest of all Canadians.
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Michel Gauthier (Leader of the Opposition, BQ):
Speaker, yesterday, in his remarks, the Minister of National
Defence tried to minimize his department's responsibilities in the
seizure of over 20,000 pieces of child pornography at the National
Defence Research Establishment, a high security centre, with the
explanation that it is not possible to monitor every computer in the
Department of National Defence.
Understandably, but how can the minister make light of such
events, when in fact the individual using the research centre's
network was not only obtaining material, a very serious matter of
itself, but was feeding a network, a very large international child
pornography distribution network?
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I agree totally
with the Leader of the Opposition that we cannot make light of this
situation. It is absolutely deplorable. It is disgusting. The
individual involved was arrested.
What I was trying to explain in response to journalists' questions
is that this phenomenon is occurring everywhere. The Internet,
which should be a source of development and change, in the best
sense of the word, has now become something that affects not only
national defence, but also many people known to members of this
House and children at home, because it provides access to totally
repugnant information, photos and acts. There is absolutely no
doubt about this.
I am hoping that everyone understands we recognize this is
unacceptable, and that the person involved, if found guilty, should
be punished to the full extent of the law. This morning, I met with
departmental officials not only to inform them, but also to ask them
to take all possible measures, to investigate and to find out how this
sort of access may be controlled.
The whole question of pornography on the Internet will be not
only a burden but a major challenge for everyone in all sectors:
in government, in the private sector and even at home. I hope that
together we will find ways to remedy the problem.
Mr. Michel Gauthier (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, I appreciate the minister's explanations, and I will ask
him the following supplementary.
How does the minister explain to the people who pay the salaries
of the department's employees the fact that, in a top security centre
of the Canadian army, an employee in an important position, a high
level strategic position, can spend the bulk of his time over weeks,
if not months, creating pornographic material without any
questions being asked? Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I obviously do
not know exactly how much time the person in question spent
preparing his material and how and in what context he obtained it.
Technology now enables us to do things we would never have
dreamed of being able to do before.
I would say to my hon. colleague, that, under the circumstances,
when we come across someone-because the man accused is quite
sophisticated and well educated-someone who is sick and wants
to obtain child pornography, we must obviously be much more
careful in the way we deal with these problems. It is complex, not
only here but everywhere.
All I can say by way of explanation is that the sort of people
interested in this kind of activity do not share their interest with
their neighbours or their colleagues at work. I am sure my hon.
colleague would be just as disgusted to find out as I would. No one
knows how he managed to use the system. We will find out. An
internal audit has been requested.
Once again, I deplore the situation. It is unacceptable. However,
it is first and foremost the availability of this sort of material on the
Internet that presents the greatest challenge to all of us. Would
anyone with a way to control it please let me know. I will give out
my telephone number at the end of question period.
Mr. Michel Gauthier (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, the minister is very modest. Everyone knows he may be
reached at national defence.
More seriously, though, and this is in fact extremely serious, I
would like to ask the minister whether, when it was possible for this
employee, unbeknownst to everyone, his superiors and his
colleagues, to carry on these activities for weeks if not months,
using a Canadian army computer in a top security centre, the
minister can be certain, with all the challenges of informatics, that
the same thing is not happening with military secrets, for example,
or information of strategic importance?
How can the minister assure the public that he has the means to
control this if he is unable to control something like child
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is an excellent
question and one that crossed my mind when I was informed of
I am assured that, with the way communications work, the link
with the service providing access to the Internet is totally separate
from what happens on the system used to transmit information of a
secret or sensitive nature.
I asked the same question. I was assured that it was a completely
separate activity. The man in question was taking information off
the Internet, he was trading, if my information is correct. For
matters of security, however, the system is totally separate.
I recognize the importance of the question raised by the hon.
Leader of the Opposition. I have checked, and the only assurance I
can provide is that, right now, my informants are confident this sort
of activity could not happen.
I am satisfied that this is the end of the story, but I assure you
that we will be watching the situation closely.
Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my
question is for the Minister of National Defence.
We have learned that an individual who is supposed to be
working on top secret projects in a maximum security location,
right inside an army research establishment, is able, apparently
without difficulty and unbeknownst to anyone, to spend weeks and
months using army computers to supply an international child
pornography network. This lack of control is impossible to
Given the appalling weaknesses in the army's security system,
how can the minister assure us, with any credibility, that there are
not other similar activities, or even espionage activities, going on
within his department or within the armed forces?
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as far as
espionage goes, it is obviously very difficult. We know that this is
an environment in which there are many secrets. We do not know if
anyone knows what goes on in an espionage environment.
When my hon. colleague asks me whether this could be going on
elsewhere, I am going to be very frank, because you are talking
about the integrity or the credibility of the minister and of the
department. With over 80,000 people working in the department, I
would be very reluctant to give you any assurances that there were
not among them the sorts of people who visit, here in Ottawa, and
throughout the country, as you are all aware, sites that sell very
explicit videos or advertise their availability. The Internet
continues to provide this kind of information, not just to people
working in the Department of National Defence, but to people in all
sectors of society.
This is not a phenomenon associated exclusively with the
Department of National Defence. It is a phenomenon that must be
addressed. As I told the hon. Leader of the Opposition, we do not
have all the answers as to how to control access, or to be certain
that no one will abuse this kind of system.
The Speaker: Dear colleagues, I would remind you to always
address your comments to the Chair.
Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, just
because it goes on elsewhere does not make it acceptable in this
Despite the military police, despite the additional measures that
must be part of normal routine in a military research establishment,
it was not until the OPP got involved that this scandal finally came
How can the minister explain that, in his department, the same
department that held a monumental search a few months ago-they
looked in all the files, all the computer files, all the filing cabinets,
and they even turned the waste paper baskets upside down, in order
to find the missing documents-nobody saw anything then, and
that it was not until the OPP investigation that this situation came
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, obviously the
hon. member was wondering how these things could have gone on
for a period of time. Clearly, no one knows, because if the hon.
member or myself had seen this kind of material, we would have
As for the research establishment in question, it would have been
surprising to find any information related to the Somalia inquiry
there. But I want to assure my hon. colleague that this will not end
here. The issue goes much further, and we will be using the means
at our disposal to try to avoid a recurrence of this kind of situation.
* * *
Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.):
yesterday the Prime Minister told me in question period that
distinct society was something to which he subscribed all along.
How soon he forgets: the Prime Minister certainly did not believe
in distinct society strongly enough to support the Meech Lake
accord when he was running for the Liberal leadership in 1990.
Even John Turner was recently surprised at the Prime Minister's
conversion to the idea of distinct society in the Constitution.
My question is very simple. Why the flip-flop? Why is he
supporting distinct society and special status for Quebec now when
he would not and could not support it in 1990?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the text and the premise
of the hon. member's question are simply false.
Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I
appreciate that but I was quoting from yesterday's Hansard.
We were both here in 1990. She was busy busy with the
leadership campaign and knows exactly what the Prime Minister
was saying on the campaign trail in 1990.
That was flip-flop number one. Let us look at flip-flop number
two. It is also from Hansard; I am not dreaming it up.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said that he had ruled out a
nationwide referendum on distinct society. This flies in the face of
the Prime Minister's promise to give Canadians a say in the future
of their country. It also flies in the face of his commitment back in
1992, which I am sure the Deputy Prime Minister will remember,
to put any major constitutional change to a referendum.
Will the Prime Minister keep the promises he made in 1992 and
in the recent throne speech to hold a national referendum on any
attempt to entrench distinct society in the Constitution?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, again the premise of the
hon. member's question is false.
Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, there is
something far more serious at stake here than someone standing up
and just saying that the premise of the question is false.
I was quoting yesterday's edition of Hansard and quoting
something the Prime Minister of the country said in 1992 before he
was Prime Minister.
It is easy to toss this off, but when the Prime Minister is going
directly against things which he said earlier, that he is about to
entrench distinct society with the support of only seven provinces
and 50 per cent of the population, surely the Deputy Prime Minister
remembers what the Prime Minister did only a year ago, which was
to entrench the veto for the five regions in the country.
Since B.C., Alberta and Ontario all have serious reservations
about entrenching distinct society and special status in our
Constitution, I would like to ask this one more time. How do the
government, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister
expect to entrench distinct society in the Constitution? How in the
world will it ever pass the five region veto which this government
brought forward last year?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when we hear the
poisonous rhetoric emanating from the Reform Party it is no
wonder it is in the position it is in the current polls.
The hon. member, instead of lecturing the Prime Minister on his
commitment to recognize the distinctiveness of Quebec, a
recognition that he has characterized throughout his career, would
be better off if she talked to some of her own colleagues.
I have a quote of the kind of poisonous rhetoric that is emanating
from the member for Simcoe Centre who, in a recent unity forum,
said: ``French Canadian prime ministers have led this country
down the road to ruin. The mood is that they are not doing their
I would like to point out to the member what the member for
Simcoe Centre heard from one of his constituents: ``If you dump on
French Canadians you are going to send this country down the road
You are sending this country down the road to separation. That is
the kind of vicious rhetoric which pits Canada against Quebec and
we will not stand for it.
The Speaker: Colleagues, I would like you to address the Chair
in all of your statements, please.
* * *
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, BQ):
Speaker, the heritage minister does not have a reputation for
making consistent comments in this House, but there is a limit. For
example, when she was appointed heritage minister, she pledged to
save Radio Canada International.
Will the heritage minister explain to the House why, barely one
year later, she has now decided to shut down Radio Canada
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are all grateful for the
work done by the international component of the CBC.
I am pleased to see that the hon. member, who wants to destroy
Canada, is nevertheless supportive of the CBC. Now, this shows a
lack of consistency in the Bloc Quebecois' policy. These people
want to destroy the country, but they also want the CBC to keep
Regardless of that inconsistency on the part of the Bloc, it goes
without saying that the government hopes to find the means to
allow Radio Canada International to continue its operations. I have
had several discussions with my colleagues regarding this issue.
We have not found the necessary funds, but we always want to
leave the door open.
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, it is not inconsistent on our part to defend the CBC. We
paid for it, it belongs to us as much as it belongs to the rest of
Canada. Once we have decided to become sovereign and the only
thing left to do is to change the name, we will do so.
How could the minister pledge, before the Conseil des relations
internationales de Montréal, that Radio Canada International would
continue to exist as long as she would be Minister of Canadian
Is the minister doing the number that she did with the GST?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): No, Mr. Speaker.
* * *
Mr. Ed Harper (Simcoe Centre, Ref.):
Mr. Speaker, the
premise of the Deputy Prime Minister's response is false. The
member for Simcoe Centre referred to Prime Ministers from
Quebec's having led this country to ruin. That was the quote, Mr.
The throne speech referred to all Canadians having a say in the
future of their country. The premier of Ontario is a supporter of
referenda but he also has his priorities right. He wants to talk about
jobs and the economy, not the Constitution.
The premiers of the three most populated provinces, including
Quebec, are against distinct society, yet the Prime Minister ignores
In order to ensure that the will of the Canadian public, not this
government, is reflected in any constitutional change, will the
Deputy Prime Minister assure this House that the question on
distinct society will be put to a national referendum?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I happen to have a copy
of the article that was in the Examiner written by Bob Bruton in
which the member for Simcoe Centre was quoted as saying:
``French Canadian prime ministers have led this country down the
road to ruin. The mood of the people across Canada is that they are
not doing a good job. The mood is that maybe we should try
That kind of vicious rhetoric, applauded by his colleagues in
the Reform Party, is an unfortunate reflection of why this party
is becoming more and more marginalized-
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Ed Harper (Simcoe Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, what is
vicious around here is catering to the separatists, the distinct
The Prime Minister was against distinct society in the Meech
Lake accord. Then he was for it in Charlottetown. He was against
raising it in last year's referendum and now he is for it.
Could the Deputy Prime Minister explain to this House why
Canadians should support the idea that the Prime Minister himself
waffles on and for which does not have the support of the public or
of the premiers of Canada's three largest provinces, including
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would refer the hon.
member to his own comments. His comments were not about
separatists. They were about French Canadian prime ministers.
There is no one in this country who has fought harder to bring
people together, to build bridges, than Prime Minister Jean
When the member labels French Canadians as separatist, he does
every Canadian a disservice.
The Speaker: Colleagues, please do not refer to each other by
your names but by your ridings.
* * *
Mr. Gaston Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe, BQ):
last Friday, the decision to shut down Radio Canada International
was announced. But the minister had promised, she had given her
word, that Radio Canada International would remain open as long
as she was the minister. The Minister of Canadian Heritage
recently had to resign for not keeping her word over the GST.
Could the Minister of Canadian Heritage tell us why she is still
the Minister of Canadian Heritage today, after once again failing to
keep her word and save Radio Canada International?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the door is still open as
far as Radio Canada International is concerned.
Mr. Gaston Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe, BQ): Mr. Speaker,
how can the minister renege on her promise to save Radio Canada
International when we all know what the solution is? Everyone
knows it and it has been clearly shown that, in making budget
choices, she herself has decided to waste $43 million: $20 million
on the propaganda agency operating under the name of Canada
Information Office and $23 million on the flag project, when all
she would need to save Radio Canada International is $16 million?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what is clear is that the
decision not to fund half of Radio Canada International was made
by the board of directors of the CBC. I hope that the hon. member
is not suggesting that we force the CBC to spend money outside of
That having been said, there is no doubt that I have worked and
continue to work with my colleagues in government. We have been
unsuccessful in finding alternate funding to cover the money lost
because of the CBC's budgetary problems, but we have not shut the
door on anything and, if at all possible, we would like to work
together, in co-operation, to find a solution like we did last year.
Mr. Jim Abbott (Kootenay East, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, this
exchange on Radio Canada International gives us an idea of just
how far out of touch and out of control this minister is. She has
absolutely no idea what is going on within her own department.
Radio Canada International's closing was announced in
December last year and we had 125 people working for Radio
Canada International who did not have any idea what their future
was going to be. And now it has been announced again in
December this year. What in the world is going on? Why does she
not have some kind of idea of where the funding will come from for
functions within her very own department?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the member actually
took the time to examine the estimates of the government he would
know that RCI actually falls under the Department of Foreign
Mr. Jim Abbott (Kootenay East, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have in
my hand a news release from the minister dated March 21, 1996:
``The enormous outpouring of support for RCI, both within Canada
and around the world, has persuaded us that it is a vital voice for
Canada which we must maintain. ``While we have managed to put
together a financial package for the coming fiscal year, all the
parties with an interest in RCI must now work together to develop a
long term funding solution''.
She was responsible, according to this news release of March 21,
1996, yet she has done absolutely nothing, has put the jobs of 125
people at risk and has closed down the voice of Canada
Why does she not get her act together? Why did she not have
some funding in place so that we would not be going through this
fire drill with nobody in charge?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again I am
encouraged by the hon. member's support for Radio Canada
because unfortunately when we as a government announced the
rescue package last March this very member spoke out against it.
This is the same member who recently passed a minority
committee report in which he said: ``A national federally funded
television broadcaster is not essential''. This is the position that he
took before the standing committee on heritage.
Perhaps if he could bring the same clarity of thought to the
House of Commons as he did to the committee, then with the
support of the Reform Party, the support of Bloc and the support of
Canadians we could keep this very vital voice alive.
* * *
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ):
Speaker, my question is for the heritage minister.
In letters she sent to cultural organizations confirming grants,
the heritage minister asked them to display and promote the
Canadian flag, and to encourage pride in Canadian citizenship.
Federal government grants to cultural organizations therefore now
depend on these organizations taking part in Heritage Canada's
Is the heritage minister aware that in these and all her other
dealings she comes across not as the minister of heritage but as the
minister of propaganda?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am proud of my country
and I am proud of my flag.
I find it completely consistent with my cultural responsibilities,
just as Quebec's Minister of Culture wants taxpayers to know
where provincial grants come from. We made the same request.
Our request is exactly the same as that made by Louise Beaudoin,
Quebec's Minister of Culture.
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, I am only too pleased to inform the House officially that it
does not happen like that in Quebec. All grants are made by the
Conseil des arts et de la culture, and nothing comes from the
What the heritage minister would really like is to go down in
history as the minister who put all those flags out there.
Does the heritage minister realize that, by making the promotion
of culture, unity and the Canadian flag a prerequisite for obtaining
grants from her department, she is trying to harness culture to
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, as usual,
the Bloc Quebecois does not have all the facts. We never required
that the flag be flown. We encouraged it, just as Mme Beaudoin
When festivals are financially supported by Canadian taxpayers,
it is only natural that the Government of Canada should be
recognized. For my part, as long as I live in a country called
Canada, I will never be ashamed to fly my flag.
* * *
Mr. Andy Mitchell (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Lib.):
Speaker, Canada has agreed to import a small quantity of
plutonium fuel for testing purposes at the research centre in Chalk
River, Ontario. This naturally concerns many Canadians.
Could the minister say what concrete assurances she can provide
this House that this action is not compromising the safety of
Canadians and that appropriate monitoring procedures will be put
Hon. Anne McLellan (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the hon. member and all Canadians
in relation to the announcement made yesterday by my counterpart,
U.S. secretary of energy Hazel O'Leary.
First, I want to remind colleagues that Canada has a lengthy
history in terms of advocating the destruction of nuclear weapons.
Colleagues will remember that in April the Prime Minister
attended the safety and security summit in Moscow where he said
that Canada had agreed in principle to look at the prospect of
burning weapons grade plutonium in CANDU reactors.
Yesterday my counterpart, the U.S. secretary of energy,
announced the conclusion of phase one of an American study to
determine safe and secure methods for disposal of weapons grade
plutonium. The CANDU reactor is one of the three options that
appears on that list. In fact, what now becomes necessary is to do a
fuel test in relation to the utility on the CANDU.
What I want to do today is reassure all members of this House
that the fuel test is going to be conducted under the most stringent
safety and security measures put in place, regulated and monitored
by the Atomic Energy Control Board.
Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt, Ref.):
Mr. Speaker, today the Somalia inquiry has requested that the privy
council extend its mandate. The inquiry has yet to complete its
study on the deployment and the post-deployment phase of the
Will the defence minister assure Canadians that his government
is not going to shut down the inquiry before it finishes all of its
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the commission
of inquiry on Somalia has requested the privy council consider an
extension of its mandate. Obviously the government will consider
I want to repeat to my hon. friend that I hope all members of this
House will express their views on whether or not the inquiry should
continue on, if they would like it to go for a year, two years, three
years or four years, or if they think there might be some value in
trying to learn the lessons of what happened in Somalia so that we
can avoid a repetition of the intolerable incidents that took place
I guess it is all a question of whether it happens in our lifetime or
Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt, Ref.):
Mr. Speaker, it is very fine that the Minister of National Defence
would blame the members of this House for the delay in the
Somalia inquiry. We have to remember that it was the Department
of National Defence that caused the delays in the work of the
inquiry by failing to supply documents that the inquiry had
requested in a timely fashion.
Canadians want to know about the post-deployment phase of the
mission and what went wrong at national defence headquarters and
the Liberal government cover-up.
Why will the minister and his government not prove to
Canadians that they care more about the truth than public relations?
Give the inquiry the time it needs to do its work.
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and
Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I always
hesitate to comment on public relations because it is not a skill that
I have acquired.
As the government considers this matter I think it will be very
important to understand what the position of everyone is with
respect to this.
It has been suggested that the government wants to continue the
inquiry in order to avoid having to deal with it over the next year or
two when an election would have to be called constitutionally. We
cannot have it both ways.
If the hon. member through his party wishes to indicate that we
should give unlimited time to the Somalia inquiry and the
commissioners to do their work, however long that may take,
however much it may cost and whatever the results may be, I would
certainly ask the government to take that into account. Somehow it
does not seem to be consistent with the Reform Party's usual
practical and pragmatic and efficient way of approaching things.
* * *
Mrs. Pierrette Venne (Saint-Hubert, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, my
question is for the Minister of Industry.
Again yesterday, we questioned the Minister of Industry about
what is going on at the Space Agency. Once again, he attempted to
minimize the allegations against the president of the agency, by
reducing them to a mere matter of destroying handwritten notes,
but it is far more than that. Obviously, the president of the agency
also has a problem with his expense account.
At the time he appointed Mr. Evans to the position of president
of the Canadian Space Agency, was the minister aware that he had
made an expense account claim which was dubious, to say the
least, and which Roland Doré, the former president of the Space
Agency, had refused?
Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Minister for the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Minister of Western
Economic Diversification and Minister responsible for the
Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, it is very unfortunate that this member seems to be
manipulated by information being spun out by a former employee
of the space agency whose position was terminated in a
reorganization, who is in the process of suing the agency and who
thinks that the official opposition can be a medium for trying to
prosecute his lawsuit.
Mrs. Pierrette Venne (Saint-Hubert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the
minister is not replying to the question in any way whatsoever.
We will therefore ask him how he can explain that the president
of the Space Agency attempted to get reimbursed for a travel and
meal claim for a trip to St-Hubert on June 3, 1994, when he
travelled as this minister's seatmate on the plane and the meal was
provided free of charge?
Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Minister for the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Minister of Western
Economic Diversification and Minister responsible for the
Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec, Lib.): First,
Mr. Speaker, just to illustrate how silly this is becoming, yes in
fact, Mr. Evans did fly to St. Hubert on that occasion with me. No,
there was no lunch provided. Second, Mr. Evans did not return on
the aircraft. Third, evidently Mr. Evans did drive back to Ottawa.
Apparently an expense claim was made. It was not paid and
therefore was not improperly paid.
This is getting pretty silly. I would suggest to the hon. member
that she let the courts decide whether this friend of hers has a valid
complaint or not. The courts can make that decision. She does not
need to come into this place in order to try to disparage the
reputation of a public servant without having any facts on her side.
* * *
Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner (Lisgar-Marquette, Ref.):
Speaker, I have a letter dated December 14, 1995 from the
Canadian Wheat Board to a western farmer stating that it has no
commercial market for hulless waxy barley.
Could the agriculture minister explain why Alberta and
Saskatchewan wheat pools are allowed to grow and market hulless
waxy barley into the U.S. outside the Canadian Wheat Board
pooling system yet a farmer like Andy McMechan is thrown in jail
for doing the same thing?
Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Agriculture and
Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is obviously very clear that under
the regulations of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and other
pertinent pieces of legislation there is an export procedure provided
under the law and under the regulations for the exportation of all
wheat and barley. All of those who comply with those rules and
regulations may export.
Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner (Lisgar-Marquette, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, Andy McMechan was ordered to refund $55,000 to the
CWB pool account, the premiums he gained for selling his grain
into the U.S. Yet wheat board officials have directed Saskatchewan
farmers to flour mills in Saskatoon who have paid millions of
dollars in premiums outside the pool account for unlicensed wheat.
Would the minister of agriculture please explain where in the
Canadian Wheat Board Act it allows for some farmers to gain
premiums outside the pool and others are thrown in jail?
Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Agriculture and
Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I obviously am not in a position
and would not as a matter of propriety comment upon any
particular legal matter which is now before the courts.
Some hon. members: Why not?
Mr. Goodale: Opposition members cry out ``why not''. If they
do not understand that fundamental precept of justice, then there is
nothing that could possibly save them.
In terms of the particular alleged transactions that the hon.
gentleman makes reference to, I would be happy to have the
Canadian Wheat Board and the relevant grain companies explain
the procedure to him.
* * *
Mr. Glen McKinnon (Brandon-Souris, Lib.):
my question is for the Minister of Industry.
Recently in a statement to the Senate committee on banking, the
minister committed to increasing the co-operation between
regional development agencies, the Business Development Bank of
Canada and other branches of its department, including science and
What has the minister done to increase co-operation within
Industry Canada to promote effective regional economic
development and to support science and research in western
Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Minister for the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Minister of Western
Economic Diversification and Minister responsible for the
Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, the matter of the co-ordination of the regional
development agencies with Industry Canada and the various
agencies that are part of the industry portfolio both in respect of
science and technology as well as small business and the
information highway has been a matter of the utmost importance to
In western Canada we have seen the delivery of a variety of
services related to each of those areas through the 91 western
economic diversification offices that are available in western
Canada in part through the Community Futures Development
Corporation. We have seen contributions through western
economic diversification to research and development projects
such as that by TR labs based in Calgary for wireless
telecommunications and through Paprican and Ballard
Technologies, both based in Vancouver, from Technology
These efforts at co-operation and co-ordination will not only
provide diversification of the economy of western Canada but will
build a science and technology base that will enable the Canadian
economy to grow into the 21st century.
Mr. Chris Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.
Yesterday a government study showed the huge cost of
unemployment of up to $91 billion. The IMF has pointed to the
high rate of unemployment in Canada as a cause for concern. Even
the private sector seems to have lost faith in being able to create the
jobs Canada needs. Indeed it is cutting jobs.
Since the Minister of Finance has no vision for dealing with
unemployment, will he pull together the stakeholders in this
economy so we can build a vision for the future to deal with
unemployment? Or, does he not care about all the unemployed
people in the country?
Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker,
we as a government did not adopt the scorched earth policy of
either the Reform Party or the Conservative Party in our approach
to the deficit. We simply wanted to deal with the question of
growth in the economy and the consequent employment that would
As a result we have put enormous amounts of money into
technology partnerships, as stated by my colleague the Minister of
Industry. As my colleague the Minister of Human Resources
Development has said, we have put enormous sums of money into
youth employment. The Prime Minister's Team Canada approach
has paid tremendous dividends to the country.
The hon. member may have learned something from that report,
but because of the devastating effects of unemployment the
government has taken the decisive action it has taken. As a result
we will continue to do so.
The hon. member talked about having stakeholder meetings. We
have done that with the business community. We have done that
with the Canadian Labour Congress. We have done that with
virtually every stakeholder. We will continue to meet with
Canadians to create employment in Canada.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-70,
an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal
Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the Debt Servicing and
Reduction Account Act and related acts, be read the second time
and referred to a committee.
Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will use
my time in this debate to talk about two specific aspects of the bill.
One is the use of time allocation, and I will speak specifically about
the blended sales tax.
It is important that we have the facts on the record. As of
December 10, 1996 the government has placed before the House of
Commons a total of 162 bills. Time allocation has been used on 20
of these bills or 12.3 per cent of government legislation that has
On four of the bills, however, either the Bloc Quebecois or the
Reform Party gave procedural assistance for the implementation of
time allocation, which in fact means that less than 10 per cent of
the bills introduced by the government since the last election have
been subjected to time allocation unilaterally applied by the
Perhaps more relevant are the statistics on time allocation
concerning the actual number of times that time allocation motions
have been moved.
Mr. Strahl: Are you proud of this or what?
Ms. Torsney: Actually, yes, I am.
Since time allocation motions may be moved only at one or two
stages of a bill, no bill may pass the House without opposition
co-operation unless the government has applied time allocation
two or three times to that one bill.
A quick calculation of these facts shows that government bills in
the House of Commons have been considered at 429 separate
stages at which time allocation could have been applied. On only
27 of these occasions has time allocation been applied, which is
only 6.3 per cent of the time. On five of these occasions, however,
at least one opposition party gave procedural assistance to the
implementation of time allocation, leaving only 22 occasions on
which the government unilaterally implemented time allocation.
That is only 5.1 per cent of all possible occasions.
Another important issue about time allocation is that Canadian
citizens expect us to get on with the business of governing. They
request that we move forward. We hear all the time about how slow
government is and how much it needs to move forward. I would
suggest, as those of us who came from the world of business know,
that the time the discussion is called to an end we can agree to
disagree, vote and move forward. I have absolutely no problem
with our record.
With regard to the blended sales tax I understand in this
morning's debate there were some particularly outrageous
comments on the concept of the blended sales tax.
It seems the Bloc Quebecois has spent its time for debate on this
important issue telling Atlantic Canadians that their elected
officials, the bureaucrats and the people of Atlantic Canada
themselves do not know what they want and that the BQ knows
Atlantic Canadians want. It is a pretty curious situation. They are
trying to deny the Atlantic provinces the blended sales tax when
they have had that system since the GST was implemented.
The second component of their time was used to talk about the
adjustment assistance package when that is not even being
considered today. In fact it has already been dealt with in a previous
What do members of the House of Commons do? They are
supposed to be debating the issue at hand. They are supposed to be
getting on with the business of the day. They are supposed to be
implementing legislation that Canadians want. Instead the
opposition parties are getting into a silly game of trying to oppose
the business we are trying to accomplish, to debate other issues that
are not on the table and, in the case of the BQ, to use the time to tell
people who actually elected them to make the decision for them
that they are wrong and the BQ knows better.
I suggest they run federal candidates in all the provinces in the
next election and we will see where the chips will fall.
I am particularly disturbed that my province does not have the
opportunity to have a blended sales tax, even though we hear from
Canadians and business people all the time about the complicated
procedure of two sales taxes on two different bases, with two
different collection times.
In the last provincial election our premier advanced to the
Canadian Manufacturers' Association the reasons we in Ontario
need a blended sales tax. I will quote the premier of the province:
I want something that works. And I'll tell you this: that if we had one VAT
(value-added tax), one base, one bureaucracy to collect it, the manufacturers and the
businesses in Ontario would save over a billion dollars by being able to deduct those
costs that you cannot deduct today on the sales tax.
Mike Harris went on to say:
It has been one of the areas of major competitive disadvantage that Ontario
manufacturers have had and Ontario businesses have had and I say, stop the rhetoric,
stop the politics, stop the finger-pointing. Get on with harmonization and
simplification of the GST-or whatever the new initials are-and the PST.
Mr. Harris underestimated the savings to provincial businesses
and manufacturers by some $6 billion. The savings to the provinces
and their businesses would be $7.8 billion with a blended tax
system. So I say to Mr. Harris to stop the rhetoric, stop the finger
pointing. Let us get on and make a better system for those
provinces and businesses.
Why are we giving a competitive advantage to the provinces of
New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec? Why
do our business people have to struggle with complicated
paperwork many times during the 12 months of the year on two
different bases. Why can they not deduct what they should be able
to deduct for their input costs?
Now is the time for action. Now is the time to end this debate and
to move on to a vote on this issue. Let us go to the electorate with
our platforms in place.
Mr. Allan Kerpan (Moose Jaw-Lake Centre, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, I have been listening to the debate on Bill C-70 since
question period and before. It occurs to me it has been a very
interesting day in the House of Commons. We are faced with what I
considered to be a double Liberal whammy. First, for the
umpteenth time we are faced with time allocation or closure
invoked by the government.
The second whammy is the HST, the BST, the GST or whatever.
I will speak for a second about the speech of the member for
Burlington. She had some interesting statistics I would like to
She spoke about using time allocation or closure for 12.3 per
cent of the times that it could have been used. I would hardly be
proud of that record. It amazes me. If the bar is set low enough it is
easy to jump over it.
To talk about the debt and the deficit, the Liberal government is
now claiming what a wonderful job it has done with the economy
and the finances of the country. The deficit is still well over $20
billion a year. They are proud of using closure 12 per cent of the
time. It blows my mind. It amazes me that anybody from any party,
including my own, would ever have the gall to stand up and be
proud of records like that. It just shocks me.
Let us talk for just a second about the idea of closure. After we
were elected in 1993, we came to Ottawa and heard all the media
stories. The Prime Minister and members of the government would
stand up and say: ``We are going to be different. This is going to be
a new Parliament. The 35th Parliament is going to be something of
which we, as parliamentarians, can be proud''.
I am afraid that I have been seriously disappointed in that aspect.
Yes, the first couple of months of January 1994 started with some
level of decorum that probably has not been seen in this House for
many years. It deteriorated rapidly.
We are seeing again on a regular basis things like closure being
used in the most undemocratic fashion anyone could ever imagine.
We live in Canada. I am proud to be a Canadian. I am proud to live
in our democracy. By the same token, I am deeply ashamed to be
part of a system at times uses the most undemocratic tactics. I
would expect to see those kinds of tactics in many other countries
but those are countries that I would prefer not to live in.
To stand up in the House today and talk about using closure12 per cent of the time is something that I find unbelievable. The
member for Burlington said: ``Let's have an election. Let's find out
what the people want''. That is good. Let us have an election. I am
prepared to do that. When Canadians see and understand what kind
of undemocratic government we have at this point in time, they
will say: ``Thank you very much. We will try somebody else''. I am
looking forward to that day with great interest.
The member for Burlington seemed disappointed and was
complaining that perhaps the opposition parties, including our
party, wanted to stall the debate further. Some of these bills have
great importance. She implied in her speech that it is fine to speak
in debate as long as we agree with the government.
I think back to three bills in particular, Bill C-68, Bill C-33 and
this bill, where the government used closure to ram the bills
through as fast as it possibly could. Why did it do that?
It is because Canadians are not in favour of these types of bills. I
believe that the opposition has a duty to convey in the House the
thoughts of the people of Canada. That is why we did it. We do not
do it to stand up here and waste time. We are very busy people. We
do not need to listen to ourselves speak.
They are important bills. Bill C-68, Bill C-33 and now Bill C-70
have tremendous impact on the future of this country. It is our right
and our duty to speak. That is why I was elected and why
everybody else in this House was elected, to truly debate those very
Just recently we supported the government on the Tobacco Act.
We wanted to see it go through as quickly as possible. We felt that
Canadians were in favour of it. We agreed with the government. We
said: ``Let's do this. Let's get it through''. We did. It is done.
I do not think it is fair for any government member to stand up
and criticize us for asking for more open, honest, democratic
debate. I know I do not have much time left but for the minutes that
I have left, I want to talk about the GST or the HST or the BST. I do
not care what it is called. They are all one and the same.
The member for Kindersley-Lloydminster talked a few
minutes ago, before question period, about the BST. He is from
Saskatchewan where we all know what BS stands for. I am from
Saskatchewan as well. I also know what HS could stand for. It is all
one and the same, it is still a tax. I have horses on my farm and
therefore I do know what HS could stand for.
A tax is a tax is a tax. One cannot get around it and it cannot be
hidden. People are not stupid and they realize exactly what is
going on. To call it the HST or the BST or the GST or the ABC, it is
still a tax. Canadians are tired of taxes. We are taxed to death.
In question period we talked of jobs and what the high
unemployment rate costs in dollars. It is difficult to put an number
on it but we do know that high taxation causes unemployment. That
is just a plain and simple fact of life and there is no getting around
I have two friends in my riding, Elwood Nelson and Keith
Talbot, who are both auctioneers. Recently I was talking to them
about the problems the GST causes in their business. It causes
tremendous trouble. These two gentlemen generally hold farm
sales where they sell pieces of equipment, tools and so on. There
would be hundreds and hundreds of items at any one auction sale
on a farm.
Their difficulty is determining for what each individual item has
been used and whether it is a personal item or a business use item.
There are hundreds of items at one auction sale and these
auctioneers hold sometimes 60, 80 or 100 auction sales a year. It is
impossible to determine whether that piece of equipment or that
tool has been used as a personal item or for business purposes.
There is a difference in how they collect the GST and submit it.
They do not have a clue and they have been led down the garden
path by Revenue Canada on the GST for six years. The rules
change every six months. Somebody comes in with a new idea and
they change it all over again. The same thing is going to happen
when the tax is harmonized. They are going to have to go back and
start all over again just has they have done so many times in the
I think of people who run stores. Recently I asked a woman:
``What do you think of the GST?'' She said: ``I hate it, Allan, but at
least it is in. It is in my computers, in my cash register and it is
done. I don't like it but I have to live with it''. What is going to
happen when the HST comes in, or the BST, or whatever it is
called? They are going to have to change again.
Mr. Speaker, do you know who they are going to remember?
They will not think about Brian Mulroney. They are going to think
about the Liberal government. They are going to think about this
finance minister and they are going to say: ``That's the guy that did
it to me this time. First it was Mulroney, now it is the finance
minister''. The same thing, it makes no difference.
My colleague for Prince George-Peace River gave a very fine
speech in the House just before question period and he said:
``Liberal, Tory, same old story''. They are going to remember the
people who made them change and cost them a tremendous amount
of money once again.
I cannot believe this is going on. If I were a Liberal member of
Parliament who is seeking re-election I would be embarrassed to go
out back on the campaign trail to be asked: ``What about that GST
thing''? and have to say: ``Oh, we are sorry, we made a mistake''. I
am ready. Let us try it.
Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is
really quite an occasion to be able to stand up and speak one more
time on the GST. In fact, if we could go over a little of the history
of it, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will remember all too well back to
1990-91. Many of the people who are in the Chamber today cannot
remember the experience but you and I certainly do, sir. You will
remember the vitriolic attacks that came from this side of the
House. I could point out the seat that you sat in when you criticized
the GST. It was really something. Of course, we were in agreement.
This member looks so young he was hardly born at that time, but in
fact he was around somewhere, but not in the Chamber. I remember
all too well the attacks that came from the Liberal opposition about
the GST and how terrible it was.
Of course when the Liberals came into power-you remember
this, Mr. Speaker, because you campaigned in 1993 just as I
did-and it was going to be gone. I am sure the people in the
Niagara Falls area as well as the people in northern Alberta
thought: ``Oh, finally, if the Liberals come into power, then we are
going to see an end to this dreaded GST''.
For heaven's sake, what do you think happened next? Page 22 of
the red book became absolutely famous. I would quote from it now,
Mr. Speaker, but you know I do not have my copy any longer, but I
certainly know what page 22 said. It said that the federal
government was going to do away with the GST. What do we have?
It is a kind of symphony really. It is a harmonization. The GST is
still here. It is alive and well. Now it is going to be the HST, the
BST or whatever it is. It is not a good thing.
It is easy for members to put on a brave face now that the
Liberals are in government and say: ``What we are doing is the very
best thing for you''. We hear time and time again about people who
have retail businesses. In my area we have a lot of farmers. The
horror stories that they are phoning my office with are hard to
Here is a good one, or a bad one, depending on which way one
wants to look at it. A farmer phoned my office not too long ago and
said that because farm equipment is exempt he is allowed to
receive a GST rebate or exemption on it. It was okay if he bought a
half-ton truck. He would be able to get the GST back.
However, one farmer bought an extended cab half-ton truck. A
regular truck with no extended cab was fine but he bought an
extended cab truck because he kept his saddles and bailer twine and
so on in the back seat. Do you know what happened? The GST
department said: ``No, no. This becomes a luxury vehicle and so
you have to pay GST on it''.
Then I would get another call from somebody else who would
say: ``I have a suburban, an entirely closed in vehicle, and I can
claim exemption on that''.
It just shows what a disastrous nightmare this whole thing has
been. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have had the odd call in your
office as well. I do not think our regions of Canada are that much
apart on these issues that you have not had a call or two in your own
constituency office saying: ``What in heaven's name is going on
I would like to go back to when the GST initially came in. It was
going to be revenue neutral. I am sure if I jog your memory,Mr. Speaker, you will remember it was Bill C-21, the deficit and
debt reduction account, that was passed in the 34th Parliament. All
excess revenue was to go to pay down the deficit and then the debt.
Guess what. That did not happen.
I put several dollars into that because I believe that if we are
going to put our money where our mouth is then we had better
contribute to that. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I have put my 10 per
cent pay deduction into the deficit and debt reduction account for
The question is far bigger than that. Is this tax a good tax or not.
The answer across the country has to be no. Some points of it were
good in terms of making it visible. Canadians are not the type of
people who are going to remember something for five years
generally. We complain about something for 20 minutes and then
we get out our cheque book, write a cheque and say: ``That is the
government for you'' and we carry on.
Yet five years later there is a vehemence, a vitriolic spirit across
the country about the GST and now the heat is being raised one
more level with the BST in Atlantic Canada. If you look at the
specifics of that, the Atlantic premiers were bribed into signing this
$1 billion deal. It was borrowed taxpayers' money. They were
Liberal governments. They were tempted, if you will. They were
bamboozled. It was hogwash. The point is it was $1 billion of
It is as if the government said: ``We are doing a great thing here.
We are going to pay off our Visa but we are using our Mastercard to
do it''. That simply cannot happen. The federal government took
this $1 billion of borrowed money to their political friends in
Atlantic Canada, the Liberals, and said: ``Come on guys. We have
to live up to page 22 here. We have to have harmony here in the
symphony, so please help us out any way you can''. It cost a billion
dollars of taxpayers' money borrowed on MasterCard. There is
something dreadfully wrong with that because we cannot live
beyond our means. I suppose the Canadian taxpayers, those from
Atlantic Canada who have signed on to this deal and those of us
who live in other parts of the country can literally say thanks a
Where is this cash coming from? The money does not just
bubble up from under the surface. These are real cheques which are
being sent to the government at income tax time from real people
working in real jobs. A billion dollars to kick this thing into motion
and people on the other side of the House say it is a really great
deal. They say: ``We are are from the government and we are here
to help you''. No wonder people get nervous when they see people
from the government here.
Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia are not even willing to
discuss the federal proposal. Support for it is weak in Manitoba,
Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island. When the government
talks about full harmonization and how well everything is going to
blend together and that it will be happy times for us in Canada as
we move toward the next century, it simply is not true.
People from my constituency, not just farmers but business
people also, continually phone my office saying: ``Deb, you just
cannot imagine how much manpower it takes to fill all of this out''.
Sadly enough, one more level of it is being added at the Atlantic
Canada level. The rest of Canada is saying absolutely not.
It makes me think of my colleague next door in Edmonton
Northwest who said that in Alberta it would be really great to blend
or harmonize the sales tax. Mr. Speaker, I am not good at math and
you know that. You have known that for years. However, if we have
zero provincial sales tax in Alberta then what can we harmonize the
GST with in order to make it 15 per cent? Any person in their right
mind would say: ``Wait a minute, I am not sure we can blend this
because there is nothing to blend it with''. We had enough of a hard
time in Alberta going to any tax system. We have been blessed out
there and we appreciate it is because of our natural resources.
When I hear the Minister of Natural Resources say that in
Alberta it would be a really good thing to blend it, she has to give
her head a shake. If she thinks she is going to go door knocking in
the next election saying: ``Harmony, ebony and ivory, let us live
together in harmony'', it simply is not going to happen. They are
going to laugh her right off the block.
As my friend said earlier, I suspect that whether it was the Tories
who brought in the GST or the Liberals who have pushed up the
heat one notch on it to the BST, people really do not know the
difference. All they know is they have been stuck with this tax and
every time they buy two newspapers, let us say the Edmonton
Journal and the Edmonton Sun, which equals a dollar, they also
have to find a nickel and two pennies some place in their pocket to
pay for them. I know that because every week when I go to the
airport I run into the store to buy two newspapers. I cannot just flip
a loonie out. I have to find the pennies and a nickel. It is a pain. Not
a day goes by that a consumer does not say that they hate this tax.
What is amazing about this tax is that Canadians are still angry
about it this many years later. Whether it is the Conservative
government that brought in the GST or whether it is the Liberal
government that brought in the BST, which it is in the process of
doing by ramming it through with time allocation, when Canadians
go to the polls next time they are not really going to remember the
difference. As far as it goes, with the old line federal parties, they
say that whether it is the Liberals or the Conservatives, it means
higher taxes, bigger government and more money in debt. Whether
it is the Conservatives or Liberals, they are the two sides of the
One has to ask how Atlantic Canadians are feeling about this. Let
us look at a couple of examples. Let us remember of course that all
these people are represented in name by Liberal members of
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce predicts that the harmonized
sales tax will push up new house prices by 5.5 per cent as well as
force municipalities to raise property taxes. Does this make any
sense? I would not think so. The Halifax Chamber of Commerce
should be able to go to its MP's office and say: ``Okay girl, you go
on up to Ottawa and tell them just exactly how we feel about it''. I
am not sure she has been able to do that.
The Canadian Real Estate Association says that harmonization
will increase the costs of a new house by $4,000 in Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland and by $3,374 in New Brunswick. Nobody has that
kind of cash to pay out.
The GST was wrong. The GST was bad. The BST is wrong. The
BST is bad. I know that Canadians are still going to be angry about
this in the next election campaign. They will say: ``Wait a minute.
Liberal, Tory: one gave us one, one gave us the other. They are the
same thing. They are the two sides of the same loonie''. The
Liberals may meet the same fate that the Conservatives did in
Mr. Bob Ringma (Nanaimo-Cowichan, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
just to reiterate, we are talking about Bill C-70, an act to amend the
Excise Tax Act and other acts so as to accommodate the GST and
make it into the BST or blend it or harmonize it or otherwise.
My question to the House and the people of Canada is: What is
the impact of the GST? Is this a good thing or is it dividing us?
It has been a very unsettling thing from its inception. The way
the government is carrying on at the moment, trying to get different
regions to buy into it, is once again pitting Canadians against
Canadians. It is characteristic of the government to do just that. It
will confer special privileges on some groups of people and say:
``If you are in this group, then you have these privileges. If you are
not, then you do not have them''.
What we need in Canada is equality. We need equality between
all Canadians and we need equality between all of the provinces.
My suggestion is that the GST and any of its offshoots are tearing
the country apart and that is not good.
The other aspect which I would like to address concerns
integrity. I will keep using the word integrity to show in what way
the GST is reflective of integrity in government. Let us start with
the GST as an election promise.
Canadians are probably tired of hearing all of this, but this has
caused us to say: Why did the Liberals as a party make a bunch of
promises and put them in the red book? Was it to get themselves
elected or was it to better govern the country? The answer is
obvious. It was a book of promises cobbled together to win an
election. Never mind the results. As long as they could promise
enough and get the message out, people would vote for them and
then they could do whatever they wanted.
We have used the GST as an example of a Liberal broken
promise time after time in the House. Perhaps it is the prime
example, but it certainly is not the only one. We did a study of the
red book promises. We calculated that 30-odd per cent of the
promises in the red book have been kept by the Liberal
government. The government's estimate is that 70-odd per cent of
the promises have been kept. Canadians can make up their own
minds by looking at the red book, if they want to take the trouble to
find out who is speaking the truth.
In any event the GST is typical of an integrity issue. Before the
government was elected it said: ``We must form the government. It
does not matter what we say, we have to get the votes''.
The red book is also typical of the difference between the
Liberals and their way of doing things and Reform and its ways.
The Liberals in cobbling together the red book, started from the
top. It is a backroom document, with input of course from other
areas. They said: ``What is it that we need to really convince the
On the other hand, Reformers get together and say: ``Here are the
principles and policies. We need to make positive changes in the
country''. Those policies and principles come from the bottom up.
They are grassroots stimulated and they are ordinary people who
say: ``These are the changes that we need''. Our fresh start
document is a reflection of that, from the ground up rather than
from the top down.
I am using the GST as an example, but let us look at integrity as
reflected by the current government. There was talk about an ethics
counsellor. Again it was a red book promise that there would be an
ethics counsellor. Not only would the Liberals deal with the GST
but they would do all these other things.
The ethics counsellor has turned out to be a will-o'-the-wisp.
What are the terms of reference for the ethics counsellor? Some of
them have been published, but when it comes down to the
nitty-gritty, they are concealed. It is a matter between the Prime
Minister and that counsellor and not open for the rest of us to see.
That is not integrity.
Look at party discipline across the way. The member for York
South-Weston is a prime example. Here is a man who stood on his
honour and said: ``I as a member of the Liberal Party took part in
the decision to eliminate the GST. We have reneged on that
decision. As a matter of honour, I will opt out''. He is being
severely punished and will continue to be for being an honourable
man. That is not a good example of integrity on the part of the
Liberals or the Liberal government, however one would choose to
What else is this negative GST tearing apart? What else is it
doing to the country? We hear examples from across Canada about
the negative effects of it.
One of my constituents felt strongly enough about the GST that
he said he believed the government was doing something illegal
with this tax so he refused to pay it. He ran a shop called the
Sandwich Tree in Nanaimo. He was prosecuted by Revenue Canada
for not collecting the GST, but he held his ground. So far he has
won two court decisions on this but of course he is not finished
with it. Through Revenue Canada the government is saying: ``Get
him''. Whether the government has good legal background to say
this, I do not know. But the evidence I see is that this man is not just
being prosecuted, rather I think he is being persecuted. His wife's
salary has been garnisheed as has his own. He is not a free many
any more, I can assure the House of that, whether or not he has won
the first two rounds of this case.
Integrity. There are examples of integrity or its opposite in this
House every single day, whether it is talking about the GST or
about other subjects. I hear the Minister of Finance every day
saying things that are patently not correct about the Reform Party.
He puts our policies in a way which is totally twisted, and this is
wrong. If that is an example of integrity as with the GST, I am not
The Minister of Canadian Heritage today in exactly the same
way did the same thing when talking with one of our members,
supposedly answering a question on what our policy is with regard
to the CBC. She deliberately chose to say things that are not
Reform policy. She absolutely, deliberately said: ``No, this is what
you guys are advocating'', and it was patently wrong.
The GST is not doing good things for the country. It is not doing
anything for individuals, for groups or for regions. It is certainly
not doing anything for our economy except driving it underground.
That makes the situation even worse. We do not need the GST.
Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner (Lisgar-Marquette, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, we have heard a lot of debate on the issue. Some
tremendous speeches have been made today. They have been
entertaining and nice to listen to.
I was reminded of a farmer who got shafted on a horse he did not
really want. He went to an auction sale. He needed a good work
horse. The auctioneer asked his helper to bring out one of the
horses. The helper led it around. It pranced. It was a big, heavy set
horse. He felt this was exactly what he needed. He got it at a pretty
fair price and went home very happy. He took it off his buggy to
take into the barn and found out that it was stone blind. It could not
see the barn door.
What does someone do with a blind horse? It is not a very good
work horse unless it is led back and forth down the field. He said:
``What am I going to do? I got shafted. I have to get rid of this
horse. I have to get some money out of it''.
This is what this tax reminds me of. He advertised it. He said: ``I
am going to advertise this huge, heavy set horse as a real good,
powerful beast. I will advertise it at a bargain. I will get my money
Another farmer read about it in the papers. He came over and
said: ``Could I have a look at the horse you have for sale? It sounds
like a fairly good bargain''. He went into the barn and led the horse
out. He pranced it around in his yard. He showed the other farmer
how big it was, how capable it was and how flexible it was.
The other farmer said: ``It looks like a good horse to me''. He
said: ``It is a good horse''. He spoke with a bit of an accent. He
said: ``It is a good horse but it don't look so good''. It is not really
what you see''. He said: ``I don't care about looks. It is a big horse.
I am going to buy it. I think it will do the job for me''.
He took it home and when he went to put it in the barn he found
out it was blind. He got shafted. He went back to the first farmer
and he was mad. He said: ``Look here, you sold me a horse that was
a real heavy horse, a good work horse that could pull a big load and
it is blind''. He said: ``I tried to tell you it don't look so good''.
That is what I hear with this GST today. He told them that it was
blind, that it just did not look so good. That is probably what we
heard from the Liberals when they were in opposition: ``This GST
is terrible. We will have nothing to do with that animal''.
What did those terrible Tories do? They brought in eight other
people to fill the other place a little more to get it passed. When the
Liberals ran for government they said: ``These terrible Tories don't
look so good. They have this terrible tax. They are ripping off
farmers. They are ripping off taxpayers and consumers. If we get
elected we will kill that tax. We will bury it. We will tramp on it.
We will hang it''.
I do not know all that they said. I heard a lot of different
comments that they would get rid of it just like the farmer did with
Today some lofty Liberals are saying it is a pretty good tax. They
ask why we are complaining. It is a good horse. To whom will they
sell it next? Could they sell it another time? I do not think they
could sell it to farmers. It does not look so good to them.
The other day we talked about a businessman who was dealing
with the GST issue. An inspector from the GST department came
out to do his audit. He said: ``I see you have a truck sitting in the
yard. You have not claimed all the GST on it. What is the reason?''
He said: ``The truck is taxable. The hoist is not taxable. The box is
taxable. I have a terrible problem figuring it out''. He said: ``What
do you mean the hoist is not taxable?'' ``It is a separate entity and it
is not taxable. It is for a different use''. He said: ``I don't believe
The inspector wanted to find out if it was true. He phoned his
superior but the superior was not in the office. He had gone away
on a three-day educational trip or something. The inspector sat in
this businessman's office for three days. Finally the superior
phoned back and tried to give him a ruling. He said: ``I don't know.
You will have to ask somebody else''. For three days he waited.
Imagine how much GST it took to pay his wages.
These are the problems. Not everything is taxable. Some things
are taxable. Some of the horses are blind. Some can see.
How will we sell this sucker in the next election? We will have to
dress it up some. The horse that does not look so good will not sell
again. Let us dress it up and say that we will harmonize it. Maybe
we can give it a little better colour. It might just look a little better
in the dark even if the horse cannot see. This is the way taxpayers
and voters get shafted during elections.
We must start being honest and accountable. We must show the
integrity we promised during the election campaign. I guarantee
the House that when we sit on that side there will not be any GST.
At the least it would be called something else. It will not be a GST.
That tax has hurt business and jobs. Why would we keep the
sucker? That is why I am saying it will not be there.
I am sure they will all vote for me now. They did in the last
election. They put 177 Liberals over on that side when previously
there were a few Liberals here and 212 Conservatives on that side.
Somehow we have to sell the stuff.
I hope consumers, farmers and electors get what politicians
promised them. When the previous government had 10 per cent
unemployment nobody thought it was acceptable. We still have
10 per cent unemployment and we have $100 billion more in debt.
Something has to change or the country will not survive.
Promises do not get us anywhere. If all the promises made in this
House had been kept I am sure there would not be $600 billion of
Who will look after those promises in the future? Will it be our
children or our grandchildren? Let us show some integrity. Let us
call a blind horse a blind horse if it is one. Let us call a Holstein
cow a milk cow and not a beef cow. That way we will probably get
something done in the House.
It concerns me when I hear a dozen good speeches that will
probably have very little effect outside the House. The country is a
lot bigger than the inside of the House. Approximately 30 million
Canadians depend on the House to set down regulations and taxes
so Canada can survive and operate efficiently. They expect us
somehow to take care of the $600 billion that have been put on the
shoulders of future generations. If we do not start addressing that
issue I am afraid politicians will not be rated second from the
bottom as they were in the last CTV integrity poll. They will be
rated at the bottom, right below lawyers and other legal people.
We must ensure that politicians begin to climb in the ratings of
integrity and honesty. We must try to get politicians back up to the
top where former prime ministers, former oppositions and former
members of the House once were. We must realize the country was
built on broken promises. The promises that were kept built the
country. If we do not return to the old system where taxpayers or
the electorate hold us accountable for the promises made, I do not
think the country will survive.
I reiterate. Let us not sell a blind horse to the electorate in the
next election. Let us give them one that really pulls the country out
of the mess it is in. Then we will have accomplished something.
Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Lisgar-Marquette on
his very colourful, heartfelt and passionate speech. I certainly do
not think I have his experience to be able to provide that kind of
wonderful analogy on the serious topic we are speaking about
The government is very happy in trundling out many statistics. It
is very happy in saying what a good job it has done economically. It
is very happy in saying it has kept over 80 per cent of its red book
promises. That is simply not true.
Before the last election one of the primary planks in the platform
the government ran on was that it would scrap the GST. The GST
was to go. If the GST was not scrapped some of its members said
the would resign. The GST has not been scrapped. It is firmly
entrenched into our tax structure.
This is very important for a number of reasons. First, it is
disingenuous. Second, it shows the government has not kept its
promises. Third and most important, it crushes the economy,
affecting the livelihood of every Canadian.
Instead of trying to scrap this hated tax, instead of trying to
remove a tax that impedes the ability of companies to get on their
feet, to hire people and become more aggressive competitively, the
government is trying to harmonize this tax, bury it. This will not
help people. Rather it will cost the taxpayer, the consumer and the
producer hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Producers and consumers in the maritimes have been saying that
harmonizing the GST will cost millions of dollars. It will not only
compromise those who are rich. By harmonizing the tax people in
the lower socioeconomic groups are impeded and compromised. It
impedes and compromises people on fixed incomes. Those are the
people who get it in the neck much more so than anyone else.
Harmonizing the tax in the way the government suggests will
compromise and impede the poorest individuals living in the
Furthermore the tax is being sponsored by British Columbia and
Alberta. They have paid over $1 billion. Those are the facts. It does
not bring the country together if one segment of society has to
offset another segment of society in this manner.
Certainly the maritimes need money but they need effective
investment, infrastructure and skills training to maximize the
possibilities and potential which exist on the east coast.
For all it wishes to do the government fails in bringing out its
statistics to mention that it has increased taxes over 22 times. It
stands there and spouts off about how well we are doing
economically. It fails to mention the unemployment rate in Canada
is over 10 per cent. In fact the underemployment rate, along with
our unemployment rate, approaches 20 per cent.
Sooke in the western part of my riding has over a 20 per cent
unemployment rate. This is an area of immense diversity and
immense potential. Yet it has a 20 per cent unemployment rate.
When I go to the people who work in my riding, the producers, the
consumers and the people who hire, the primary obstacle to getting
back on their feet is the high taxes they labour under.
There are some possibilities and solutions which I will present
today to the House. The first thing we have to do is get the deficit
down to zero. We have proposed through the fresh start platform a
plan to get our deficit down to zero by 1999. After that we propose
to eliminate the GST.
We also propose to lower the tax burden on individuals. That
basically comes down to the fact that our philosophy is very
different from that of liberalism. The Liberal philosophy is that the
government will take care of society. We agree that society has to
be taken care of. We agree that those who are disadvantaged in our
society must be provided for if they cannot help themselves.
However, it is not the government's position to always do that.
We also feel that people who can take care of themselves have
the responsibility to do just that. It is the role of the government to
provide people opportunities and skills training in order to
maximize their potential.
We have often been accused of being a slash and burn party
because of our fiscal conservatism. I would argue that if we profess
to have a social conscience, we cannot have a social conscience
unless we are fiscally conservative. If we are fiscally irresponsible
we compromise social programs and the very people we wish to
help. We compromise those who are poorest in our society and the
social programs which have defined Canada as a caring society.
Our program of fiscal conservatism would provide people the
tools to take care of themselves. It would strengthen our social
programs. It would provide health care to individuals.
Our deficit reduction platform will put more money into the
hands of Canadian taxpayers. For example, everyone will have an
increase in their basic personal exemption. It will go from $6,456
to $7,900. That will provide tax relief to every taxpayer in the
We would also increase the spousal allowance from $5,308 to
We would cut unemployment insurance premiums by 28 per cent
and eliminate the 5 per cent surtax on high income earners.
These measures are important. They would provide money to
consumers. They would enable taxpayers to better care for
themselves and their families. That is a significant departure from
the Liberal view, which is that the government can better take care
of the people than the people can do themselves.
There are other possibilities for solutions which are available to
us that would stimulate the economy and decrease the tax burden,
which would create jobs for unemployed Canadians.
The International Monetary Fund has recently made some
excellent presentations. It said that the government should tighten
up the eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance to
improve labour market flexibility.
The government has been increasing payroll taxes since it came
to power in order to increase government revenues. We do not
think that is fair. By increasing payroll taxes the government is
directly taxing producers and employers. When it increases payroll
taxes it impedes the ability of employers to hire more people. We
do not thing that is fair. The government should admit that it is
increasing the tax burden on producers and employers. It should
lower the payroll taxes. That would provide an incentive for
employers to hire more people, invest in their companies and create
infrastructure development. That would provide employment
opportunities for Canadians.
At the end of the day, the single most important concern which
affects Canadians from coast to coast is job security.
In closing, I implore the government to look at what the Reform
Party is putting out in its fresh start platform, look at the solutions
we have for decreasing the taxes, revamping the economy, getting
our deficit down to zero and saving our social programs.
Together we can work to make Canada a stronger place. I again
implore the government to do just that.
Mrs. Daphne Jennings (Mission-Coquitlam, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, this is the first time I have been in the House since your
appointment. I would like to congratulate you. I wonder if I may
say that there but for the grace of God go I.
I feel I must speak in today's debate on this legislation to
harmonize and streamline the GST because this government does
not support the people of Canada. This government does not keep
its promises to the people of Canada. This government is cheating
the people of Canada by making promises not once but over and
over again and then breaking those promises.
Election promises made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy
Prime Minister, the finance minister and scores of Liberal cabinet
and caucus members to eliminate, not harmonize, the GST have not
been kept. For example, the Deputy Prime Minister on October 19,
1993, as we are all familiar with, said: ``Food is not subject to GST
because it is a necessity. So are books. They are needed for young
minds to grow''.
The past Liberal whip, who is now the Minister of International
Co-operation, said: ``GST on reading material is bad policy and
undemocratic. It creates more unemployment''. Both these
members were speaking against the GST.
The defence minister, who was the finance critic in 1990, said:
``The Liberal Party would scrap the GST''. He pledged in a
nationally televised debate with finance minister Michael Wilson:
``The goods and services tax is a regressive tax. It has to be
scrapped. We will scrap it''. That was in 1990.
The solicitor general said: ``Not only do the Liberals oppose
the GST now, but opposition will continue even if the bill is
passed. We are not interested in tinkering with the GST. We don't
want it at all''.
The industry minister said: ``Our credibility will be in shreds if
we do not come up with a thoughtful alternative to tax reform that
stands up to scrutiny''.
The Prime Minister said: ``The Liberals will scrap the goods and
services tax if they win the next general election. I am opposed to
the GST. I have always been opposed to it. I will be opposed to it
always''. This was in 1990.
Those were the statements made and we know where we are
now. None of them has been kept.
Atlantic premiers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and
Newfoundland were bribed into signing the bill with $1 billion of
borrowed taxpayer money. The finance minister is crowing like a
rooster saying ``aren't I great, look what I have accomplished''. Is
this not a bribe? Is this not a one time payment?
Sales tax will go up for the money lost when the $1 billion runs
out because the $1 billion is paid over three or four years. Atlantic
Canadians are going to have to make up for it when the money is
gone. The GST may remain the same at 7 per cent but there is
nothing to prevent the province from hiking up the sales tax to
make up for the lost revenues. I believe at that time it is going to be
need that determines the amount.
Instead of trying to help the hard hit Atlantic provinces whose
demise of the cod fishery and low economy have made it difficult
enough for them, the premiers of these three provinces have fallen
into bed with the senior Liberal government and are hitting their
people with a 15 per cent GST. We all know that HST is just
another name for GST. The new tax is even worse because now
Atlantic Canadians will be paying tax on everything, books, auto
repairs, funeral services, haircuts, electricity, gasoline and home
heating fuel-literally everything. The finance minister has tried to
claim victory and a pat on the back for this?
Let us take a look at literacy. On October 23, 1996 the finance
minister gave a news conference in which he stated that the
Commons would implement a 100 per cent GST rebate on all books
purchased by public libraries, schools, universities, et cetera. In the
first case, those students, those people, members of our society
who are furthering their education, not always school children, are
going to need textbooks that they cannot get at libraries. They are
going to have to buy textbooks they cannot get at libraries. This is
literacy and this is a definite detriment to them.
I noticed that on the notice of ways and means sheet under the
explanation of this new program it says under ``the printed book''
what is not included. In (f) it says ``a book designed primarily for
writing on''. I imagine a scribbler might fall into that category and
students need scribblers in day schools. (g) says ``a colouring book
or a book designed primarily for drawing on''. What about art
On page 4 of the explanatory notes it says ``also excluded are
books designed primarily for writing on or drawing on or affixing
thereon items, etc., clippings and pictures''. Students use these all
the time in their everyday work.
In reality we are not helping these particular students as far as
literacy is concerned. We are hitting them in the school room as
What about books in the home, what about home libraries? How
many people like to keep books in their homes that they can read?
They do not want to always have to go to the library and return
them every week. There are a lot of good books people like to keep
just because they enjoy reading. There again these people are going
to be penalized.
I have often said in this House that literacy begins at birth. That
means we all should have in our home a good stock of books that
are going to help us increase our education and help our children to
develop a love of reading.
Workshops, scribblers, mothers going back to school to continue
in their education, what if they need a science text that they have to
buy for $100? There is $15 extra on that. What if they are going
into medicine or anybody going to continue their schooling? This
HST or GST is not helping literacy. It is making it difficult for
Canadians to improve their literacy.
What about businesses and the retail stores? The change over is
going to cost a fortune for them to adjust to. We are hitting small
business right where it hurts. This is another major tax grab.
The three major retailers in Atlantic Canada have stated that
their net annual retail deficit will total $27 million once the
harmonization is implemented. The Retail Council of Canada has
said that by forcing stores to bury the new tax in prices the
harmonized tax regime will cost retailers at least $100 million a
Most Canadians, I believe, do not want to see the tax buried. A
lot of people would prefer to know what they are going to pay in tax
before they go to the cash register. Tax included pricing that hits
retailers hits them in these four areas: duplication of information
systems and rewriting of software, repricing of prepriced goods,
books, greeting cards and so on, duplication of advertising costs,
flyers, catalogues, and warehousing and distribution costs. It is
really going to hit our small business retail stores.
What about consumers? For Atlantic Canadians it is going to
hit them with a double whammy. They will pay more for funeral
services, children's clothing, books, auto repairs, all the things I
previously said. The Investment Property Owners Association is
concerned about renters. There are going to be higher operating
costs for the landlords, so who is going to feel those higher
operating costs? The renter. It will be passed on to them. Because
renters usually have less income than homeowners the tax increase
is really going to hurt those who can least afford it.
How does the rest of Canada feel? How do Canadian consumers
feel all across this country? They are footing the bill. I do not
imagine they are too happy about it.
On integrity this government, I feel, ranks very low on integrity.
Recently I had an opportunity to write an article in my home
newspaper. I wrote about integrity. I wrote about the end justifying
the means. As a matter of fact, I spoke first about our provincial
government. The reason is I had to explain to some of my
constituents that we have to look more closely at integrity. ``Our
provincial government seems to believe the end justifies the
means'', I wrote, ``but I say if the means involves deliberate lies
about the budget to mislead the people during an election
campaign, if it involves misappropriation of money from charity
bingos, if it involves mismanagement of a huge crown corporation
like B.C. Hydro, and ministers not reporting their departments'
true financial condition just prior to an election, then the end
cannot justify the means. British Columbians should be shouting
for recall. If we do nothing about the lack of integrity in our
provincial government, then we deserve the results''.
What about integrity on the federal level? ``On the federal level
the Prime Minister's office recently sent a memo to Liberal Party
officers across this country instructing party officials and media
representatives to lie about the Reform Party. Here is another case
of the end justifying the means but the media seem to have decided
they will just ignore this one. Given this evidence of astonishing
dishonesty in the Prime Minister's office, what if the federal
Liberals' balanced budget projections are no more honest than the
Mr. Harb: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Maybe the
member inadvertently used an unparliamentary word when
referring to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's office. I
would ask that she withdraw that word.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): The Chair was listening to
the words that the hon. member used. She may have used an
unparliamentary word in relation to the Prime Minister's office. Of
course, it is unparliamentary when used in relation to members of
Parliament. She was prudent not to have done that. Accordingly I
am not sure there is a point of order here, although certainly the
words are getting borderline. The hon. member's point is made.
The hon. member may resume her remarks.
Mrs. Jennings: Mr. Speaker, for the sake of the member
opposite, I will say mislead instead. The newspapers were very
clear and they have already stated it.
Given this evidence, we do have an enormous burden of federal
debt, now $600 billion, which the government has decided to stop
mentioning. The Liberals' deficit reduction plans are based on
continued strong economic growth but where will that growth
come from? Retail sales remain down. Bankruptcies are up 23 per
cent. Consumers are not spending. Financial experts warn of the
danger of overextended credit cards. We are not looking at a good
picture in the future.
Integrity. The HST is not what Canadians were promised by the
Liberals in the last election when they went door to door looking
for votes. We should have them honour their words. I would like to
point out on integrity that when the heritage minister gave up her
seat to seek re-election in the byelection she once again mentioned
in her propaganda material in her campaign that she gave up her
pension which we know was temporary, again misleading the
I would like to wrap up. Unfortunately, we did not get the
postponement and I am sorry that that did not occur. I sincerely
hope and implore this government to rethink the GST and HST.
Mr. John Cummins (Delta, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate
that we have to rise in the House today to address this bill. It is a
bill that in reality should not have come before this House. It is an
issue we should not have had to talk to. The Prime Minister, the
Deputy Prime Minister, the finance minister and scores of cabinet
and caucus members all made election pledges to eliminate, not to
harmonize the GST. The issue that should be before us is the
elimination and not the harmonization of this tax.
As members know full well, the heritage minister was forced to
resign and seek re-election at a cost of over $500,000 to Canadian
taxpayers because she was unable to fulfil a commitment that was
made during the election campaign. The finance minister publicly
begged for forgiveness. ``We have made a mistake'', he said for his
complicity in misleading Canadians on this Liberal GST policy.
The member for York South-Weston was banished from the
Liberal caucus by the Prime Minister for insisting that the
government keep its word on the GST. The member for
Broadview-Greenwood went into a self-imposed exile in a rare
show of solidarity with the member for York South-Weston.
What is the issue here? The issue is a matter of keeping one's
word. Let us think of it in personal terms. If any member in this
House or any person in my circle of acquaintances made a specific
commitment to me that they intended to do something and then
reneged on that deal, somehow tried to back away from it by saying
that they did not really mean what they said, my toleration for that
individual would be surely tested.
It goes without saying that individuals who continually make
promises they cannot keep really are not held in high regard by the
people who have to deal with them. If they are in business, in short
order they will be out of business. If it is a matter of friendship,
friends are gone and friends are lost.
The question which comes to mind is, if this is the way we
respond on a personal level to people who do not keep their word,
what should be the reaction of Canadians to a government,
members of which made a commitment in the heat of an election
campaign and then are unable to maintain the commitment? The
patience of the voters with the government would be sorely tested
because of its inability to keep its word.
We have in this harmonization a situation where the Atlantic
provinces were bribed into signing the deal with a billion dollars of
borrowed taxpayers' money. All Canadians are aware that these
kinds of expenditures are only possible because of the ability of the
government to borrow money. It is not because there is a pocketful
of money which could be doled out to try to get people on side. The
fact is that the government is short well over $100 billion in its
term of office and to finance this little escapade it will have to
borrow even more.
There are three provinces, Alberta, Ontario and British
Columbia that are not even willing to discuss the federal proposal.
Support for the harmonization proposal is weak in Saskatchewan,
Manitoba and P.E.I. It just goes to show that this is going to be
It will be restricted to one area of the country where in some
respects the governments were unable to turn down the federal
government because they just did not have the fiscal strength to do
so. On the other hand, it is a part of the country which will suffer
the most because it entered into this agreement. In essence, if we
are going to help the governments in the maritime provinces, in
Newfoundland, we should be looking at trying to determine ways
to reduce the tax rate to make that area of the country more
attractive to industry rather than simply showing them how to hide
taxes which they certainly do not need.
Another issue is the impact this bill will have on business. As has
been stated in the House today, and which I think is worth
repeating, three major retailers in Atlantic Canada have stated that
their net annual retail deficit will total $27 million once
harmonization is implemented. Now $27 million may not be much
money to the heritage minister because she certainly knows how to
throw around the tens of millions of dollars to back up policies
which have little real effect, but for business it is a big wad of
One private retailer in the Atlantic region was contemplating
opening two stores in 1997 and now has decided against it. That is
the danger of this high taxation. That is the danger which is posed
to the economy in the rest of the country if we allow the
government to lead us into a harmonization program that will only
result in higher taxes and which will hide a tax that Canadians are
A study by the accounting firm of Ernst and Young estimated
that a midsized national chain with 50 stores in the Atlantic
provinces would pay up to $3 million in one-time costs and up to
$1.1 million a year to comply with a regional tax in price sales
system. That is a lot of money: $1.1 million for 50 stores. It is a
huge overload on any one store in that chain. It is only reasonable
to assume, given taxation levels of that magnitude, that the chain
will be closing stores.
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce predicts that the harmonized
sales tax will push up new house prices by 5.5 per cent and will
force municipalities to raise property taxes. An increase of 5.5 per
cent in housing costs is an unquestionably bad move. Canadians are
hard pressed to pay housing costs. Any increase will be felt by the
people who can least afford it: the low income earners and first
time home buyers.
In essence this tax is making it even more difficult for our
children to start the process of putting their own roofs over their
heads. We are making it difficult for them to get out of the rental
market. There will also be a great impact on the rental market. It is
anticipated that rental costs will increase due to the imposition of
Consumers will pay through the nose. They will pay more for
funeral services, children's clothing, books, auto repairs,
electricity, gasoline, home heating fuel and haircuts among other
As I mentioned, the Investment Property Owners Association
tabled a report in the Nova Scotia legislature. It says that renters
can expect to shoulder some of the higher operating costs that will
hit landlords with the harmonized GST. Because renters have less
income than homeowners, the tax increases due to the blended GST
will hurt those who can least afford it.
The federal government's proposal will hurt low income
Canadians the most. Therefore I move:
That all the words after the word ``That'' be deleted and the following substituted
this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-70, an act to amend the Excise
Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the
Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act and related acts, since the principle of
the bill does not seek to abolish the goods and services tax.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): The Chair has received
the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Delta. Before
putting it to the House, it would be appropriate to consult. I will
consider the matter and get back to the House in a few minutes.
Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt, Ref.):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of
Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt to oppose the government's
use of closure in its attempt to ram through the House the hated
GST harmonization scheme. This debate-
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not
questioning your ruling but I would like some clarification on it.
The motion was very straightforward. In our opinion it was in
order. Could the Speaker enlighten me as to why he wanted to
consult on this motion so I will have that for future reference?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): I can give the hon.
member the benefit of the doubt. I assume he thought the motion
was in order since he seconded it. I am sure that is his view. The
Chair simply wants an opportunity to review the motion in relation
to the authorities on the subject to ensure that it is in order. If that
assurance is one that I can give the House I will then put the motion
to the House. I hope to have it very shortly and I will be back to the
House as soon as I possibly can in respect of the motion. Resuming
Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, your chance to review the Reform Party
amendment is most appropriate and in order, as is the concept of
having an open and true debate in the House of Commons on the
GST. Canadians are sick and tired of the attempt by the Liberal
government to shut down open and honest debate. It is very
The debate gives me an opportunity to remind the constituents of
the Liberals sitting in the House of what was said on the campaign
trail about the GST.
We are going to play a little game called recall for a few
moments. First let us recall the words of the Prime Minister when
he was a candidate for the Liberal Party. He said: ``We hate it and
we will kill it''. He did not say: ``We hate it and we will harmonize
When the Minister of Finance was campaigning as a Liberal
candidate he said: ``I would abolish the GST''. Pay careful
attention to the word ``abolish''. According to my reference
material it means get rid of, to lose sight of, to bury. That does not
sound anything like ``I would harmonize the GST''.
The Minister of National Defence said when he was a candidate:
``The GST is a regressive tax. It has to be scrapped and by golly, if
we are elected to government we will do just that. We will scrap
All across the country as the campaign went on Liberal candidate
after Liberal candidate knocked on doors, spoke at public meetings
and said in unison: ``We will kill the GST. The Liberal Party will
kill the GST if we become government after the next election''.
Everyone heard it. We heard it on talk radio shows, we heard it on
platforms at all-candidates meetings, we heard it at the doorstep,
we heard it from coast to coast.
It is sort of fun to go back in time and reminisce about what
happened in the 1993 election but there is a very serious part to all
of this. The bottom line is that the Liberal candidates prior to the
1993 election deliberately misled the Canadian people about what
they were going to do with the GST. They deliberately misled the
In venue after venue in the 1993 election, Liberal candidates
across the country told the Canadian voters that they would scrap,
that they would kill, that would abolish the GST. Those are the
facts we are presented with today. Taxpayers are going to
remember because we are going to keep reminding them that they
are going to pay for this Liberal promise. This is yet another
Liberal broken promise to the taxpayers of Canada.
The taxpayers are going to pay for this harmonization scam of
the Liberals. It will hurt every Canadian taxpayer because to get the
Atlantic premiers, the ones who agreed to the harmonization, the
Liberals will have to give the Atlantic provinces a cash payment to
induce them to come on board this scheme. This payment to the
Atlantic provinces, the ones that have joined on, that have been
duped into it by the Liberal Party, is going to amount to about $1
billion a year just to satisfy the whims of this government to make
it look not quite so bad.
They can once again try to fool the Canadian people, but they
will not get away with it. Canadians in certain regions of the
country and reasonable people do not think they should be asked to
subsidize a tax cut for the maritime provinces that came in on this
plan because of the Liberal harmonization scam. The Liberals are
using $1 billion of taxpayers' money to sell the GST to Atlantic
Canada so that they can keep an election promise. That simply is
not going to sell to the rest of the country.
This Liberal bribe of the Liberal Atlantic premiers is truly
despicable. Canadians will not be hoodwinked by Liberal trickery
and sleight of hand. Atlantic Canadians will also suffer because
while they may pay a lower tax rate in this harmonized taxation
scam, they will pay taxes on a greater range of goods and services.
I was told as a youngster that there is no such thing as a free
lunch. No one gets something for nothing, particularly when a
Liberal government is running the country. If people think they are
actually getting something from the government, they should keep
their hands on their wallets in their back pockets. The government
will not give what it has first not taken away.
It has become abundantly clear that the government was very
opportunistic in discussing the GST and suggesting to Canadians
that when it came into power somehow the GST would magically
and mysteriously disappear. Just to remind hon. members across
the way exactly what their record is on this, let me refer to some
quotes that came from government members over the last several
years with respect to the GST. I want to remind them how far they
have gone astray from their original promise.
Let us go back to the government members when they were in
opposition in the wake of the GST coming into this place under the
Conservative government. I begin by quoting some members who
now hold prominent positions in the cabinet of the Liberal
First let me quote the current House leader back in the days
following the GST coming into place under the Conservative
government. He said: ``Not only do the Liberals oppose the GST
now, that opposition will continue even when the bill is passed. We
are not interested in tinkering with the GST. We do not want it at
Meanwhile, the current finance minister said: ``I would abolish
the GST''. The Prime Minister said: ``I want the tax dead''. One of
the quotes that came from the Toronto Star back then was: ``The
Liberals will scrap the goods and services tax if they win the next
general election. The leader of the party said that he was opposed to
the GST. `I have always been opposed to it and I will be opposed to
We saw the climax of the quotes that came from all the various
members in October 1993 of the eve of the election when the
current Deputy Prime Minister on national television-that image
will be frozen in my mind forever, and I am sure in the memories of
many in this House as well-when she said: ``If the GST is not
abolished under the Liberal government I will resign''.
The hypocrisy of the Liberal government is astounding.
Members say one thing and they do another thing. If it is not the
GST, it is the CF-18 contracts. I could go on for hours and hours
about the flip-flops of this Liberal government in the past three
years. There are so many flip-flops it is hard to keep track of them
What about the flip-flop on limiting debate and using closure? In
opposition, the Liberals railed against closure. Democracy, it
appears now, is irrelevant to our Liberal colleagues across the way.
All they care about is lining their pockets and rewarding their
friends like Bombardier. When it comes to politics they ram things
through the House, forget about the people of Canada, forget about
democratic principles and forget about returning integrity to this
place. It is a shame that they do this.
They all care about pretending to keep promises. They do not
care that their public relations campaign comes at the expense of
taxpayers outside Atlantic Canada and at the expense of democracy
and free speech in this place where free speech is held so dearly.
Canadians should know that this bill should be opposed.
Limiting debate should be opposed. This Liberal government
should be opposed and will be opposed by the people in the next
general federal election.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): I should inform the House
that the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Delta is, in
the view of the Chair, in order.
The House will now resume debate on the amendment.
Mr. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With all
due respect, we would assert that it is not a reasoned amendment
opposing the principle of the bill, but rather that it raises
extraneous issues that go to the motive behind the bill and that it is
not a properly receivable amendment.
Mr. Harper (Calgary West): Mr. Speaker, just to assist the
Chair, that sounded to me like a challenge of the Chair's ruling. The
Chair has ruled that the amendment is in order. It would seem to me
that the appropriate time for the member for St. Paul's to have
raised that objection would have been at the time the amendment
was moved by the hon. member for Delta. However, that was not
done and you have ruled. We would appreciate resuming debate on
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): The hon. member for
Calgary West is correct. If the parliamentary secretary had an
objection to the amendment he should have raised it at the time the
amendment was moved. No objection was raised at that time. The
Chair has made a ruling. The amendment, in the view of the Chair,
is in order. Therefore, we will be resuming debate on the
amendment at this point in time.
Mr. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, if I might apologize to you, there
was never any intent whatsoever to question your ruling. I was on
my feet as you stood to make your ruling. I was not recognized. I
stayed on my feet and I stated my position for the record.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): I want to assure the
parliamentary secretary that the Chair did not think there was any
challenge to the ruling. I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for
Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, I wish to state that the official opposition will support the
amendment presented by the Reform Party. It does not happen
often, but since this amendment is in line with our thinking, we
shall be very pleased to support it.
The amendment asks the House to decline to give second reading
to the bill, since the principle of the bill does not seek to abolish the
GST, and the Reform Party members are right. We have been
discussing this bill for a number of days, and we pointed out that
when the Liberals were in the opposition and also when they were
on the campaign trail, their platform included a promise to abolish
what they referred to as the bloody GST.
Three years after the Liberals came to power, we hear that the
Minister of Finance has just signed an agreement with the maritime
provinces to harmonize the GST and provincial sales taxes and
that, in a generous gesture, the Minister of Finance will take nearly
$1 billion out of the pockets of Canadian taxpayers outside the
maritimes to compensate the maritime provinces for caving in and
accepting this political agreement with the Minister of Finance,
just to give Canadians the impression the federal government was
doing something about the GST and that there have been
They would have us forget that the Liberals led a heroic struggle
against the previous government to abolish the goods and services
tax. We on this side of the House are getting used to a situation
where the government rises every day to renege on its promises.
Other promises were broken by the government as well.
For instance, the government spent part of its election campaign
shouting: ``Jobs, jobs, jobs. We are going to create jobs''. That
promise was broken. It will take another 900,000 jobs to get back to
the labour market conditions that existed before the last recession.
When they said jobs, jobs, jobs, it was just window dressing. They
never made any formal commitment to the public to create the jobs
that are so badly needed by Quebecers and Canadians.
The unemployment rate is at 10 per cent, and they shout: ``Jobs,
jobs, jobs''. Some campaign promise. A promise that was trashed.
A promise to restore a healthy labour market was not kept.
During the election campaign, they also said that poverty must
be eliminated, and so forth. Since they came to power, the situation
has gotten worse. The latest statistics on child poverty are
outrageous. Child poverty is worse in Canada than in any other
industrialized country. One more commitment that bit the dust.
The same goes for the GST. In this case, no problem, they are
going to harmonize it. They are going to hide it in the price, in the
maritimes. It will cost taxpayers outside the maritimes $1 billion.
The government acts as if it had always promised an agreement
with the maritimes, plus political compensation, compensation it
will take out of our pockets to put a good face on the way this
government is handling the GST.
The Deputy Prime Minister put on a show of her own not long
ago. She resigned on a matter of principle, because she had
promised the public that if her government did not abolish the GST,
she would resign. So she resigned. Her show cost taxpayers a half a
million dollars, so she could be reelected in the same riding.
When you have principles, when you have certain beliefs, and
you stake these during an election campaign and even before, when
you are in the opposition, and when you come to power, you do the
exact opposite, you resign outright. You do not run again in the
same riding, for the same party and come back to the same position
three months later. That is cynical and arrogant in the extreme.
However, the Deputy Prime Minister has broken more promises.
Radio Canada International is about to disappear. The decision has
been made. During the election campaign and quite recently, she
promised to maintain Radio Canada International. She even put her
seat on the line with her commitment to the survival of Radio
Canada International. Today, it is as though it never happened. The
government lacks credibility, and the Deputy Prime Minister lacks
twice as much credibility. It is time this government cynicism
That is why we support this motion for the bill not to proceed to
second reading, because it does not contain any clause on
abolishing the GST. That is what the government had promised.
When we say promises, we do not mean idle promises, but
promises that have been written down, recorded on video, like the
events involving National Defence.
During the 1993 election campaign, the present Prime Minister
was saying: ``We will scrap the GST''. The Prime Minister also
said on May 2: ``We hate this tax and we are going to get rid of it''.
What good is the Prime Minister's word? The Deputy Prime
Minister's? What is this government's word worth?
Perhaps it is high time for the public to wake up, for them to
realize that this government is thumbing its nose at them, that this
government has no respect for the people, that this government is
elected only to serve rich Canadian taxpayers, the very rich who
transfer family trusts worth $2 billion out of the country tax-free. It
is time for people to realize that, with this agreement on the GST,
they are thumbing their noses at all Canadians.
It is not, moreover, only in Quebec that people are voicing
opposition to this agreement. Everywhere else, in Ontario, the
Prairie provinces, British Columbia, people feel that this
agreement is absurd. Moreover, the Minister of Finance has been
asked many times to produce the formula used to calculate his
billion dollar figure, with no response. The minister refuses to
make this formula public.
Questions arise about the government's honesty and its ability
to really carry out the commitments it made during the election
campaign. I am not talking about shows where they over inflate
promises kept, as the Prime Minister did at the last Liberal Party
congress, but actual accomplishments. The GST was one of this
government's main promises, and look what they did with it.
Jobs were one of the government's main promises, and the
government has fallen some one million jobs short.
The government can boast about the interest rates being very
low. Do you know why the interest rates dropped, basically? The
first reason is the American economy; the second, the Canadian
economy and the third, the fact that people are not working. When
they no longer have a job, they no longer spend and there is no
more inflationary pressure. At this point, there is no need for the
Bank of Canada to strike at non existent inflation by increasing the
interest rate. These are the basic reasons for the lower interest rates,
and not good management by this government. This government
This government has managed nothing since taking office. It
allowed itself to be swept along by the wave. Things went well,
they drifted along and forgot the commitments they had made with
respect to jobs and the fight against poverty. The Prime Minister
and Minister of Finance's gang preferred to make a show of it and
look after the interests of rich taxpayers. This is the reality of this
Mr. Barry Campbell (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I wonder to myself what Canadians
might think watching this debate on television. It is quite a
spectacle sometimes, especially when members of the opposition
stray from discussing and debating the issues before us and launch
into a litany of complaints, frustrations and concerns which have
nothing to do with those matters.
I will speak to the issue before us and point out what viewers,
Canadians observing this spectacle from the opposition, will easily
conclude. It is incredible. From members of the Reform Party we
have incredible paternalism. Who would expect otherwise? Let me
put in a nutshell what they have been saying for hours and hours:
``We know better than Atlantic Canada. Don't do this to yourselves
because we know better''.
One colleague suggested today that perhaps the best response
would be for the Reform Party to run candidates in Atlantic Canada
and teach the people there what they do not seem to understand
themselves. The people of Atlantic Canada have elected
governments that know what they are doing and have decided it is
in the interest-
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, I must have struck a chord. The
people of Atlantic Canada clearly know what is in their interest and
are prepared to rise or fall as governments on that. Unfortunately
the Reform Party does not represent that area of the country but
thinks it knows best, knows better and knows what would help
them. Reformers are prepared to stand here for two days to tell
Atlantic Canada just what is good for it. That is some indication of
the incredible arrogance and paternalism of the Reform Party with
respect to other regions of the country.
With regard to the Bloc let us point out something else that is
quite incredible about the spectacle of its interventions in the
debate. Let us understand this clearly. Bloc members want to deny
harmonization to Atlantic Canada, but they forgot to say in a single
speech over two days that the Quebec sales tax is harmonized with
the GST. They tell Atlantic Canada not to do it, that it is
outrageous. By the way, they go on to say: ``You are buying them
off. You are doing this adjustment assistance''.
I did not hear in one speech any rejection of the adjustment
assistance for farmers when agricultural subsidies were removed. I
did not hear a word from Reformers on the Crow rate subsidy of $1
billion plus. No one stood and said at that time: ``Don't give this to
us''. They said: ``Don't help us with an adjustment to this structural
change. No, don't do that''. They were silent, struck dumb.
When it comes to assistance to Atlantic Canada there is not a
word from the Reform Party about the Crow rate subsidy of $1
billion plus. However it is no to Atlantic Canada, no adjustment
assistance for them. From the Bloc there is no adjustment
assistance for structural change but on agricultural subsidies the
cheque can be written. It is really quite incredible and I do not think
anybody will be fooled.
The hon. member opposite stands and says: ``We are still waiting
for the formula''. Nonsense. The formula has been well known. It
is compensation for a loss of revenue greater than 5 per cent of the
sales tax base. He knows it. Hon. members know it. Anybody who
has been unfortunate enough to watch the debate for two days
knows it because we have said it several times. Quebec does not
qualify. Nor would other provinces qualify that have not yet joined
but will in due course.
The Atlantic provinces qualify. They are losing that revenue.
What did Quebec do when it harmonized? It wanted to keep it
secret but did not want the Atlantic provinces to have it. It ran two
systems side by side and had an increase in revenue. There was not
a decrease when Quebec harmonized. It did not qualify then and it
does not qualify now.
I go back to the history of the last couple of years. I participated
in the finance committee when it travelled across the country
asking Canadians about the GST. Members opposite can invent
what took place but I was there and so were some of their
Canadians told us there was an incredible anomaly with two
sales taxes in most provinces, some 10 sales taxes in total.
Whatever else we do, they told us to harmonize. The following
sounds like a quote from the Reform Party, but there is only one
taxpayer so there should be only one tax administration, one tax.
Canadians asked for simplification over and over again.
To listen to the parties opposite one would think they were not
sitting at the table with us. They asked for tax inclusive pricing.
They wanted the option of knowing what the tax was. That is why it
is provided on the receipt as it is in most of the world. Canadians
told us they wanted no more sticker shock, no more counter shock.
In closing, I will make another point about the incredible
spectacle we heard from the Bloc. I wonder if the reason its
members have not reminded Canadian people about harmonization
in Quebec is that it is a competitive advantage vis-à-vis Atlantic
Canada. They know that. They do not want Atlantic businesses and
consumers to have the advantage available to Quebec businesses
This change will result in input tax credits in Atlantic Canada,
tremendous savings passed on to consumers, cheaper prices and no
net increase in tax revenue. It is good for Atlantic Canada. That is
why their governments want to do it, no matter what the Reform or
the Bloc may have to say about it.
Mr. Stephen Harper (Calgary West, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am
happy to follow the previous rant from the member for St. Paul's. It
is the first we heard from the Liberals today on the issue and gives
me an opportunity to address some of his comments.
It was interesting when he said this move was in the interest of
Atlantic Canada. Yet few members on the government side from
Atlantic Canada are willing to speak to the issue. Very few
members are willing to speak to the issue of GST harmonization.
Almost none from Atlantic Canada. One spoke earlier today, the
hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls. We can check the blues,
but I do not think he mentioned GST anywhere in his speech. He
obviously was not too thrilled about the initiative.
The government makes the point that it must be governing for
the benefit of the people of Atlantic Canada because the Liberal
government in Atlantic Canada likes this initiative. The role of the
Parliament of Canada, I would remind the parliamentary secretary,
is to govern for the benefit of the people of Canada; not just the
people of Atlantic Canada but all Canadians.
Interestingly enough we did not hear mention of the people of
Atlantic Canada. Where are the petitions to Parliament demanding
this harmonized GST? Where are the letters of endorsement from
the business community and from consumers groups? We are not
getting them in our offices. We are getting precisely the opposite.
The federal government should have a broader view of what is in
the interest of the people of any region of the country than just what
the party of the government thinks in a particular region.
We get the same line every time the Reform, the Bloc or any
other party criticizes a Liberal government initiative directed at a
specific region. Its members always say they are the guardians of
the region. They ask where we were when they were giving
something to our region or to somebody else. The great tragedy of
the country is governments that do not govern for the entire
country. Historically governments, particularly Liberal
governments, have used policies to divide, conquer and pit one
against another so they can act as the defender of one region at any
point in history, depending on where they need to pick up some
It is a terrible way of approaching government, but that is the
history. I am addressing second reading of Bill C-70 on GST
harmonization which, as has been pointed out by many speakers, is
being implemented with time allocation.
It is important to point out that this bill was read for the first time
in this House only on December 2, just over a week ago. This is
only the third day we have had any debate at all on this piece of
The hon. member for Burlington, a Liberal member, had a
tremendous argument. This one we need to get bronzed over here.
It was that they would not need to move time allocation if the
opposition would just support their bills. That would make it much
There is a pattern here. We saw this pattern not just in this fall
sitting but in previous sittings in the last three years. That has been
that we have had a very slow legislative agenda for several months.
Just as the House is about to rise for a break, important
legislation appears which must be passed immediately. In this
sitting, the fall sitting, we passed only nine pieces of legislation,
including some supply bills and housekeeping measures that were
of fairly minor significance.
Last week three pieces of legislation were introduced which
most analysts of Parliament would argue are the three most
important bills introduced in the fall sitting, the harmonization of
the GST, amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board, and the
tobacco legislation. These are three of the most important bills.
Now they must all be passed according to some rushed
schedule. I should add, just a couple of weeks before that, changes
to the rules for the next election campaign. That is probably the
fourth most important. It came in only three weeks before the end
of the session.
Why does the government do it this way? I have tried to figure
that out. Why are we rushing, for instance, an important debate on a
GST package in order to have a prebudget debate, which the
government will have no intention of listening to whatsoever? It is
not on a substantive piece of legislation. Why are we doing this?
Some of it may be disorganization. Some of it may be unclear
priorities. I fear the longer I am here the reason it does some of this
is it really ultimately wants to rush committee stage of these bills.
Committee stage is where the public and affected interests get to
express their views on the bill to indicate where amendments
should be made and where parliamentarians and other expert
witnesses are able to go over the clause by clause of a bill to
suggest technical amendments.
That is the stage the government wants to rush. It has been
increasingly rushing it, even on important legislation. The
consequences of that have been very obvious in this Parliament to
observers. Often we are passing legislation that is not well thought
out, that is poorly drafted technically and that ends up being
amended or delayed in the Senate.
I suspect we will see that happen again, if not on this bill at least
on one of these three bills we are now rushing.
We have today the Liberal Party bringing in a bill to support and
enhance the position of the GST across the country. I will not dwell
too much on that. It is tremendously humourous to see the Liberal
Party now being the one enacting the new version of the GST.
Perhaps even funnier than that was the appearance of the leader
of the Progressive Conservative Party to vote against the GST. Of
course, just his mere appearance in the House of Commons is
funny enough, seeing how infrequently it seems to occur.
Let us go back to the original GST. The original GST was
discussed in a white paper presented by the previous government in
1987 and implemented in the 1990-91 period. It is important for me
to acknowledge, as I want to address a serious issue here, that many
conservative people in the country, many business people, very
conservatively oriented people, were very supportive of the thrust
of the GST, at least initially. Some still are.
Why was this? It is important to understand why some supported
it and why they do not today and why it is an error to support this
They supported it because of the deficiencies of the existing
manufacturer's sales tax. They supported it because it was a value
added tax implemented in a multi-level way that ideally would not
distort prices. On top of that it was a consumption based tax which
therefore would not have strong incentives against investment.
However, these were very short term reasons for anybody to
support this tax. They were very short term reasons because the real
issue this country has been facing for the last 10 years and will face
for the next few at least is the deficit and whether we will end the
enormous deficits of this federal government by increasing taxes or
whether we will end them by cutting spending; in other words,
whether we will ultimately balance the budget in this country by
having very big government or by having much smaller
government. Of course, big government got us into this economic
situation in the first place and we favour a solution that will bring
us back to smaller government.
If we take a big picture look at the GST, the big problem with it
is not the specifics of its construction. It is in the end a powerful
revenue generator, one that works best if hidden. It makes it easy to
raise rates, easy to broaden the base, and it brings the federal
government into an area that is traditionally provincial authority. It
leads to tax collusion rather than the phrase harmonization or rather
than competition between governments.
That is what we see happening with this GST harmonization
today. We see a deal that buys off the Liberal Party in the Atlantic
provinces, that uses the term harmonization for essentially
arranging a collusion scheme between governments to make it
easier for them in the future to raise taxes. They can do it with a
majority vote. But it makes it virtually impossible for them to ever
lower the rates of taxation. It takes another step toward hiding and
burying taxes in prices and it broadens the base of existing
provincial sales taxes on Atlantic consumers.
The real agenda of the Liberal Party is to make sure the fiscal
actions it takes, both on the spending and taxation sides, ultimately
secure big government and high taxes in this country. I believe that
in the end this is what has caused the slow economic growth in the
past generation. This will ensure the country continues to slip.
We need another way. This harmonization of the GST, this tax
collusion between provincial and federal Liberal governments, is
not the way to reverse the economic decline of this country.
Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am glad to add
to the debate today because of the implications for Canadians, the
people from coast to coast we represent.
I reject the statement of the member opposite who said that we
have not heard what the people of Atlantic Canada have said. We
have indeed. We have heard of those business that are shutting
down and laying off staff because they cannot compete under the
rules being imposed on them by this new legislation.
I have something to say about the GST in a broad sense. We
greatly underestimate the impact it has on our economy. There is a
simple rule that if you want people to do something you make it
easy for them. If you want people to stop doing something, then
you make it more difficult. The taxation of cigarettes is an
example. When taxes were reduced, consumption went up. When
taxes were increased, consumption and the purchase of cigarettes
went down. That is true in every sector.
I will use the example of my father. He is a senior citizen now,
well on in years. He is one of those pioneers who helped to build
this country out in the west. My dad purchased a new car every four
to six years. That became a regular pattern for him. But in 1990
when they brought in the GST and he was ready for a new car he
did not buy a new one. So his old car turned four years old and then
five and then six.
One day I asked him if was going to buy a new car because he
usually did. He said: ``No. Between the provincial sales tax and the
new federal sales tax, the GST, I am not going to buy a car because
that is one tax which I can avoid paying just by making the choice
not to purchase a new vehicle''. As a result, my dad to this day is
still driving his 1985 Oldsmobile. He says it will be his last car
because he will not pay tax on a new one. We could multiply that
situation over and over again. The people in the car business in
Ontario have lost many important sales. If we multiplied it by the
number of people who have responded in that manner, we would
probably be surprised by the huge economic impact the GST has
had right across the country.
As a member of Parliament I have the duty to represent my
constituents and also to represent what is good for the country. It
seems that in this Parliament the opposition parties are better able
to do that than the governing party. I bring to the attention of the
House evidence to support that statement.
I believe that the opposition has a very important role to play, so
I went back to when the Liberals were in opposition. I read
Hansard from that time. I went to the PubNet system and said let us
see what the Liberals said about the GST when they were in
opposition. I have quotes from several Liberal members who were
in opposition who I think correctly represented Canadian thinking.
First I would like to cite quotes from the hon. member for
Burin-St. George's. He is an eloquent speaker. He frequently
speaks on these subjects. This is what he said on March 12, 1993.
He was deriding the government's jamming through the GST at
that time. This was on the debate when it was simplifying it. The
Conservative government brought in 350 pages of simplification
for the GST procedures and that is what the House was debating on
this occasion. He said: ``The government used every rule in the
book and every perversion of most of the rules to get the GST-and
that is what I am talking about in case my friends on the other side
have forgotten so soon, the goods and services tax. It is called many
other names by those 85 per cent of Canadians who vehemently and
strongly oppose that tax measure''. I believe that member when on
this side of the House was correct. As far as we know, about 85 per
cent of Canadians were opposed to the tax.
It is a violation of our trust if we bring into this place legislation
and we jam it through, as this government is now doing, against the
will of the people. How can we expect to have respect as
parliamentarians if we go against the will of the people and impose
on them what we know best, as opposed to what they are
demanding from their government? How can we expect respect for
our laws if the people of the country lose their willingness to be so
Let me go back to the member for Burin-St. George's. He said:
``I am talking of the bankruptcy of ideas and about the pain that has
been inflicted on individuals, families and corporations out there,
on people trying to do business, trying to run their homes and
trying to maintain and manage their family budgets. I am talking
about that kind of bankruptcy, that kind of pain''. He was
accurately expressing the huge pain of excessive taxation on our
I quote again: ``Go out there and ask almost any Canadian how
fair the GST has been for him or for her. Ask a person who is in
university and who must buy some books how fair the goods and
services tax is. Then remember that the goods and services tax was
going to lower prices''. Here we are in 1996 hearing exactly the
same thing. Those same members, now on that side of the House,
with the ability because of their numbers to do something about it,
are refusing. When they were on this side of the House they
represented the people. They said we should not tax books. What
are they doing now? They are increasing the tax on books,
effectively, for university students.
I quote again: ``We have to understand the double talk of this
government on many matters. When it says it is going to do
something, then that is code for saying that it is really going to do
the opposite. But for the record it has said it will do something
else''. That is a quotation from a Liberal member talking about the
Conservatives and we know where they went.
Unfortunately my time is up. In conclusion, let me say this one
sentence. I am here to do everything that I can to fulfil the Reform
plan to reduce the GST in stages to zero until it is gone as we bring
government spending under control and stop that excessive
taxation demand on the taxpayers.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): Order. Pursuant to order
made earlier this day it being 5.15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt
the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to
dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the
The question is on the amendment.
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): All those in favour will
please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): All those opposed will
please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): In my opinion the nays
And more than five members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): Call in the members.
(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the
(Division No. 200)
Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing)
Grey (Beaver River)
Harper (Calgary West/Ouest)
Harper (Simcoe Centre)
Hill (Prince George-Peace River)
Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca)
McClelland (Edmonton Southwest/Sud-Ouest)
Mills (Red Deer)
LeBlanc (Cape/Cap-Breton Highlands-Canso)
MacLellan (Cape/Cap-Breton-The Sydneys)
McLellan (Edmonton Northwest/Nord-Ouest)
Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre/Sud-Centre)
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): I declare the amendment
The next question is on the main motion.
Mr. Kilger: Mr. Speaker, you will find there is unanimous
agreement for members who voted on the previous motion to be
recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with
Liberal members voting yes.
Mrs. Dalphond-Guiral: Mr. Speaker, the members of the
official opposition will vote no.
Mr. Strahl: Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members present will
vote no, unless instructed by their constituents otherwise.
Mr. Solomon: Mr. Speaker, New Democrat members in the
House this evening will vote no on this motion.
Mr. Bernier (Beauce): Mr. Speaker, yes.
Mr. Bhaduria: Mr. Speaker, I vote no on this motion.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on
(Division No. 201)
LeBlanc (Cape/Cap-Breton Highlands-Canso)
MacLellan (Cape/Cap-Breton-The Sydneys)
McLellan (Edmonton Northwest/Nord-Ouest)
Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing)
Grey (Beaver River)
Harper (Calgary West/Ouest)
Harper (Simcoe Centre)
Hill (Prince George-Peace River)
Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca)
McClelland (Edmonton Southwest/Sud-Ouest)
Mills (Red Deer)
Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre/Sud-Centre)
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): I declare the motion
(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee).
* * *
Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Secretary of State (Training
and Youth), Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
As a member of Parliament who has fought long and hard for the
rights of Louis Riel and the Metis people, I feel that I and other
members who have also struggled long and hard over many
decades to right this wrong, have been put in a very untenable
position. I feel my rights as a member of Parliament have been
marginalized because this bill is rooted in everything that Louis
Riel did not stand for.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): Order. It is clear that this
is not time for debate on the bill. The time has elapsed. This is a
Mr. Duceppe: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. A point of order
was raised so that some members would have a chance to leave and
others to save face, because what was raised had already been
pointed out by the person who was trying to get out of voting for
the bill. She is as much out of order as I am.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): The question before the
House is on a deferred recorded division. Neither point is relevant
to the division before the House, but rather is tending to debate
which was completed in accordance with the rules.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
The House resumed from December 5 consideration of the
motion that Bill C-297, an act to revoke the conviction of Louis
David Riel, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): As is the practice, the
division will be taken row by row, starting with the mover and then
proceeding with those in favour of the motion sitting on the same
side of the House as the mover.
Then those in favour of the motion sitting on the other side of the
House will be called. Those opposed to the motion will be recorded
in the same order.
(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the
(Division No. 202)
Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing)
McClelland (Edmonton Southwest/Sud-Ouest)
Grey (Beaver River)
Harper (Calgary West/Ouest)
Harper (Simcoe Centre)
Hill (Prince George-Peace River)
LeBlanc (Cape/Cap-Breton Highlands-Canso)
MacLellan (Cape/Cap-Breton-The Sydneys)
Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca)
Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre/Sud-Centre)
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): The House will now
proceed to the consideration of the next item under Private
Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.
* * *
The House resumed from October 23 consideration of the
motion; and of the amendment.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple
Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat ironic that
after we have spent most of this day responding once more to time
allocation we now have an opportunity with motion M-31 to
discuss at least partial restoration of the prerogatives, dignity and
relevance of Parliament.
I would like to open my address by quoting some remarks made
by the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign
Affairs in the House on October 23. I quote from Hansard: ``When
a peacekeeping mission is being launched, reviewed or renewed,
debate is encouraged and the House is asked to support the
initiative''. There is no requirement in that statement that the
House give its consent but only that it be encouraged to support the
In the same address the parliamentary secretary went on to say:
``The government agrees that a debate on our commitment should
be held either in this House or before the Parliament of Canada, but
it is quite another story to ask that there be a vote before Canada
can make any commitment''. Is that not nice? ``It is quite another
story to ask that there be a vote before Canada can make a
It has not always been that way. There was a time when
Parliament had some relevance, when Parliament had real power.
As usual I notice that most of the Liberal members are
conspicuous in their absence from the House. Those sweethearts
may have nothing but contempt for this institution but, by God,
they should have a little respect for their fellow members. They
should show that respect by at least hearing our views and going
through the motions of having a real debate.
There was a time when cabinets, no matter how powerful,
respected this place. I quote Hansard for June 30, 1950, when the
Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent said the following:
If the situation in Korea or elsewhere, after prorogation, should deteriorate and
action by Canada beyond that which I have indicated should be considered,
parliament will immediately be summoned to give the new situation consideration.
``Parliament will be immediately summoned''. How Liberal
attitudes have changed in this post-Pearsonian era. Parliament is
now regarded as little more than a nuisance, but never a serious
threat to governmental activity.
In September 1950 Parliament was indeed recalled to debate
sending ground troops to Korea. The debate began on September 4.
The mobilization order was issued on September 9. Some might
call this undue delay, but remember that the UN resolution calling
for joint action had been passed on June 27. The government had
waited for two months before it decided to bring the matter to a
head, discuss it in the House and set the subsequent events in
When the Suez crisis developed in November 1956 the House
was already in session, but Canadian participation was nevertheless
determined by order in council. That was only six years after the
In theory, and it is a great theory, Parliament had 10 days in
which to determine whether to fund the action. However, in
practice, as we all know, it was an exercise in rubber stamping.
Here in Canada, with no separation of executive and legislative
powers, Parliament cannot, without a vote of non-confidence,
restrain the government by denying funding for its adventures.
In contrast, the U.S. Congress 25 years ago was able to stop
military operations in Laos and Cambodia by tying the purse
strings of the government.
In this century, for those of you who have not followed the
political life of our giant neighbour to the south, the U.S. president,
prior to the Laos and Cambodia situation, had gradually usurped
the power of Congress to declare war. However, Congress is
nevertheless the ultimate authority because of its power to
Of course, the flip side to that is, contrary to our domestic
situation, the power of the president as commander in chief confers
what has been described by some as a vast reservoir of powers in
time of emergency, with the authority to do just about anything
anywhere that can be done with an army or navy. It is the type of
power which has been usurped by cabinet in this country.
It has become possible to deploy troops in situations where,
although combat is not technically involved, there is danger of
provoking conflict or where the deployment of troops could be
regarded by others as a hostile act. Under the Canadian system
governments are not supposed to possess such draconian powers,
but cabinet abuses in the post-Pearson era have conferred them as a
matter of custom, a custom which must be reversed if we want to
reaffirm democracy in this country.
In M-31 it is stated that not only should Parliament be vested
with the power to send our troops abroad, but that it should be
subject to a free vote of the members. It should not be a partisan
issue. Members of Parliament, before they put their constituents or
the sons and daughters of their constituents into life-threatening
situations, should be able to look into their own souls and they
should be able to consult with their constituents to make a decision
which bears the imprint, if you will, of the will of the country. We
should not be rushing about, sending troops hither and yon without
the absolute support of the people of Canada.
It is possible, although I would say by no means certain, that if
we had had a reasoned debate and a free vote in the House on the
Rwanda adventure that particular fiasco might have been avoided.
I see the Speaker is giving me the finger. I will terminate my
remarks at this point.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): I was only indicating to
the hon. member that he had one minute left. If he wishes to
continue for another minute the time is his. I was not in any sense
being disrespectful to the hon. member whose views are very
important to the House.
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister
of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to join in the debate on this
motion put forward by the member opposite.
On the surface the bill differs a little from what the government
has already put into practice. In fact the government has made a
point of encouraging public debate and more open consultation in
all major foreign and defence policies.
Mr. Mills (Red Deer): When did we vote on any of them?
Mr. Richardson: Peacekeeping debates held in the House have
been numerous, a practice to which the government remains
committed. It is my belief, however, that while this motion is
similar in spirit and steps have already taken by the government to
increase consultations, it has the potential to deprive Canada of its
ability to respond effectively to crisis situations. This motion
would transform a well functioning system into a more
The value of Canada's involvement in promoting international
peace and security cannot be overstated. As the government has
emphasized in the House on numerous occasions, Canada has a
long and proud tradition of helping global communities defend
peace, freedom and democracy. It remains committed to creating,
in association with its friends and allies, a stable international
environment. We realize that our security and prosperity depend on
a safer, more secure global order.
As a responsible member of the international community and as
a major trading nation, Canada understands the need to contain and
prevent conflict. We also want to help reduce the human suffering
in situations where outside assistance can make a difference.
Canada has consistently seen peacekeeping as an extremely
useful tool in international efforts to manage and resolve conflict.
We have excelled at peacekeeping. Our experience and skills are
unmatched. We have a long tradition of peacekeeping and expertise
based on professionalism, training and courage of our personnel.
We have a wealth of experience in preparing, deploying,
sustaining and repatriating peacekeeping forces of various
strengths and, more recently, have been in a vanguard of new
concepts. Our corporate memory and reputation in peacekeeping
thus makes us a natural choice for a wide variety of missions.
For Canada to remain on the leading edge of peacekeeping
operations, it must recognize and be prepared to adjust to new
global realities. Events in today's world unfold with startling
speed. We have seen numerous examples in recent years of
tensions, left simmering for years, suddenly boiling over with
It is for this reason that the government rejects the motion before
us. At a time when an efficient response would be critical, this
motion would complicate unnecessarily the government's capacity
to react to the UN's request for assistance in peace operations and
to respond to changes in the peacekeeping mandate. That certainly
is the consensus of many former Canadian UN commanders. They
have identified the length of time it takes for the international
community to respond to a crisis as a major problem.
Major-General Romeo Dallaire has been an eloquent and
passionate advocate of the need for efficient response to
emergencies. And who should know better than a man who saw the
horrible carnage that took place in Rwanda and Burundi? He
witnessed it firsthand.
The motion before this House would add another step, one which
is redundant to the decision making process. Should we support a
motion which in practice could erode Canada's capacity to become
involved and provide help when and where it is needed? If a
situation is deemed an emergency, it should be treated like one.
Improving the ability of Canada and the UN to react promptly
and effectively to a wide range of humanitarian crises has been a
priority of this government. For example, the Canadian Disaster
Assistance Response Team, or DART, was established this year as
part of the response to the kind of conditions found two years ago
in the Rwanda crisis. In Rwanda a terrible price was paid because
of the slow and ineffective response. Many, many lives were lost.
For some time Canada has played a leading role in efforts to
design a specialized military unit to respond to humanitarian
emergencies. We have now put our plans into action. The DART
team will be able to respond to a crisis in Canada or almost
anywhere in the world within 48 hours of a government decision to
send assistance. It has the capacity to assist and complement the
work of humanitarian organizations in critical situations,
conducting emergency humanitarian assistance operations for up to
For example, DART might work with non-governmental
organizations such as CARE in responding to a major cholera
epidemic. They will be able to provide medical resources and treat
up to 500 patients a day. They will be able to help provide electrical
power and clean water for up to 10,000 people a day. They will be
able to build temporary shelters as needed. This capability will also
buy time for Canada to assess the situation and determine long term
Canadian peacekeepers are trained to respond effectively in
times of crisis. They have leadership to assess situations and
implement plans to assist others. These are the assets so valued in
times of crises, assets we cannot allow to be unnecessarily
compromised by the added step this motion would introduce in the
decision making process.
The proposal from the member opposite may well introduce
rigidity where flexibility currently exists, and impede decision
making rather than assist it. Rigidity, inaction and cumbersome
decision making are exactly the problems Canada is trying to
alleviate at the international level.
Members from both sides of this House have acknowledged that
the UN must improve its ability to respond rapidly and effectively.
The UN needs to do so to identify and prevent impeding crises
from escalating. In the aftermath of the cold war there is no reason
the UN cannot ultimately perform this role.
Unfortunately, the UN does not currently have the capability,
politically, militarily, administratively or logistically, to react
rapidly to conflicts or humanitarian crises where security is at risk.
The current ad hoc method of obtaining and assembling units from
member states while at the same time trying to set up operational
headquarters makes true rapid response impossible to achieve.
New approaches are being implemented. This was the impetus
behind the Canadian study of the UN's rapid reaction capability in
peace support operations. Canada has emphasized the need to
create within the UN a capability to respond with humanitarian,
diplomatic, military and logistical aid in a more efficient manner
and a much improved crisis management apparatus.
Sovereign states must adapt to this new world in order to permit
the UN to do the job they do not want to do individually, or cannot
do for various geopolitical reasons. Change is required if we were
to manage properly future humanitarian crises. In an emergency
situation where many lives are at risk, surely the members of the
House would not want to complicate Canada's response
mechanism by placing an unnecessary procedure in the way. At a
time when flexibility of response is critical to meeting demands of
rapid change, eastern Zaire being the current example, the motion
before us would complicate our process, which has been proven to
be effective, and would potentially place the lives of many in
The government has demonstrated its commitment to
consultation. We have listened to the views of parliamentarians and
the Canadian public in formulating peacekeeping policy. We will
continue to do so in the future. But not every decision can be
reached by committee. The government has established the
political guidelines and reciprocal trust must prevail in their
implementation. There is a time when action backed by discretion
and experience is crucial to success. To abandon flexibility is to be
We have listened to those who gave us the mandate to govern,
the citizens of this country. They have made it clear through their
support the existence of a consensus among Canadians on the
approach we have taken in peacekeeping. Now it is up to us to
make the difficult decisions that will enable us to accomplish the
mission, but to do so the government must have the ability and
flexibility to choose from among different options.
Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr.
Speaker, as I rise in the House today to speak to the motion of the
hon. member for Red Deer and the amendment of the hon. member
for Témiscamingue, I would like to start by saying that the first few
times I took part in debates of an international nature in this House,
I realized this could have a tremendous impact, both on the people
and the countries where interventions take place and in our own
ridings, where we have members of the military who are called
upon to take part in these operations.
After being involved in the debates we have had on Bosnia,
Haiti, Rwanda, and perhaps tomorrow in another debate which may
arise unexpectedly, I think the motion before the House is a very
interesting one and is also very balanced, which is very important
in the area of international relations, especially when we consider
the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Témiscamingue.
If the motion were adopted, as amended, it would say as follows:
``That all projects of military commitments abroad involving
Canadian troops must, as soon as possible, be the subject of a vote
in the House''. As soon as possible, and that is in response to the
arguments of the government, which contends this would paralyze
the government's activities. No, the Bloc Quebecois amendment is
intended to ensure that the government retains enough flexibility
but at the same time will respect the advice it is given in the House.
It would do so as soon as possible, always, of course, depending on
the emergencies that arise.
I will resume my reading of the motion: ``-must, as soon as
possible, be the subject of a vote in the House in order to
recommend their approval or rejection to the government''. The
government's responsibility remains intact. There are always
aspects of international relations, diplomatic and security aspects
that may be considered and of which each member of this House is
not necessarily fully aware.
However, I think it would be useful for the government, as part
of a review of Canada's international policy, to make a rule of what
has been its practice for a number of years, which is to consult the
House regularly when it has decisions to make regarding the
presence of Canadian troops abroad.
It is important because, as I said earlier, one of the first speeches
I made in this House was one I made in a debate on Bosnia. There
are young men and women of 20, 25 or 30 in my riding who took
part in these operations. I met some of these people last week and
they described their experience, the results and how things worked
With the advice of people who were in the field and also what I
would call the sense of balance, the sense of responsibility we find
in this House when we deal with international issues and when we
do not get the same kind of partisan debate we might have on
domestic issues, I think it is important for the government to be
able to consider these roles and the advice that may be
All this is especially important since in future, Canada will
undoubtedly be asked to take on an expanded role in these
operations. We can expect all kinds of unusual situations on this
planet. Every time, this will require a detailed and balanced
analysis. We will have to look at the pros and cons of our
involvement. The latest crisis in Rwanda and the Zaire question are
a case in point.
During a debate in this House on the question, we realized that
both the government and the opposition parties had a very balanced
approach. They all wanted to ensure that nothing ill-advised was
done on the international scene which would be harmful to the
populations concerned. This obliged the government to take all
recommendations into consideration.
I recall that, among the things that were said, it was stated that
care must be taken to avoid sticking obstinately to military
intervention if this proved to no longer be the right solution. This
was said in the House. Suggestions were made, enriching the
debate and enabling the government to take a stand.
The motion presented to us is important in that connection. It
restores to Parliament a responsibility which is rightly ours. I know
that we are in a British parliamentary system, in which the
government assumes total responsibility; it is different from the
American or the French system.
When international security is concerned-international military
interventions in which human lives are at stake-it is important to
give members of Parliament the chance of putting forward their
points of view and, whenever possible, a vote ought to be taken
when the situation is not urgent and does not require action to be
taken within hours.
We have seen the case of Rwanda. We had the time to discuss the
situation, to adjust our positions. By taking into consideration the
opinions expressed during the debate, the government avoided
taking actions that would have been badly perceived, as well as
ineffective on the international scene.
They could have come back and asked the opinion of the House,
in light of the new information available. The government would
have been well advised to base its positions on the results of House
votes. In the case of a major international situation for example, the
unanimous support of the House would strengthen the
government's intervention. The government would also be in a
better position internationally.
At home, it can always be argued that decisions are made
democratically. They are made in consideration of elected
officials' opinions. If we passed the motion before us, we would
show our belief in letting elected officials have a say not only in
principle but also in reality.
Our opinion must be taken into consideration, because
increasingly a precise way of consulting elected officials in such
situations must be defined. The trend will be increasingly to create
an international emergency force that would act in difficult
situations or situations involving military or humanitarian
interventions, matters of practical logistics and of principle.
The government benefits from considered opinions on all these
things and from the opinions of the members of the House of
Commons, which represents all parties in Canada. This is equally
valid in the case of interventions in francophone and anglophone
countries, whatever the make-up of the Canadian force and the type
of intervention involved.
Recently, on the question of Zaire and Rwanda, we wondered
about an American presence and the type of aid they could provide.
Would a vote in the House not have given the Government of
Canada a stronger position from which to defend its viewpoint?
Would that not have been worthwhile? We would all have benefited
from such a position.
I would like to come back to the impact that I think is the most
important, the human impact. In the course of our duties as MPs,
we are often called upon to vote or take a stand on economic, social
or cultural issues. When we talk about the presence of foreign
soldiers, we are talking about human issues, about families that
will be left worrying, separated from one of their own. Therefore,
we must be sure that, when these situations arise, we have truly
weighed all sides of the issue, because we cannot really afford to be
wrong. We must identify the position most likely to resolve the
situation and to allow Canada to fulfil its international role. The
support the House of Commons can provide in these cases is, in my
view, an important factor.
I am not in complete agreement with the arguments we heard
earlier from a government member, who said that this would take
away the government's room to manoeuvre, that we could not
always change course rapidly enough. I think that the opposition
parties, in these situations, have learned to weigh all the facts
carefully before adopting a position.
The amendment proposed by the member for Témiscamingue
meets all these criteria, and it would be a sign of maturity on the
part of this Parliament and of the government majority to approve
it, so that all proposed military commitments abroad involving
Canadian troops can be the subject of a vote in the House of
Commons with a view to their approval or rejection. Democracy
and Canadian diplomacy abroad would stand to gain.
Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George-Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 31 put
forward by my colleague from Red Deer. The motion asks that our
peacekeeping commitments, which involve 100 or more personnel,
be put to the House of Commons in a manner that would allow a
This motion has a lot of credibility because, if there is one single
issue that I have had a lot of calls from my constituency about, it
has been the sending of our troops to different parts of the world to
be involved in peacekeeping activities. The opportunity to have
free votes on this issue is certainly justified as a result of the input I
personally have had from the people of Prince George-Bulkley
Also, on page 92 of the Liberal red ink book, the Liberal Party
promised more free votes in the House. However, these Liberals
have not allowed very many free votes.
We do have debates on certain peacekeeping missions. When it
comes to peacekeeping and the lives of our Canadian soldiers, it is
absolutely essential that Parliament as a whole is able to have
meaningful debate and provide input in these matters. But the fact
is that cabinet and only cabinet has the ultimate authority to
designate soldiers to peacekeeping activities.
That is an awesome power for the cabinet to have. Regardless of
what our constituents may have to say about it, regardless of what
the Canadian people may feel about it, the small group in cabinet
can make the unilateral decision to send our soldiers abroad. And
that has been done. It has been done over and over again. There is
no requirement to hold a debate on these matters. It is only required
that Parliament be reconvened within a 10-day period following the
decision to commit troops in the first place. That is sort of the
I would think the proper way to handle these matters would be to
have a debate and after the debate cabinet would make a decision
based on that input. It can make a decision with the confidence that
the concerns and the voices of the Canadian people have been heard
in the House. But that is not the case.
It is interesting that in the fall of 1994 a special joint committee
released a defence policy paper. Lo and behold, the paper had the
support of all the parties in the House. Liberals know very well that
one of the recommendations stated ``nor should the government
commit our forces to service abroad without a full parliamentary
debate and accounting for that decision''.
As we have seen on the GST issue, the Liberal government can
take a promise to scrap the GST many different ways. I would
imagine the way it has taken this is that there will be a full
parliamentary debate in the accounting for that decision but it will
come after cabinet has already made the decision to commit troops.
I stated earlier that is the reverse of the way one would assume
things should operate in this House. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you
would agree with me on that point. We have had token debates on
peacekeeping and cabinet does what it wants anyway.
If we want to have a full accounting of our peacekeeping
decisions as recommended by this policy paper which all the
parties agreed on, then MPs must have the opportunity to debate
these matters in the House of Commons.
This motion in no way attempts to limit our international
obligations; it does not do that. It in no way attempts to somehow
remove Canada from its very distinguished role as a peacekeeper.
We have much to be proud of when it comes to peacekeeping.
We have done a good job. Since 1947 over 100,000 Canadians have
served abroad in over 30 peacekeeping and related operations. We
are the only country that can legitimately claim to have participated
in almost every peacekeeping mission organized under the UN.
When countries are in need of someone to enforce ceasefire
agreements or provide humanitarian aid, they come knocking at
our door. We should be proud of that record. The international
community is very aware of Canada's professionalism and its
commitment to neutrality and evenhandedness.
In helping other countries we are also helping ourselves. A safer
and more secure international environment is key to our very own
security and prosperity.
While our record on peacekeeping speaks for itself and while we
are anxious to assist other countries in dire need of our soldiers'
services, these Liberals have not given the military the support it
needs and deserves and the lives of Canadian soldiers overseas
have been put in danger because of that.
The Liberals have committed our troops to war zones with
antiquated equipment. Stories came out of Bosnia of Canadian
peacekeepers trading helmets and flak jackets with their
replacements at the airport because there was not enough gear to go
around. That is an incredible thing to comprehend.
Furthermore, the armoured personnel carriers they were using
provided our troops with inadequate protection against bullets and
land mines. That is frightening. These are Canadian soldiers. It was
only last summer that the Liberals announced that the armoured
personnel carriers would be upgraded. That is some consolation but
we did have those dangerous situations prior to that.
Outdated equipment at the department of defence should come
as no surprise since it has faced continual cutbacks under the
Liberal government. As a matter of fact the 1996 Liberal budget
predicts that expenditures at national defence will be cut by 20 per
cent in 1998-99.
That leads us to this scenario. While the government is
committing our troops to more and more missions, they are being
sent off with poorer and poorer equipment. That is not a mission a
Canadian soldier really wants to go on. This is why I say that the
policies of the Liberal government are putting the lives of our
peacekeepers at risk, sending them into areas of peacekeeping and
providing humanitarian aid without being properly equipped or
We can see that in the most recent issue as we have been talking
about sending our peacekeepers to Zaire. There was no real plan.
As far as I know, there is still no plan but the government has been
intent to send our troops over there.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs himself has stated that we need
to have the views of members of Parliament. The views of
members of Parliament are what this motion asks for, nothing more
than that. It is not designed to impede our peacekeeping activities.
It simply asks that members of Parliament be given a chance to
have meaningful debate in the House to put the views of their
constituents forward in this House before a cabinet decision is
made to send our troops abroad.
I urge all members of the House to support this most worthwhile
motion put forward by the hon. member for Red Deer.
Mr. Jesse Flis (Parkdale-High Park, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I too
am pleased to participate in the debate on Motion No. 31 put
forward by the hon. member for Red Deer.
In late October in the first part of our debate on this motion we
heard criticism of our record of consultation on Canadian
participation in peacekeeping operations, especially in former
Yugoslavia and Haiti. I would like to remind hon. members
opposite that since January 1994 our participation in peacekeeping
operations has been debated in this House eight times. They should
have been here between 1988 and 1993 and compare that record to
On most of these occasions, particular attention was drawn to
our role in former Yugoslavia and Haiti. Furthermore, numerous
other consultations took place in discussions with the standing
committee on foreign affairs, of which the hon. member is a
member, which also has a voting mechanism.
I cannot overemphasize that at every opportunity this
government has endeavoured to facilitate the debate on Canada's
peacekeeping commitments. The apparent objective of Motion No.
31 to generate such debate has already been accomplished by this
This motion contains no innovative proposals to strengthen the
Canadian policy making process with respect to peacekeeping. The
only effect it would have would be to hamper Canada's ability to
act by making the existing process more cumbersome, which could
only compromise the respect and admiration the country has
merited through its peacekeeping actions for more than 40 years.
In light of Canadians' ability to express their concerns regarding
any peacekeeping operation, their willingness to do so and the
frequency with which the House is debating this matter, the motion
under consideration is really unnecessary. It can only sap Canada's
ability to act swiftly in accordance with its international
We are the first to implore the international community to react
swiftly in times of crisis, as stressed in the report on the United
Nations' rapid response capacity which I am pleased to note
resulted from a Canadian initiative.
The international community must react efficiently. Having
pressured the international community for action on this issue,
Canada has a responsibility to play a leading role and must not run
up against redundant mechanisms. Even when confronted with
humanitarian emergencies such as in eastern Zaire, we were
prepared to consult the House, as is only right. Nevertheless the
opposition leaders chose to trust us and not to recall members to the
Let us take a look at peacekeeping and peace building in the
aftermath of the cold war. In the post-cold war era the whole
context of peacekeeping has changed. Increasingly, instead of the
classic cross-border conflict between states, we are dealing with
internal conflicts which threaten to spill over into regional conflicts
and to fall into unending cycles of violence. We have seen this
pattern most clearly in the former Yugoslavia and in the great lakes
region of Africa.
These changes have sparked debate in Canada and
internationally about how best to respond to these needs, a debate
that informs the quest for reform within the United Nations. In this
context, and as I mentioned earlier, Canada tabled a study on ways
to enhance the UN's rapid deployment capabilities. Work is under
way within the United Nations to implement many of the
recommendations made in this study. That is one aspect of the
debate, making us better peacekeepers, able to react more
efficaciously, with a more flexible, integrated response. This is the
premise on which we have built our international reputation as
some of the best peacekeepers in the world.
The other aspect is recognizing the need for a broader approach,
not just keeping the peace now, but building peace to last. This
broader approach has been termed peace building. Peace building
is rooted in the recognition that human rights and basic freedoms,
the rule of law, good governance, sustainable development and
social equity are just as important to world peace as arms control
and disarmament. In other words, if we want to restore and
maintain peace in countries plagued by conflict, we must
guarantee human security as well as military security.
While peacekeeping seeks to guarantee security on a military
basis, the goal of peace building is to put in place a lasting
infrastructure for human security. Once a peacekeeping operation
is under way, peace building seizes on a brief opportunity, a crucial
moment to help a country turn to the road of lasting peace and
It works to bring about the minimum conditions that will enable
a country to take control of its destiny after which social, political
and economic development become possible. Peacekeeping and
peace building clearly have to play closely linked roles,
complementary roles, to put an end to the conflict.
In planning international missions to Haiti, Bosnia, and now
Zaire, we are becoming increasingly aware that multi-disciplinary
actions are needed that address more than one aspect of a problem.
Armed forces cannot only enforce a ceasefire but can also establish
a framework in which civilians, including NGOs, can act. Civilian
operations include both a humanitarian assistance component and
peace building activities.
It is absolutely essential to link and co-ordinate these two
aspects: assistance and peacekeeping in the short term and peace
building in the long run. This need has been recognized in the
United Nations Security Council resolution on the forming of a
multilateral force in response to the situation in Zaire. The
resolution explicitly called for a second follow-up phase in the
force's mandate. Planning for that phase began immediately which
has never happened before.
This is an example of new approaches to conflict resolution.
Other methods may be needed in other situations but what is
important is to react in a flexible and innovative way. In accepting
his Nobel prize, Lester B. Pearson stated: ``The best defence of
peace is not power but the removal of the cause of war, and
international agreements which will put peace on a stronger
foundation than the terror of destruction''.
Implicit in this statement are several basic Canadian values. In
line with the third pillar of our foreign policy we see peacekeeping
as a means to project these values. First and foremost is the
commitment to peace itself and to the non-violent resolution of
disputes, values which resonate throughout our society.
Crucial to achieving peace is the pursuit of a process of dialogue
and consultation, leading to mutual agreements. Our federal system
could not work without a firm commitment to the consultative
process. Broad international support fortifies such agreements by
providing recognition and legitimacy.
Strengthening the foundations of peace, as I have just described,
fosters the establishment of an international order based on rules to
which Canadians are strongly attached. In short, peacekeeping goes
hand in hand with our vision of Canada, our vision of a progressive
country that is open to the world and committed internationally. In
addition, it strengthens Canadians' fundamental belief in the
effectiveness of civil society, good governance and respect for
human rights and the rule of law.
I would like to say a few words about Canadian expertise in
peacekeeping. Nourished by these values and by four decades of
on-the-ground experience, Canada has developed extensive
expertise in peacekeeping. The notion of civil-military
co-operation to enhance the effectiveness of peacekeeping is the
cornerstone of the new peacekeeping partnership. This partnership
was put into action by the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International
Peacekeeping Trading Centre. It is also at the core of the DART, the
Disaster Assistance Relief Team, a concept developed by DND to
intervene efficiently in the case of a humanitarian disaster and to
co-ordinate in theatre efforts with humanitarian agencies.
A national consensus for our peacekeeping policy and operations
is also very important. Canadians have a remarkable degree of
support for peacekeeping which is a great satisfaction to all of us.
Polls indicate that 80 per cent of our fellow citizens take great pride
in our country's peacekeeping role. Many of our fellow citizens see
it as our most important contribution to the international
community. Our national consensus on this issue transcends
partisan differences and is supported by all segments of society.
The Canadian media as well echo and strengthen that consensus.
I see, Mr. Speaker, you are giving me a signal that my time is up.
I thank the hon. member for Red Deer for bringing forward this
motion so that we can talk about peacekeeping and peace building.
I hope in the future the hon. member would bring more
constructive and creative ideas to the whole idea of conflict
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am
extremely pleased to speak today on Motion M-13 put forward by
the hon. member for Red Deer.
As official opposition critic on foreign affairs and vice-chair of
the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International
Trade, I am in fact entitled to draw attention to the appropriateness
of this motion, which would make the process of sending our
troops overseas much more open and democratic.
Let me start off, however, by reminding you that the Bloc
Quebecois has proposed a very important amendment, because we
felt that Motion M-31, while very pertinent, was still flawed. Thus,
with the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, the motion
would read as follows, and I quote:
That, in the opinion of this House, all proposed peacekeeping or peace
enforcement commitments involving Canadian troops must, as soon as possible, be
the subject of a vote in the House in order to recommend their approval or rejection
to the government.
This amendment would be totally acceptable to the present
government, since it would have the advantage of adding to the
transparency of the decision making process associated with
sending our soldiers abroad, without tying the hands of the
government when prompt action is required.
You will see that the Bloc Quebecois is being very consistent
with its previous positions, because we had already, in the
dissenting opinion we tabled in November 1994 in conjunction
with the report by the Special Joint Committee reviewing Canada's
Foreign Policy, recommended that the House of Commons be more
involved in decisions involving foreign affairs.
I will quote, if I may, an excerpt from page 4 of the Bloc
Quebecois dissenting opinion: ``We consider that Canada should
submit any decision to participate in peacekeeping missions to a
vote in the House of Commons, as rapidly as possible, when time
Now that the irritants in the motion tabled in this House by the
Reform Party have been removed, we sincerely believe that it
would be illogical for this government to vote against it, especially
since the Minister of Foreign Affairs is constantly reiterating his
desire to consult MPs and the general public to a larger extent.
I do not have to remind my hon. colleagues in this House that the
principal role of a member of Parliament is to represent his or her
fellow citizens. The government ought, therefore, to do everything
it can to involve MPs in decisions as important as sending our
soldiers overseas. The lives of Quebecers and Canadians are at
stake, whom Canada takes the risk of sending into parts of the
world where instability or danger, or both, are constantly present.
Of course, our military personnel possess all of the qualities
required to carry out such missions successfully. Moreover, they
have our total support and affection, given the excellent reputation
they have built for themselves in their many peacekeeping
We believe, however, that not just the soldiers, but the people of
Quebec and Canada are entitled, at the very least, to be informed of
the dangerous situations our troops might have to contend with.
What is surprising today is that the Liberal government might well
vote against this Reform Party motion as amended by the Bloc
Quebecois, although the Liberals themselves promised in their
famous red book that they would increase the involvement of
Parliament and the public in debates on major foreign policy
I shall, if I may, quote a particularly significant excerpt from the
red book which would be a mere pamphlet if it only included the
promises that were kept. It says, and I quote:
A Liberal government will also expand the rights of Parliament to debate major
Canadian foreign policy initiatives, such as the deployment of peacekeeping forces,
and the rights of Canadians to regular and serious consultations on foreign policy
The conclusion is that it makes no sense at all to debate this
motion today, since it is clear that if the Liberal Party had kept this
promise, the case would already be closed. Of course some of our
Liberal colleagues are going to argue that the government would
not be as functional or that it has to be able to act quickly.
During the debate in April 1995 on Bill C-295, whose purpose
was to promote parliamentary control of peacekeeping operations,
the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence
and Veterans Affairs implied that he would not go along with the
idea of being subjected to a set of rules that would restrict the speed
with which the government could react.
Motion M-31 as amended would allow the government to act
quickly. Adding the phrase ``as soon as possible'' means that the
government could act immediately in a crisis and would not have to
wait for Parliament to reconvene before making a decision.
If, for instance, a crisis arose somewhere in the world, our troops
could be dispatched immediately to the theatres of operations and
subsequently, parliamentarians would be able to have a debate on
The Americans have already thought about this and came up
with a solution in 1973 in the form of the War Power Resolution.
The three main points may be summarized as follows: after sending
troops abroad, the president has 48 hours to inform Congress in
writing of what he intends to do; the use of force by troops must
cease within 60 days, unless Congress authorizes an extension.
However, the president may request a further 30 days to ensure a
safe withdrawal of the troops. Congress could demand the
withdrawal of the troops within 60 to 90 days by passing a
resolution to that effect, a resolution that would be passed
simultaneous by both chambers.
It is clear that we are nowhere near this kind of control. Motion
M-31 as amended by the Bloc Quebecois merely proposes to have
an open debate on sending our troops abroad.
This motion would give members a chance to make their
suggestions and opinions known in this House. The last time troops
were sent abroad, it was clear that the members of this House had
not been consulted but merely informed.
It is too bad government does not pay more attention to the
advice of parliamentarians, despite its claims of openness and
Take for instance the case of the Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs. The minister does not seem to realize that the members of
this committee examine a certain number of issues thoroughly. We
hear witnesses from all walks of life with often exceptional
knowledge of often very complex subjects.
The minister keeps saying that the work done by the Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is very
important. He says that he intends to keep committee members
informed of the government's decisions, and to take into
consideration the positions formulated by this committee.
Is there not something ironic about the fact that these eloquent,
gratuitous and inconsequential statements come from the same
government which waited until the members of the Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade were held
up abroad as members of a parliamentary delegation to sneak
through the House the bill to implement the Canada-Israel free
trade agreement, despite the reservations expressed by members of
this committee during clause by clause consideration of the bill and
after hearing witnesses?
When the government decided to lead what was supposed to be a
multinational force that would go and help refugees in the African
great lakes region, it did not even bother to consult or even inform
members of the committee or at least the chairman of its decision.
The government has already promised that members sitting in
this House will have a say in the deployment of peacekeepers. That
is exactly the purpose of motion M-31.
I see you are signalling that my time is up, but you allowed the
member of the Liberal Party a few seconds more, so I shall, if I
may, use the time I have left to say that this is exactly the purpose
of Motion M-31 as amended by the Bloc Quebecois. It does not
deny the government the authority to act quickly when the situation
so requires and it would have a major impact in that it would open a
window on that rather closed decision making centre which is the
Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken): The hour provided for the
consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and
the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Canadian Heritage, Lib.)
That this House take note of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the United
Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1998 and the importance of this
declaration in the promotion of human rights both domestically and throughout the
She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to lead off an extremely unusual
debate in the House of Commons. It is the kind of discussion that
we need to have more frequently not only in Parliament but among
ourselves as Canadians.
This debate is on human rights in the world and at home. Two
years from today, the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of
the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. For the first time in the history of man, a
declaration was adopted in which all peoples of the world agreed
that, and I quote:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal and chair
of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of
Persons with Disabilities for having requested this debate and the
former hon. member and Secretary of State for External Affairs,
Walter McLean, for his hard work.
For all of us who have known her in the House of Commons, it is
no surprise that it is the hon. member for Mount Royal who is the
prime advocate for this discussion, where we examine our
conscience as parliamentarians and our hearts as human beings. It
is no surprise because the phrases ``advocacy of human rights'' and
``Sheila Finestone'' go hand in hand.
I would also like to recognize the contribution of the United
Nations Association in Canada, which encourages Canadians to
focus on education, public awareness, the participation of young
people and community involvement in human rights on this
The United Nations was created so that the world had a place to
come together. Right now, in the search for a new secretary general,
countries are thinking more about their veto than reflecting on the
fact that the United Nations is the only world vehicle we have for
advancing true world harmony.
Yes it is possible for countries to stymie one another at the
United Nations but to do so for reasons of national vanity is very
wrong. At the UN we come together, we put aside our individual
interests so we may act in harmony and collective honour.
As President John Kennedy said in his state of the union address
to the United States Congress in 1962: ``Our instrument and our
hope is the United Nations, and I see little merit in the impatience
of those who would abandon this imperfect world instrument
because they dislike our imperfect world''. John F. Kennedy's
statements are as true today as they were when he spoke them in
Yes the United Nations needs to be reformed. But member
countries also need to reform their attitude toward the United
Nations and they should start doing something about paying their
The people of Canada consider Boutros Boutros-Ghali highly
talented, extraordinarily committed, most dignified and a great
friend of Canada. We hope whoever succeeds him will have the
wisdom to continue his sensible and considered actions.
Two years from today, celebrations will be held around the world
to mark the anniversary of this declaration. Three years from the
end of the month, we will be celebrating the advent of the new
It is my profound hope that as we prepare for these occasions,
Canadians take to heart the awesome meaning of these words:
``Now, therefore, the General Assembly proclaims this universal
declaration as a common standard of achievement for all peoples
and all nations to the end that every individual and every organ of
society-shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect
for these rights and freedoms''.
What the world agreed to 48 years ago was not just a statement
from governments. It was a statement for each and everyone of us
in our daily lives, in our communities and in our own homes.
The declaration committed us to freedom of thought, conscience
and religion. It committed all of us to equal pay for equal work, a
radical concept those many years ago. It committed us to respect
for privacy, to peaceful assembly, to opposition of inhuman
punishment, to protection against discrimination, to freedom of
movement, to just and favourable conditions of work, to food, to
clothing, to housing and medical care and to basic education for
everyone in the world.
Have we achieved these goals completely here in Canada? No
we have not. Have we achieved these goals completely in our
personal lives? I know the answer for me is no and I suspect the
same is true for most other Canadians.
We have all from time to time advanced our own interests at the
unfair expense of someone else. We have harboured views of
people based simply on their language, or their religion, or their
social or economic status, or their race, or their sexual orientation,
or where they lived in the country.
We tend to promote our own rights. Too often we make
disparaging remarks about others rather than try to find a way to
work together to do things well.
The upcoming celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the
declaration will give us an opportunity to underscore the fact that
Canada and its people have always been at the forefront of those
defending human rights. Canada and its people, especially, know,
however, that they can always do better.
The United Nations declaration was drafted by a Canadian
professor, John Humphrey, who died last year. Professor
Humphrey, who was from Quebec, carried the torch for Canada's
campaign in favour of human rights worldwide. His words, in their
wisdom, convinced the world. At the time we acknowledged that:
``Yes, we make mistakes, and yes, we can do better and we believe
we must do better''.
This desire to do better and more underlies Canada's
commitment to peacekeeping. It also underlies our commitment
with respect to multilateralism and our faith in the United Nations.
Despite the many infractions against human rights, it is
important to remember that the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights has helped to change things for the better.
Democracy has spread in Latin America, the Berlin wall has
come down, apartheid is no more, the threat of nuclear war has
faded. These were all just dreams not so very long ago.
Yet at the time this declaration was drafted, most scoffed at the
dream of an end to totalitarianism or the opening of the iron
curtain. These were the visions of a freer world that the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights dared us to dream.
And as hope has come to so many in the life of this declaration,
our world continues to rest on other dilemmas and reflect on other
problems: the problems in northern Island, the stalemate in the
Middle East, the millions of frightened refugees in Rwanda and
Zaire, the manifest in ethnic hatred in Bosnia, the terrorism in
Paris, Tokyo, New York and London. We need to be inspired by
human rights, to renew our hope and translate it into action. In
the life of this declaration time and again people have endured
great suffering and have achieved great progress.
As we approach the millennium it is sobering to realize that at
the beginning of the current millennium there was no Magna Carta,
there was no democracy. People were either masters or slaves.
Communities were built up or thrown away on the basis of race or
ethnic heritage. Human beings were treated as gods or garbage
depending upon where they were born, what they believed in or
what they held sacred.
It is even more sobering to realize that as we approach the dawn
of a new millennium, race, religious and ethnic divisions are still
tearing people apart across the globe. For all of our political
advances as human beings, for all of our economic and social
accomplishments, for all of the marvels of industrialization, people
are still bombing one another because of how somebody looks, how
they sound or what they think.
This is the dark side of human nature. This is why the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights is so important. It makes it possible
to bring out the positive side of human nature.
We are grateful for the chance to be able to debate widely
diverging points of view in the House, and we do so day in and out.
We also know that, as citizens, we have the power to bring about
change by marking an X on a piece of paper.
But the credit is not due solely to us in the House. Many
generations of Canadians have preceded us.
We are the envy of the whole world because, for decades,
Canadians have acted responsibly and fairly towards each other
and, in particular, towards the rest of the world.
The United Nations was born out of a war where a star or a
triangle sewn on a lapel meant death. The United Nations was born
out of a war in which millions of teenagers became dismembered to
save the world from a madman who would not respect basic human
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights consists only of a
short preamble and 30 articles. It is the length of a political
pamphlet but it is the critical affirmation of decency which flows
from the work of the world coming together to stop another world
That this document was written by a Canadian, and that
Canadians like Mr. Pearson took the initiative to have this
declaration adopted, are surely reasons to be proud. We should also
take much credit for the enforcement of the principles set out in
Certain steps in achieving respect for human rights will take
much longer than others, or will lead to controversy. Certain steps
will require that people set aside old grievances and old settlings of
And Canada's contribution to all these steps will force us to
remember the mutual respect we owe one another as citizens of this
It will also encourage us to continue in our role of leader in
financial, human and political issues abroad.
It is far too easy to point to instances in which all of us as a
country, and each of us as individuals, have failed to live up to that
dream of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is far too
easy to give up trying to solve very complex and difficult problems.
But no great human challenge, no great human dream was every
easy, and no human glory was ever achieved without determination
and hard work.
In two years it will be the 50th anniversary of the declaration
which speaks to justice, freedom and peace. Three years from now
we will be entering a new millennium. Where do we go from here?
How do we get there? No one knows for sure, but one thing is
certain. If we follow the principles laid out 48 years ago in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights we can be certain that
tomorrow will be a better time than what we inherited.
Mr. Maurice Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead,
BQ): Madam Speaker, first of all, with your leave, I would like to
ask for the House's consent to split my time with my colleague, the
member for Mercier, giving us both 10 minutes.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): Does the hon.
member have the unanimous consent of the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead): Madam
Speaker, as the official opposition's human rights critic, it is
obviously a very great pleasure for me to take part in this debate to
mark the fact that 1998 will be the 50th anniversary of the United
Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to note, as the
Deputy Prime Minister has done, that this declaration was written
by a Canadian, John Humphrey, a citizen of Quebec, and by
Although respect for fundamental rights is now guaranteed the
people of Quebec and of Canada through their respective charters,
this is not the case in certain countries, where governments are
still trampling citizens' individual freedoms and fundamental
We, as parliamentarians, have an opportunity today to restore the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights to its rightful place in the
forefront of national and international debate. The 50th anniversary
must mark the renewal of the declaration and not just the
commemoration of a date.
My colleagues will have a chance to go into more depth on the
historic evolution, present situation and probable future of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its enforcement
throughout the world. But I will begin, if I may, by recalling briefly
the birth of this declaration, certainly one of the major historic
events in humanity's evolution.
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly
unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This marked the turning of an important page in the history of
Indeed, the horrors of the second world war greatly contributed
to raising world awareness and truly expanding the concept of
human rights. As early as June 1945, the United Nations Charter
and the statutes of the International Court of Justice were ratified in
San Francisco. The following year, the Commission on Human
Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women were created.
Finally, after adopting the Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the UN passed the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights which we are celebrating today.
Since then, there has been continuous progress in terms of
respect for basic individual rights almost everywhere in the world.
I say ``almost'' because, unfortunately, in certain areas of the
globe, there is still a great deal of progress to be made.
Right from the start, in order to better ensure respect for basic
human rights, and to promote their implementation, the UN
decided to set international standards, protect human rights and
provide technical support where needed. In order to attain these
objectives, however, the United Nations Organization had to draw
up clear rules relating to human rights, hence the necessity of
adopting this Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This universal declaration may be the keystone of United
Nations declarations on human rights, but it is not the only one. In
fact, the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development, and the
1992 Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced
Disappearance strengthened the United Nations' moral
It is, moreover, important to keep in mind that all of these
declarations are not legally binding, and that the UN, lacking a real
United Nations military force, performs more of an international
Fortunately, on the other hand, the international conventions and
covenants have force of law in the states ratifying them. The
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
both drafted in 1966, are highly binding on signatories.
International conventions, on the other hand, focus on more
specific attacks against human dignity such as the 1969 convention
on racial discrimination, the 1981 convention on discrimination
against women, the 1987 convention on cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment, and finally the 1990 UN convention on the
rights of the child.
All these measures have achieved concrete results such as stays
of execution, the release and medical care of prisoners, and
sometimes even a complete overhaul of legal systems emphasizing
the importance of human rights.
For instance, Bulgaria, Malawi and Mongolia recently received
assistance in drafting a new constitution and new legislation, both
conforming to the conventions on human rights.
Even more recently, in 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted
a resolution creating the position of High Commissioner for
Human Rights, whose duties consist in preventing and managing
crises, sometimes by providing technical assistance to states in
transition and co-ordinating interventions aimed at promoting
As we can see, we have come a long way over the years in our
respect for human rights, and we should proudly emphasize events
like the one that brought us here today. The future celebrations
around the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights should be more than just that. This great event should not be
just another occasion for organizing huge banquets, cocktail
parties, receptions and shows for the benefit of venerable
dignitaries the world over.
We are all familiar with the propensity of our leaders to slap each
other on the back as a sign of satisfaction and to congratulate each
other while singing the praises of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. It will be available in pocket format, as a poster
either laminated or beautifully framed in acrylic, and it will be seen
at its best. People will shout that they love it, they venerate it, and
they will very pompously wish it a very happy 50th birthday.
But for thousands of victims of torture and summary
imprisonment by unscrupulous governments, this anniversary will
not be a joyous occasion. In fact, for all these people, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights remains nothing more than a hope
based on the action of countries, which, like Canada, protect
fundamental rights and might have some influence on the leaders
of those countries that still refuse to do so.
Often, this declaration is universal in name only. There was
nothing universal about it when the Government of China decided
to crush the student movement for freedom in Tiananmen Square
barely a few years ago.
There is nothing universal about it for the victims of oppression
in East Timor or for the children exploited in India or for the
political prisoners in Indonesia or for the demonstrators in
Belgrade and other major Serbian cities.
Canada has an important role to play in this area. We must
develop a policy of international trade that includes respect for
human rights. We can no longer simply close our eyes to these
atrocities in the name of profit. We must make it known to the
entire international community that Canada will make no human
rights compromises out of a need to trade with these countries. Is it
not both deplorable and embarrassing when the Prime Minister of
Canada signs lucrative trade agreements with countries heavily
criticized by Amnesty International without any mention
whatsoever of human rights?
I might point out that barely a few years ago, when the whole
world knew that the communist regime in Romania was
systematically ignoring the fundamental rights of its citizens,
Canada welcomed its dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, with open arms
and great pomp. Madam Speaker, I will conclude, if I may have one
minute. I would not like this situation repeated.
In conclusion, we must continue to promote basic freedoms
wherever necessary. We will stop the day the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights is truly what it is supposed to be: universal. The
whole world will have achieved its goal: peaceful co-existence of
peoples and respect for human dignity. Are we dreaming?
Mrs. Finestone: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I
wonder if you could enlighten us about whether there is a question
period following the interventions, please.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): Does the
member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead have unanimous
consent to share a limited 20 minutes of his usually unlimited time
with his colleague from Mercier? There are no questions on this 20
minutes. After the next member's speech we will enter into
questions and comments.
Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Madam Speaker, it is
with a feeling of honour, pride and great responsibility that I rise to
speak on this extremely important issue. Of course, we are
celebrating the 48th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
I need hardly remind anyone that the United Nations and the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights came about because of the
atrocities committed during World War II, and that, coupled with
the social movement that had existed prior to that time, these
terrible wars forced, and indeed helped nations to adopt
unanimously in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Having armed itself with the means, the UN was able to begin
protecting human rights, and it continues to offer assistance and
experience to states that want to advance the cause of human rights
In addition to being a specific instrument of the UN, this
Universal Declaration of Human Rights was also a rallying point
for all people, all groups in different countries suffering injustices
of all sorts, to help them continue their struggle and call for justice,
sometimes when they did not have a voice.
Through its efforts, the UN obtained concrete results, as my
colleague pointed out. Releases, stays of execution, improvement
in prisoners' living conditions, and input into the domestic
legislation of certain countries are examples of what the
international community can achieve by bringing pressure to bear.
We can only rejoice. It is a step in the right direction.
However, I would like to say that the situation is not so rosy that
we can afford to sit on our laurels. As we know, not only are human
rights violations still taking place openly and publicly throughout
the world, but we must sadly point out that, depending on the
location, and sometimes the nature, of the conflict, the
international community does not always react in the same manner.
It must be acknowledged, in fact, that the international
community did not react to the invasion of Kuwait in the same way
it reacted more recently to the situations in Burundi, Zaire, Bosnia,
Tibet and Indonesia. One may wonder what made such a difference
that, in one case, an extraordinary military force could be drawn
up, while in others not even a minimal force could be assembled,
and millions of innocent victims were left to not only live through
the war, but to suffer-as civilians, which is what they generally
are nowadays-the horrific aftermath of war.
We are living in a world where we are assailed daily with images
so horrific that they ought to convince us to do everything in our
power to defend human rights. Yet, as we know, we continue to
view those images and to carry on living our calm and tranquil
lives, while sometimes taking a voyeuristic interest in the suffering
that is going on elsewhere. One might say that the duty to intervene
varies in intensity, depending on the place involved.
The great powers are not interested, either, in insisting with
equal vigour, regardless of the location, that human rights be
respected. It cannot be denied that economic and financial interests
play an extremely important role.
Recently and most tragically, western Europe was unable, or
claimed it was unable, to help resolve the crisis in
One might say that, if the will of the international community is
truly there, it is high time it gave itself a reliable means of ensuring
the protection of civilians during conflicts, as well as a permanent
means of intervening, no longer just to maintain peace, but to
We know that many countries are discussing this question. We
know that Canada, pushed by the official opposition, has made
concrete proposals and has struggled to advance the idea, which is
supported by the former Secretary General of the United Nations,
of having a permanent force in a position to step in when it deems
More consistency is needed in the actions of the international
community, and efforts must be made to do away with this justice
which is really not justice, this double standard, which considers
some dreadful situations more dreadful than others, and which
mobilizes the international community over some cases and not
I can only vigorously underscore that, in the effort to find
support for all those who suffer and specific ways Canada and other
countries so wishing may help these people and groups in countries
where human rights are not respected, there must be no trade
relations independently of international involvement in the respect
of human rights.
In this regard, Team Canada provided a very poor example and
confirmed the Prime Minister's oft repeated statement that trade
relations for Canada would now be dictated by ``business as
usual'', and this is what characterizes relations with countries
known worldwide not to respect human rights. Team Canada
brought no honour to Canada in this regard.
The official opposition will continue to urge the government to
bear in mind that it cannot continue to have close, warm and
lucrative trade relations with countries that do not respect human
rights, while continuing to boast about being responsible and being
a leader in the respect of human rights. I feel obliged to state this
fact here, this evening, and my colleagues will confirm it in the
On the eve of the 50th anniversary, we must see the horror of the
international situation in order to decide to take the next step in
organizing solid support for the respect of human rights.
Mr. Kilger: Madam Speaker, I simply want to point out to you
and to this House that the members of the government will now
share their time. Therefore, instead of 20-minute speeches, we will
have 10-minute speeches followed by 5 minutes of questions and
Mrs. Sharon Hayes (Port Moody-Coquitlam, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Red Deer.
I am pleased tonight to be able to speak to the commemoration
of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both to reflect
on its helpfulness in providing guidelines for national institutions
and specific human rights issues as well as to call on the Canadian
government to account for the steady erosion of these principles in
public policy today.
Forty-eight years ago the world, having endured two world wars,
one which threatened the global with the spectre of fascism, called
on its leaders to commit to a fundamental standard of responsibility
toward both their own citizens and to people around the world.
Forty-eight years ago the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights was born to form the basis of many national human rights
acts. In 1976 it was coupled with the international covenant of
economic, social and cultural rights, the international covenant on
civil and political rights and the optional protocol to the latter
covenant, to become the international bill of human rights.
The declaration has much to commend it. It has been used to
protect many vulnerable Canadians. It has been used not only to
direct public policy but also to remind individual Canadians in
their own private relationships about their responsibility to respect
others. It has been used to frame policy which has made Canada a
safe haven for those who have fled from oppression and almost
certain death in their own country.
Unfortunately, as each day passes it becomes more and more
evident that Canada has lost its commitment to the essence of the
human rights debate, the recognition of the inherent dignity and of
the equal and unalienable rights of all members of the human
family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
With the loss of the vision it has also lost its commitment to our
In my brief time tonight I want to reflect on three issues, the
lack of protection for existing basic human rights, the evolution
of the broader interpretation of rights, with their infringement on
existing rights and basic institutions, and the denial of the full
equality of Canadians.
First I want to talk about the erosion of our protections. There
have been many UN conferences in the past few years on a wide
range of issues, from population to habitat, from women to the
environment. It has become clear that special interests dictate the
agenda, not those representing the main concerns of many
The UN process is not democratic, in violation of the universal
declaration's affirmation of the importance of democracy.
Certainly in Canada there is no accountability to Parliament to
ensure that delegates accurately reflect the views of our country.
My own experience at the Beijing conference on women showed
me how developed countries, including and especially Canada,
trampled the human rights of delegates from other countries as well
as those of Canadians. When they are advancing narrow special
interests, the commitment made to the most basic of human rights
like the freedom of opinion, conscience and religion found in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights do not matter.
I read into the record last week a statement from the official
Canadian facilitating committee report. It specifically advised
Canadians to criticize the opinions of Muslims, Catholics, pro-life
groups and REAL Women. This kind of intolerance, which is
condemned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, appears
to have become standard policy among Canadian delegations to
UN conferences over the past few years.
Even more disturbing is the way countries like Canada use the
UN to lever legislative change in Canada as well as in the domestic
policies of developing countries, contrary to the democratic
process. An example of the influence of the UN policy is in the
guise of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which seeks
to broaden children's rights at the expense of family and parental
The most significant institution recognized in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights as well as in the broader international
bill of human rights is the family as the natural and fundamental
group unit of society. Yet astonishingly this is one of the sections
which is most ignored by the federal government today.
The international covenant on economic, social and cultural
rights in article 10 states that the widest possible protection and
assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural
and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its
establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education
of dependant children.
The international covenant on civil and political rights, in article
23, says that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of
society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.
The framers of these documents recognized that the family was
the key social institution for effectively realizing all other rights
that are mentioned.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is being used to
eliminate parental freedom and responsibility in child discipline
through its demand that Canada repeal section 43 of the Criminal
Code. Despite the strong majority view in Canada that the
discipline of children should be the prerogative of parents, the UN
has demanded that Canada repeal the protection for parents who
choose to use responsible corporal punishment.
The fact that such a demand comes not through democratic
process but by way of an international body does not seem to
matter. The fact that it attacks the autonomy of parents and,
therefore, the UN's human rights commitment to the family seems
to be irrelevant. The fact that such a decision has ramifications for
the freedoms of religion, opinion and conscience which are
protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not
appear to matter.
Canada's leading anti-corporal punishment group, the Repeal 43
Committee said that: ``Freedom of religious belief does not include
the freedom to engage in practices that threaten health and safety,''
yet there is no evidence to defend its link between responsible
corporal punishment and health and safety.
Reform supports the original understanding of human rights as
they apply to children, that is protection rights which obligate us to
make the health and well-being of children a priority by combating
abuse and seeking their best interests in situations such as family
But in the same Beijing document I cited earlier we can read the
following: ``Human rights activists applauded a Canadian
breakthrough that recognizes children's evolving rights to make
their own decisions even though the issue pits a child's right to
learn about issues against the right of parents to prevent access to
subjects in which they do not believe''.
The new notion that legitimate protection rights should be
expanded to include what could be termed choice rights for
children denies the autonomy and importance of parenting and the
family. Despite the problems associated with giving children the
freedom to make choices they are not ready to make, and despite
the opposition of most Canadian parents toward this idea, Canada
has been advancing this ideology domestically and on the
Finally, another violation of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights is the system of special rights that has contaminated
almost very sphere of public policy in this nation.
The Reform Party has told Canadians clearly in our fresh start
election platform that we support the repeal of section 15(2) of the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides for the
establishment of discriminatory treatment of Canadians based on
sex, race, ethnic origin, family status and other irrelevant
characteristics. Untold destructive policies have been introduced in
Canada and justified by this mentality: employment equity, official
bilingualism, official multiculturalism, the ongoing paternalism
toward out native population and divisive immigration policies.
It is astounding that in 48 years, almost half a century, the
Canadian government has lost its commitment to true equality and
the dignity of every human being.
In conclusion, those who constructed the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights had noble intentions. They worked hard and
produced a commendable document. Unfortunately, while
bureaucrats and governments have been busy redefining and
massaging the message to their own ends, here in Canada and
elsewhere real human rights abuses still exist.
There are many around the world who face death each day as
they take a stand for the most basic of human rights. The spirit and
letter of the universal declaration supports their cause and calls on
the world to respond. There is much to be done at home and abroad
to honour our 1948 commitment. Let us never lose sight of its
Mr. Rey D. Pagtakhan (Parliamentary Secretary to Prime
Minister, Lib.): Madam Speaker, in listening to the debate, the
member forgot to even remember a recent happening in the world
when the world thanked Canada as a people for asserting our
collective conscience once more.
Our Prime Minister, through his leadership moved the United
Nations to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Zaire. We
should continue to remember that, for the essence of human rights
is about the integrity of any one person which if violated destroys
the essence of our humanity and the soul of any nation. When the
Prime Minister took that action, we should not lose sight of that
very caring and creative leadership. It is fitting to be able to
comment on this on such a special day of debate devoted to human
An ancient Chinese proverb said: ``A journey of 1,000 miles
must begin with a single step''. The first step in the journey to
make human rights the acid test of any civilization was taken when
the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Nearly 50
years ago, on December 10, the conscience of mankind said never
again: never again to the disregard and contempt for human rights
which resulted in the Buchenwalds of that time; never again to all
the death camps and the dictators who marched people into slavery;
never again to all those barbarous acts which provoked and killed
an entire wartime generation.
When the Prime Minister took that step, the member from the
Reform Party should have taken pride in that step. The men and
women of that time took the first step in Paris knowing full well
that the journey ahead of them was long and full of danger. In
taking that first step, the assembly of citizens of the world, men and
women, turned a corner in the course of world history. Henceforth
there shall be a world in which human beings will have freedom of
speech, freedom of belief, freedom from want and freedom from
Today, in 1996, when we look back to the idealism of those early
defenders of human rights we see that the record is very mixed
indeed. I would like to call hon. member's attention to the
international tribunals which have been frustrated in their attempts
to prosecute those same dictators who, at a different time, had
marched Bosnians, Haitians, Somalians and Rwandans into times
of barbarisms unmatched in human history.
We must remember the leadership taken by the Prime Minister.
On this day we look at all the violence of unrestrained ethnic and
racial conflict across the planet. We look at the unconscionable
social and economic inequities which in our time are growing.
However, let me say that the fundamental rights of humanity are
not just civil and political rights but critical to these rights are our
civilian societies in the mature western democracies.
I agree with the member that human rights have as much to do
with the right to medical care as it does to the right to vote. Human
rights have as much to do with having a roof over one's head as it
does with privacy. Human rights have as much to do with children
in poverty as it does with the brave and courageous individuals
around the world who fight for freedom in countries where
intimidation, fear and oppression are daily realities.
In commenting on this debate, we must look at the question of
human rights in this perspective.
Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, Ref.): Madam Speaker, it is my
pleasure to take the second half of my fellow member's time and to
again remember December 10, 1948, the conference on human
rights and the statement made at that time.
Human rights is something that hopefully every single one of us
as Canadians feel strongly about and are concerned about. I am
sure we could talk about it in many different ways. What I intend to
do tonight is concentrate primarily on the international aspects.
Each and every day my office receives a great many letters from
across the country appealing to the government to do more about
human rights. I suggest that many Canadians who have written
those letters feel that the current government has done a poor job
in many areas of human rights.
In much of the current debate a false dichotomy has developed.
On one hand, many human rights activists argue that Canada
should completely cut off countries with abusive governments.
They argue that we should not trade with them, that we should
publicly condemn them and that we should isolate them. On the
other hand, the government has taken the approach of cosying up to
at least 99 per cent of the dictators, of being their best buddy and of
saving its outrage and contempt for the other 1 per cent to make it
look like it actually cares. Neither of these approaches achieves the
goal that most Canadians want.
From speaking to Canadians I believe they want government
policy to accomplish several things. First they want Canada to help
people who live under abusive regimes in the most constructive
way possible. In order to help people, Canada must have a presence
in the affected country. Canada has a lot of experience in building
legal and democratic institutions in the developing world. This is
an important feature of Canada's current foreign aid program.
That is why Reform supports this process which includes things
such as monitoring elections to make sure they are free and fair;
providing legal expertise to reform the court systems; and
providing training for police so they will serve and protect rather
than intimidate and bully their populations. It is our hope that
through this type of policy we can help the people in the developing
world to establish democratic and legal institutions that ordinary
Reform also supports working with non-governmental
organizations and the private sector to build civil societies in
developing countries. With this policy Canada will be able to help
people in the developing world to help themselves to a better
future. As social and business groups emerge as legitimate political
forces in developing countries, they will be able to assert
themselves and work against corrupt and abusive governments.
Reform also sees international trade as a source of hope for
people in developing countries. Certainly there is an intense debate
surrounding this point but I believe supporting human rights
through various programs and reforms will mean little if the people
we are trying to help continue to live in absolute poverty and
International trade creates jobs and incomes for millions and
millions of people who would otherwise have nothing. This is not
to say that wages are always at an acceptable level. It is not to say
that the workplace conditions are what we would expect here in
Canada. But if we ask the question, would the people living in
abusive countries be better off or worse off if Canada and other
developed countries refused to trade with them, I believe the
answer is clear.
In the political debate in Canada, Reform has consistently argued
that the best kind of welfare program is a job. If this is true in
Canada where we have a whole social safety net which includes
free health care, employment insurance, old age security, welfare
and a host of other programs for our citizens, then it is doubly true
in countries where no such programs exist.
For all of the reasons I have mentioned: providing jobs, assisting
in democratic institutions and building and reforming corrupt legal
systems, Canada should not choose the path of isolation. Even
though cutting countries off would be a strong symbolic statement,
I do not think it is the best way to help those people who
desperately need our assistance.
Nonetheless, neither should the Canadian Prime Minister be best
buddies with foreign leaders who reject democracy and frequently
run corrupt and abusive regimes. This sends out all the wrong
messages. I believe this is where the current government and our
Prime Minister have failed.
It must be clear to Canadians that our government is not
condoning the kind of massive repression and abuse that frequently
takes place around the world. Unfortunately it is not clear. In fact
many Canadians have written me to complain bitterly about the
behaviour of the Prime Minister. They believe he has callously
ignored human rights abuses in his foreign travels and this has left
This reminds me of a highly ironic point. Just over a month ago
the Prime Minister attacked me and the leader of the Reform Party
for having met with the U.S. speaker of the house of
representatives, Newt Gingrich. He was shocked and outraged. It
seems the Prime Minister believes that Reform should not meet
with the democratically elected leaders of our closest ally, the U.S.,
but it is a demonstration of true Liberal Party leadership when the
Prime Minister befriends dictators all the time.
In fact I would not even be surprised if we find the Prime
Minister golfing with Saddam Hussein over the Christmas break.
How many people commented about the Prime Minister dancing
with the Prime Minister of China and some of his past history? Or
how about embracing Mr. Castro and some of the abuses there? I
have been in some of the jails in Cuba and have looked at them and
have seen the human rights abuses in that country.
My point is that while Reform does not advocate isolation, we do
reject the government's shameless pandering to foreign dictators.
We reject it and so does the Canadian public. It is for this reason
that at the last Reform Party assembly in Vancouver our
membership voted overwhelmingly, over 90 per cent, to oppose
federal government foreign aid to governments which suppress
basic human rights. That is the commitment our party has made
and we will follow through on it when we form the next
Reform will end the Liberal government's practice of giving
handouts to abusive regimes.
In the future Canada must provide an example to the world. We
should use our foreign aid program to constructively promote
democratic and legal reforms. We should encourage expanded
trade to generate jobs in developing countries, but we should make
it perfectly clear that the systematic abuse of human rights is
unacceptable. We should voice our concerns and cut off aid to those
who reject freedom and ignore human rights.
Mr. Ted McWhinney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister
of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I would like to
ask the hon. member a question but before doing so I thank him for
an interesting address.
Has he considered the relationship between human rights under
the universal declaration and under national constitutional law.
He will know of course that in the actual drafting of the UN
document Canadians played a very large role, but still it is a
different document from the charters we have been used to in the
common law world. It is designed for legislators. Ours is designed,
the American bill is designed and western bills are generally
designed for judges and judge made law. Still our own charter of
rights and freedoms borrowed from the universal declaration in its
Has he considered the correlation between the universal
declaration and its enforcement and a national charter such as ours
and its enforcement? Is it the obligation, in his view, of national
legislators to bring national law in line with the universal
Mr. Mills (Red Deer): Madam Speaker, I cannot give a legal
answer to that question.
My honoured colleague obviously is an expert in international
law and constitutional law. I respect him for that.
I would say that when it comes to human rights it comes more to
the point of common sense, not the sorts of things where we could
get hung up in a court of law, in international courts, where we
could debate it for years on end.
It reminds me of the couple of monks in a monastery back in the
17th century who debated for 100 years whether or not angels have
wings. The debate went on for 100 years and at the end of the time,
they came to a conclusion. Their conclusion was that some angels
do and some angels do not. That is what happens when we get too
hung up in the legal ramifications.
I would say in answer to the hon. member's question that the role
of Canada is to show leadership. Through our Constitution, which I
believe does give equality to all within the law, that is what we
should try to achieve on an international basis. The closer we come
to achieving that, the better this world is going to be for the human
beings living in it.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status
of Women), Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be able to
participate in this very special debate to raise awareness of the
upcoming 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
My portfolio as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the
Status of Women deals specifically with human rights, the rights of
women and minority groups to have an equal place in the
economic, social and political life of this country.
The difficulties facing many Canadians, women and men, are
rooted in inequality, in gender and in ethnic socialization and
outmoded customs, attitudes and practices.
The activities related to the two components of my mandate, the
status of women and multiculturalism, are closely linked and are
also complementary. The purpose of both components is to ensure
that all Canadians avail themselves of their right to equality and
realize that human rights are sacred.
The Government of Canada is deeply committed to the
realization of women's rights as human rights. Human rights relate
to every aspect of people's lives, be they male or female. Human
rights speak to the ability of people to live, to work, to play, to
worship, to be safe from societal harm and to contribute fully to the
social, economic and political life of their nation.
Respecting human rights means promoting choices,
opportunities, equality and fairness. Women cannot assert
themselves effectively nor can their human rights be respected
when their economic base and their social status are not as secure
as those of men or when the integrity of the person is still subjected
to rape and to violence.
Our blueprint for action to the year 2000 is the 1995 federal plan
for gender equality, a comprehensive plan of federal government
initiatives to advance women's equality. As well, Canadians,
whether they be disabled, aboriginal or gay and lesbian, who face
the barriers to social and economic equality because of racism and
discrimination miss out on opportunities to contribute to society, a
society in which we all have a share in building or destroying. The
choice is ours. When we do not respect others because of their
differences or respect their rights to make basic choices, we create
a society that is bound for destruction.
To work for the full implementation of human rights is to strive
for a democratic ideal. This in itself should be incentive enough for
Canadians to promote the full realization of human rights. But if it
is not, there is a second and more pragmatic argument to persuade
Canadians to demand the full observance of human rights in our
country. We must improve the lives of women, aboriginal peoples
and Canadians of all ethnocultural origins and as we do so, the
social and economic life of the nation will benefit as a whole. As
we respect each other's equal rights, we create a social structure
based on respect, on accommodation and therefore on finding
peaceful resolutions to conflict.
These are not the worst of times, but neither are they the very
best of times. We still live in a society here in Canada where there
are those in this country and in this Parliament who would deny
jobs to persons because of their race or their sexual orientation,
who say that in order to foster equity we must treat everyone the
same. On a very practical level Canada cannot afford to have or to
deny even a few of its citizens an opportunity to contribute as fully
as possible to the economic, political, cultural and social life of the
We only have to look at nations of the world where there is
ethnic cleansing, intolerance and denial of equal opportunity to see
that people will not for long stand to be oppressed. They will rise in
anger and with violence to assert their right to the basic human
freedoms to achieve their individual potential.
Canada must ensure that human rights are given more than just
lip service here in our territory because the world looks to us for
leadership on the international stage, to show by example, to assist
in encouraging and building democratic processes. By isolating
those who do not conform to our ideals, we lose the very important
opportunity to teach and to inform.
As a signatory to a number of instruments that have been
developed to protect and promote human rights, Canada has an
obligation to assist when and where we are able in carrying out an
international mandate, but also to ensure that we practice here at
home what we preach.
Behind all of our human rights activities at home and abroad is
the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
adopted in 1948. In the aftermath of the horrors of the second world
war, Canada worked for change to create a world where fascism
and totalitarianism could not survive, a world where peace could
become a reality, a world where individuals were free to live
productive and fulfilling lives according to their own ability.
We have been working hard in the field of human rights, both
domestically and internationally, and there is firm evidence of our
progress. In Canada we have the charter of rights and freedoms
which guarantees all Canadians equal protection and equal benefit
of the law. Women's equality rights were enshrined in the charter in
1985. We have a Canadian Human Rights Commission where all
can seek justice and ensure equality.
We have the court challenges program which allows access to
disadvantaged groups and individuals so that they can put forward
selected cases of national significance on language and equality
rights. We have the world's first multiculturalism act and we are
working to build a multifaceted strategy to address violence against
women and children. Treasury Board recently agreed that a number
of federal government spousal benefits should apply to same sex
In October I was very pleased to honour our government's red
book commitment to launch the Canadian Race Relations
Foundation. This foundation will facilitate the development,
sharing and application of knowledge and expertise to contribute to
the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in
We are world leaders in advancing women's rights globally,
particularly with respect to violence against women and children.
At the 1995 United Nations world conference on women in Beijing,
women's human rights formed the cornerstone of Canada's
position. In Stockholm, Canada pledged to do all in its power to
end the commercial sexual exploitation of children and implement
the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child.
Through the Canadian International Development Agency,
CIDA, Canada has long supported international women's rights
organizations and developed gender sensitive programs to assist
women in achieving their economic potential in developing
countries. We have also supported organizations such as the
Asia-Pacific Forum on Women and Women in Law and
Development in Africa. We are the first country to create gender
discrimination as a criteria for refugee status.
We are moving forward, but the job is not yet done. If we can
envision our ideal, then we can believe in its reality, a reality that
seeks to foster equality by treating people differently and by using
different strategies to do so. With a strong enough belief and hard
work to back it up, we can realistically hope to achieve our ideal
which is to keep that belief strong and our incentives fresh.
We need occasions to remind us of the worth of what we do.
Such an occasion is the 50th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. I urge everyone in this House to use
this day and this time to recognize the importance of serving each
permitting each other to live with equal opportunity in this very
Hon. Sheila Finestone (Mount Royal, Lib.): Madam Speaker,
today we are approaching the 50th year of the magna carta of
human kind. When the United Nations General Assembly adopted
this magna carta, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on
December 10, 1948, United Nation member states committed
themselves to recognize the inherent dignity of the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the
foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
I want to thank the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of
Canadian Heritage, for agreeing to launch on this day this
important debate. I would encourage all people to think about these
matters over the coming year and plan some activity to celebrate
next year's 50th anniversary.
I also wish to express appreciation to the Hon. Walter McLean, a
colleague of this House for many years, a secretary of state
himself, who has been very instrumental in raising all these issues
and talking about the importance of planning ahead.
This declaration was a powerful idea that inspired us. It
recognized that we all have rights as human beings.
That is not because we inhabit a particular country, are the
product of a particular class, of a particular group or the product of
a particular ethnic background; it is because we exist as human
This declaration was drafted by a really fine Canadian. I am glad
that my colleague in the Bloc noted this in his remarks. I know that
the family of John Humphrey and John Humphrey himself would
have been very proud of this day. Unfortunately, he passed away
last year. He lived in the Mount Royal riding and he and Eleanor
Roosevelt were the key drafters of this declaration of human rights.
Although most of his fellow citizens might not even recognize this
great Canadian's name, his achievement has an ongoing impact on
the functioning of our governments and, as a result, on the way that
each and every one of us conducts our lives.
The universal declaration revolutionized international law by
enshrining the principle that the international community has an
abiding and important interest in the fundamental rights of all
human beings. It established the framework for the international
recognition of the rights of human kind.
In the 50 years that followed the United Nations put into place
covenants, principles and monitoring activities which all
demonstrate a fundamental international agreement to recognize
different aspects of the indivisible, inalienable and fundamental
rights of individuals.
During the ensuing 50 years, and I feel I must repeat this, the
United Nations adopted conventions, principles and control
mechanisms which all reflect this strong desire on the part of the
international community to recognize all aspects of the indivisible,
inalienable and fundamental rights of the individual.
The principles, the goals and the fine phrases have been put on
paper and agreed to. Now what?
To no one's surprise, when we look at how the international
human rights system actually functions, we confront a paradox.
Many of the ringing statements of principle in the universal
declaration and various covenants are honoured more in the breach
than in observance.
The United Nations human rights system is a patchwork. The
monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are imperfect. Too often
the politicians, the bureaucrats and diplomats natter on and on
about what is wrong and how to improve things, but it is often too
little and too late. It is a very slow process.
I heard the secretary of state a few moments ago allude to the
fact that in Beijing we had to reaffirm the fact that women's rights
are human rights, inalienable, et cetera. It was quite a critique on
the state of the world, although let us not despair.
What about the people? We have all read about the Holocaust,
which is now called the Shoa. We know about racism, fascism and
intolerance. What have we learned? Have we learned very much?
All we have to do is turn on our television to see the horrors of
Cambodia, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and mass
killings in Rwanda. It is no wonder that when we did our television
study children find that the most terrifying thing on TV is the daily
news. The world is still struggling with ethnic, cultural and
religious differences. How to accept and live as equals peacefully
and respectfully is still the challenge to meet.
Other people at risk, with disadvantages to overcome are the
disabled. They are still among the poorest and rank at the bottom or
the end of the queue to receive services and remain the most
marginalized and vulnerable group in this world.
Then we must complete the circle, for there is hope, a light
shining to mark the way.
In fact, we are still guided in our actions by hope, because
without the Universal Declaration and the other UN conventions,
we would have no landmarks, so to speak.
The peoples and nations of the world and their governments
would be disoriented, without purpose, without standards, without
ways to measure their progress or to know what they did right or
what they did wrong.
So this brings us to that ultimate recognition. I would say that
domestically we have moved ahead, that the UN's involvement in
human rights has become part of the evolving process, a kind of
perpetual motion machine. In the half century since the adoption of
the universal declaration internationally accepted values have
shifted and goals as well as programs have moved forward, in large
part pushed by the very existence of these United Nations
declarations of human rights principles.
Domestically, Canada confronts the same paradox. The
principles of fundamental human rights for Canadians are well
entrenched here. We have cause to be proud of section 15 of our
charter of rights and freedoms. We have cause for pride in other
aspects of our charter; the recognition of human rights in the basic
constitutional fabric of this country.
The Canadian Human Rights Act assures protection against
discrimination in areas within federal jurisdiction. The language of
human rights and of inclusiveness is spoken everywhere
throughout Canada, in all our provinces and no more or no less,
might I say, than in my own province of Quebec, which passed the
first human rights act in Canada in 1977.
Like the United Nations, Canada has ways of monitoring
compliance with human rights standards. The supreme court, of
course, is one and the most important, but there is as well the
Canadian Human Rights Commission. The standing committee
that I have the privilege to chair is another. We may be different
singers but we sing the same tune.
Progress has been made, no doubt about it. But why does this
paradox, the difference between principle and practice, continue to
confront us so starkly even here in our own country? I would say
that the perpetual motion machine I spoke about earlier comes into
the picture in Canada too, just like at the international level.
The acknowledgement of human rights in Canadian laws and
institutions has fostered an environment where awareness of rights
has promoted awareness of practices. The awareness of practice
has promoted awareness of flaws, and awareness of flaws has
promoted demands for change. And while changes have been
made, more needs need to be address. The goal remains the same
but the distance between the players and the goal posts has widened
and so we have to become even more vigilant.
In the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of
Disabled Persons we have become very aware that we need to keep
the gap from widening even more. As we develop and apply new
technologies we must keep in mind that all of us, knowingly or
unwittingly, attach social values and responsibilities to
Take the debate over new technologies right now and their
implications for privacy, which is a human right. We have been
looking at new physical and biological surveillance techniques and
personal identification practices, including new ways of testing an
individual's genetic make-up. We have become aware of the
tension between progress and rights and why it is so crucial to
protect privacy in the face of new technology.
Supreme Court Justice LaForest said in a 1990 decision: ``The
limits of our personal privacy define in large part the measure and
the limits of our freedom. Not to be compelled to share our
confidences with others is the very hallmark of a free society. That
is where we hope human rights is headed''.
We know there is no ultimate answer in finding the balance
between an individual's right to privacy and society's broader
requirements. Defining human rights is a constant process of
evolution, just as our Canadian federation is constantly evolving,
particularly when balancing rights against social policy.
In order to build equality into the fabric of our society we have to
take a positive approach that goes beyond using the courts to deal
with abuses. Recognition of fundamental human rights is essential
for individuals to develop a sense of belonging, a sense of equality
and a sense of the rights and obligations of citizenship.
A true economic and social democracy, like the one I believe
Canada must keep striving for, has to build equality and justice into
every aspect of every human relationship. We must never lose sight
of that goal. We must intensify and strengthen our message. That is
the reason we must emphasize the importance of marking the 50th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on
December 10, 1998; plan now, act later.
As the drafters of the charter did almost 50 years ago, we must
use the concepts of human rights to point the way to ongoing
respect for each other as human beings. We can move toward our
vision of equality but we can do this only together for the full
enjoyment of our lives.
We can do it together to more fully experience justice, peace and
Mr. Osvaldo Nunez (Bourassa, BQ): Madam Speaker, I will
share my time with the hon. member for Louis-Hébert.
I appreciate this opportunity today to draw your attention to
World Human Rights Day. The world has undergone profound
changes since the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, whose 48th anniversary we celebrate on this 10th of
During those past 50 years, considerable progress has been
made. In recent years, humanity put an end to a number of
dictatorships, including the hated apartheid regime in South Africa,
which gave new hope to the entire African continent.
In 1989, we saw the Berlin wall, that symbol of the cold war,
collapse, and we also saw major changes taking place in the
countries of eastern Europe. The rivalry between the two great
blocks has ended.
The issue of human rights was officially mentioned at the
beginning of this century in the Pact of the League of Nations
which, among other things, led to the creation of the ILO and the
United Nations Organization. The UN preparatory commission,
which met in 1945 immediately after the closing session of the San
Francisco conference, recommended creating a commission to
promote human rights as defined in section 68 of the Charter.
Finally, the draft declaration was submitted, through the
Economic and Social Council, to the General Assembly meeting in
Paris. The declaration was adopted on December 10, 1948. In two
years we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of this declaration,
which constitutes ``a common standard of achievement for all
peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every
organ of society shall strive by teaching and education to promote
respect for these rights and freedoms''.
The declaration provides that ``recognition of the inherent
dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the
human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the
world'' and ``disregard and contempt for human rights have
resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of
mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall
enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and
want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common
The horrors of World War II played a large part in making the
whole world aware of the direct link between the respect of human
rights and peace. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the
cornerstone of the UN human rights conventions. It was followed
by the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986, the
Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced
Disappearance in 1992, and several others. These declarations and
conventions are not legally binding, except on ratifying states.
However, many countries have incorporated certain provisions into
The principle of the declaration which states that ``All human
beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights'' has served as a
model for the laws and institutions that today protect Canada,
Quebec and many other countries.
Human rights, peace and development are the three pillars of the
Since it was first formed, the UN has adopted over 50
instruments concerning human rights: the right to life, the right to
freedom, the right to freedom of expression, religion and
association, the right to protection from discrimination, the right to
adequate food and housing, and the right to an adequate standard of
We are told that international promotion of human rights is an
integral part of Canada's foreign policy. However, the present
government is closing its eyes to repeated violations of human
rights in certain countries, especially when it is a question of
developing trade ties with those countries. This is true in the case
of China and Indonesia.
The cold war is now a thing of the past. It has been replaced,
however, by other types of threats to peace and security: interethnic
hatreds; breakdown of social and government infrastructures; an
increase in the frequency and intensity of internal armed conflicts,
with all the massive migrations that result. Twenty-five million
refugees have been forced through persecution to move or leave
their country of origin. As you know, the situation today in Zaire
and neighbouring countries is tragic.
Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all the
other covenants and protocols on human rights, there have been
genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and Burundi. In the 1960s and 1970s,
several cruel dictatorships sprang up in Latin America. Flagrant
violations of human rights in Chili-assassinations, tortures and
disappearances-forced me and my family to leave my country of
origin and come to Quebec. Even today, according to Amnesty
International, a number of Latin American countries continue to
violate certain fundamental rights.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of
Guatemala and the National Revolutionary Union of Guatemala on
the peace accords and definitive ceasefire that were signed not long
ago. Peace has been restored after 35 years of fighting between the
armed forces and the guerrillas. I hope that Canada will play an
active role in supervising these accords and help to promote and
defend human rights, including those of the Indian peoples in this
country for whom I have great respect.
We have a duty to condemn human rights violations throughout
the world. But this is not enough. We must establish a permanent
international criminal court. This decision is urgently needed,
considering the intolerable situations experienced by various
peoples, and I am thinking of Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and
other countries where war criminals remain unpunished.
I want to congratulate the Ligue des droits et libertés du Québec
on starting a campaign to establish this kind of permanent tribunal,
and I would ask the government to give its vigorous support to this
initiative. I have always been active in promoting human rights,
especially in the ``Ligue'' where I was a member of the board for a
number of years.
The international community must acquire the necessary tools to
implement existing standards effectively and wisely throughout the
world. It must also have the tools to punish the perpetrators of
crimes against humanity. It is necessary to reinforce international
control, investigation and monitoring mechanisms, especially in
cases of forced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture. We
must narrow the gap between the solemn principles set forth in the
Charter and the suffering endured by peoples throughout the world.
Furthermore, we cannot dissociate the protection of human
rights from the process of democratization. Poverty is a major
obstacle to the genuine implementation of the principles
underlying democracy. It is on behalf of this ideal that third world
countries have started a long and difficult struggle to obtain
recognition of the right to development and to find a solution to
their debt problems.
In concluding, I would urge the Canadian government to make
this issue an absolute priority and to intensify and reinforce the
promotion and defence of rights and freedoms here and throughout
Mr. Ted McWhinney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister
of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I would like to
congratulate the hon. member for his speech, which is as well
informed and well researched as usual.
He pointed out the lack of an international criminal court with a
general jurisdiction. We have only ad hoc courts, special courts
such as the tribunal on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and
But does he consider that creation of a criminal court with
overall jurisdiction would be enough to guarantee application of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Is it not possible to
also consider creating a United Nations court mandated to
implement human rights?
The European charter has its own special court, the European
court of human rights. The great German and French charters both
have their special, constitutional courts. In Germany and France,
when a constitutional matter is involved, there is the special
jurisdiction of the council of state and even the appeal court, the
court of cassation. May I ask these questions of my colleague?
Mr. Nunez: Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his
high praise. I acknowledge that he is a great jurist, and he is asking
me a question that has no easy answer.
I believe that, like the Civil Liberties Union in Quebec, the
International Federation of Human Rights in Paris has always
called for the creation of a permanent international criminal
tribunal. I believe this is necessary, particularly to judge those who
have committed crimes against humanity.
It is true that there is a human rights tribunal in Europe, but it has
no jurisdiction over war criminals who have committed crimes
I support his suggestion, if that is what he is suggesting, that the
UN create its own tribunal, particularly when infractions of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights are involved. The UN is a
formidable body, an extraordinary organization, but it does not
have the capacity to apply its fine principles.
What we need is a body that is capable of monitoring and
controlling application of the charter, and of judging those
responsible for offences under that declaration and other
international conventions on human rights.
Mr. Philippe Paré (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Madam Speaker, I too
am pleased to rise on this important day, on which the international
community celebrates the 48th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
It was no doubt at the time an important event. It was the end of
the second world war and of all the atrocities it engendered. At the
time, the 48 members of the League of Nations felt there should be
a charter that would serve, as my colleague from Mount Royal said,
as a sort of measure to assess progress or the lack of it.
However, certain questions arise. Was it a real desire to mark a
new stage in the respect of human rights or was it rather vague
declarations that might be described in popular language as wishful
thinking? The answer no doubt lies somewhere in between the two.
There was wishful thinking, because not a whole lot of progress has
I refer, as proof, to the latest report of Amnesty International,
which appeared in June of this year and which mentioned, and I
will take the liberty of reading a few paragraphs: ``Torture,
arbitrary detention, rape, mass executions, disappearances and
human rights violations occurred in 146 countries in 1995''. The
report obviously criticizes the inaction of the international
We learned that there were human rights violations in 146
countries. The report goes on to say that 4,500 prisoners were
tortured to death, 140,000 people disappeared and 2,900 people
were executed. We might well ask then whether any progress has
been made and whether the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
achieved the importance it might have.
We could talk about the complicity of the international
community, because, in the end, countries are always trying to
defend certain interests. There are outrageous paradoxes that we
will never understand. How is it, for example, that the five
permanent members of the Security Council alone manufacture 80
per cent of the world's armaments? And yet there they are on the
Security Council. Do the words still have any meaning?
My colleague, the member for Bourassa, referred earlier to the
sad history of genocides. He gave some examples. One is, of
course, the elimination of six million Jews. Another is the cruel
treatment of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge. Another is the
endless war in the Sudan, now in its tenth year, that is no longer
even mentioned in the press, where the government is
systematically fighting people in the south, who practice a different
religion. There is the former Yugoslavia, of course, where Muslims
have undoubtedly been persecuted by Croats and Serbs in equal
measure. There is Rwanda, where close to a million people have
died in ethnic wars.
The worst thing in the case of Rwanda is that the International
Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development led a
mission there in 1992.
They described what they said were all the conditions needed for
genocide to happen. The report was submitted to the Secretary
General of the United Nations, nothing was done, and the
inevitable happened. The genocide took place, and now we find
ourselves in an extremely difficult situation in this region.
One of the major problems is the whole question of impunity.
Rwanda, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia are examples. Crimes
against humanity are committed and the international community
is unable to bring the guilty parties to trial and sentence them.
Remember what happened in Haiti after the military coup.
General Cédras was finally persuaded to leave. He was showered
with money to help him make up his mind. It was tragic to hear
President Aristide, on his return, talking as though reconciliation
were possible, when the rule of impunity was in place. In my view,
reconciliation-and this is undoubtedly true in Rwanda as well-is
not possible unless a minimum of justice has been done.
My colleague, the member for Bourassa, spoke of the need for
tribunals. That is elementary. Ad hoc tribunals with minimal
powers are established and, eventually, as it just happened in the
former Yugoslavia, they try some individuals very low in the
hierarchy, but the real culprits always manage to elude pursuit.
What can ordinary citizens do? There are a number of things that
can be done. I referred earlier to Amnesty International. Any man
or woman in this country may choose to work with Amnesty
International to help free prisoners of conscience.
This morning, at the foreign affairs committee, we heard from a
NGO known as PEN Canada. There is also a PEN Québec and PEN
International. This organization is dedicated to having journalists
and authors released from prison. It handles the cases of 900
individuals jailed for their ideas. This is another NGO the public
can support financially or through volunteer work.
Here, we have the international centre for human rights, which is
government subsidized. This is one of the good things this
government has done in terms of human rights. The centre is
already operating in a dozen countries, helping non-governmental
organizations involved in human rights and other organizations in
the civil society get established to ensure that they gradually
develop the capacity to face arbitrary or military powers in these
What is missing is any real political will. It is true in many
countries, and in Canada as well, unfortunately. In its last foreign
policy statement, Canada put trade relations before human rights.
Such an action certainly does not do much in terms of promoting
human rights around the world.
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation
and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Madam
Speaker, it is with pride and humility that I take part in the debate
on this motion.
I am proud to be a citizen of a country known throughout the
world for its enviable record on human rights.
I am proud also that Canada has given its solid support, during
the last 48 years, to the United Nations Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. I am proud, moreover, to belong to this
government, which continues, to this day, to make our country a
leader in the promotion of peace and security throughout the world.
The promotion of human rights is an objective that is
unanimously supported by Canadians, regardless of their political
Despite our best efforts, however, people all around the world
still suffer violations of their basic human rights. Discrimination
and abuse still exist. There are human rights abuses in all societies,
ours included. Continued efforts are needed to achieve progress.
We, both citizens and leaders, are collectively responsible for
dealing with the problems at home and abroad.
My colleagues have spoken very eloquently on this subject
tonight. I think of the speech by the hon. member for Mount Royal.
As minister responsible for our international development
programs, I would like to acquaint the House with the activities of
the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, for which
I am responsible, to promote human rights, democracy and good
governance activities which have begun to bear rich fruit.
CIDA's mandate was clearly stated in the government's foreign
policy document entitled ``Canada in the World'', tabled in the
House in February 1995. And, regardless of what may have been
said a little earlier, one of the six priorities for our official
development assistance program is, and I quote: ``Human rights,
democracy, good governance: to increase respect for human rights,
including children's rights; to promote democracy and better
governance; and to strengthen both civil society and the security of
According to the official CIDA policy statement: ``Human rights
are derived from the inherent dignity of the human person, and they
are of basic importance for the well-being of individuals and the
existence of freedom, justice and peace in the world''.
Translated into CIDA programming, taking a human rights
approach to development does not simply mean lecturing recipient
countries about democracy and human rights. It means making
difficult choices among the competing demand for aid and setting
priorities for how we use our limited resources. As minister
responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency, I
know what it is to be pressured by various individuals for various
good initiatives, most of them quite worthwhile but not all of which
can be supported.
CIDA has done its job with a good deal of success. We have been
able to put in place projects and programs that are helping to
enhance the will and capacity of developing countries to respect the
rights of children, women and men and to govern in an effective
and democratic manner.
During the two year period 1993-94 and 1994-95, CIDA spent
some $46.5 million on 384 projects around the world directly
related to human rights and democratization. These are the most
recent detailed figures available. The rate of approval of such
projects is accelerating and they cover a wide variety of initiatives.
Let me enumerate a few.
Thirty-seven per cent of the money that was contributed was
done in efforts that strengthened the democratic process, including
elections and building democratic awareness. A further 25 per cent
supported initiatives to build a rule of law, including strengthening
the judiciary, training for police and prison officials and greater
access to the law. I had the opportunity to open a tribunal recently
in Haiti along with my colleague from Louis-Hébert across the
Finally, 20 per cent of the funds provided are for projects to
strengthen civil society, including building human rights awareness
of disadvantaged groups and the advocacy role of civil society
CIDA's mechanisms are flexible and they adjust to existing
needs. In fact, statistics do not reflect the nature of the work done.
Let me give you some concrete examples.
As I said earlier, when I spoke about Haiti, CIDA's contribution
in that country allowed RCMP officers, members of Montreal's
urban community police force, and members of other Canadian
police forces to teach Haitian police officers how to conduct
investigations in a democratic society.
In Guatemala, our support to the office of the ombudsman for
human rights helped the ombudsman uncover and confront those
responsible for human rights violations in that country.
Legal assistance, counselling and training were provided for
Somali women who were victims of sexual violence in the refugee
camps at the Kenya-Somali border. Funds were also used to
improve the security of these same camps.
These projects focused on women because, unfortunately,
women remain, to a large degree, the chief victims of human rights
In East Africa, judges and magistrates from several countries
have received training to increase their awareness of issues relating
to human rights, democracy and good governance. In Malawi the
Canada fund paid $50,000 to help the United Nations organize a
constitutional conference and prepare a bill of rights and employ a
human rights adviser for their police force.
And the list goes on. As I said before, there are some 384
projects on the go. Together, they provide a lot of information on
democracy and human rights. This kind of information is
accessible to every Canadian, through schools, the media, and the
elections that have taken place at the municipal, provincial and
federal levels for over a century.
While we are getting together today to highlight the significance
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must also
recognize that human rights and good government go hand in hand
with lasting social and economic development.
To conclude, I will refer to the policy statement of the Canadian
International Development Agency, for which I am responsible. It
says that respect for human rights, democratization, and good
government are essential to the security of children, men and
women alike, and the development of society.
These three issues are an integral part of CIDA's mandate, and I
would venture, the goal of every Canadian involved with
promoting sustainable development to reduce poverty and make
the world a safer, fairer and more prosperous place.
This is CIDA's goal, this is the government's goal and I would
suggest it is the goal of human beings everywhere who long for a
healthy, secure global society.
Hon. Sheila Finestone (Mount Royal, Lib.): Madam Speaker,
my hon. colleague has the privilege of heading an incredibly
effective agency, CIDA. I have been witness to much of its work. I
congratulate him on its undertaking.
I would suggest to my hon. colleague that there is a lot of
questions from some Canadians who are not as well informed about
the importance of interlinking countries, both developing and
underdeveloped countries, with democracies like Canada.
They ask when we are in difficulty here, why are we spending
money elsewhere. What do we plan to accomplish by helping
women through micro credit or the World Bank, or building
bridges or teaching farming and agriculture, marketing and good
production, civics and civism and democracy? What does that have
to do with us when we are poor, hungry and when we need to be
looked after? Dollars here first. Charity begins at home.
I wonder if the hon. minister would care to comment.
Mr. Boudria: Madam Speaker, this is an excellent question, one
that should be raised at every opportunity to give all Canadians the
opportunity reflect on this important issue.
First, if one were to look at humanitarian aid and programs of
development only on selfish grounds, which would not be the focal
criteria in any case, one would have to come up with the following
equation nonetheless. Almost 70 per cent of all the aid that we
provide comes right back to Canada in the form of purchases of
goods and services and so on from Canadians. I am not saying that
it would be the sole criteria to use. As a matter of fact I said it was
not. One should at least bear that in mind when one is making the
equation. I thank my colleague for bringing that up.
Second, it is important for us to know the reputation that this
country has right around the world. Whether it is in Haiti where my
colleague for Louis-Hébert and I were the other day, or when I had
the opportunity to be in China, our reputation as a nation is far
greater than our absolute numbers. I was told in China by more
than one political leader that what they know the most about
Canada is Dr. Bethune and the Canadian International
Development Agency. It is absolutely amazing that a country of 1.2
billion people would know of a development agency of Canada, a
country of 30 million, as something that they would all have in
It is linked very much to their way of doing things. When they
undertake purchases, when they find goods, services and so on,
Canada is there. It is no coincidence that we are the most trade
dependent nation in the western world. It is largely due I suspect to
the fact that we have internationally the great reputation that we
Finally, we are in government and as such we have a collective
responsibility. I know some will disagree with that proposition and
perhaps I will get one or two letters tomorrow for saying this, but I
feel that it is our responsibility to help out fellow human beings.
Those of us who know or study or even remember the two wars of
this century and how sad they were, will know that when there is a
war, it involves a lot more. Not only does it involve the nations that
are at war directly but it can involve virtually everyone.
The war in Rwanda, that tiny African nation the size of
Vancouver Island, has consumed billions of dollars over recent
years. That in itself should tell us that having peace, again if that
were the only criteria, is much cheaper than not having peace. Our
role in contributing to peace, good governance and the respect of
human rights even if we were to use economic criteria alone makes
sense. There is the human criteria to invoke and that is the most
important one of all. I thank my colleague for raising this issue.
Ms. Jean Augustine (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Lib.): Madam
Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this place of free and open debate
to speak in support of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1998.
I intend to speak today about the reasons why we must
commemorate this important occasion. As Canadians we must lead
the world in celebrating and reaffirming the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights for four basic reasons, and I will give the House
the four reasons.
First, Canada was instrumental in the declaration's existence.
Second, our Canadian society has been profoundly shaped by the
declaration's articles. Third, we must applaud the victories that we
have made in human rights internationally. Fourth, we must
acknowledge that our work is not complete.
Canada and Canadians have been a force in establishing this
important document. After the second world war our country
shared the belief with our allies that we needed international
institutions like the UN to prevent future wars from happening. It
was the determination of Canadians like Louis St. Laurent and
Lester Pearson that pushed for an institution which respected the
sovereignty of states but also valued the rule of international law.
After the allies liberated the concentration camps at the end of
the war, people around the world were shocked and dismayed by
the inhumanity of the holocaust and the tyranny of the axis powers.
This prompted Canada to join with other nations to establish the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It was a Canadian who authored the original draft. The member
for Mount Royal spoke about Dr. John Humphrey, a New
Brunswick born Quebec lawyer, former dean of law at McGill
University in Montreal, one of Canada's finest jurists, a key figure
in setting out the scope and content of this great human rights
convention. We have a great deal to be be proud of and we should
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the universal declaration because
Canada has had an important place and has played an important
role in developing this international convention. However,
Canadian society has also reaped the fruits of this great document.
Our society, the envy of the world, has nurtured the seeds of the
virtues of respect, tolerance, freedom and democracy.
This declaration has been a guiding force for these virtues right
here at home, for example, the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947,
the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, the Canadian
Employment Equity Act of 1986, the Canadian Multiculturalism
Act of 1988 and last and most important, the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms adopted in 1982.
All of these important roots of Canadian human rights law were
inspired by the articles in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. We must celebrate our Canadian accomplishments as part
of our international ones. That is why we must mark this important
As we approach the 50th anniversary, let us applaud our
successes over the last few years. We have witnessed the
transformation of South Africa from apartheid to a multiracial
democracy. I witnessed this firsthand. I was fortunate to be chosen
as the Canadian representative to observe South Africa's first
multiracial elections in 1994.
We have also witnessed the progress to democracy in many parts
of Latin America. My past riding president and provincial Liberal
candidate Bruce Davis also went as a Canadian representative to
monitor elections in Nicaragua a few years ago.
We have seen progress in Haiti, Russia and parts of eastern
Europe. The spread of freedom, justice and democracy throughout
the world is owed to this great document. This document has also
been a rallying point for many international conferences on global
Last year I was fortunate to attend the international conference
on women in Beijing, China. It was there that the nations of the
world met to affirm the principle of equality in article 2(1) of the
universal declaration. It states:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration,
without distinction of any kind, such as race, sex, language, religion, political or
other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
To put it simply, women's equality rights are human rights and
countries of the world must reflect that. The declaration has been
instrumental in our successes around the world but there is still
work to be done. With regimes like Nigeria's, where oppression
and corruption prevail, with gross violations of human rights in
countries like Burma, Indonesia and Iraq, with conflicts fed not by
ideology but by perverse commerce in places like Liberia,
Afghanistan and Somalia, we must celebrate the UDHR and
demand that these nations respect and honour the universal
With atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, we realize
that our work as a peace loving nation is not done. With the growth
of hate messages on the Internet, we realize that our work as a
tolerant, respectful, multicultural society is not done. With terrorist
groups from Ireland to the United States to Israel spreading
violence and fear in order to achieve political power, we realize
that our work to preserve freedom and democracy and to respect
the opinions of our opponents is not done.
We must celebrate and promote human rights by aiding the work
of the international criminal tribunals, promote the strengthening
of international labour standards, help establish an international
criminal court and fight for the international initiatives for the
welfare of children.
Until we do that, our work to establish free, democratic and civil
societies around the world will not be done. We can begin this work
by reaffirming our commitment to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and by celebrating its 50th anniversary.
In closing, I can sum up my address by turning to the words of
my esteemed colleague and friend from Winnipeg South Centre,
the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He remarked in a speech earlier
this year: ``If we turn away from the desolation and dismay of
human suffering, if we fail to stop hatred from flowing through the
channels of our new electronic networks, if we do not care about
the present or future of vulnerable children, if we do not counter the
capricious and arbitrary actions of authoritarian governments with
no legitimacy beyond weaponry and terror, then we will face harsh
consequences down the road. In the larger landscape of human
society, what began as hateful rhetoric may turn into open
terrorism, regional warfare or genocide''.
If we are serious about human rights around the world and here
at home, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights with all the glory it deserves. Every
member of the House will join with me in affirming all 30 articles
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today and especially
Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to speak today on this
extremely important issue of international human rights.
In the post-cold war era we all came to believe that there would
be a newer and brighter future for everybody. We thought that the
cold past and the cold times of two terrible wars were over and we
would see a time when the future would look brighter, when human
rights would be respected and we would all live in a safer and more
Unfortunately, the post-cold war era has demonstrated that
anything but that has occurred. We have seen an explosion of
regional conflicts, primarily internecine conflicts, affecting nation
states. Many of these states were boiling over and when the cold
war ended, the shackles which prevented these conflicts from
blowing up were removed. We saw a time of violence, destruction,
raping and pillaging in nations which were relatively peaceful.
We need not look any further than the situation in the former
Yugoslavia to see a graphic and tragic example of what has
happened in our midst. Potentially those situations could have been
prevented. I will say more about that a little later on.
Prior to the cold war ending, the nations of the world got
together and developed a number of declarations on human rights,
beginning with the Hague and going on to the Geneva convention.
They sound very good and mean well. If we were to adhere to those
conventions we would not see much of the terrible suffering that
people, primarily innocent civilians, have endured over the last
several decades. Unfortunately, with these declarations have come
an absence of enforcement.
Enforcement is essential if we are going to have a rules based
human rights network that is going to work. Without the
enforcement, some countries will not adhere to these basic human
It is unfortunate that what we have seen over the last 20 years is a
change in who the victims are. The victims are no longer the
combatants who have UZI submachine guns, who have AK-47s.
Ninety per cent of the victims we see in today's internecine
conflicts are innocent civilians who have no part whatsoever in the
trials and tribulations they have been subjected to. That is why
when we are developing a rules based human rights network and an
enforcement policy for the future, we have to remember that we are
trying to protect those individuals who are most vulnerable in our
society and are the least able to take care of themselves.
One can see that many of the situations in so many of the terrible
civil wars that have taken place have occurred under the guise and
under the leadership of individuals who are draconian rulers. In no
way, shape or form do they represent the best interests of the
majority of their people.
Zaire and the former Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan
Karadzic, General Mladic, Sese Seko Mobutu and others have
demonstrated that they do not represent the wishes of the majority
of their people. They are prepared to subject their people to terrible
atrocities for their own gains and the gains of their own political
That is why when we develop rules for the future, we now have
to start being a little firmer in what we are putting forth and
recognize that the leaderships we are integrating with and so-called
negotiating with may not represent the best wishes of their people.
First we have to develop a warning system, one that will identify
the precursors to conflict. After that, we have to develop a rules
based response system to the precursors to conflict. I say the
precursors to conflict because foreign policy throughout the world
has focused not on conflict prevention but on conflict management.
We talk about peacekeeping and peacemaking as part of conflict
prevention. It is not. Conflict prevention means preventing the
conflict. When peacekeepers and peacemakers have to be put into a
situation, the conflict has already occurred and it is too late. The
seeds of ethnic discontent and hatred have already been laid and
therefore the seeds for future conflicts are laid. This is not
necessary. It is possible to prevent these and future conflicts if we
change our mindset on foreign policy from conflict management to
conflict prevention. How do we do that?
The first thing again is to identify the precursors to conflict, of
which there are many, and precede the conflict by many years.
Examples are inappropriate arming, the subjugation of democratic
and basic rights of a group of people, terror campaigns against a
group of people, the withdrawal of the economic abilities of certain
groups of people to function, the breakdown of judicial structures
and the rule of law falls apart. These are all examples of the
precursors to conflict that take place before a conflagration occurs.
Let us set up monitors so we can identify that.
The second is we need a response and the response has to be
multinational. The problems that are affecting these nations will
not be solved if only one country is going to respond to them. The
international community has to respond to them and that is why we
need a multinational response system.
These responses can involve a carrot and stick approach. If they
are going to engage in these behaviours, we can prevent them from
doing that or suggest that they do not by offering a carrot. The
carrots could be such things as approved loans and preferred trade
status. By doing this we could convince the nation states that it is
not in their best interests to engage in a conflagration, but it is
certainly in their best economic and social interests to engage in
peace building between disparate groups.
There is the stick approach. We could remove or withdraw loans.
We could recall loans which were made by the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other nations. We could
cordon off areas. We could withdraw funding. We could discourage
nations from engaging in activities with surrounding nations. We
could impose sports bans. We could freeze the assets of the
It is exceedingly important to hit those individuals who
transgress international rights and to hit them in their own pockets.
Too often what happens is that these groups or individuals who are
engaging in draconian measures are doing so with complete
impunity. We have to hit them, because hitting the country at large
sometimes does not work.
Some of the sticks that I proposed may not be appropriate in
certain circumstances, but sometimes they will be. We have to be
careful and balance it out to ensure that those who are least
advantaged in a society will not be hurt.
Another activity which has been used before but not often
enough is to engage in positive propaganda. Oftentimes when the
breakdown of structures occurs before a war, we find that one
group is engaging in negative propaganda against another. That
was done very effectively in the former Yugoslavia. We also saw it
The international community, especially the United Nations,
could transmit positive propaganda and peace building messages to
the groups. They must also engage in efforts to bring the disparate
groups together in an effort to try to build bridges of understanding.
What often happens in a conflict is that one group demonizes the
other. It breaks the communication between groups, which enables
one group to develop negative myths about the other. It also instils
fear within the borders of the other group. This must be broken
down. The only way to break this down is to foster levels of
communication between the groups. The best way to do that is to
do it on the ground with civilians. Civilians can be easily
manipulated by the powers that be.
Fostering a sense of democracy and the support of judicial
structures is also extremely important, as my Liberal colleague
mentioned in her speech. It is exceedingly important to do that.
Without a strong judicial structure, without the influence of
democratic principles and the support of democratic structures
within a country, there is the breakdown of infrastructure which
lends itself to conflict.
This is an area in which Canada can take a leadership role. To do
this will require the revamping of the International Monetary Fund,
the World Bank and the United Nations. As the United Nations is
looking for a new secretary general, Canada can influence that
secretary general with respect to the role which he or she might
Right now we have a window of opportunity. The problems that
are going to face nations will require a multinational response. To
do that will require a revamping of those three structures. It will
also require a level of co-operation among the members of the
international community which we have not seen, but just because
we have not seen it does not mean it is not possible. If we do not do
it, all nations will pay a very heavy price.
No country in the world is looking very clearly at the problems
which will affect us in the 21st century. There will be
environmental problems, population explosions, conflicts and
many other problems. All of those problems are not being looked at
in a multinational fashion. We get together to study them a lot, but
studies do not necessarily produce action. Oftentimes one study
will lead to another rather than leading to a course of action.
We have an unusual situation in our country. We are one of the
few countries in the world which has an international reputation
and ability to engage in the revamping of those international
structures which is so greatly needed.
Power in the future is going to come from three areas: traditional
military power; traditional economic power; and a non-traditional
form of power which will go to those countries which can act as a
mediator to organize international consensus. This is where I
believe Canada can take leadership. We, along with a handful of
other countries such as Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands,
Australia and New Zealand to name a few can band together as a
group and collectively utilize our diplomatic corps, our foreign
affairs consultants and experts to bring forth this consensus within
the international fora.
Again, we are doing it not only for ourselves but for the
international community. There are some powerful and perhaps
self-centred ways in which we can justify this involvement. I will
not argue the humanitarian grounds because they are self-evident
as we speak. However, I am going to argue in a very self-centred
If conflicts are allowed to occur, we then see a migration of
population to our shores. We see greater demands on our official
development assistance. We see greater demands on our defence
department assistance. We see greater demands on our domestic
expenditures on social programs. I am sure, Madam Speaker, you
would agree that people like to live in their own countries and in
their own cultures if they have a choice. Why not facilitate that and
enable these people to live in peaceful surroundings? By getting
involved in doing this, we are doing it primarily for international
peace and security but also for some very conclusive domestic
There are many things that we should do in terms of trade, aid
and human rights. We have to convince the private sector, and I
think we have abrogated our responsibilities in large part on this,
that it is in its best interests to ensure that there is going to be peace
and a civil society in the areas where it wishes to engage in trade.
Engaging in trade and speaking out for human rights are not
mutually exclusive; in fact they go hand in hand.
I propose that our government ask that our private sector demand
of its companies when they go abroad that they adhere to the same
basic rules and regulations of labour that are engaged in in our
country, that they engage in the same basic rules and regulations of
human rights that are engaged in in our own country, that we
support companies that are going to help to promote democratic
structures and human rights in those countries abroad. These things
would be useful and again would make Canada look very good.
We had a great opportunity recently with the Canada-Israeli free
trade agreement to do just that. We had an opportunity, and I think
we missed it in a big way, of ensuring that the Canada-Israeli free
trade agreement was going to be equitable for the Israeli people as
well as the Palestinian people. Economic emancipation for the
Palestinian people and economic interactions between the Israeli
and Palestinian people are going to promote peace. That is the way
in which it is going to be done. It is not going to happen on
diplomatic initiatives only. It is not going to happen by standing
back with an armed or walled mentality. It is going to happen when
Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Arab get together and engage with
each other, understand each other's hopes, fears and aspirations and
understand that very clearly their hopes, fears and aspirations are
I hope the government will continue to pursue this, and ensure
that the agreement is going to be mutually beneficial to both
peoples. I hope it speaks out on the transgressions that are
occurring there as well as in many other parts of the world.
We can take a much stronger role. The Prime Minister and the
ministers of trade and foreign affairs are going to go to southeast
Asia again. East Timor has an egregious record of human rights
abuses. It is important for us to engage in trade opportunities with
the area, and also engage in speaking out against human rights
In closing, I would summarize by saying that the government has
a great opportunity to work with members of the House to ensure
that Canada takes a leadership role in support of human rights of
people around the world whose rights have been transgressed,
people who cannot speak for themselves for various reasons.
Our role in the 21st century is to be that third party which brings
nations of the world together to work co-operatively to address the
problems that affect us all. That is the only way we will collectively
survive in a better and more peaceful world.
Mr. Jesse Flis (Parkdale-High Park, Lib.): Madam Speaker,
it gives me great pleasure to participate in the debate this evening
on the 48th anniversary of the United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
Today, December 10, we are all observing international human
rights day. On this day it is important to remember why this
declaration was born. The declaration came about because of the
devastation and horrible slaughter resulting from the continual
violation of human rights around the world.
The men and women who drafted the declaration had themselves
witnessed the extermination of entire peoples as a result of twisted
racist ideologies and were resolved to put an end to such atrocities.
Their long term vision to establish universal principles recognized
that human rights and peace were intertwined.
Unfortunately, man does not always learn from his mistakes, as
we still see around the world violations of human rights in the form
of torture, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, executions, killing of
defenceless demonstrators and detention because of one's beliefs.
When these attacks occur far away from us they are still attacks
against each and every one of us. For every time there is a violation
of human rights, there is a violation against humanity and the
However, we must not be discouraged by this, for the declaration
has paved the way for the progress in the struggle of human rights.
While the declaration set out the principles for the protection of
human rights, the United Nations has developed specific bodies
and procedures to deal with human rights issues. The International
War Crime Tribunals in the Hague for the former Yugoslavia and
for Rwanda represent a critical element to the progress made in the
area of human rights. These tribunals have shown that individuals
responsible for atrocities should not be protected by the state.
That is why the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that
Canada strongly urges the establishment of a permanent
international criminal court as a new instrument in the fight against
human rights violations.
Another advantage of the declaration is its universality. The
countries which proclaim it found that it expresses values and
norms shared by all their cultures. Many nations which became
independent after the proclamation of the declaration also saw that
their aspirations were reflected by the document.
I recall speaking about human rights abuses in the Soviet Union
and in eastern Europe. Indeed, many suffered for many decades
under totalitarian rule. How many suffered and died in the Gulag
for their beliefs? How many millions died in the Ukraine because
of man-made famine in 1932-33? How many Polish officers,
professors and priests were massacred in the Katyn Forest in the
former Soviet Union, never to be heard from again? In my riding
Canadians built the Katyn monument to mark this atrocity.
Last week my wife's family, the Radziszewski family, received a
telex from the Government of Belarus apologizing because, as the
telegram said, the Radziszewski family was sent to Siberia in error.
My wife was nine weeks old and together with her mother and eight
other children were shipped off to Siberia. Now they get an apology
because they were sent there in error. As a baby, my wife survived,
but her 10-year old brother did not. This telegram does not bring
him back to the Radziszewski family.
Nevertheless, the human spirit endured in that part of the world
and since the collapse of the Soviet system we have seen the
emergence of independent countries developing their democratic
and civil societies. Countries such as Hungary, Poland, Latvia,
Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine are all moving in the right direction
but the world must remain vigilant.
I am reminded of a recent human rights case involving
Alexander Nikitin, a retired Russian captain who has worked with
the Bellona Foundation of Norway to highlight serious
environmental dangers of the Russian northern fleet that has been
found to be the source of radioactive contamination of both
northwest Russia and the Arctic.
The environmental report was compiled using knowledge and
statistics available from open sources, yet Alexander Nikitin was
imprisoned earlier this year by the Russian security police on
trumped up charges of espionage and high treason against Russia
for providing the Bellona Foundation with so-called top secret
information. He remains in custody under threat of a death
In my opinion this is a setback for Russian behaviour in human
rights. Mr. Nikitin's imprisonment and the accusations against him
are not only flagrant breaches of human rights and the rights of free
speech, but also threaten human health and ecological safety, both
in Russia as well as in neighbouring countries.
In the spring of 1993, I served as an electoral observer in
UNTAC, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia.
This was the first free and fair election in 14 years of civil war in
Cambodia. Indeed, the Khmer Rouge did much to violate human
rights in this country through intimidation and the most brutal
killing the world had ever seen. I was horrified to see the killing
fields where piles of bones lay like open graves.
Today I read in the Ottawa Citizen that 5,000 photos of those
who were tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge will appear on
the Internet next month. I shudder to think what the families are
going to go through when they recognize relatives and friends.
Ensuring sustainable human security means providing basic
needs in a political and economic way, which includes the
protection of fundamental human rights. When there is a
breakdown to protect human rights there is also a breakdown of
civil society. Civil society, that sector between the individual and
the state, often is there to monitor the activities of the government
and functions as a check and balance. The services offered by
non-governmental organizations, otherwise known as NGOs, fit
this description. NGOs are the lifeblood of the human rights system
and it is crucial that the United Nations be accessible to them.
Organizations such as Amnesty International or Ambedkar
Centre for Justice and Peace, which is run by Yogesh Vahardi, a
constituent of mine, offer important information and advice.
Yogesh Vahardi has made it his crusade to speak against the caste
system in India, saying that it is the root cause of Indian slavery
and the exploitation of millions of children.
The Canadian government has made the rights of children of
utmost priority. Therefore, I recommend that the government make
it illegal for Canadian firms to employ child labour abroad. Since
the relationship between trade and labour standards is an emerging
global issue, I also recommend that we strive for an international
convention that any product which is made by children have
marked on that item ``made by children''. With such labelling,
hopefully no company, no country, no individual will buy this
To conclude, I would like to quote the former Secretary-General
of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar:
I should like to say that the rights recognized by the Declaration exist truly only in so
far as they are exercised by those who possess them. One learns to be free. One can also
renounce freedom. The best and most scrupulously applied law means nothing if the
people prefer assistance and dependence. Freedoms can die if they are insufficiently
used, insufficiently valued, or insufficiently cherished.
Whatever view one takes of the revolutionaries whose memory you will soon be
evoking, they cannot be denied one essential virtue: They loved freedom. May we,
like the authors of the Universal Declaration and the innumerable defenders of
human rights share their enthusiasm, we who know by experience that world peace,
progress and civilization are at stake and that henceforth it is our hopes that hang in
Thus in honouring the memory of the founders of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights we are honouring their principles and
their importance to the countries of the world. Let us work together
for their universal attainment in order to ensure for our children a
humane international community, firmly based on the pillars of
human rights, justice, dignity and peace.
I forgot to mention that I am sharing my time with the hon.
member for Fredericton-York-Sunbury.
Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton-York-Sunbury, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I am glad to participate in this special debate on
the UN declaration of human rights which will be commemorating
its 50th anniversary in 1998. As vice-chair of the Standing
Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with
Disabilities I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important
This document has been key in advancing the protection of
human rights not only in this country but around the world. The
drafting of a framework for human rights legislation is an
accomplishment of which we as Canadians can truly be proud.
Mr. John Humphrey, a native New Brunswicker, authored the
original draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with
the assistance of others in 1948. The preamble captures the spirit of
the declaration by stating:
Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all
members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the
The inherent dignity of the human family is not dependent on
religion, race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion,
national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
The act states in section 25(1):
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and
well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical
care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the even of
unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood
in circumstances beyond his control.
As chair of the recent task force on disability issues I have heard
many individuals from across the country express their desire for
the federal government to outline its role regarding disability
issues. This exercise has resulted in the final report entitled ``Equal
Citizenship for Canadians with Disabilities: The Will to Act''.
Canadians with disabilities need to know that no matter where
they live in Canada they can be assured a decent quality of life and
a level playing field. The federal government's role is significant.
The challenge is to provide leadership. Leadership involves
accepting responsibility to remove inequities, barriers and
The report suggests changes that include amendments to the
Canadian Human Rights Act and amendments to the Criminal
Code and the Canada Evidence Act to improve access to the
criminal justice system. Many more changes have been
recommended and they are all a function of the fact that people
with disabilities are first and foremost Canadian citizens. They
have the right to expect that their government is doing its part to
If you have a disadvantage, the Government of Canada has an
obligation to do whatever it can to remove that disadvantage. I
want to encourage the government, particularly on this anniversary,
to accept the report's recommendations and applaud the former
minister of human resources development for having the foresight
to set up the task force to look at this very important human rights
In order to keep the community of nations united in shared goals,
of dignity for all citizens, prosperity and freedom, each
government needs to continue to look to each other and avoid the
pitfall of looking only inward, of putting on blinders to the outside
world. We need to keep watch, to question human rights abuses, to
look out for each other.
I believe this government is continuing to prove its commitment
to human rights issues. We have drafted legislation that will enable
criminal prosecution in Canada of Canadians who go overseas to
engage in prostitution related activities with children. We are
addressing the problem of the propagation of hatred on the
information highway. We have contributed to the human rights
field operation in Rwanda and to the program of operations in the
former Yugoslavia. We are currently looking into the issue of
privacy in technology in the human rights committee of
We have participated in the United States world conference on
human rights in Vienna and the fourth UN conference on women in
These are but a few examples of how the government is proving
its commitment to human rights issues. We need look no further
than our recent leadership role with respect to the refugee crisis in
Zaire. That intolerable situation is being resolved largely thanks to
the Prime Minister and the ministers who convinced many key
leaders to commit troops and resources to helping the refugees
before it was too late.
Canadians across the country can be proud of the influence that a
middle power can have in such important international events.
Much has been done but there is much yet to do. I hope that this
anniversary will bring attention to the need for vigilance on every
nation's part, vigilance against human rights abuses, infringements
on personal freedoms and inequalities rising from gender, age and
I applaud the government for allowing this debate to take place. I
commend all members who have participated. I offer my support
and encouragement to the human rights committee of the United
Nations association for Canada on its planned commemoration
Mrs. Maud Debien (Laval East, BQ): Madam Speaker, I will
share my time with my colleague, the member for
To ensure world peace and security, to show our support for
human rights and democracy and to contribute to the fight against
poverty, we must stop considering the development of human
rights as a marginal question and place it instead at the very heart
of our foreign policy, at the centre of our concerns. The 50th
anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, coming up two years from now, commands such reflection.
For too long, the concept of human rights did not include
women's rights. Fortunately, now it finally does. This shows how
much progress has been made. The concept of fundamental rights
has widened and become more all-encompassing.
However, in all countries, without any exception, poor people
are still mostly women. Women and children are by far the main
victims of the conflicts in the world; according to data compiled by
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, women and
children represent 80 per cent of all refugees. Furthermore,
whatever the country and whatever the type of government, women
are always underrepresented in politics.
Why is it so difficult, even today, to have people recognize that
human rights also include women's rights? The right to own
property, the right to be protected against any form of violence, the
right to solicit public and political office, these are all rights that
are universally recognized, but that women cannot claim in many
Of course, women got organized and continue to do so to change
this. At the world summit for social development that was held in
Copenhagen in March 1995, political leaders from all over the
world said, and I quote: ``Economic and social development cannot
be ensured in a sustainable manner without the full participation of
women''. They added that ``equality and equity between men and
women is for the international community a priority objective that
must be at the centre of economic and social development''.
No one challenges the principle that women's contribution is
essential to any social development. However, some doubts arise
when we ask ourselves how women's fundamental rights are
reflected in society and in the context of real equality with men: an
equal presence, equal chances and an equal weight in the real
governing of our world and our society.
From such an angle, we quickly realize that there could be a
double standard here, that the issues affecting the freedom, health,
security and working conditions of women could continue to be of
secondary importance compared to those of men.
Delegates from almost 200 countries reviewed these issues and
others at the fourth world conference on women held by the UN, in
Beijing, in September of 1995. Quite often during this conference,
we were reminded that the first conference of its kind was held
more than 20 years ago and that no country in the world had since
seen fit to ensure that women enjoy full equality in terms of salary,
status, opportunities or power. No country has as yet seen fit to
ensure that the rights of women were truly considered as ``human
The Beijing conference led to a concrete measure, the approval
of an action plan for the year 2000. Negotiations on the content of
this action plan were difficult at times, but in the end the main
problems of poverty, health, violence, economic equality and
human rights were taken into consideration. The action plan also
stresses the fact that many women face other obstacles to equality
based on race, religion, disabilities or other aggravating factors.
Of course, in the end, a conference is only a conference; an
action plan, only a few sheets of paper. But the Beijing world
conference on women did still have at least two positive and
concrete consequences for women in Canada and Quebec. It gave
them the opportunity to see what is left to do around the world with
regard to women's fundamental rights. It also showed them
specific objectives towards which they can work at the family,
community, national or international level.
As important as it is for the Canadian government to preach by
example, the best indication of its commitment to human rights is
its accomplishments in this area. What is the status of women and
children in Quebec and in Canada? What impact do the basic rights
of women and children have on our government's foreign policy?
In Canada and in Quebec, children's rights are protected under
the human rights legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms. At the international level, they are protected under
the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Despite these political and legal instruments, poverty among
children is increasing constantly here and elsewhere. In February
1995, the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development
warned us, and I quote: ``[Canada is] simply not doing enough to
ensure that [our children's] future is a bright one. With close to
one-fifth of our nation's children living below the low-income
cut-off, our record of concern for children and their future, in
comparison with that of other relatively affluent industrialized
nations, is quite simply unacceptable''.
In Canada, one child in five lives in poverty. This means one in
five children does not have enough to eat, does not have decent
housing, does not have the security to which all human beings have
a right. On the international level, 250 million children between the
ages of 5 and 14 are working, half of them full time.
The Canadian government must finally acknowledge the key
roles played by women and children in the community and in
society. Not only must the highest priority be given to the needs of
poor families, but it must also be realized that human rights, the
rights of women and children, must at all times guide our actions,
since they are the most vulnerable members of society.
Great principles are not enough on their own. There must also be
concrete actions. The Canadian government is dragging its feet in
this regard. Parents, especially mothers, should have access to
employment or to better educational and training opportunities,
and this must include the assurance that their children are being
properly taken care of.
All of this should-and this can never be said too often-fit in
with the transfer of powers and funds to Quebec, in order to enable
it to control all elements of an overall pro-family and anti-poverty
On the international scene, the least the government could do is
to ensure that the conditions regarding the work of children are
respected when it comes to its aid programs and international trade
relations as well as its grants to promote international trade.
Satisfying basic needs should be a priority on the national as well
as international levels.
One thing is for sure: respect for human rights will not come
about automatically, either in isolation or through trade. Whether it
be through legislation, promotion or protection, basic rights must,
like anything else, find their place among the humanitarian
priorities of this government. In real life, the principle that all
human beings have a right to the same level of respect and deserve
to be treated fairly is not always a top priority. It is important to
Mr. Ménard: Madam Speaker, before I start, may I raise a point
of order and say that you will find there is unanimous consent for
extending the debate beyond the time allowed, so that I can make
my 10 minute speech and a few other hon. members can do so as
Since you seem to be in excellent form and superb health, I do
not think you will mind if we go on, Madam Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): Is there
unanimous consent to hear the members who wish to speak to the
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, BQ): Madam
Speaker, you have my undying gratitude and this also applies to the
pages and the staff of the House. I also want to thank the security
staff, and I hope Camille Dagenais is listening as well.
That having been said, time or the lack of it should not make us
unmindful of the importance of the debate we are having today, as
parliamentarians, to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary
of what in contemporary, in recent history was certainly the first
text, with the text produced in the French Revolution, to actually
define human rights in a legislative text, which has led us to try to
establish an international public order.
As I prepared my speech this evening, I wanted to briefly recall
the role played by former U.S. president and democrat Woodrow
Wilson, who was a professor at Princeton University. He was,
without a doubt, one of the great driving forces behind human
rights in the history of the 20th century. He gave his country and
the international community a document entitled ``Fourteen
Points'', which served as the basis for the League of Nations.
You will remember that President Wilson was a visionary. He
was convinced not only that men and women were equal, but that
the countries in the international community must have the same
rights and responsibilities.
A Democrat who faced a great disappointment in his life,
because the American Congress denied him the mandate he sought
to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and join the League of Nations, the
forerunner of the United Nations, President Wilson said something
very important in his ``Fourteen Points''.
He pointed out that there had to be an international community
with common interests and responsibilities. However, there also
had to be a forum for discussion and the expression of
Sir Wilson was a visionary. In his 14 points, which the pages
certainly studied in political science and have not forgotten,
President Wilson said there should be no more secret diplomacy.
When President Wilson urged us to establish a lucid and
transparent international order without any more secret diplomacy,
he was surely thinking of the European system of the 19th century,
of which Bismarck had been an architect, and which led over time
to a very opaque system of concealed alliances which led to the
mess we are familiar with and to what Clémenceau called the first
European civil war, which was of course the war of 1914-18.
All this has not been in vain, however, since it led us over a
single century to believe that every individual has rights, regardless
of where he or she lives in the world. That is what the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, the 50th anniversary of which we
will celebrate in two years, is all about. This is the basic idea.
Nobody can say that the declaration is a long, dense, arid
document. About 30 clauses make up the text and there are 5
``whereas'' in the preamble, which you have surely read, Madam
Speaker. This document is younger than you are-No, I mean the
document is older than you are. I almost made a diplomatic faux
pas that could have cost me dearly.
These ``whereas'' point to something that is very important.
They remind us that every state is a country and must make a
commitment to promote human rights.
The concept of human rights implies a number of things that are
very clearly stated in the declaration. First, there is the dignity of
individuals, which is above all about physical integrity. In a
country unable to respect the physical integrity of its citizens, there
cannot be respect for human rights.
Moreover, in addition to talking about the physical integrity of
individuals, the declaration mentions the right to own property, the
right to take part in public life, which is part of the right to dignity,
the right to run in a election, the right to live in a country where
freedom of expression is recognized, and the right of all its citizens
to take part in public life.
It is awesome to think that in 1948, as the member for
Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead and the secretary of state for
multiculturalism reminded us a while ago, the declaration was a
gamble that in international law, opposing parties could sit down
together and agree that the rule of law must prevail, no matter what.
In the history of international relations, this was a huge step
forward, called multilateralism.
True, this declaration does not have force of law. Each nation
state wanting to follow through with the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights is responsible for translating into policy the
underlying principles of each of the 30 articles which are
statements of principles, values, beliefs and duties.
Each of the 30 sections show a number of principles, values,
beliefs and obligations.
In Canada's case, this took a number of forms. First of all, it took
the form of the Declaration of Human Rights that was put forward
by former Prime Minister Diefenbaker and where it was mentioned
essentially that, as a community, we are opposed to any form of
discrimination based on religion, origin, sex, religious or political
beliefs. This is an important part of Canadian law reflecting our
belief in the equality of all citizens.
Thereafter, we had the Canadian Charter of Human Rights in
1982, in a context that it is not appropriate to mention tonight, for it
has not always been in the interest of Quebec. This must be said
because entire sections of the main language act, the only national
redress act to have been passed by Quebec was invalidated.
When I say this, I must also say, for the sake of truth, that in
some respects the Constitutional Act and the 1982 charter had an
extremely positive effect on human rights.
I am thinking in particular of the whole issue of the rights of
those who experience discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The hon. member for Mount Royal knows how sensitive I am to
this issue that always brings us to the same reality. The only reality
that must prevail in a state is the rule of law. It is extremely
important that the rights and obligations we all have before the law
be codified in the legislation.
Does that mean that there is no need to update the charter of
human rights, the universal declaration of 1948? No, it does not
mean that. It means that, for a document nearly 50 years old, it has
aged very well. It remains just as relevant and topical now as it was
then, to anyone who believes that we need clear authority on the
matter of human rights.
I will conclude by saying that I am very proud to see that
everyone in this House, members of all parties, all support a
document like this one.
Hon. Sheila Finestone (Mount Royal, Lib.): Madam Speaker,
almost 50 years ago, the United Nations approved conventions,
principles of recognition and monitoring mechanisms, which all
reflect the overwhelming desire of the international community to
recognize all the various aspects of the indivisible, inalienable and
fundamental rights of individuals. We are now having this little
debate and you have just alluded to this important issue.
We want gender equality, which means all the inalienable rights
every woman and man should have in our society. The most
sensitive and difficult issue in my mind is the fact that, in the past,
we used to talk about ``droits de l'homme''. I think the time has
come to replace that expression with ``droits de la personne''.
Since the hon. member also referred to this issue earlier, can he
enlighten us on the differences between ``droits de l'homme'' and
``droits de la personne''?
Mr. Ménard: Madam Speaker, this is an extremely interesting
question at this late hour. I am sorry not to have more time to
The fact remains that the first time I went to the UN-I am not
sure if the hon. member for Mount Royal was part of the delegation
but I do not think so-I was very surprised and very disappointed
to see that all official documents in French still referred to ``droits
de l'homme''. This is an extremely outdated phrase that should no
longer be part of international terminology, since, as we know,
women account for 52 per cent of the population. Countries with
governments led by women are usually more successful than
countries led by men.
Indeed, we should speak of ``droits de la personne''. I subscribe
completely to the comments made by the hon. member for Mount
Royal. I hope Canada and its partners will press for the updating of
titles and names of international organizations. I think that the
current names are extremely discriminatory.
If the Canadian government, through the foreign affairs minister
or the Minister for International Cooperation, ever decided to make
representations in favour of these changes, I am sure it would have
the unanimous support of the official opposition.
Mrs. Finestone: Madam Speaker, I would like to make an
additional comment. This is precisely what Canada did at the
Inter-Parliamentary Union. We proposed that the expression ``les
droits de l'homme'' be amended in the statutes to reflect this
equality, and in fact the even greater number of women than men in
Unfortunately, France steadily opposed the proposal. It was
debated in committee and in plenary. The executive and the
committee of the whole rejected it, based on the fact that ``les
droits de l'homme'' contains in its very conception the notion of
women, and that it should therefore not be changed. What do you
think? How are we to deal with France?
Mr. Ménard: Madam Speaker, I know that the member for
Mount Royal is a very gifted diplomat. Even though I have, in the
past, found her more closely aligned with the Anglo-Saxon reality,
I believe that, were she to give it all her charm, conviction and
talent, she could persuade the motherland to change reality.
Hon. Raymond Chan (Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific),
Lib.): Madam Speaker, today is International Human Rights Day. I
want to draw attention to the anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, a year long celebration of Canada's
commitment to human rights which will begin one year from today.
The United Nations has invited all countries to organize
programs of activities in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the
declaration. It has also proclaimed 1995 to the year 2004 as the
United Nations decade for human rights education, calling on
member states to develop plans of action to address the needs in
Last April the Minister of Human Resources Development was
the first Canadian foreign minister to address the United Nations
High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. At that time he
promised to keep the High Commissioner on Human Rights
advised of Canada's plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in order to ensure
maximum international impact for the occasion.
As our Minister of Human Resources Development said in
Geneva: ``The celebration of the 50th anniversary should not be an
occasion for complacency or sentimentality. Rather, it is the time
for reaffirmation and renewal, for tough concerted action that will
move the human rights agenda to the centre of a reformed and
revitalized United Nations''. The minister described the universal
declaration of human rights as ``the linchpin that joins us all,
governments and citizens alike in our shared aspirations''.
Canada has a special attachment to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. A Canadian, the late John Peters Humphrey, was
one of the architects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and the first director of the UN human rights division. His great
personal qualities, enthusiasm and vision continue to guide
Canada's strong involvement within the UN in the field of human
Canada has played an active, often central role in the evolution
of UN human rights principles and machinery. The 1986 all-party
parliamentary review of Canada's foreign policy, and the
government's response, emphasized the importance of human
rights as a fundamental integral part of Canadian foreign policy.
The 1996 parliamentary review of Canadian foreign policy
reaffirmed this commitment and made clear that respect for human
rights is key to international peace, prosperity, development and to
an environment where Canadians can best pursue their interests in
the world. That the emergence since World War II of the principles
of human rights in any country are a legitimate concern of all
governments and a legitimate topic of discussion in international
fora represents a quantum leap in the evolution of international
relations and law.
Of course, as in most other fields of international law what
remains to be done is the hard part: ensuring effective, that is,
timely and universal implementation and enforcement of the
For instance in China, legal experts from both China and Canada
are working together on a series of projects to strengthen the
Chinese legal framework.
The International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal
Justice Policy, funded in part by the Canadian Development
Agency is an excellent example of Canada's support to China's
efforts to implement international standards for human rights. A
transparent system based on the rule of law is of growing
importance to the Chinese people. Another way to encourage
internationally established norms is through support for democracy
worldwide. Many of the countries that Canada supports through its
human rights programming are in the midst of adapting more
democratic forms of government.
As the Minister for International Cooperation said, taking a
human rights approach to development does not mean lecturing
recipient countries about democracy or human rights. It means
supporting projects and programs that enhance the will and
capacity of developing countries to respect the rights of children,
women and men, and to govern in an effective and democratic
I would like to draw to members' attention a few examples of
In Asia alone, a region which is close to my heart, CIDA was
involved in 72 human rights and democracy projects during the
1993-94 and 1994-95 fiscal years. This does not include initiatives
that address rights and democracy indirectly or as secondary
CIDA has contributed to a peace fund in Sri Lanka. The fund, is
aimed to promote peaceful resolutions to Sri Lanka's ethnic
conflicts through dialogue. It provided for a wide range of
activities including the production of educational material and
support for Sri Lanka's peace committees.
In Pakistan, CIDA provided support to the Women in
Development Support Fund. This project's goal was to help remove
discriminatory barriers to women's economic, social and political
participation in society. One of its accomplishments was the
creation of the Women's Desk at the Human Rights Commission of
the Pakistan Secretariat in 1995.
The relationship between trade and human rights are not
mutually exclusive. In fact, they reinforce each other. We should be
able to discuss human rights issues with our trading partners and
we should be able to use trade as a tool to improve human rights.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs said at the United Nations
General Assembly in September: ``The celebration of the 50th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be
an occasion not only to reaffirm our commitment to its principles
but also to further what practical steps remain to be taken by
governments to implement them''.
Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Hon. Sheila Finestone (Mount Royal, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I
want to thank the secretary of state for his remarks. They bring the
degree of clarity we need as we have been talking about trade,
international law, human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of
the person and the assurance that politicians and people who speak
out do not end up being incarcerated because they have cared to
speak about democracy and freedom and the right to
The member did not address the situations in Vietnam and
Burma. He did address the situation in China. In the view of the
secretary of state, what would be the outcome of isolating, of not
trading or of undertaking sanctions against countries like Burma or
Vietnam? I could mention many other countries in the same breath
that have incarcerated their parliamentarians or that have ignored
supposed open democracy. They have had free elections yet they
have ignored those elections and in many cases put the elected
persons into prison. What does the member believe we can do in
the light of the work we have already undertaken at the United
Nations and in the light of the helpful remarks made by the foreign
Mr. Chan: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her
question. We have to look at those issues according to the situations
in the individual countries. Situations differ between countries.
It is very unfortunate that even though Canada has discouraged
our business community from trading with Burma, many other
countries like the United States, Japan, Australia and the Asian
countries have been trading with Burma. It is very difficult for us to
unilaterally impose sanctions on Burma. On many occasions we
continue to speak out against the human rights situation in Burma,
but we are limited in our ability to effect change.
In countries like Indonesia the government has shown signs of
co-operation. It has established a human rights commission which
has demonstrated its integrity in its last report on the January 27
riots in Indonesia.
In those countries I do not think that isolation or trade sanctions
would be effective, positive or constructive in pursuing human
rights. The best way to go is to continue trading with them, to
encourage them to open up their countries and accept our norms on
human rights. We have seen progress in those countries.
In Vietnam we have seen there is higher degree of freedom
among the civilians. They can pursue their own economic agendas
and they are able to move around freely. At the same time, the
dissidents and political activists are still facing a lot of trouble. We
use every opportunity to share our views with them, to talk about
those issues with them. During my last visit to Vietnam I actually
raised individual cases with the prime minister. I made sure that
human rights and trade could go hand in hand.
Mr. Rey D. Pagtakhan (Parliamentary Secretary to Prime
Minister, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to note that the
Standing Committee on Human Rights and Status of Persons with
Disabilities, on which I was privileged to serve as chair last year,
recommended in its second report to Parliament this past June that
the Government of Canada should set aside time today, on
International Human Rights Day, for a special debate on the pivotal
role played by the universal declaration of human rights in
promoting human rights abroad and at home and to begin to make
Canadians aware that December 10, 1998 will mark the 50th
anniversary of its adoption. Therefore I am delighted that the
Government of Canada proceeded to announce that a special debate
in honour of International Human Rights Day would take place
Earlier this evening during comments and questions I spoke
about human rights having as much to do with children in poverty
as they have to do with the brave and courageous individuals
around the world who fight for freedom in countries where
intimidation, fear and oppression are daily realities.
When we look at the question of human rights in this
perspective, it is clear that in spite of the wonderful technological
progress of this decade, there are still far too many who have
shown too little responsibility for the vast majority of the human
I speak of peace not just as a north-south issue. I speak of peace
as well as a concerned Canadian who knows only too well the
magnitude of the war on poverty we all have to make in our own
country. Again, I do not speak here only of freedom from
oppression but of freedom from hunger and hopelessness as well.
Nelson Mandela made the same point in his speech to the joint
session of the U.S. Congress on October 7, 1994 when he said: ``As
the images of life lived anywhere on our globe become available to
all, so will the contrast between rich and poor become a force
impelling the deprived to demand a better life from the powers that
Here at home Canadians have built a compassionate country
anchored with the spirit of tolerance and the idea of strength
through diversity. Canada is a multicultural federation which is in
many ways is a microcosm of the planet. Thousands of newly
arrived Canadians enrich our national dream. Thousands more wait
in immigration offices around the world seeking access to a
country where the red maple leaf signifies peace and freedom and
compassion and respect for the rights of the individual.
Too many of us, in the rush to rise to the challenges of the world
economic revolution, forget that Canada is seen as a special
laboratory for social change in all corners of the planet.
Today on International Human Rights Day we must reflect on the
real priorities for Canadians. No society or country is truly free if it
neglects the rights and freedoms of the most poor and illiterate, the
most defenceless citizens among them. The true test of a
civilization is how it treats the poor, how it treats the illiterate, how
it treats the most defenceless.
Antoine de Sainte Exupery once wrote: ``It is only with the heart
that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye''.
May this December 10 teach us to look with our hearts; we must
look with our conscience. We must think of the tiny babies and the
small children growing up in our decade.
As a paediatrician I might add I often think of such babies and
children. They do not understand globalization and computers,
trade pacts and gross domestic product. But they are born among
us, raised among us with rights, rights to shelter and good health
care, rights to nourishment and protection, rights to societies which
respect and love them. But most of all, they have the right to grow
up in a country in which they have a fair opportunity to do their
very best, a country where the right to equality does not depend on
the neighbourhood they come from or the ethnic community they
belong to, or whether they are of aboriginal parents in Winnipeg or
whether they are of English parents on the Island of Montreal. You
have the right to grow up equal and in some respects that is the real
moral test of our time.
Today we think and look with our hearts because the real
essentials are invisible to the eye. We think back to that United
Nations General Assembly meeting in Paris nearly half a century
ago, when the first step in the long 1,000 mile journey toward a
freer, fairer world was taken.
Let us resolve and endeavour to answer the unspoken questions
in every human heart: Why are we here? What are we to do?
We in this House can take pride that this government under the
creative and caring leadership of our Prime Minister remembers
our humanity at home and abroad. Indeed we must remember the
intended purpose and meaning of our being. We must remember
our humanity. This is the essence of today's celebration of
International Human Rights Day.
Hon. Sheila Finestone (Mount Royal, Lib.): My intervention is
more in the nature of a comment, Madam Speaker. I want to note
that this debate has been most interesting. I am really delighted
with the number of people who have participated for the
government and on all sides of this House.
It is particularly important to note that the last speaker for the
evening is the past chairman of the Standing Committee on Human
Rights and the Status of the Disabled. He was the guiding spirit in
that new committee and certainly oversaw some very wonderful
pieces of research, particularly in relation to the disabled. I want to
congratulate him on the work which he and his committee did and
to tell him how pleased I am that he who in, of and by himself
speaks to human rights in his everyday life is a real testament to the
nature of the kind of debate we had tonight for which I thank him
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): Pursuant to
order made, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.,
pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.)