An examination of clause 241 of the bill sponsored by the
Minister of Finance indicates that this principle of the
conflict of interest code is being ridden roughshod over. The
Minister of Finance is a legislator and therefore has definite
influence over legislation concerning international shipping, the
area in which he is involved. He can influence government
activities for the benefit of his shipping companies, and this is
what he has done with clause 241 of Bill C-28.
Clause 241 will impact upon the financial performance of his
This principle, adopted in June 1994 as part of the government's
conflict of interest guidelines, has already gone by the board.
The final principle is public interest. It states the following:
Not only do we believe that there is, at the very least, an
apparent conflict of interest, which is serious according to the
code, because it speaks not only of real or potential conflict
of interest, but also of apparent conflict of interest. We are
not the only ones to believe there is, at the very least, an
apparent conflict of interest.
Even the person responsible for ethics, Mr. Wilson, the
governmental ethics adviser, ministerial even, one might say
because, in our opinion, his evaluations are somewhat biased—he
is paid by the people he has to defend—has appeared before the
finance committee, has even prepared and submitted a report, and
admits there could be an apparent conflict of interest.
He has said that, had he been consulted as ethics adviser, the
bill would have been introduced differently than it was by the
Minister of Finance. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime
Minister, the Minister of Finance, all the government members,
have told us “Go consult Mr. Wilson, and he will tell you there
is no problem”. Yet even Mr. Wilson says “There was, at the very
least, an apparent conflict of interest. The process was flawed
and things ought not to have been done that way”. This has
happened more than once, moreover.
The Prime Minister boasted that he had seen nothing two years
Sometimes the Prime Minister is really funny. He sometimes has
a really funny way of reasoning.
Two years ago, a bill was introduced, which contained a
provision similar to clause 241, but it eventually died on the
Order Paper when the election was called. We did not notice it at
the time, probably because nobody felt like reading through the
464 pages of an omnibus bill, but the second time around, we did.
The Prime Minister bragged about it on two separate occasions.
First, he said there was no ambiguity because the bill was
introduced by the Minister of Finance himself. Not only did he
sponsor it, he introduced it. And, again the other day, the Prime
Minister said they had done the same thing two years ago and “the
opposition did not even notice it”. Great philosophy, great moral
and political ethics.
So, coming back to the ethics counsellor, in his evidence before
the Standing Committee on Finance, Mr. Wilson told us there was
indeed an apparent conflict of interest. What happens when four
out of the five principles supposed to govern the Conflict of
Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders are
trampled on as I have just demonstrated? One must refer to page
16 of the code.
What does it say on page 16? It states that “Where a public
office holder does not comply with Part II, the office holder is
subject to such appropriate measures as may be determined by the
Prime Minister, including, where applicable, discharge or
termination of appointment”. None of this has ever happened.
We are not asking for the minister's resignation, at least not
yet. But we are running out of patience. It is really hard to
The government's refusal to shed light on these very important
questions and the Prime Minister's hypocritical suggestion in the
House that we should seek an answer from the Standing Committee
on Finance, where we are being gagged, are starting to get to us.
We are asking the government to shed light on this matter. We
have just demonstrated, by quoting directly from the code of
conduct without any interpretation, that four out of five
principles have been trampled by the finance minister's
sponsoring of Bill C-28 and that clause 241 might give an unfair
advantage to the shipping companies he owns.
Howard Wilson has recognized, at least once in writing, that
there was a problem, an apparent conflict of interest. He may not
have said it again, but as we have seen in the past, he is more
of an elastic counsellor than an ethics counsellor.
He gives a very broad and very flexible interpretation of the
code of ethics when his boss, the Prime Minister, asks him to
save the neck of one of his ministers.
There are precedents. We found a few. There are precedents
where a public office holder, a finance minister or other public
office holder, was forced to resign over a lesser matter than
this, over situations that were less obvious and less worrisome
from a conflict of interest point of view.
In 1985, a case was raised by the Prime Minister, then the member
for Shawinigan, who was then in opposition. He asked the Prime
Minister of the day, Mr. Mulroney, for the head of the Minister
of Finance, Michael Wilson, who he said was in conflict of
interest, one of his brothers-in-law having been awarded a
$240,000 contract, something that was ultimately never proved.
He cited the example of an Ontario finance minister who, in the
1980s, had resigned immediately after revelations that he had
allegedly relaxed the normal rules in granting a permit for a
company owned by his family. And the minister had never seen
this permit. He had never had anything to do with granting this
But, as this finance minister, Darcy McKeough, had
recognized, a finance minister's performance is subject to
criteria of very high integrity—not just integrity, but very high
integrity—because of the nature of his duties. He had therefore
preferred to hand in his resignation immediately to avoid any
further doubts about his government's and his own integrity.
I will describe the case again. It was something very simple and
not serious in itself. A company owned by an Ontario Minister of
Finance was issued a permit. The minister had never seen the
file, nor was he the one to sign the permit. The Minister, not
wishing to place anyone in his government in an awkward
position, and not wishing any doubt to be cast on his integrity,
There is a more recent case, this time in defence.
Everyone will recall that the Minister of Defence was obliged to
step down in March 1996, not because he was a bad
minister—although at the time we felt he was and we were calling
for his head—but because he had written to the Immigration and
So, the former Minister of Defence wrote the chair of the
Immigration and Refugee Board to get an immigration case
The case involved a Canadian citizen who was very ill and wanted
her husband to be allowed to come here to look after her.
Because of that,
For a humanitarian cause, the Minister of Defence of the time
wrote in his capacity as an MP to the chair of the Immigration
and Refugee Board in order to get the case of the unfortunate
sick lady who wanted her husband here to take care of her speeded
up. Because this action by an MP, especially by a government MP,
that is trying to influence the decision of a quasi-judicial
board, is unacceptable from an ethical standpoint, the Minister
of Defence of the time resigned. And this was over a humanitarian
When we see all that and then we see the scope of the action
taken by the Minister of Finance in creating for himself clause
241, which favours his offshore shipping companies, which
favours his shipping holding companies and protects them from all
claims by Revenue Canada, we say to ourselves “How come there is
a double standard?”
How is it that, when the Prime Minister was in opposition, he
cited a case that was far less serious than this one, and now
there are no more problems? How could he accept the resignation
of his Minister of National Defence in 1996 for having behaved in
a humanitarian case contrary to the code of ethics? He would not
consider any other course of action than to accept the
resignation of the minister of defence.
Why is the Prime Minister now, in the more serious case before
us, considering it reasonable for a Minister of Finance to table
a bill with 14 lines hidden in 464 pages that could give an
advantage to his shipping companies and that do favour offshore
There seems to be a bit of a problem. In fact it is a big
problem when the government refuses to come clean and orders the
chair of the Standing Committee on Finance to reject all
requests for witnesses, specialists and ethics counsellors, other
than the one paid by the government, who, in passing, is more of
an elastic counsellor than an ethics counsellor, in our opinion.
The problem is twofold and that becomes serious.
A second issue arose throughout all this, which was refuted, but
not argued, by the Minister of Finance when he sputtered out the
first day the Bloc Quebecois mentioned this rather interesting
discovery about the provisions of clause 241. They objected
that “The Minister of Finance's shipping companies will not
benefit from the new provisions”.
In fact, three versions were given. In the first, the Minister
of Finance said his companies would not be affected because they
were Canadian. We wondered why he used that argument and
why—with the code of ethics, he had no business discussing this
bill or sponsoring it either, and then he goes before the cameras
and says that he will analyze it.
Already, the minister was violating the government's code of
ethics. He was saying that it was a Canadian corporation, that we
were totally mistaken, etc.
The vice-president of Canada Steamship Lines—the shipping company
owned by the Minister of Finance—said “Maybe they apply to us,
but we will not use these provisions. We do not intend to use
these new clauses”. The mere fact they were saying they did not
intend to use the provisions implied that they had the right to
use them and that these provisions could apply to the Minister of
Finance's shipping corporations.
Within a day, there was a reversal, a new version was different.
And that was just the next day.
First, the Minister of Finance said “These provisions do not
apply to us, you do not get it at all”. Then the vice-president of
Canada Steamship Lines said “We do not intend to use these
provisions”, thus implying that the minister's companies could do
so and that those provisions did indeed apply to them.
The third version was given to us by Len Farber. It was in reply
to the second question which was “Could the minister benefit from
the provisions that he is getting passed in the House, yes or
no?” Len Farber appeared before the Standing Committee on
Finance. At the finance minister's invitation, I met with Mr.
Farber in my office the day after our revelations. Far from
convincing us, Mr. Farber gave us more reasons to believe that
there was indeed a problem.
I met with Mr. Farber in my office, and then he appeared at a
finance committee meeting, which was a public meeting, a few
days later. We asked him questions, we showed him a corporate
organization chart and we told him “Look, we have companies with
offices in Montreal, for example, with subsidiaries in various
places that are actively involved in international shipping, that
also have holdings, that own shares in shipping corporations
directly involved in international shipping. Could the provisions
of clause 241 of Bill C-28 apply to such corporations?” Mr. Farber
did not say yes right away. He is a friend of the Minister of
Finance and he is his principal adviser. It was the minister
himself who had told us “Go talk to Farber, he will tell you what
is going on. You do not understand anything”.
We realized that we understood everything. That was a good start.
In the end, to the questions asked by the Bloc Quebecois, Mr.
Farber simply responded that, yes, it could apply to businesses
like those owned by the Minister of Finance.
From the outset, it was illogical to have an arrangement like
clause 241 to attract foreign shipowners operating abroad in
international shipping to open up offices in Canada, to offer
them tax benefits, to provide them with tax savings, while our
own Canadian companies operating elsewhere in competition with
these foreign companies coming to set up operations in Canada
cannot take advantage of the same arrangements. This is not
It takes a really twisted logic to tell us that these clauses
did not apply to foreign companies operating in international
shipping, but only to foreign companies which we wanted to
attract into Canada.
If there are tax advantages to attract foreign shipbuilders,
there must also be tax advantages to keep our shipbuilders here
in Canada. Logic must come before anything else.
When we questioned Mr. Farber, logic won out. He indicated to us
that, yes indeed, it would be possible, it would be necessary to
look at the structure of Canadian businesses, where the decisions
are made and so on.
The other part of the response came to us two days later. We
were not expecting additional arguments for our thesis from the
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, the hon.
member for Stoney Creek.
I will quote the hon. member for Stoney Creek if I may. He might
gain something from listening to me this morning. With some of
his revelations, he is adding to our arguments rather than
defending his minister.
He is talking about the old 1991 provision. What clause 241 does
is not just exempt international shipping companies from taxes,
but it also exempts international shipping companies holding
shares in offshore shipping companies from paying taxes on
If everything the parliamentary secretary told us on March 23 is
true, why would it not be true in the case of Canada Steamship
Lines and Passage Holdings, the blind trust for the Minister of
We are told that, in 1994, the Minister of Finance put all his
assets in a blind trust.
The company now managing these assets is Canada Trust, based in
Montreal. Canada Trust—as for any offshore shipping company that
has just opened offices here—contributes to the economy, creates
jobs, and so on. Canada Trust manages shipping and holding
companies owned by the Minister of Finance, including Canada
Steamship Lines here in Canada and offshore holding companies in
Liberia, Bermuda, Barbados, and so on.
What difference is there between the example given by the member
for Stoney Creek, parliamentary secretary to the finance
minister, and the situation of the finance minister's companies?
There is none. Both have an office in Canada, operate in
international shipping, have offshore holding companies, and
enjoy tax exemptions. Now, their holding companies are going to
enjoy exactly the same advantages because of clause 241.
The parliamentary secretary gave us a description of foreign
businesses to attract here. The foreign businesses wanting to
start up initially in Vancouver, for example, are exactly the
same and have the same structure as the businesses and holdings
of the Minister of Finance.
There is a problem with these provisions, with the process
surrounding the introduction of the bill and with clause 241.
There is definitely the appearance of a conflict of interest and
I would even go so far as to say there is a real conflict of
The attitude of the government adds to our doubts about its
integrity and that of the Minister of Finance. The recent
responses by the Prime Minister are very demagogic in this
I asked him a question a couple of weeks ago about his intention
to respond to the four opposition parties and requested he
establish a special committee of inquiry on the Minister of
Finance, on clause 241, on the appearance of a conflict of
interest and on the entire process leading to the introduction of
a bill. He answered saying, and I quote to be sure I have it
We can ask questions, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence
needs someone to ask question to, someone to answer them. We can
ask all the questions we like, but if there is no one to answer
them we look rather stupid.
That is what is happening in the finance committee. The bill was
introduced on February 23. A few days later, as the
representative of the Bloc, I personally tabled four motions
with the finance committee.
The first motion called for the government ethics counsellor to
appear before the Standing Committee on Finance. The Liberal
majority supported this motion as did the opposition parties.
But when I asked that the Minister of Finance appear before the
Standing Committee on Finance to provide explanations, it did not
work. The Liberal majority systematically refused and voted
against my motion. I got the support of the Progressive
Conservative Party, the Reform Party and the New Democratic
Party, but I did not get the support of the Liberal majority.
The result was the same when I tabled my third motion, asking
that the committee invite members of the board of Canada
Steamship Lines, which has been wholly owned by the Minister of
Finance since 1988. The Liberal majority voted against the
motion. Liberal members were under so much pressure from the
Prime Minister's office that if they could have voted three times
against the motion, they would have done so.
When I tabled the other motion, in which I asked that the
directors of Passage Holdings Inc.—that is the directors of
Canada Trust—appear before the Standing Committee on Finance,
even behind closed doors, it was the same thing. The Liberal
majority said “No way, we do not want to have witnesses shed
light on this bill”. But I did get the support of the three
In order to test the democratic sense of the Liberal majority
and their desire to shed light on such an apparent conflict of
interest, I even tabled a general motion asking that the Standing
Committee on Finance invite any witness who could shed light on
Bill C-28 and on clause 241.
I was not asking for specific individuals, but for any witness.
It could have been a senior official from Revenue Canada, from
the Department of Finance, or someone from outside the public
We voted against it. I had the support of the three other
opposition parties, but the government members decided no
witnesses would be heard in an attempt to shed light on Bill C-28
and clause 241.
When the Prime Minister stands up in the House and says “The
hon. member sometimes attends sittings of the Standing Committee
on Finance. I suggest he uses that venue to ask whatever
questions he may have”, he is laughing at us. He is laughing at
the people. The fact of the matter is that he does not want
witnesses to be called. He does not want to get to the bottom of
this apparent or real conflict of interest involving his finance
He has the nerve to stand up in the House and tell us to go and
ask any question we may have to the finance committee. But they
do not want us to call any witnesses to answer our questions.
That is not all. We—and by “we” I mean the Bloc Quebecois, the
Progressive Conservative Party, the Reform Party and the New
Democratic Party—have sent the chair of the finance committee a
joint letter asking that a special committee be struck. This
letter was sent more than a month ago, with certified copies to
the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Deputy Prime
Minister and everyone who is anyone in government. We are still
waiting for an answer.
A week and a half ago, I sent another letter to the Prime
Minister, a letter directly addressed to him, asking that, as
suggested by him on February 19, a special committee or a
subcommittee of the finance committee be put in charge of
shedding light on this matter of conflict or apparent conflict of
interest involving the Minister of Finance, and that all the
witnesses who could help clarify the matter be called. I am still
waiting for an answer.
To me, it is pure hypocrisy to take such an approach, to object
to our getting to the bottom of what I consider to be a very
serious matter, which puts into question the finance minister's
integrity and that of the Prime Minister as well.
Many aspects remain to be clarified in this whole matter. All
sorts of contradictory statements were made after the Bloc
Quebecois revealed the existence of a certain 14-line provision of
Bill C-28 concerning international shipping companies, including
the one owned by the Minister of Finance. Many conflicting
statements were made by various people.
There has also been much confusion in the reactions of government
representatives. One thing is certain, and that is that we are
not satisfied with the answers we have been given as to the
process, content and real impact of clause 241 because they are
The Minister of Finance and the government have friends all over
the place, and the government awards contracts to companies of
tax experts. Has anyone heard a tax expert from outside the
government—not Len Farber, the finance minister's hatchet man,
but an outside expert—say that there is no real or potential
problem with clause 241, which amends section 250 of the Income
Tax Act regarding international shipping?
Has anyone heard a single tax expert express such an opinion
since this saga first started?
We have been talking about it since February 23. Not a single
tax expert has dared to put his credibility on the line publicly
and say that the Minister of Finance was not in apparent or
outright conflict of interest and that the structure of his
companies was not such as to provide him with undue advantages
or tax savings related to clause 241. Not one. This creates
even more doubts.
I was waiting to raise this point, but when the Prime Minister
himself or the Deputy Prime Minister jump to the defence of the
Minister of Finance, a well known member of the government, on a
particular matter, it seems to me we might have expected a tax
expert somewhere, a friend of the Liberal Party, to come forward
and state publicly that there is no problem. Why has this not
Because there is indeed a problem.
And it is not the only problem. This bill does not just apply to
international shipping. The Minister of Finance has managed to
alienate many people in other sectors of activity who would like
to be in the same boat as he is, but who are unable to take
advantage of the tax savings available to him for his own
That having been said, I would like to move the following
amendment at third reading, seconded by my colleague, the member
for Châteauguay. I move:
the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the
word “That” and substituting the following:
If the Prime Minister asks his members to vote against this
amendment, he will be contradicting himself, because he told us
in the House that the Standing Committee on Finance would be able
to shed light on the issue and answer our questions. That is
what he told us. His handling of this amendment will tell us
what kind of Prime Minister he is and whether he is as full of
integrity as he claims to be.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, I
am very happy to have the opportunity today to speak on behalf of
the NDP on third reading of Bill C-28. I will first comment on
the format of the bill.
I am the NDP member on the human resources development
I recall that at one of the first meetings of the committee, a
government representative attended and told us about the various
provisions available on websites and government publications that
were designed to make government more understandable to people.
Certainly as a new member of the House trying to wade through
various bills and motions and understand the complexity of the
issues before us, I certainly concurred with the government
representative. I saw it as a positive step that the various
government departments were interested and intent on trying to
make government more understandable to ordinary Canadians.
Then along comes Bill C-28. Looking at the volume of this bill,
more than 400 pages to be precise, there is no question that this
bill and how it has been drafted takes us in exactly the opposite
direction to what the government states is its goal in terms of
making legislation more understandable to Canadians.
In actual fact, Bill C-28 is very technical legislation. It
deals with income tax measures from the February 1997 budget and
many technical amendments to a whole variety of acts, including
the Income Tax Act as originally outlined in Bill C-69.
This needs to be said before we get into the substance of the
bill. It has already been debated by some members that because
of the format in which this bill came forward, its complexity and
the technicalities it contains, it is ridiculous to expect that
Parliament would deal with such a complex bill. I would suggest
that the language in the bill and the way it is presented would
be incomprehensible even to the most highly paid tax experts.
They would certainly have difficulty in deciphering this bill.
The bill is simply anti-democratic because of its format and its
language, but most important because of its content. It is wrong
for a government to present legislation that is steeped in such
isolating language and expect not only parliamentarians but
ordinary Canadians to understand and to be informed about what
the government is doing.
I wanted to make that comment at the beginning because as a new
member of the House it is something I am interested in. It was
curious to me that we have been told efforts are being made to
make the language more understandable but this bill certainly
takes us in a different direction.
I would like to focus some of my comments on Bill C-28 in terms
of what it proposes or purports to do in increasing the Canada
health and social transfer.
In Bill C-28 we are told that the Canada health and social
transfer will be “increased” from $11 billion to $12.5 billion.
This is not something new. In fact we heard the announcement not
only by government members during the federal election campaign
in May 1997 but also in the budget which came before the House
for the next fiscal year.
It is very interesting that we are told repeatedly that
Canadians can expect to see an increase in the Canada health and
social transfer. The government is putting forward the message in
that way, that it is an increase. The reality is that this is not
an increase at all.
It is simply the government making a decision because of
enormous public pressure from opposition parties, from provincial
governments and most of all from Canadians who have told the
government that they are suffering from the impact of massive
cutbacks in the Canada health and social transfer. What has the
government decided to do? Rather than provide an increase, it
simply is not continuing with another round of cuts that it had
previously announced. That in reality is what the so-called
increase to the Canada health and social transfer is all about.
It is regrettable there are not any government members present
in the House today to hear that because this is something which
sorely touches every Canadian. We can look at the polls.
Concerns have been expressed about the cutbacks in health care,
in social services, in social assistance and in education.
It is a very critical point to look at the main mechanism by
which the federal government uses revenues from Canadian
taxpayers and transfers them to provinces to build and create
social programs in our country.
We in the NDP find it shocking and outrageous that the
government would put forward this bill and include in it a
supposed increase in the Canada health and social transfer when
in actual fact it is not an increase at all. Indeed cash
transfers to the provinces for health care, education and social
assistance have not increased by one penny. That is the reality
of what has happened.
I would like to continue on this point and refer to some
material that has been prepared by the National Anti-Poverty
Organization, NAPO. This group has done extensive research to
assess and analyse the impact of the devastating cuts in the
Canada health and social transfer, particularly on low income
Canadians. This is very important, valuable work.
On one side of the House we hear from government members that we
should not worry about what is going on, that in fact they are
there to defend the interests of poor Canadians, that they are
there to defend the interests of poor children. I can say that
this organization, an independent anti-poverty advocacy
organization, comes to a very different conclusion.
The organization released a report entitled “Government
Expenditure Cuts to Health Care and Post-Secondary Education:
Impacts on Low Income Canadians”. That report documents that
cuts in government funding of social programs have not only led
to increasing inequality in money income, but rapidly growing
inequities in access to both health care and post-secondary
It is pointed out in the report that federal cash transfers to
the provinces under the Canada health and social transfer for
health care, post-secondary education and social assistance were
cut. Here again is where we hear the real story. Not an
increase as the government is telling us, but a cut from $18.2
billion to $12.5 billion over the past two fiscal years.
What is very interesting about the report is it goes on to
analyse what this means in real per capita terms, that is taking
into account the effects of population growth and inflation. If
we look at it from that point of view, then the federal cash
transfers for social programs fell by more than 40% between 1993
Initially this came about as a result of the freeze on spending
under the Canada assistance plan and the established programs
financing. Of course since 1996 that cut of more than 40% has
come about because of the deep cuts that have been made to the
Canada health and social transfer.
That is what has actually happened in this country. It is not
what government members have told us and certainly is not what is
contained in Bill C-28.
It is very important that we consider the real impact and
consequences of these cuts. It has meant in Canada that there is
growing inequality and there is increasing poverty. Since 1989
the tragic situation in Canada is that 538,000 more children now
live in poverty. To read those statistics does not give a real
sense of the tragedy involved in terms of young Canadians, poor
Canadians and poor families. These people historically have
relied upon federal programs, on the co-operation between federal
and provincial governments on transfer payments, for example for
social welfare. These things traditionally have had great
meaning and value particularly for poor and low income Canadians.
Now that we are witnessing the deep cuts in the Canada health
and social transfer, we can see that poverty in this country has
actually grown. Indeed the number of low income persons in 1996
was 40% higher than it was in 1989.
In 1996 is when the Canada health and social transfer began to kick
in. These are real statistics and something that cannot be denied
by the government.
The other consequence that is very evident to local communities
is high unemployment that has resulted from the massive cutbacks
by the federal government. Again, this bill before us today,
Bill C-28, will do absolutely nothing to reverse that, nor will
the recent federal budget that came before this House. The
reality is there is very high continuing unemployment in Canada
that is simply a national tragedy.
Those of us in the NDP believe that it is the first priority of
the federal government to attack and deal with this issue of high
unemployment and to bring in real programs and targets to reduce
unemployment. We have heard a lot from the finance minister about
his targets to cut the deficit. But where have the targets been
to reduce unemployment? Where have the targets been to reduce
poverty in this country? They simply do not exist. I think that
is a crying shame and the government should be ashamed of its
record on that score.
In my riding of Vancouver East, probably the lowest income urban
community in Canada, which includes the downtown east side, the
impact of these policies and the impact of the measures that are
contained in Bill C-28 is very visible already. In looking
through this bill I had to ask myself is there anything in this
bill that would improve the lives of people in my riding, in
particular unemployed people and single parents who are
struggling below the poverty line, who cannot find access to
child care, who cannot find adequate housing.
Having looked at Bill C-28 and trying to make sense even of what
it contains because the language is so difficult to deal with I
and others in my party have come to the conclusion that there is
nothing in this bill that will improve the lives of ordinary
Will it improve housing or are there any tax measures that will
improve the situation for low income Canadians to find affordable
housing which is a very basic human need, the provision and
security of shelter? There is nothing that will deal with that.
Will this bill improve access to health care? Regrettably the
answer to that question as well is no.
Recently in my riding I organized a number of round table
discussions with young people. Some of them were street people.
Some of them were service providers working with young people who
are unemployed and having difficulty finding work or having
difficulty accessing post-secondary education. These round table
discussions were very informative for me as the local member
because they really brought home to me the stark reality that is
faced by young people in this country. What these young people
said to me is they know they have a very bleak and dismal future
and the prospect for them to find long term secure employment
that is not part time, that is not low wage, was increasingly
When I look at the impact of this bill on my local riding and
when I hear from my constituents, in particular young people who
are unemployed, they tell me they are very fearful about their
lack of access to post-secondary education. That is even in a
province like British Columbia where we have been very fortunate
to have a provincial government that has shown leadership and has
frozen tuition fees three years in a row in order to ensure that
there is some measure of accessibility.
B.C. has led the way in that regard, but even so it is very
difficult for young poor Canadians to get into a university, a
community college or a technical school simply because the
tuition fees are so incredibly high. We have to ask ourselves
why are those tuition fees so high. It is because of $2.1
billion which has been cut from education in the Canada health
and social transfer that will not be reversed in this bill before
us today, despite the claims from the federal government that it
is increasing the Canada health and social transfer.
My constituents who are trying to get into community college,
university or technical school know what the reality is trying to
go through the door, trying to get into those schools and
realizing that tuition fees are too high. Even if they are
successful in going through the entrance, what are they then
faced with? The next barrier is a massive student debt.
The average student debt a few years ago was around $13,000.
Today the average student debtload is $25,000. Why is that? We
can relate it directly back to the federal government which has
shirked its responsibility to provide adequate funding for
In the last month we have heard a lot about the millennium fund
and how this will answer all our problems and needs. As the
millennium fund begins to unfold and as students, young people
and Canadians begin to understand what the millennium fund is all
about people will realize it will not even come close to
compensating for the massive cuts we have faced in post-secondary
What the government chose to do was rather than increasing its
support to public post-secondary education that could have been
contained in Bill C-28, it provided a scholarship grant program
through a private foundation that only begins in the year 2000.
Students will still be facing very high tuition fees because
universities and colleges are forced to raise tuition fees to
compensate for the decreasing funds from the federal government.
The impact of the bill, the lack of funding and the cutbacks in
the Canada health and social transfer are not just felt in my
riding, they are felt right across the country. Even here in
Ottawa there was a very interesting situation yesterday where
students at Carleton University organized a vote on several key
questions involving post-secondary education because they are so
concerned with what is going on in their own educational
To refer to the material they have distributed to students in
that facility, they said that recent decisions by the provincial
government give the board of governors and the management of
Carleton University the power to raise tuition fees for
undergraduate students up to 20% over the next two years and to
deregulate tuition fees for graduate students.
The students say about the putting out of this material that
they need to ask themselves who sets tuition rates and how. Ask
the federal government which jettisoned national standards by
ending direct funding for education in 1996 and it will say it is
the provinces' responsibility. Ask provincial governments whose
main response to decreased federal government was to make it
easier for universities to raise tuition fees and they will refer
you to the universities. Ask Carleton management and it blames
both governments for cutting education funding. Who is telling
In a sense the responsibility for tuition fees has become
offloaded to everybody and nobody. That is what students at
Carleton University are facing as they put forward the questions
in a vote that was held on the campus yesterday. The questions
they posed to students at that facility are as follows. “Do you
think the board of governors and the university management should
freeze tuition for the next two academic years, 1998-99 and
1999-2000 at current levels, yes or no? Do you think Carleton
should honour its obligations to tenured faculty and students
when making decisions about closing programs, yes or no?”
The full results have not yet come out but I know from speaking
to members at the university that they have had a very high vote
and they expect a very high, resounding yes in answer to these
In closing, this bill contains nothing of real measure to help
Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Madam Speaker, further to the
remarks by my colleague from British Columbia, I note she has
acknowledged that the millennium scholarships, among other
things, will not, as she puts it, really serve the students in
We in Quebec have noted the same thing. We are saying that
education needs are not necessarily the ones targeted by the
federal government and we think the Province of Quebec is in a
better position to know what the real needs are, to establish
its own priorities and to invest where the needs are the
I would like to ask my colleague from British Columbia if she
does not think that education would be better served if it were
administered provincially, if the Province of British Columbia
had this money as compensation and could distribute it for
educational purposes, invest it where it considered such
investment a priority and where it would best serve students in
Does she consider the provinces are in a better position than the
government to assess educational priorities? I would like her
opinion on the matter.
Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I agree with the member
that the role of provincial governments in establishing
educational priorities is critical and is a prime responsibility
of the provincial governments whether in Quebec or British
However, I and my party think it is very important for the
federal government to be involved in establishing a national
standard around accessibility for post-secondary education. We
also believe that the federal government must provide adequate
funding for post-secondary education, which I am sure the member
would agree with.
The federal government should sit down at the table with
provincial governments to ensure those funds are directed to
support public facilities and support students in need through a
national grants program. That is what we stand for and what we
believe in. We believe the students in Quebec would benefit from
that as well.
Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Madam Speaker, once again the member opposite
fails to mention the importance of the value of tax points for
the provinces as part of the overall federal transfer payments.
What we have done in Bill C-28 is increased the cash floor now
that our fiscal situation has allowed us to do that. I would
hope that she would be applauding the government for actually
increasing the amount of money in the cash floor.
The question I would ask the hon. member is whether the
constituents of Vancouver East would benefit from the increase in
the cash floor to the provinces. If the member is suggesting
they will not and this money is being transferred to the province
of British Columbia, then she is further suggesting that the
government should go directly to Canadians, Vancouverites, the
constituents of Vancouver East. Will not the improvement in the
tax system for donations, which is part of Bill C-28, help those
charitable organizations that are in her constituencies?
The changes in this tax system will allow for a more generous
treatment of donations and a better write-off for donors to
charitable organizations, which I am sure plays a very large role
in the constituency of Vancouver East.
The member also discussed the millennium fund, as did the member
for Joliette. The millennium fund is part of Bill C-36. I would
only hope we would talk about the context of this bill.
However, I also want to remind the hon. member that it has
always been a joint jurisdiction. I agree with the member for
Vancouver East that the federal government needs to play a role
in access to higher education. At least on that point we agree.
I also ask the hon. member if she can respond to some of these
quotations like the following: “We are trying to get a balanced
approach which involves debt management, the enhancement of
programs and, when we can do it, tax reductions. We need to look
at selective tax reductions in order to promote jobs and economic
development. When we cut those taxes is when we can afford to
cut those taxes. As long as I am premier, our fiscal integrity
will never be compromised”. These are not my words or the words
of any member of this government. These are the words of NDP
Premier Roy Romanow.
Would the hon. member comment? I do not understand whether she
is in complete disagreement with what the NDP Premier of
Saskatchewan is saying.
Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I would be delighted to
respond to the member's comments though I doubt I can respond to
all of them.
I would like the member to show me the increase in the cash
floor. Unfortunately the member was not present when I made my
comments. I went to great lengths to point out that there was
actually no increase in the Canada health and social transfer.
Not one new dime is going to the provinces. Would the member
dispute that? Is that not the case? The government is not going
ahead with a previous cutback. No new money is going to the
In terms of the bill and its provisions for donations it is very
nice that big corporations can get a bigger write-off for making
donations. We need to ask ourselves why we are now in a
situation where organizations and community programs are forced
to rely on a very Victorian notion of charity from big
corporations so that they can get a tax break to help some poor
person in my riding in the downtown east side.
I do not call that equality. That is more inequality from the
government. It is another benefit to big business under the
guise of making donations to help low income Canadians. If the
government were truly concerned about those people it would
ensure a real increase in the cash floor of the Canada health and
Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Madam Speaker, I
thank my hon. colleague for her comments.
The hon. member mentioned how the government had not put one
additional cent back into the payments. The government cuts off
one's leg and plans on cutting off the other one next year but
then decides not to cut it off. This is supposed to make people
feel good, that they are doing well and getting something back.
If we want to make it obvious for the government, maybe it should
look at it in that sense. To a lot of people that is what we are
talking about. We are talking about their lives and their
The government says that it is doing things for education. There
are RESPs where money can be invested. However I see the bottom
line in my riding. For example, students employed by Inco, the
major employer in the community, receive $1,500 in educational
assistance from the employer if they have to continue their
education outside the community.
In the past the students would claim the $1,500 as income or in
some way, shape or form through the income tax process. In most
cases students are not doing very. The government does not make
a lot of money in tax dollars from students, so it decided that
parents must claim the $1,500 of income instead of the students.
It is trying to make a buck and bleed dry ordinary Canadians
instead of addressing the real problem, the need for a total
reform of the tax system.
Does the member have any comments about that? Does it identify
what she has been saying?
Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member
for her comments. The analogy that she used to describe the
cutbacks in the Canada health and social transfer was very vivid
and aptly described the situation before us as opposed to how the
government tries to manage a shell game about the Canada health
and social transfer.
The example provided about the change in tax laws reminded me of
what the government did with bankruptcy laws. It changed the
laws to make it more difficult for students to declare
bankruptcy. Both examples serve to show that on the one hand the
government is saying it is helping students but on the other hand
it is actually making it more difficult.
Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): Madam Speaker, it is
with pleasure that I rise in the House today to speak to Bill
C-28 which offers a wide range of tax related measures, most of
which have been discussed at great length in the House by myself
and other members.
The bill demonstrates the Liberal philosophy to governing our
country: government by knee jerk reaction, crisis management and
economic tinkering. Liberal governments do not plan to fail but
quite frequently they fail to plan.
Effective economic policy needs to be consistent and the
vagaries of politics cannot interfere with the economic direction
of the country. In the Liberal war of politics versus economics
politics always wins. Unfortunately Canadians frequently lose.
That goes back to 1974 with wage and price controls, the 18 cents
per gallon tax, the budget of Joe Clark and the Liberals' flip
flop on that, their flip flop on the Pearson airport deal,
helicopters, GST and free trade.
However, I am pleased that at least they have maintained the
policies of the previous government to the extent that those
policies have been largely responsible for the government's
ability to reduce the deficit. The types of policies I am
speaking of are free trade, GST, deregulation of financial
services, transportation and energy. Those were the policies of
the previous Conservative government which provided the
government with an opportunity to make some choices for the
future of Canadians. I say with great confidence that not a
member on the government side of the House today would disagree
that their previous policies are clearly failing ordinary
In Bill C-28 the finance minister tinkered with several areas to
provide minimal targeted tax relief. He complicated a tax code
which is already far too complex. Canadians should not need tax
accountants or even tax lawyers to deal with their governments.
Even the Americans are moving toward streamlining their tax
measures when the Canadian tax code is far more complicated.
The targeted education tax measures in terms of basic direction
and intent are very strong. We suggested as part of our
prebudget position that the government move toward providing
better incentives for investments in RESPs and providing more
flexibility for Canadians to invest in their futures and the
education of their children.
However, this type of stop gap, one off, cobbled approach to
education will not be effective without a holistic approach to
economic public policy. Public policy should be designed to
provide opportunities for young Canadians in Canada not only to
obtain an education but also after their education.
The recent government budget announcement relative to RESP
changes follows on the heels of the proposed changes in the bill.
If we look at tomorrow's edition of Investor's Digest we
see an article by Brenda Robertson which reads:
My problem with the RESPs is that they're already too complicated
for investors. The new grants—will probably create more
This case in point is from the mouth of a tax accountant who
probably prefers a complex tax code at some level. She is saying
that it is actually getting too complicated for the ordinary
Canadian to benefit from.
In the PC plan for growth we call for government to allow
Canadians to have more flexibility with their RESP contributions
and transfers from their RRSPs, but only as part of a holistic
policy toward economic growth, one that combines tax relief,
lower income taxes, lower payroll taxes, greater opportunities
for jobs and growth in Canada that would keep young people here
where they belong.
Let us look at what the government's policies have done to
higher education in Canada. We can start with Nova Scotia, the
cradle of higher education in Canada, and the immediate situation
of the faculty strike at Dalhousie University. Dalhousie is my
alma mater. Its students felt that their concerns were being
overlooked in the recent election by the two levels of
government, both the provincial Liberals and the federal
Liberals. The Dalhousie students union spent $40,000 to buy
television advertising to make sure Nova Scotia voters were
reminded of the education crisis which was looming because of
federal cuts to health and social transfers to the provinces.
The student debt load has grown in recent years by 280%. The
debt load at the completion of a four year degree now averages
$25,000. In 1993 only eight students in the maritime provinces
had debts exceeding $30,000 after their four year programs. In
1997 there were over 900. The number increased from 8 to 900 in
that short period of time.
Why is student debt load ballooning out of control? It is
partially because of the cuts to transfers but also because of
the general unemployment situation. Tuition has only increased
by 110% but student debt has increased by 280%. The
disproportionate growth in student debt is due to the general
unemployment situation. Students are competing with graduates
for jobs that were previously within the exclusive domain of
It is ludicrous to address the issue of student debt load
without addressing the issue of general unemployment. That is
why we need to address the issues of reducing taxes, growing the
economy and providing an economy that creates jobs and provides a
better opportunity for young people to work, provide for
themselves and supplement their incomes while going to
Acadia University is in my riding. Its students just went
through a near crisis because of a strike that loomed for several
months. Uncertainty was created. Many of those students who
were having difficulties came to my office to seek advice. They
were not finished their degrees. They were faced with a faculty
strike and already had $30,000 in student debts. What a great
way to start their careers.
The chain of events since 1993 on both the federal scene and the
provincial scene in Nova Scotia has been unfortunate for the
Liberal Party of Canada and its cousins in Nova Scotia. For the
first time in Nova Scotia's history a governing party has failed
to win its successive second term.
The legacy of Russell MacLellan, who called the federal budget
an excellent budget for Canadians and for Nova Scotians, is that
the Liberal Party lost 20 seats. The Liberals went from 39 to 19
seats in Nova Scotia. Russell MacLellan is kicking himself today
for not speaking up when he was in Ottawa and for not speaking up
in previous budget debates when the government was adamant that
health care and education would be cut to the bone.
National leadership is required at all levels to ensure young
Canadians receive the best education in the world to get the best
jobs in the world. Leadership is not about federal or provincial
jurisdiction. It is about federal and provincial co-operation.
The struggle to raise the living standards of a nation is
inextricably linked to the quality of its education system in a
knowledge based society.
While we need a strong education policy we also need to address
tax policy. We need tax relief to keep our best and brightest in
Canada and to stop the brain drain that is sapping the lifeblood
from Canada's future. Sherry Cooper from Nesbitt Burns stated
that the government's changes or lack thereof to education and
tax policy will turn Canada's brain drain into a brain train to
the United States.
Once our students leave school the economic outlook for them in
Canada is very bleak. Canada continues to have a youth
unemployment rate of over 17%. Highly educated and motivated
Canadians are being forced to leave the country in search of
work. As an Atlantic Canadian, I have seen the brain drain issue
for a number of years. For over 30 years families have watched
their young people leaving Atlantic Canada and going to central
Canada to seek opportunity. Unfortunately it is now an issue
with which all of Canada is familiar. Across Canada young people
are leaving and families are watching their children leave Canada
to go to the U.S.
Every year 80% of Waterloo computer science graduates go to the
U.S. The combination of higher income and lower taxes in the
U.S. is too seductive to walk away from. Canadians need bold
action from the Minister of Finance to reverse this exodus. Yet
the Liberal policy is to maintain high payroll taxes and the
highest income taxes in the G-7. These policies run counter to
the most basic of free market logic.
Bill C-28 epitomizes this Liberal philosophy.
Instead of making substantive changes to initiate growth in the
economy the minister has nickelled and dimed the Canadian people
by offering targeted tax cuts in politically palatable areas. If
the PC Party plan for growth were implemented we would see the
basic personal exemption increased to $10,000. That would take
two million low income Canadians off the tax roles. Instead the
Canadian government offered Canadians a stop gap solution, an
increase of $500.
In fact the tax relief for a Canadian making $10,000 per year in
this budget works out to $80 per year. That is an insult. There
is no member on the government side of the House here with me
today who would disagree that it is an insult.
The fact is that $80 per year amounts to one cup of coffee per
week at Tim Horton's, one cup of coffee per month at Starbucks.
It is unacceptable, frankly, that this government has balanced
the budget on the backs of ordinary Canadians and now refuses to
provide any benefits back to the ordinary Canadian taxpayer.
My Liberal colleagues told this House about the marvellous tax
relief and what they have provided for Canadians, and clearly
that is not the case. In fact, again, I urge members to pick up
a copy of tomorrow's Investor's Digest. In terms of tax
relief it states, “What's going to happen when we head into the
next recession with nine per cent unemployment, crippling taxes,
massive debt and a weak dollar? Presumably, having spent the
fiscal dividend on education the Finance Minister will have
little recourse but to run renewed deficits as income slows”.
Again, this government is making the wrong choices. It fails to
deliver the opportunity to average Canadians to make their own
choices as to what to do with their fiscal dividend. This
government may have moved into the black, but Canadians are still
running in the red. Personal debt is at an all time high in this
Bill C-28 makes 15 small and favourable changes, arguably, to
the tax code for selective groups, but again this is not sound
economic policy. It further complicates the tax code. Certainly
we would prefer to see some tax breaks for some Canadians as
opposed to no tax breaks at all. But what about really
addressing the issue of the egregiously complicated and not user
friendly Canadian tax code and making it easier for average
Canadians to deal with their own government?
Canadians have not experienced a real after tax pay increase
since the early 1980s. Personal disposable income has dropped by
6% since 1991. In Canada the Liberals have maintained high
payroll taxes and they continue to believe that we can create a
growth economy with a high tax economy. It is not possible and
we are going to continue seeing a gap in the standard of living
between Canadians and Americans.
If we look at Bill C-28 and the revisions to the CHST, the
Canada health and social transfer, the CHST helps the provinces
pay for health, education and welfare. In the Atlantic provinces
where the local tax base is not as strong as it may be in some
parts of the country to pick up the slack when these cuts are
particularly draconian, the effects of changes and cuts to the
CHST are dramatic and the impact is devastating.
The government talks about having established a cash floor for
the CHST funding. The fact is that the cash floor is established
on a national level. The fact is that seven of the ten provinces
will continue to receive less money every year for the next four
years, including provinces like Nova Scotia.
When the government talks about cash floors it should realize
that health and education spending in many provinces is not a
matter of having a floor. It is subterranean. It is not up to
the national standards and the Liberal answer is to cut further
the cash transfers to the provinces in those areas.
Our platform would call for a provincially reached cash floor
level that would truly establish the long term stability of
social investment in each province of Canada. We need a plan
that ensures equity and equality of opportunity for all
This Minister of Finance would like Canadians to believe him
when he says in a press release that “Governing is about
choices, priorities and values. Our choice is clear. Health
care is a priority for this government”.
Based on the Liberal convention of last weekend and the outcry
of Liberal delegates from across Canada for this government to
start investing more in health care and to start dealing more
with the health care crisis of this country, obviously health
care may be a priority for the Liberal Party at a grassroots
level but it is not a priority of this government.
I said a few minutes ago that there was not one government
member on this side of the House who would disagree with me when
I say that the government's policies are clearly missing the
mark. There may be one now.
We will continue to offer our positions and our beliefs which
represent our unwaivering belief in the free enterprise system.
The free enterprise system is the best system to provide all
Canadians the opportunity to succeed and prosper in this country.
We also believe that the free enterprise system is only going to
be successful and sustainable if all Canadians have access to the
levers of the free enterprise system and to the levers of growth
to bootstrap themselves and their families.
We need a government that is prepared to commit to sound
strategic social investment in areas that will include the
competitiveness of Canadians in a global environment as we enter
the 21st century, as well as a government that will couple this
investment with tax reduction and provide Canadians the types of
opportunities they need and deserve right here in Canada.
Canadians need a plan for growth. That is what the PC party is
offering Canadians. It is not offering a stopgap, one-off
approach to economic policy but a holistic economic policy that
will provide Canadians with a plan that will work and will put
more Canadians back to work.
Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Madam Speaker, the hon. member said something
along the lines that the government spent the fiscal dividend on
education, that the economy is going to decline, that it will go
into a downturn and then we will be back into deficit financing.
I am sure the hon. member was here when the budget was put
forward. The finance minister said that we would balance the
books this year, next year and the year after that for the first
time in a very, very long time.
In fact, if we look back to 1993 we have not missed a target.
We have always bettered the target. I am not sure whether the
hon. member really has his facts right. He should probably
On the other point, the hon. member talked about the transfers
and the importance of transfers to the provinces. I agree with
him that transfers are important to the provinces. However, I
also want to remind the hon. member that during the 1997 election
his party was promoting the fact that we should eliminate all
cash transfers and just deal with tax points; in effect,
eliminate the federal role in transfers to the provinces
I am sure that is something members of the Bloc Quebecois would
agree with, but I am not sure it is something that the hon.
member wants to stand to defend, that being the elimination of
the federal presence in transfer payments to the provinces.
I ask the hon. member, when he speaks about transfers, whether
he would pay some attention to the tax points portion of the
transfers and the fact that equalization payments to the
provinces in Atlantic Canada were not in any way affected. Those
provinces require assistance and this government did in fact make
those changes in consultation with the provinces.
I ask the hon. member whether he is prepared to stand to defend
the fact that his party wants to eliminate the federal presence
in transfers to the provinces.
Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member
for his question. When he quoted me, in fact, I was quoting
Brenda Robertson who writes for Investor's Digest. I urge
the member to pick up a copy. It comes out tomorrow.
Mr. Tony Valeri: Do you agree with her?
Mr. Scott Brison: Yes, I do agree with her when she says
that what is going to happen when we head into the next recession
with 9% unemployment, crippling taxes, a massive debt and a weak
dollar is that we are going to have to spend and, after having
spent the fiscal dividend, we will have little recourse but to
run renewed deficits as income slows. That is a basic argument
The hon. member and his government are actually content with
spending money without providing any meaningful tax relief to
Let us hear what Sherry Cooper of Nesbitt Burns says. She says
we are pouring all this money into education and scholarships and
then the better and brighter will go straight to the U.S. where
taxes are massively lower.
This member stands behind a millennium scholarship fund which
does not kick in for two years. This fund will cost $2.5 billion
and will help only 7% of students seeking higher education. It
is appalling that he would be proud of it.
In 1984 when a Conservative government was elected the deficit
as a percentage of GDP was 9%. We reduced that to 4% by 1993.
His government maintained our policies, including free trade and
the GST. We deregulated the national energy program, which I
hope my colleagues in the Reform Party have some appreciation
An hon. member: Two years too late.
Mr. Scott Brison: An hon. member opposite said it was two
years too late. It was a heck of a lot faster than the previous
We deregulated financial services, energy and transportation.
Those policies helped this government. They helped lay the
groundwork for this government to continue to eliminate the
deficit. In fact, we could say that this Liberal government is a
government of sound and original ideas. Unfortunately its
original ideas are not sound and its sound ideas are never
The hon. member talks about the CHST transfers and the fact that
our party espoused a tax point solution to this issue. How can
the member say that transferring greater authority to the
provinces to determine the future of their health and social
spending is a bad thing when he is part of a government that has
reduced health and social spending by 35% over four years? How
can he say that the federal government can be trusted with that
responsibility when there are a lot of provincial governments out
there which are fearful of further draconian cuts in the future
from a federal government that is as heavy-handed as this one has
Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley,
Ref.): Madam Speaker, can this member explain to Canadians
why his government, in the nine years that it was in power, did
not get rid of the deficit when the economy was in a growth
situation and would have allowed it to reduce the deficit? Can
he explain to Canadians why the Conservative Government between
1984 and 1993 allowed the deficit to reach $42 billion and
allowed the national debt to more than double?
Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, obviously the hon.
member was not so disenchanted in 1988 with the Conservative
government's policies that it prevented her from running as a
Obviously she felt quite comfortable in the Conservative Party's
Ms. Val Meredith: Madam Speaker, as a point of order, I
should advise the House and Canadians that I did run in 1988 as a
Reformer because I was terribly distressed with what the Tories
were doing as a government.
Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I seem to have struck a
In any case, the economic policies and the mess the government
of Brian Mulroney inherited dictated that we had to reduce by 15%
per year program spending growth. We reduced it to zero by the
time we left office. Beyond that we were able to not only reduce
program spending, which was out of control at that time, but we
were also able to reduce the deficit as a percentage of GDP.
We were also able to implement policies which have been
absolutely essential in reducing the deficit, including the GST,
which is a consumption tax that is a heck of a lot better than
the manufacturers' sales tax which it replaced.
Then we implemented the free trade agreement.
We were the party that supported free trade before the members
on the government side had ever supported it. Those are the
types of difficult innovative policy decisions which have
provided to Canadians today a fiscal dividend. The fact is those
were the right policies then and are the right policies now.
Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, I just had one comment on the member's speech.
The European model puts a lot more emphasis on trades people.
When people are educated in that way it tends to lead to the
quicker creation of jobs. These people finish their courses
within six months to two years as opposed to university classes
which take two to six years. This gives them a chance to get
something on their resume. They can always go back for further
Does the member see that type of program working for Canadians?
Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member
for a very good question. There is a tremendous amount of
duplication of efforts between provincial and federal governments
If we look at the education system and training in Canada, we
see that part of the problem is that there are so many programs
which are not tied together that we do need a more cohesive
approach to training, education and more research into
apprenticeship programs. I think there is a significant amount
of potential, especially in the areas of tying education to the
jobs of tomorrow.
I believe governments have to look ahead to see where the
employment trends are going and then federal and provincial
governments should be compelled to work together to ensure,
either through apprenticeship programs or through a better
secondary and post-secondary education system, that our young
people are provided with the skills and tools they need to
survive and prosper here in Canada.
Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary
As we debate this bill and some of the amendments this
afternoon, I cannot shake the belief that the governments that
introduce these massive omnibus bills can only have one of two
motives in mind. The first motive, I would think, is that they
are probably in a desperate hurry or, second, that they have
something to hide.
Let us look at the first case scenario. Is this Liberal
administration in any sort of a hurry? I cannot see why. The
Prime Minister has spent this past weekend shortcutting democracy
by laying claim to future mandates with his millennium
scholarship fund and prebooking dollars for future programs.
Along with his lack of vision, I cannot see any reason why he
would see a difference between 1968 or 1998 let alone the next
millennium where he has already committed such a large chunk of
Maybe we can find a sense of urgency in the office of the prime
minister in waiting, formerly known as the finance minister. He
is so eager to put his stamp on the economy that he has created
this 464 page rubber stamp to enshrine Liberal tax policy in a
never-never land of complexity, manipulation and government
interference and intrusion into other government jurisdictions.
This Liberal government is asking Canadian taxpayers to think
happy thoughts and fly straight on and never think of their
income as their own, never believe one can make personal choices
without first filtering the money through massive bureaucratic
However, since this has been a feature of Liberal tax policy for
the last three decades, we cannot see why anybody would be in a
hurry. What can I conclude? This government has something to
hide. What does it have to hide? We are told that this
government is so open and transparent that it is now telling us
what it is going to do with our tax dollars years from now.
Somehow taxpayers who are looking at another four years of
diminishing net incomes and the next generations faced with
paying off this massive debt we have accumulated, almost $600
billion, big government debt cannot find as much cause for
celebration as members opposite would like us to believe.
Part of what the Liberals are trying to hide is the fact that
they have completely ignored the wishes of the Canadian people,
all those people who came to the finance committee last fall
At this time of the year when millions of people are tied up
trying to figure out their complex tax forms, this government
offers nothing to simplify that process. On the finance
committee we heard those witnesses last fall testifying that
payroll tax cuts were essential to promote further prosperity and
spin the economy in this country.
The finance minister offers us 10 cents off the EI premium while
jacking CPP premiums through the roof. What is he up to with
those excess premiums?
As it turns out they look real good when placed on the asset
side of the ledger. They go to pay down the deficit, not to
provide the training or the employment benefits this country
so badly needs.
It turns out that the public pension surpluses also serve to
make the government look good. No one on the government side
wants all this to be as open to the public as they claim they do.
Perhaps it is not that the Liberals have something to hide but
something they want to protect. From what this bill contains I
would have to conclude that they want to protect their ability to
intrude in and control every aspect of Canadian economics and
governance. Taxing municipalities that are only trying to pay
for the downloading of services that was begun by the present
finance minister is ridiculous. Where do the Liberals believe
these profits are going? We should be encouraging cities and
towns to be more flexible, not less flexible.
As for the perceived conflict of interest by the finance
minister on clause 241, much has already been said. I want to
offer my support to my colleagues on this side of the House.
I will not support Motion No. 3 because it simply adds to the
bureaucracy of administration and it does so in the area of the
provincial jurisdiction. What we are looking for is simplicity
in the tax code and a vision from this government that recognizes
that money left in the hands of those who produce it is much more
effective than all the tinkering with an outdated tax code that
only gets more incomprehensible and complex to those of us who
are forced to use it.
Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I
challenge the member here to tell Canadian taxpayers, because he
has talked about tax increase after tax increase, how many tax
increases this Liberal government has introduced since it became
government? That is the challenge I lay to him.
Mr. Gerry Ritz: Madam Speaker, it is a very in-depth
question and I am not sure anyone has a complete handle as to all
the insidious tax bites that we have seen throughout the country.
I believe the number is somewhere around 37.
Most people have no concept of where that tax bite is getting
them other than when they look in their wallets at the end of the
month. The month drags out to 30 or 31 days and their wallets
are only good for about 20 or 21 days. We are seeing that
shortfall in revenue, disposable income, taxes that show the
average family of four paying out $21,000 for income tax and only
having $17,000 of its incoming going to food, shelter and
clothing. It is creating a generation of have nots in this
On top of that, these are the same people who are being asked to
finance the increase in CPP. They are the same people who are
being asked to finance the paying down of the debt that we have
seen accumulate over the past 30 years. It is quite a challenge
to most people out there to make both ends meet and still come up
to the tax levels that have been created for them in this
As other speakers have indicated, it creates tremendous brain
drains. We see people educated here who cannot afford to work
here leave the country. That is revenue that is lost to this
country for generations to come. It is a shame. We have to stem
that tide. We look to this government to give us the leadership
and the direction to slow that tide down, turn it around and get
those people staying at home working where they should.
Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Madam Speaker, the hon. member talked about
laying claim to future governments. Then he criticizes the
government with the millennium scholarship fund. I would offer
to the member the explanation that what this government is doing
is not laying claim, we are paying for programs rather than
shifting the burden to future governments.
We are being criticized by the Reform Party for actually paying
for something that has been announced and is quite transparent.
He knows where the $2.5 billion is going. He keeps standing up
in this House and telling people. That is fine.
I have a question about the comment he made about taxing
municipalities. If he votes against Bill C-28 and wants to
eliminate that provision he is referring to, has he talked to
corporations and told them that the Reform Party is in favour of
allowing municipalities to compete tax free with private
corporations? Is that what the Reform Party is in favour of? If
he votes against Bill C-28 and that provision is removed that is
what he would be allowing.
Mr. Gerry Ritz: Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary
secretary for his question.
It is quite an in-depth study that needs to be done in all areas
of the country. He asked me to say that municipalities would be
in direct contradiction to private corporations in that they are
tax free. The one program that pops to mind is the
infrastructure program which hit municipalities using their own
resources against private corporations in order to qualify for
the infrastructure money. Towns and villages were doing their
own sewer and water to make that program go further and not go to
private contractors. There are several instances of that in my
The member talked about corporations being in competition with
government. Canada Post is a prime example. People in my riding
are forced by law to charge three times the rate that Canada Post
charges for the same service. That is a direct contradiction to
what the member is trying to get across.
The member brings up the millennium scholarship, an intrusion
into provincial jurisdictions. The members for the Bloc made
that very clear. I hear that from home as well. We are booking
money out for future generations to pay for. It does not kick in
soon enough. It does not cover enough people. The
representations on the finance committee from students from the
Canadian Association of Students said they want that needs base.
Let us have the money working for us today, not further down the
road. It does not go far enough fast enough.
Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I
would like to boil this down for the taxpayers watching at home.
This is Bill C-28. See how thick it is. That is what the
Liberals call a neutral tax or something that is a tax
simplification or tax relief. That is what they call tax relief.
It is a telephone book. A telephone book means that taxes are
becoming more complex. It is not as though we were not complex
already. Walter Robinson of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation
sent a survey to all the members in the House of Commons and
asked whether MPs do their own taxes. A large portion of MPs do
not actually do their own taxes.
We are the people who pass the laws in this country. We are the
ones who create taxes or change taxes. A Reform government would
provide tax relief. Nonetheless, many of us as law makers do not
do our own taxes because they have become so complex. Tax
accountants and tax lawyers making their living doing taxes
advocate that taxes should be made simpler and less complex.
They as well as the taxpayers are crying out for help.
I see something as large as a telephone book. Members across the
way in the Liberal government are the architects of the slash and
burn in health care and the architects of tax increases. They
tell us this is a good change to the taxes. Shame on them. How
can they continue to justify Bill C-28 and its myriad of tax
changes and tax increases as something that is good for the
There is no tax relief here. During the last election I do not
believe the Liberals advocated increasing taxes when going door
to door. Yet they have increased taxes twice since the last
election and 36 times during the 35th Parliament. I bet any
money that at any door they went to not a single taxpayer begged
to have their taxes raised. Yet the Liberals have so willingly
fulfilled that task and filled their pockets.
Disposable incomes have continued to decline since 1987. I know
that the Tory across the way likes to quote from 1991 onward, but
the fact is that real disposable incomes have continued to
decline since 1987. Taxpayers need a break. They can only go so
long. They can only suffer much.
There is no tax simplification by introducing something that
looks like a telephone book.
Nobody can pull the wool over my eyes and those of the taxpayers
by telling us that there is tax simplification going on here.
Indeed this bill is adding more regulation on top of regulation.
Number three, there are new taxes on municipal utilities. One
government is taxing another level of government. It is bad
enough when the government taxes the citizenry, the businesses,
the employees and employers, but when it starts taxing other
levels of government, indeed the desperation is thick.
Number four, this bill returns nothing to the health and social
transfer. There were promises made by the Liberals in the last
In the election for the 35th Parliament in 1993 the Liberals
said “Make us the government and we will guarantee the funding
for health care and education and guarantee the health and social
transfers”. What actually happened? The Liberals cut $6
billion out of the health and social transfers.
What has that meant? That has meant that the federal government
is responsible for the hospital closures in this country. That is
what it means. It is the federal Liberals passing the buck on to
their provincial counterparts which is closing hospitals across
this land. Their broken promises in 1993 and their broken
promises in 1997 are closing hospital beds in this country.
The Liberals have cut the heart out of health care and they have
the audacity to stand in the House and have their minister say
that they are the friends of health care, when indeed waiting
lists have grown longer and doctors and nurses are leaving this
country. The Liberals are the architects of the slash and burn
policies in health care.
The Liberals say one thing in the election but then deliver a
far harsher stroke when it comes to their cuts in these areas.
They download on the provinces. Shame on them.
The tax bill in this country is going to go up by $6 billion
this year. That is not tax relief. That is more money coming
from the pockets and the wallets of the taxpayers and going into
the government coffers. It is a tax increase. Six billion
dollars more are being taken from taxpayers this year than last
What does it mean in terms of this whole debt situation? We
have all heard about these huge numbers in the debt but I am
going to boil it down. Six thousand dollars out of the average
taxpayer's salary goes to paying just the interest on the debt.
That is $6,000 that could be allocated to a whole host of other
things. The average taxpaying family is spending $6,000 just to
pay the interest on the debt which this government and its past
incarnations helped to create.
What about the contingency funds the government talks about? It
would take 200 years to pay down the national debt by using these
$3 billion contingency funds. The real travesty is that the
Liberals are not even moving along that track because the
contingency funds are being used to fund new program spending.
That is exactly what they are doing. That amounts to a $45
billion payment we have to make every year just to pay the
interest on the debt. As I said, that $45 billion translates into
$6,000 for every family in this country.
I have been attacking the government. I have been attacking the
Liberals for what they have done on taxes, but I am going to
speak to the poor suffering some of the Liberals have undergone.
I speak of the poor finance minister. Yes, he is a millionaire.
Yes, he is involved and owns through various arm's length
relationships the Canada Steamship Lines. The poor finance
minister has had to take his money and shelter it. He has had to
put his assets offshore because taxes are too high in this
country and he does not want his companies to pay tax in this
Do you know what? I feel for him. The hearts and the minds of
this country's taxpayers bleed for our finance minister because
while he recognizes that taxes are too high and while he does not
want his own companies paying those high taxes, he has raised
taxes on the rest of Canadians 38 times since the government has
been in power and since he has been finance minister. Yet he
shelters his own money offshore.
I feel for him because he has to fly Bahamian flags and not
those of his native Canada. I feel for him because he likes the
Netherlands Antilles with a 15% withholding tax as opposed to a
25% withholding tax.
It works very conveniently into his trusts and his arm's length
relationships. Shame on him. He should be paying tax in this
country. If he is raising taxes on Canadians, he should have the
decency to pay taxes in this country while Canadians suffer those
bills. I feel for the finance minister.
High taxes have created a brain drain. Young professionals, people
with a good university education, or any level of education, they
do not even have to have a high school education, are leaving
this country to go to other places with lower taxes.
I want to mention some of the 38 tax increases the Liberal
government has brought in since it has been in power. It went
ahead and changed the tax treatment of securities. It taxed
dividends. It taxed insurance companies. It accelerated capital
cost allowances. It increased excise taxes on gasoline and
tobacco. It restricted the tax assistance of RRSPs and reduced
the RRSP withdrawal age to 69. It increased EI premiums. CPP
premiums will go from 5.2% to 5.4% to 5.6% to 6.0% to 6.4% during
the government's term. Shame on the Liberal government for all
its tax increases and the complications.
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Madam Speaker,
I listened and I am almost stunned at what I heard. The member
went through a litany of points. It makes me wonder how
Canadians feel when they hear information which is conflicting
with fact. How do they feel when they know that information
given in the House of Commons is just wrong? Do they wonder
whether or not the member is somehow trying to make a point by
hoping somebody would not understand that there are reasons for
things and that representations are somehow relevant?
The member talked about personal income taxes and made some
comments about how people do not do their own tax returns. This
year taxpayers can actually file their income tax returns over
the telephone with a touchtone phone. It takes less than 10
minutes because the vast majority of taxpayers have very
straightforward tax returns and they can get quick returns.
The member went on to say that the Income Tax Act is the size of
a telephone book. The member has implied somehow that the Income
Tax Act which individuals have to deal with is as thick as a
telephone book and they have to know everything that is in it.
What the member did not say is that the Income Tax Act of Canada
includes corporate income taxes which is the vast majority of the
tax act. It also includes interpretation bulletins, information
circulars and regulations which guide the Income Tax Act when
people are interested in what is in it.
The member implied that the tax relationship with the
Netherlands Antilles somehow had something to do with the current
finance minister, that he was somehow getting around something.
That is to suggest there is something wrong. We have tax
treaties with countries around the world. We have those treaties
so we can promote bilateral trade and cultural exchange. Those
are good for Canadians because 40% of our GDP is export oriented.
The member has given information which is incorrect. He has
given information which is not in keeping with the facts. I
really am very sorry that Canadians have to bear some of this
stuff, even when it gets down to that somehow the terrible
government has restricted RRSPs.
The current RRSP limit for Canadian taxpayers is $13,500 per
year. A person has to make $75,000 a year to be able to reach
that maximum. That means 5% of Canadians cannot put in more
because they have more income. He is talking about less than 5%
of the income earners of Canada.
The member is somehow suggesting to all Canadians that this is
The issue is that the member has put a bunch of information on
the table which he knows is incorrect. Canadians deserve an
apology for the incorrect information which was suggested as the
truth by the member.
Mr. Rob Anders: Madam Speaker, words spoken like only a
tax and spend Liberal could speak them.
The fact is that in 1996 the average family paid $21,242 in
taxes and spent $17,415 on food, shelter and clothing combined.
According to the Fraser Institute the average family paid $27,000
in 1997. Under this Liberal regime, the gap continues to widen
between what people pay in taxes and what they spend on food,
clothing and shelter. That is a fact.
A Liberal bragging about how electronic filing is saving the
government money in terms of getting people's taxpayer dollars to
them more quickly and easily is like someone plucking feathers
out of a goose and saying he can get the feathers out of the
goose with the least amount of squawking. He can take money with
the fewest complaints. How dare he? And he is defending the
complexity of the tax code?
Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière, BQ): Madam Speaker, we are now
at the final stage of Bill C-28, a bill that has been widely
talked about this past month.
While this bill is just hours from being passed, the persistent
doubt the people of Quebec and Canada have concerning clause
241, which would place the current Minister of Finance in an
apparent conflict of interest situation, has still not been
In spite of the dozens of questions asked by the Bloc Quebecois
and the other opposition parties, the Prime Minister and his
Deputy Prime Minister have been passing the buck to each other in
this House, systematically refusing to provide answers to the
opposition, which wants this matter clarified once and for all.
Moreover, all the efforts made to have the Standing Committee on
Finance hear witnesses on this issue have been vain, except for
the Prime Minister's ethics counsellor, who appeared before the
committee to say that there was an apparent conflict of interest.
In this respect, while the Liberals are doing their very best to
protect their finance minister's image, I will take a moment
today to quote exactly what the ethics counsellor said in his
testimony before the finance committee; incidentally, he was one
of the very few witnesses allowed to testify before the
We will share with you what we have heard Harold Wilson himself
say. On the subject of whether the Minister of Finance may
receive information on his holdings placed in trust, he stated
that all ministers “may receive is periodic information on the
overall value but not the composition of their holdings, as well
as data sufficient for the purposes of filing their taxes”.
He stated further “A blind trust agreement was not appropriate,
however, in Mr. Martin's situation, since his holdings are not
publicly traded. In this type of situation, my office requires
the establishment and disclosure of a blind management agreement.
This places in the hands of the supervisors or trustees the
assets held by Mr. Martin in Passage Holdings. Mr. Martin is
obviously completely aware of the nature of his private
No wonder the Minister of Finance is tempted to hide in Bill C-28
a clause which would benefit his little ships.
Mr. Wilson also argued that certain provisions of Bill C-28 were
in fact dealt with by the secretary of state so that his boss,
the finance minister, would not be put in an awkward position.
Mr. Wilson was clear on this. He said “It is the secretary of
state who made all the decisions. Therefore, there was no real
conflict of interest. Still, Mr. Martin sponsored the bill and
some members were of the opinion that this in itself is an
apparent conflict of interest”.
Mr. Wilson added “If I had been informed ahead of time, before
the bill was introduced, discussions would have taken place on
how to best proceed to introduce the bill on behalf of the
Minister of Finance, who is responsible for all tax legislation”.
The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister continue to
deny these facts. Why?
As we know, the Liberals were told to keep their mouths shut on
this issue. It is clear. The gag order given by the Prime
Minister to his caucus has been complied with ever since the
whole thing came up in the House.
Since February 5, when the Bloc Quebecois showed what is really
behind Bill C-28, the opposition has had to deal with a gag order
co-ordinated by the Prime Minister's office. Why do the Prime
Minister and his government stubbornly refuse to give answers to
the opposition on this issue? Why? Because they are embarrassed.
They are trying to hide the truth regarding this issue.
Let us not forget that the ethics counsellor clearly said in his
testimony that the bill had not been drafted in according with
the rules and that, if this had to be done again, some specific
measures would have to be taken to avoid a repeat of this
Mr. Wilson is the Prime Minister's ethics counsellor. He is not
an independent counsellor, he is paid by the Prime Minister. A
historic precedent took place when representatives of the four
opposition parties held a joint press conference to ask the
government to get to the bottom of the issue. Again, the Prime
Minister said no. He did not want to comply with the opposition's
request. The Liberals stubbornly refuse to shed light on this
very suspicious matter.
Early in the week, in order to solve this impasse, which is
totally the doing of the Prime Minister, the Bloc Quebecois
proposed a reasonable solution: to take clause 241 out of the
bill. Again, the Liberals said no. When the vote was taken last
evening in this very House, the Minister of Finance, the Prime
Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister were all conspicuously
absent. Pure coincidence? No, rather part of the Prime Minister's
day-to-day plan to continue to protect the image of the Minister of
Finance in this case.
A few minutes ago, my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot
introduced another amendment to refer Bill C-28 back to the
Standing Committee on Finance. That would enable us to question
witnesses so as to clarify the situation for once and for all.
I therefore wish to state that I fully endorse the amendment
proposed by my colleague for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, which in my
opinion reflects the numerous opposition interventions over the
past month or more.
Moreover, it is in the same vein as the proposal made in this
House by the Prime Minister. When he was being questioned about
Bill C-28, he said: “If you are not satisfied with the answers,
use the Standing Committee on Finance to ask all the questions
you want to ask”.
That is what we are calling for today. We are asking the Prime
Minister to move the debate back to the Standing Committee on
Finance. We will see then who is right.
Allow me to add that, if the Prime Minister and his government
refuse this new request from our party as well, they will have
to face negative public opinion.
I hardly need point out that the position of Minister of Finance
in a Parliament like ours is a vital one, and its incumbent
cannot draw even a hint of suspicion. He must have the full
confidence of the public, particularly since we are well aware
that this particular finance minister aspires to be Prime
Minister some day. He would have no problem following in the
footsteps of our present Prime Minister, mind you, since the PM
contradicts himself continually in his statements in this House,
except in the case of Bill C-28.
That is another matter. He is protecting his Minister of
The Prime Minister has an opportunity to rebuild his
credibility in the matter. He must accede to our latest
request, otherwise we will continue our research. And so long as
we have not obtained what we are after on behalf of the people,
we will keep digging.
I would also like to raise other important points in this bill,
including the points concerning transfer payments to the
provinces. This government is stubbornly maintaining its
planned cuts to the provinces. What the Prime Minister is trying
to get us to swallow is twisted.
In fact, the Prime Minister is saying simply that the planned
cuts of approximately $48 billion have been reduced to $42
That means that the provinces and the people will have to face
$30 billion in cuts, $12 billion of which will be in Quebec
The additional billion and a half dollars announced by the Prime
Minister and his Minister of Finance represents nothing more than
a purely vote getting move. Who is going to pay the social costs
of the budget policies of the present Liberal government? The
sick, the unemployed and society's most disadvantaged. These are
the people who are the true artisans of the balanced budget
delivered last month by the Minister of Finance, not the Prime
Minister or the Minister of Finance. The people are doing the
This new social injustice is unacceptable, and the Bloc Quebecois
will vote against Bill C-28. We already know the Liberal
reaction: the opposition will vote against a budget that gives
more than planned to the provinces. We are familiar with it, the
demagoguery of the current Prime Minister.
The truth is that this government refuses to admit to its
responsibility for the state of health care services. When a
government like the Liberal one cannot even acknowledge a poor
choice in its latest budget, when we see the federal Liberals
encouraging the government to debate a matter of provincial
jurisdiction, we begin to understand why this government and its
disastrous Prime Minister are trying to hide the truth in the
Minister of Finance's apparent conflict of interest in Bill C-28.
In closing, if the Prime Minister really wants to show his good
faith in this matter, he should return Bill C-28 to the Standing
Committee on Finance, enabling this Parliament and the people to
see the situation in its entirety.
Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I have a comment but I do not
think there is anything I want to actually ask the member about.
I want to clarify some comments the hon. member made which were
not correct. I would like to ensure that the record shows the
The hon. member made reference to the ethics counsellor, that
the ethics counsellor found the appearance of a conflict of
interest on the part of the Minister of Finance. Both the member
and I were at the meeting and the answer the ethics counsellor
provided was that there was no conflict of interest and no
appearance of a conflict of interest.
To go further, the member stated there was some doubt as to
whether the Minister of Finance acted properly. In fact the
minister quite rightly did not act at all. All decisions and
discussions were held by the secretary of state.
The Bloc Quebecois keeps moving on this issue. It started by
hurling accusations that the FAPI rules were in jeopardy. Then
the Bloc members said that the clause would benefit the minister.
Now the assertion is that there is an apparent conflict of
In fact the answer given to the members of the Bloc, the members
of this House, was that there is no apparent conflict of
interest. There is no conflict of interest. The Minister of
Finance will not in any way benefit from this bill. It has
been said over and over again but those members continue on this
track. Those who make this charge knowing full well that it is
false demean this institution and demean public life. Pure and
simple they are engaging in the most cynical kind of politics.
It is something Canadians will not stand for.
I would hope the hon. member has the courage, if he feels so
strongly about this, to go outside and make those accusations.
But he knows that what he is saying is false and is pure
politics. There is no room in this House for that kind of
Mr. Odina Desrochers: Madam Speaker, I have here
Mr. Wilson's statement. On page 7, he says “Nonetheless, Mr.
Martin sponsored this bill and certain members—”
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): I must remind the hon. member
that he may not identify a minister by name, but must use his
Mr. Odina Desrochers: Madam Speaker, I was reading from a text.
That is why I departed from the rule. “Nonetheless, the Minister
of Finance sponsored this bill and certain members have expressed
the view that this constitutes an apparent conflict of interest”.
The hon. member opposite is not reading the same documents we
read on February 17, 1998.
If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is so
certain that the minister is not in conflict of interest, why,
when we asked the Standing Committee on Finance to hear witnesses
on this state of affairs, was our request to hear from the ethics
counsellor, Howard Wilson, the only one granted, but all our
other requests turned down?
This is why we in the Bloc Quebecois and the opposition parties
are once again raising the issue, because we feel that the word
has gone out across the way not to shed light on this matter. A
finance minister in a situation such as this must tell the
Mr. Gordon Earle (Halifax West, NDP): Madam Speaker, the
hon. member mentioned in his remarks the fact that the federal
cutbacks to provinces lead to social injustices. I would like to
underscore that comment. I agree 100% that is the case.
As we talk about taxes, we cannot help but be drawn to the
serious problems of the health care system, unemployment and the
economic opportunities within our small communities.
I think in particular of some small communities in Nova Scotia
where small businesses are finding it very difficult to operate
because of a business occupancy tax that is being levied upon
them by the municipality. It is so serious that many of these
small businesses are reaching the point of closing out due to
this unfair tax system.
I would like to underscore that it is very important as we deal
with taxation, whether it be income tax or other types of taxes,
we always keep in mind the citizens who are going to be affected
by the changes we make.
Mr. Odina Desrochers: Madam Speaker, the problems mentioned by
the NDP member from Nova Scotia are quite similar to the ones we
have in Quebec. My riding is also very regional; we have small
and medium size businesses and we also have social problems. The
government is not making any effort to reduce the tax burden of
individuals and of small and medium size businesses, with the
result that these people and businesses have a hard time being
In the context of globalization and free trade, the federal
government should be more receptive to ordinary people, but I
doubt it will be.
Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Madam
Speaker, before the last referendum the Parti Quebecois
commissioned a study on the economic impact of separation on the
people of Quebec. It was done by somebody in the Parti Quebecois
and was tossed under the carpet.
I would like ask my hon. friend from the Bloc Quebecois two
questions. First, why was the report, which was a damning report
on the economic impact on Quebec if Quebec were to separate,
tossed under the carpet? Second, in the event of separation,
would the manufacturers of Quebec be doing their business with
the Americans in French or in English?
Mr. Odina Desrochers: Madam Speaker, I heard about this document
but, unfortunately, I did not have time to find out what
happened to it.
However, I want to reassure the Reform Party member that,
regardless of the language we speak, we are in a global market.
We are in the process of signing all sorts of agreements with
various countries, and I cannot see why Canada would refuse a
business partnership with a sovereign Quebec.
All this is academic, but one thing is sure: when we have all
the necessary levers, we will be able to negotiate on behalf of a
sovereign Quebec, and the rest of Canada will also benefit from
this new Quebec-Canada structure.
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to express in
very clear terms the opposition of the New Democratic Party to
Bill C-28. The reasons for our opposition are many, but there is
one overriding concern that must be dealt with very clearly in
In the process of expressing our opposition to the bill, let me
say how concerned we are to find once again the government of the
day wielding the heavy hand of time allocation and bringing in
closure on a very important debate before us and the Canadian
The most critical, the most controversial aspect of Bill C-28 is
the section that applies to health care financing and
specifically amends the financing arrangements for health care
under the Canada health and social transfer. We are dealing
with, as we have done on many occasions, a government that is
prepared to delve into illusory politics, to act like the great
pretender and to imply that it is doing some great service for
health care when all along it is a misrepresentation.
We have heard time and time again from the government that it is
investing new money in health care. That is a galling statement
when we consider the fact that we are not dealing with any new
moneys for health care. We are dealing simply with a cancelled
cut and the legislation before us verifies the fact that is all
the government is prepared to do at a time when health care is in
This is also an opportunity to talk about our visions for health
care. We are all asking what is the vision of the Liberal
government when it comes to medicare. We have not heard any plan
from the government. We are still waiting to see when the
millennium health care budget will happen. We are still waiting
to get details from the government on how it will deal with the
health care crisis.
At the same time we are dealing with a very serious situation,
pronouncements from the Reform Party about the kind of health
care system it would like to see. That in itself should speak to
the Liberal government and remind it of the urgency. I certainly
hope the Liberal government is vehemently opposed to the kind of
proposal being advanced by the Reform Party.
I remind members of the vision of the Reform Party on health
care. Within the past two weeks the member for North Vancouver
suggested to the House that we needed more competition in our
health care system. He said that he received better health care
in Florida than he has received under socialized medicine in
Canada. We have not heard such regressive, reactionary comments
in the last 30 years. All of a sudden they are appearing at a
time when we need leadership and not reactionary statements like
The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca told us over the past few
days about his vision and Reform's vision for health care. On
behalf of the Reform Party he advanced a parallel system of
health care: one for the rich and one for the poor. That is the
antithesis of everything that has shaped the country including
the medicare we have today. It is absolute Americanization and
privatization of our health care system, the absolute opposite of
what Canadians want to see from this place and from their
government. That is why this debate is so critical.
With one voice we need to tell the government to preserve
medicare. Canadians want medicare preserved. That means a
genuine reinvestment to make up for the tremendous amount of
money that has been chopped out of this system over the last
number of years, in particular during the time the federal
Liberal government has been in power.
I will put the chronology of events on record to point out the
seriousness of the situation. We need not forget that the whole
erosion of medicare began under the Mulroney Conservative
government with several pieces of legislation that changed a
funding formula that made sense and that ensured federal cash
transfers to the provinces would grow as the economy and the
population grew. The Mulroney government changed that formula
over several years to ensure that growth in health care transfer
payments would end. We realized at that point that under that
formula cash transfer payments to the provinces would dwindle to
zero in short order if that were allowed to continue.
An hon. member: Who stopped it? We did.
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: The question is who stopped it.
The Liberals would like to pretend they stopped it. I will put
the facts on the record. The Liberals came into office in 1993
with the promise to address this critical situation, to restore
funds for health care and to restore confidence in medicare.
What did they do in 1995? They introduced the Canada health and
social transfer, the most regressive social policy in the
country. In one fell swoop they took $6.8 billion out of
programs for health, education and social assistance. They
eliminated the requirement that provinces live up to expenditures
in those specific areas. They completely abdicated
responsibility in terms of ensuring a viable health care system,
quality public education and any semblance of a Canada assistance
In taking that huge chunk out of transfer payments to the
provinces, the Liberal government put medicare on very weak
ground. As a result of the failure to maintain its commitment,
to keep its promise to Canadians, we are dealing with the health
care crisis we have today.
We have gone from the days when funding for health care was done
on a 50:50 basis to where today the federal government at the
very best is responsible for 20%. We have gone from 50:50 to
80:20. That is even stretching it. If we look only at the cash
portion of the transfer payment the federal contribution is down
to 10% or 13%. With that kind of loss in federal support, with
that kind of abdication of responsibility, with a total lack of
federal leadership, we have a very serious situation.
We now have a government that is prepared to pretend its
cancelled cut will save the day, but it fails to tell Canadians
that it is still a $6.8 billion cut. We have a government that
does not have the wherewithal to enforce the principles of the
Canada Health Act.
We have a government that has basically thrown up its hands and
said “Let whatever happens happen. We are not responsible”.
That is contrary to the traditions of the country. It is
contrary to the vision of the pioneers of medicare. It is
contrary to the intentions of the Canadian people.
Let me remind the Liberal government and the Reform members that
Canadians have a very clear idea of what they want in terms of
health care. They want a single payer, universally accessible,
publicly administered health care system. They do not want the
two tier health system being proposed by the Reform. They do not
want the federal government to abdicate from its responsibility.
They want a partnership, which is all we are talking about in our
opposition to the bill.
We presented an amendment to the bill that would have allowed
the government at least to show some good faith and report back
to parliament about the adequacy of cash transfers to the health
care system to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act.
Did the government accept that amendment? Did the Reform Party
accept that amendment? No. They would not even agree to a
simple official process for accounting back to parliament and to
the Canadian people. Where is their support for medicare? Where
is their vision for the country? It was a small gesture to be
made and they could not even go that far.
We know there are difficulties surrounding this issue on the
Liberal benches. We know that there is clearly a battle going on
between the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health. We
know there is a battle going on between the Minister of Health
and the Minister of Industry.
Why else would we end up with the most unusual situation of the
Minister of Health going on national radio and saying what he
said? He said:
But on that point, let me say that, you know, in Ottawa now, as
you mentioned at the top, we just balanced the budget. We're
entering sort of a new and unprecedented area where we're going
to have a debate like we haven't had in memory about what to do
with the surplus. And people are going to be arguing, for
example, that the surplus should be used for tax cuts; others
will argue that it should be for other programming. Health is
going to be contending with other priorities for the available
dollars. So if, as you said, Canadians support increased
investment in health care, then I think that we should make it
clear that those who want to see surpluses go to health should
let their voices be heard.
I have not seen anything this unusual in the whole time that I
have been in politics. It is absolutely incredible to have a
minister of health stand publicly, dissociate himself with the
government policies of the day and ask for Canadians to support
him in his efforts to advocate for health care. I think that
says it all and why we need—
The Speaker: It is almost two o'clock. The member still
has 10 minutes left in her time and will be the first speaker
when we resume debate.
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
ASIA PACIFIC HALL
Mr. Rey D. Pagtakhan (Winnipeg North—St. Paul, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, British Columbia is Canada's gateway to the Asia
Pacific, home to about half of the world's total population,
production and total consumption.
In the words of the Prime Minister “Canada knows that Asia
Pacific is the future”. Hence Canada launched the Year of Asia
Pacific on January 8, 1997 in Vancouver.
The year succeeded in firmly establishing Canada's credentials
as a Pacific nation, forging stronger and more numerous human and
economic links between Canada and its partners in the region.
To sustain this legacy, the Prime Minister announced last
November Canada's contribution of $4 million toward the
establishment of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser
University. This state of the art conference facility, the first
of its kind in North America, shall be named Asia Pacific Hall.
Indeed British Columbia can take pride in providing the home for
this enduring legacy of Canada's Year of Asia Pacific.
* * *
Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
There is a place where members are appointed
You'd think that they had been annoited
As citizens toil, these members sleep
They rake in the benefits while taxpayers weep
It does not have to be that way
They should work hard to receive pay
We could choose them by election
Not by the Prime Minister's selection
Account to the people on promises kept
Duties and responsibilities met
Vacations more like normal folk
Then that place would not be a joke
Is this a dream, could it be real?
Ottawa in touch with what citizens feel?
The only way that we will know
Give the Senate election a go!
Let the people decide for in the end
They don't want the Prime Minister's friends
Then the senator's guiding path
Will not be the public's wrath!
* * *
Mr. Claude Drouin (Beauce, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to
share with this House an excellent government initiative to
promote the growth of the small business sector in eastern Quebec
and on the North Shore.
Indeed, on March 3, the hon. secretary of state responsible for
Canada Economic Development announced a $529,500 contribution to
the corporation providing support for technological development.
This assistance is designed mainly to support small businesses in
eastern Quebec and on the North Shore, which hire science and
engineering students from Université du Québec in Rimouski.
This is phase II of a project to promote the development of
innovation and technology in the small business sector by
facilitating the integration of future graduates into small and
medium size businesses in these two regions.
Our government is especially proud of having been associated
with this initiative from the start. This is a promising project,
which is focused on youth and will have a positive effect on the
growth of small and medium size businesses in eastern Quebec and
the North Shore for the benefit of all of Canada.
* * *
Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia—Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Minister
of Human Resources Development is persecuting Quebec farmers,
particularly those in eastern Quebec.
Each time family farm operators hire a son, daughter, spouse or
relative, they are harassed by Revenue or Employment Canada
They are practically treated like criminals. Officials almost
automatically suspect them of trying to defraud the system. If a
farming operation is recognized by Revenue Canada, why do HRDC
officials hound its owner?
I find this attitude unacceptable and ask that the minister give
the necessary instructions to put an immediate stop to this
* * *
REFORM PARTY OF CANADA
Mrs. Judi Longfield (Whitby—Ajax, Lib.): Mr. Speaker,
it must be tough to be a B.C. Reform member these days. It has
been a long cold winter in Ottawa and I have heard that being
shut in behind the walls of Stornoway without bingo makes one a
While British Columbians expect their MPs to debate the budget,
Reformers take flag waving joy rides around Parliament Hill.
While this government works for lower taxes, a reduced debt and
improved health care, Reformers devote their time in question
period to mud slinging at the Prime Minister. While this
government is acting on recommendations put forward by the
national forum on health, Reformers dance to a mariachi band
outside the other place.
It is clear that Reform has lost touch with the people of B.C.
and that is why constituents of B.C. are turning to Liberals like
Lou Sekora in Port Moody—Coquitlam for leadership. Lou knows
that tax relief, debt reduction, more and better jobs and
preserving key social programs are what people are really
concerned about. Reform is out of touch with British
The Speaker: The hon. member for
* * *
Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, along the same line there has been plenty
of rhetoric from the Reform Party about B.C. Let us look at some
of the facts.
In 1998-99 transfers to British Columbia by the federal
government will exceed $3.3 billion. This will account for 16%
of B.C.'s estimated revenues. That works out to $825 per person.
The lowest interest rates in years means that B.C. has saved
$340 million over the last three years. By increasing the cash
floor component to the Canada health and social transfer, B.C.
will get an additional $920 million over six years. On the
infrastructure program, $277 million for B.C.
British Columbia needs more Liberal MPs, people who understand
local issues, people—
The Speaker: The hon. member for Edmonton East.
* * *
HONG KONG VETERANS
Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, Ref.): Mr. Speaker:
Shells rained down and brave men died,
Canadians stood their ground.
Their ranks finally broke,
From the weight of superior force.
Interned in cells of true hell,
Rotting flesh, disease and death abound.
Convention was not a word Japan understood.
Slavery for Hong Kong war prisoners was.
Four long years,
Our soldiers were forced,
To endure unspeakable horrors,
And to slave at unbelievable tasks.
Sixty years hence nothing has changed.
Japan and Canada have failed in their part,
To compensate our brave Hong Kong veterans.
Questioned in this House November last,
Committee resolve of December past,
Both should have caused result
Bud did not.
So I ask now
When will government do honour to the task
As the sands of time slip from our Hong Kong veterans' lives?
* * *
Ms. Maria Minna (Beaches—East York, Lib.): Mr. Speaker,
I wish to clarify the position of this government once again with
regard to the recommendations made to the honourable Minister of
Citizenship and Immigration.
The minister has stated on several occasions, as I have in this
House, that the recommendations made by the review committee are
simply recommendations. They were not made by the government and
are not carved in stone. The minister took these recommendations
straight to Canadians herself to get a firsthand account of their
concerns and views.
I remind this House this is the first time a minister has
conducted her own consultations and involved the public to such a
degree. After consulting with Canadians the minister reiterated
that we are not bound by any of the 172 recommendations, that
language requirement is too excessive and we will not go that
I have spoken with constituents in my twin riding of North
Vancouver and they have clearly stated that although our system
of immigration does need changes, installing the suggested
language recommendation is not one of them. I do not believe we
can be any clearer on this issue.
* * *
REFORM PARTY OF CANADA
Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party is out of touch with the real
concerns of the people of British Columbia. This party came to
Ottawa promising to be constructive and to do politics
differently. Instead, it has engaged in negative, divisive
antics that have nothing to do with helping average Canadians.
Canadians in British Columbia and elsewhere are concerned with
maintaining and improving our health care system while Reformers
worry about whether or not they can have a flag on their desk.
While this government sets the course for lower taxes, reduced
debt and improved social programs, Reformers spend their time in
Ottawa trying to start fist fights in the Chamber and slinging
mud at the Prime Minister during their time in question period.
British Columbians want more than pandering to cheap politics
from their representatives. They want someone who will bring jobs
to their communities and someone who reflects their daily
concerns. Subsequently I urge British Columbians to remember
this when they cast their ballot next week—
The Speaker: The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
* * *
Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, all Canadian families need tax relief. However, the
government's tax credits discriminate against some families. The
government will only give certain tax credits to families with
both parents working outside the home. Is this fair?
I represent a rural riding where a third of the farms have both
husband and wife running the operation. Statistics Canada says
42% of women provide their own child care. Interestingly enough,
a recent poll said 77% of parents would prefer to have provided
parental care instead of day care if they could do it all over
The Reform Party's family friendly budget would increase family
wealth and it would allow parents the freedom to raise their
family the way they chose.
* * *
REFORM PARTY OF CANADA
Mrs. Brenda Chamberlain (Guelph—Wellington, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, who speaks for British Columbia? Not the 24 B.C. Reform
members. They would rather spend their time in this Chamber
making accusations about the Prime Minister that they dare not
repeat outside the Chamber and riding around in a car that is
painted like a flag in the middle of winter pretending to be more
Canadian than anyone else.
Yet again the task of speaking out for the real interests of
British Columbians falls to the province's Liberal members.
Together they worked for measures in this last budget that
directly benefited the provinces such as tax relief that will
benefit over 92% of all B.C. taxpayers.
The millennium scholarship fund will give money directly to
students. We are providing an annual grant of up to $400 to
parents who are saving for their children's education through
RESPs. That is what politics is all about.
* * *
MEMBER FOR SHERBROOKE
Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Qu'Appelle, NDP): Mr. Speaker, later
in the day Jean Charest, the leader of the Conservative Party of
Canada, will announce he is going to be a—
The Speaker: We should not use each other's names in the
House as long as we are here.
Hon. Lorne Nystrom: Mr. Speaker, later in the day the
leader of the Conservative Party will announce he will be a
candidate for the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party and the
leader of the federalist force in the province of Quebec. We
wish him well in his endeavours.
The response of the Reform Party has been a partisan call to
unite the right in this country. Instead of a call to unite the
right it should be a call to unite federalist parties and unite
this country around common goals that all Canadians can feel at
home in Canada. That should be the goal.
I call on all our colleagues to work toward that common ground
for all Canadian people.
At the provincial level, there is already a process under way to
ensure Canadian unity that led to the Calgary declaration.
Public hearings were held and they were well attended.
It is high time Parliament took its responsibility. The time has
come to act.
* * *
Mrs. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in 1998,
1.3 billion people in the developing countries, or one-third of
their population, are barely surviving, on less than a dollar a
day. Every day, 34,000 children die of malnutrition and
In light of these statistics, and in order to eradicate poverty,
the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, in
conjunction with some 100 organizations working in this area,
has launched a campaign under the theme “In common”. The goal of
the campaign is to enhance the political and public desire to
eradicate poverty in the world.
When will the Minister of International Co-operation take some
notice of this human distress?
Instead of cutting funding for international aid, as was done in
the latest budget, the government ought to be following the
example of the CCIC and its partners.
Our congratulations to the Canadian Council for International
Co-operation and its partners for this fine, and constructive,
* * *
OLD AGE SECURITY
Mr. André Harvey (Chicoutimi, PC): Mr. Speaker, the bill
transforming the present old age pension into the seniors
benefit will bring about a drop in available income for most
retired persons and a loss of ground for women. What is more,
40% of workers have only public pension plans when they retire.
The AFEAS has been stoutly defending women seniors so as to
ensure them of a decent retirement and to enable them to retain
what they have acquired after many a long struggle. The public
pension plans are essential if the majority of women are to
enjoy a decent retirement.
The AFEAS is calling for the principle of individuality to be
respected, for there to be a universal basic benefit and tax
measures to enhance available income for the least well-off and
to provide a tax break for the middle class, which has been
crushed by the present government's taxation policies.
The AFEAS is therefore calling upon the Minister of Finance to
reflect its recommendations in this new bill.
* * *
REFORM PARTY OF CANADA
Mr. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, it seems that Reform MPs from B.C. have been so star
struck by the paparazzi and glamour surrounding the visit of
Prince Charles and his sons to B.C. that the usual political
hyperbole has risen to new hysterical heights.
Yesterday in his statement in the House the member for
Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said the government uses health care as a
political football to look good instead of putting patients first
and giving politics a back seat.
The fact is the first reinvestment we made when our books were
in reasonable order was in health care, raising the cash floor on
transfers by $1.5 billion. As well, this last budget made real
commitments in the areas of home care and medical research. That
is what leadership is all about.
To date the people of British Columbia await one concrete
suggestion from B.C. Reformers that would actually help them in
terms of the health care system.
I have one thing to say. Go, Lou, go.
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, on the issue
of compensation for hepatitis C victims, I would like to quote
what the Minister of Health said. “I do not think victims'
claims should be bogged down for 10, 12 or 15 years before the
courts.” That is exactly what the Liberal compensation plan is
going to do.
I would like one of the Liberal members who is proud of this
record to stand and tell me why Liberals are going to let half
the victims go through the courts for fair justice.
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, no arrangement has been announced as yet for
compensation of hepatitis C victims. An announcement will be
made very soon.
What will be announced I understand will be in co-operation and
through an agreement with the provinces. I am sure that what
will be announced is intended to be fair and reasonable. I ask
my hon. friend to wait until the announcement is made. Then he
will have something to talk about. Right now he is just blowing
Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Neylan Dallie, of Pointe-Claire,
Quebec, received a transfusion of contaminated blood in 1981
during childbirth. This made her so ill that she underwent a
liver transplant in 1994. Since then, the public system has
Why is the government now abandoning her as well, without
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is
abandoning no one. As the Deputy Prime Minister has just
indicated, there is communication between the Minister of Health
and his counterparts at the provincial level in order to come
together with a package that will address all of the issues
associated with hepatitis C and the contamination, the
unfortunate incidents that happened in the last decade.
We are very serious about the way we are approaching this
matter. We are very concerned about all of the factors that are
part of it. I urge the member to wait until tomorrow when the
The Speaker: The hon. member for Macleod.
Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, just prior
to 1986 Ron Smith of Calgary was involved in a major car
accident. He had multiple transfusions. He is so ill today that
he cannot even play with his four children. Ill not from his car
accident but from contaminated blood and hepatitis C.
Why has the Prime Minister not forced the uncaring health
minister to provide compensation for every single victim?
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as recently as a year ago this
matter, regrettable as it is, was not even on the table. The
Minister of Health made it his personal objective to ensure that
the issue of hepatitis C contamination was brought on the table
with his counterparts at the provincial level. They are working
together on a package that deals with the issues on the medical
side as well as all other issues.
I do not think it is fair for any member of the House to play on
the emotions of people who have suffered this terrible tragedy.
We are engaging in a resolution that we hope will solve all the
Mr. Reed Elley (Nanaimo—Cowichan, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it
is clear that the treatment of victims in Canada's blood scandal
by the government has been unequalled. All hepatitis C sufferers
in this tragedy deserve equal treatment with the HIV or AIDS
victims who suffered the same fate.
Why is the minister discriminating against those who contracted
hepatitis C before 1986? Why will he not agree to compensate
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, it is expected that as early as tomorrow there will be a
package for hepatitis C victims announced on behalf of the
federal, provincial and territorial governments.
I suggest that the hon. member wait until tomorrow. Then he can
raise questions based on the actual program. Right now he is
taking up the time of the House on matters we are not in a
position to talk about.
Mr. Reed Elley (Nanaimo—Cowichan, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
I do not think the people who sent letters to me about this issue
will accept the minister's response at all. This could be a
scandal as great as the tainted blood scandal itself.
I have received numerous letters from people who are in this
situation. Why are they to be denied compensation, a chance for
a better life from this government which refuses to abide by the
very recommendations of its own report?
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at the risk of sounding
repetitive, the negotiations are still ongoing. The announcement
has not been made.
I think it is pretty shoddy politics to try to pit one group of
sufferers against another. The government is trying to resolve an
issue that has been longstanding. I urge the member to be patient
and to address the issues to the House tomorrow. As they come up
with specific questions, they will get specific answers.
* * *
MULTILATERAL AGREEMENT ON INVESTMENT
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, a
number of the provisions of the multilateral agreement on
investment, more commonly known as the MAI, impact directly on
I am thinking of the clauses on social matters, labour standards,
the environmental clauses and the cultural exemption, all of
which are areas of exclusively provincial jurisdiction, or in
some cases shared jurisdiction at most.
Under the circumstances, will the Prime Minister make a formal
commitment to call a conference of the premiers as soon as
possible, before he proceeds any further?
Mr. Julian Reed (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for
International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as my hon. friend
knows, the negotiators are constantly in touch with every
province apprising them each time a set of negotiations takes
place. The province of Quebec has equal access to all the
information, as does every other province in Canada.
I understand that a statement was made in Quebec today. We are
not yet in possession of the text. When we are, we will be able
to comment on it more fully.
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker,
nothing my hon. colleague has said prevents a first ministers'
conference from being held, and in my opinion the situation
During the NAFTA debate, the Liberals, in opposition at the time,
demanded a major debate in this House in order to discuss all
matters relating to that agreement. I am not speaking of an
opposition day, but rather a debate on the government's position
if there is such a thing.
Could the Prime Minister or the parliamentary secretary commit to
a real debate in this House on all the implications of the MAI?
Mr. Julian Reed (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for
International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as far back as
February 19, the federal and provincial trade ministers met for a
third discussion of Canada's objectives and the bottom lines for
the MAI. The positions advanced by Canada in the MAI negotiations
reflect the discussions that took place at that time.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question
is for the Minister for International Trade.
International concern over the MAI is growing.
In this context, will the Minister for International Trade not
recognize that this agreement concocted by the OECD, the club
for rich countries, is very likely to penalize the poorest
countries and that it would be better therefore to start
negotiations afresh under the auspices of the World Trade
Mr. Julian Reed (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for
International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is an ancient
Chinese saying which says that the journey of a thousand miles
begins with the first step.
We began with international investment agreements through NAFTA
and we have that in existence at the present time. Right now we
are trying to get 29 countries to sing out of the same hymn book.
Once we do that, we will take it to the WTO where over 100
countries will be able to participate in the same agreement.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the
agreement provides that a sector will automatically be covered,
unless it is expressly excluded.
Does the minister not think a provision like this should not be
in an agreement of such importance?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there
is no agreement. Canada has signed no agreement on this matter.
Negotiations are continuing, and if there is no agreement that
represents our interests, there will be no signature by the
Government of Canada.
* * *
Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker,
federalists cannot simply wish the Conservative leader well in
his mission and then set aside the Canadian unity file, nor
should Canadians be sidetracked by unite the right hoopla.
What is really needed is leadership, leadership to unite the
Will the Deputy Prime Minister give an undertaking to this House
today to urge the Prime Minister to convene a meeting bringing
federalist leaders together in this House to build a common
agenda for a united Canada?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, the Prime Minister has been giving leadership in
maintaining the unity of this country. I am confident he will
continue to do so with great success.
Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, national unity
The Conservative leader is demonstrating his leadership by making
the leap to provincial politics. The Prime Minister should also
demonstrate his leadership for Canada.
What does the Prime Minister intend to do to get the federalist
parties in this House to work together to build this country's
Will he urge the Prime Minister to convene such a meeting among
federalist leaders before the Easter recess?
Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for
Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Canadian unity is progressing nicely. Support for
it is increasing, while support for the Bloc is in free fall.
Things are going well.
We now have the opportunity to have a leader in Quebec who is
popular for various reasons, including the fact that he can be
both a Quebecker and a Canadian. My door is always open to the
leader of the NDP. All suggestions on national unity are
* * *
Mr. Greg Thompson (Charlotte, PC): Mr. Speaker, Justice
Krever recommended that all victims of tainted blood be
compensated. Now we in this House know that the government will
exclude the victims outside the timeframe of 1986 to 1990.
I ask the government, does the Deputy Prime Minister support a
compensation package that will exclude 40,000 Canadians, innocent
Canadians of a tainted—
The Speaker: The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister of Health.
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member probably heard me
respond earlier to a question that was similar in nature.
The member's question is based on reports in the press today,
reports that are not substantiated by the meetings that are
currently being held by the Minister of Health and his
counterparts. I might add that all of these men and women are at
the table in an effort to resolve an outstanding issue of a
tragic period in Canadian blood agency history.
Mr. Greg Thompson (Charlotte, PC): Mr. Speaker, I am
going to hold the government to its very words in this House
today in regard to this issue. Previous members on this side of
the House have asked the same question and have had the same
nonsense from the government. It knows today what is in that
I ask the minister, will the government stand true to its words
today in this House and if that package does not include those
innocent victims, will the government make sure that that
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member opposite might gain
some comfort in the knowledge that all the people he thinks he
speaks for are the ones that are being dealt with today by the
Minister of Health and his counterparts at the provincial level.
Under no circumstances would we engage in the kind of politics
we are seeing today, which is pitting the emotions of one group
of victims against another. It is shameful.
* * *
Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
our whole nation is grieving over the deaths of Connie and Ty
Jacobs on the Tsuu T'ina reserve in Alberta.
Alberta has called for a public inquiry into that tragic
shooting which might shed some light on how to improve the RCMP
conditions there. That inquiry only looks into the shooting
itself. Grassroots aboriginals know that this was just a symptom
of much larger, more serious problems.
Will the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
appoint a judge to look into the economic, social and democratic
problems on the Tsuu T'ina reserve?
Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern
Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have said all along that
the lives of aboriginal people in this country are dramatically
different from the lives many of us have. They are not as good.
Over the last five years the largest public inquiry into the
very root causes of the issues that the hon. member makes
reference to, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, has
been completed. On January 7 this government provided a
significant and historic response to that piece of research and
focused on building plans—
The Speaker: The hon. member for Edmonton North.
Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
the royal commission is not solving the problems there, right now
today, which they are facing. There are terrible inequities on
that reserve. As we saw on TV last night, there are haves and
have-nots on that reserve. That is exactly the issue that Bruce
Starlight, from that very same reserve, brought forward to the
minister's attention and the very chief who got that information
back and is now suing him.
This is not being solved and I am going to ask the minister one
more time: Will she appoint a judge to look into the economic,
social and democratic disasters that are happening on the Tsuu
T'ina Reserve today?
Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern
Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, again I would point out that
the work of the royal commission encouraged us and advised us to
look at these very issues.
If the hon. member would take time to look at the response of
this government to those very issues she will see that we are
committed to building a strong relationship with the aboriginal
peoples from coast to coast to coast, to building and supporting
transparent and accountable First Nations government and Inuit
Members will see that we are committed to building modern fiscal
relationships, all with the intention of ensuring that we build
* * *
Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Part III of the
finance minister's estimates confirms an additional cut of $430
million in transfers to the provinces. The government has
managed, however, to find $2.5 billion for its millennium
How can the minister explain to the public that he does not have
the money for transfers to the provinces that are used for
hospitals and universities, but that his cup overflows when it
comes to new programs carrying the mark of the maple leaf?
Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial
Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at the same time as we had to
cut some of the transfer payments, the value of tax points went
up by $700 million, there was an increase in equalization
payments, and the drop in interest rates produced big savings for
the Province of Quebec.
It should also be pointed out that, while our cuts were in the
order of 2.5%, the Quebec government imposed cuts that were
twice as high on its municipalities.
Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is very simple.
The government says to the provinces “We have no money. We are
therefore cutting $430 million from your payments”. It then
turns around and tells the public “We could care less about the
problems our cuts are causing in the health sector. We prefer
to create millennium scholarships. They are much more visible”.
Does the minister not realize that, in the meantime, there are
real people suffering, while the federal government wages its
war of visibility against the provinces?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I
wonder why the hon. member and his party are against a good
education for the young people of Quebec and the rest of the
* * *
DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS
Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the
fisheries minister says if you want to unload oil in Cornwall,
Ontario, it is going to cost you $1.85 a tonne in taxes. But 60
miles down the river in Montreal it is only 44 cents. It is the
same oil, four times the tax.
Two years ago the minister's own independent inquiry of experts
told him that this practice was discriminatory. They said that
the tax should be the same everywhere.
Why is the fisheries minister ignoring his own experts and
continuing this discrimination against Ontario businesses and
Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I explained yesterday we have a series
of regional response organizations in Canada. These are private
sector organizations which make contracts with the various
shippers of oil. We insist upon having this system so we have
the maximum protection of the environment.
What I hear from the official opposition time after time is that
they do not care about that protection and they do not care about
the private sector relationship.
Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the
minister is not listening to his own experts and is kowtowing to
different oil companies simply because he does not have the
courage to stand up to them.
In a February 12 letter to the minister, the Liberal member for
Scarborough—Rouge River said “it is economically and
politically unwise to maintain a fee in Ontario which is four
times higher than that of fees established in Quebec. This
creates an economic disadvantage for Ontario industry”.
If the minister will not listen to the experts will he listen to
his backbenchers? Why is the minister taxing Ontario at four
times the rate of Quebec?
Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, time after time I have to point out to
this hon. member that a private contract between companies is not
a tax of the Government of Canada. He tends to suggest that we
in the government should take over private relationships, smother
the system that we have in place and of course substitute our
What I will tell him is that we have in place a regionalized
system. The differences in price are related to the different
volumes that are carried and the different requirements for the
response equipment that is necessary to have on hand. It is an
insurance policy. To get the insurance one has to buy in.
* * *
Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques,
BQ): Mr. Speaker, the budget confirms that the accumulated
surplus in the employment insurance fund will be close to $20
billion next year.
The only argument used by the government to justify this
outrageous surplus is that it must save money for the next
recession, again at the expense of the unemployed.
With so much money available, how can the government refuse to
shore up the transitional job creation fund and provide a decent
income to the unemployed?
Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial
Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when we came to office,
employment insurance contributions stood at $3.07 and were going
up to $3.30. We have already reduced these contributions five
times, and they now stand at $2.70.
Thanks to our initiatives, Canadians have saved $7.1 billion
since we took office.
* * *
Mr. Yvan Bernier (Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, instead of playing an old tape, I will ask a brand
new question to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Given the $20 billion surplus in the employment insurance fund,
what is the minister waiting for to implement a true groundfish
strategy and provide tools to the 22,000 fishers and plant
workers who are waiting? There are $20 billion in the fund, but
the minister is still waiting.
Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the response assistance for displaced
fisheries will be put forward, as has been said many times in
this House, in due course once decisions are made by the
The issue that we are facing is that the plan will expire in
August. We are trying to put in place other measures which we
believe will be helpful, first, by removing people from the
industry so we do not continually have this problem, but also of
course to assist them in the interim.
* * *
YOUNG OFFENDERS ACT
Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the
Minister of Justice has been promising for months to amend the
young offenders legislation. Many of the provinces have already
indicated exasperation over the delay.
Last June the minister informed Canadians that young offender
legislation was her top priority. Eight months. Some priority.
When can we expect the long overdue fulfilment of her promise?
The minister often uses the word “timely”. Canadians deserve
and expect better than that.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker,
as the minister has said in this House, and if hon. members on
the other side of the House will wait, she will be bringing back
her response in legislation. Be patient, it will come.
Mr. Jack Ramsay (Crowfoot, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, unlike the
justice minister, I do not have a team of lawyers and
bureaucrats, yet six months ago I tabled a very complex bill to
amend the Young Offenders Act in this House.
Who is causing the delay over there on the justice minister's
side? Is it her team or is it her bleeding heart caucus which
still feels that coddling violent young offenders is the way to
go? Who is causing the delay over there?
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I
do not think the hon. member heard me. I just said that the
minister will be, if he will be patient, tabling our response to
the committee's report.
* * *
Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is
for the Prime Minister.
The more experts look at the so-called millennium bug, the more
they realize the magnitude of the problem, the uncertainty of
the results and, consequently, the urgency to act.
Can the Prime Minister confirm that he just wrote to all his
ministers to tell them that the year 2000 computer bug is now
the government's top priority and that it takes precedence over
Mr. Walt Lastewka (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows very well
that a number of reports on the year 2000 problem have been
submitted to the industry committee. She knows that the industry
minister started the research program with Jean Monty as chair to
alert people about the year 2000 problem.
The government has a program in place. This has been reported
to the industry committee. The next report on the government's
progress with respect to the year 2000 problem will be coming in
We really need everyone in the House to publicize the importance
of the year 2000 problem to everyone in their—
* * *
STATUS OF WOMEN
Ms. Sophia Leung (Vancouver Kingsway, Lib.): Mr. Speaker,
my question is for the Secretary of State for the Status of
Women. I campaigned in Port Moody, B.C., over the past few
weekends. I heard from many women who are concerned about
poverty, education and their children's futures. What measures
does the government have to help women and children?
Hon. Hedy Fry (Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status
of Women), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has hit it
right on the head. There are women living in poverty in many of
the ridings we represent in Vancouver. There are single women
who need education. A $3,000 a year grant will be given to women
in financial hardship who have dependants so they can go to
school and upgrade their training. This will be very important
for some of the women in Vancouver East, in my riding, in the
riding of the hon. member and in the riding she is talking about.
We are also talking about money for women entrepreneurs—
The Speaker: The hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap.
* * *
INDIAN AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan—Shuswap, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, unsettled native land claims and the supreme court's
Delgamuutw decision are making land tenure in B.C. extremely
uncertain. Mining and forestry jobs are disappearing for both
natives and non-natives. How many more thousands of jobs must
B.C. lose before the federal government addresses this burning
Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern
Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are there in partnership
with the province, First Nations and third parties to deal with a
long outstanding issue.
For the sake of the House, members may not understand that in
the province of British Columbia we do not have treaties with our
I applaud the people of British Columbia for understanding the
importance of negotiating treaties with the First Nations in that
province. It will bring certainty not only to the third parties
referred to by the hon. member but to First Nations as well.
* * *
Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, in the
last Parliament endangered species legislation died on the Order
Paper because Canadians could not accept it. There was no public
consultation and no respect for individual property rights. The
environment minister has indicated that this heavy-handed
legislation is about to reappear. Will the environment minister
tell Canadians what steps she will take to protect individual
property rights while endangered species are being protected?
Hon. Christine Stewart (Minister of the Environment,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this government has made a commitment to
re-table our endangered species protection legislation and we
will do so. Before doing so, I am in the process of consulting
with the different sectors that may be implicated or impacted by
this legislation. I believe we are coming to a consensus about a
good piece of legislation to protect endangered species.
* * *
Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP): Mr. Speaker, according to
the estimates tabled yesterday, the employment insurance surplus
will be $19.6 billion next year.
The President of the Treasury Board thinks a huge surplus is
essential in case we fall upon more difficult economic times in
the future. But Canadian workers, from Kamloops to Caraquet to
St. John's, Newfoundland, are already going through tough times
as a result of the changes to employment insurance.
My question is for the President of the Treasury Board. Instead
of letting people suffer, is the government prepared to
immediately use the surplus in the employment insurance fund to
help all the unemployed from coast to coast?
Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial
Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, the amount
of the surplus from contributions is set on a yearly basis by the
commission. We must ensure that there will be enough for the
An hon. member: My eye. Liar.
Hon. Jim Peterson: We have already cut employment insurance
premiums by more than $7 billion based on past economic
Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP): Mr. Speaker, when will this
government start working for the people of this country and deal
with issues of concern to all Canadians, such as job creation
and a health system that meets everyone's needs? Does this
government think that having 1.4 million unemployed people in
Canada is acceptable?
My question is for the Prime Minister. Will the government keep
its promise to Canadian voters to create jobs? Is it prepared to
implement a full employment strategy and to set job creation
Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial
Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last year, the Canadian
economy generated 372,000 jobs. Since we have been in office, the
economy has generated more than 1 million jobs.
It is not enough, but we will carry on with our economic
policies to ensure that the progress made so far continues to
generate numerous jobs.
* * *
Mr. Gilles Bernier (Tobique—Mactaquac, PC): Mr. Speaker,
reports published today indicate that the Minister of Health has
put together a compensation package which offers a one time
payment of $22,000 to $30,000 to victims of tainted blood who
contracted hepatitis C between 1986 and 1990.
Could the minister confirm this? Does he feel that this is just
compensation for hepatitis C victims?
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what I can confirm is what I said
earlier. The issue is on the table. It is being discussed as we
speak with our colleagues at the provincial level.
When the compensation package is revealed in its entirety
tomorrow we will know the specifics. At that time he will be
able to judge better whether or not this is proper.
Mr. Gilles Bernier (Tobique—Mactaquac, PC): Mr. Speaker, there
are provinces that disagree with the federal government on the
matter of compensation.
Justice Krever, who was appointed by the federal government to
conduct the inquiry, also seems to disagree. In his final
report, he indicated that, in his opinion, providing compensation
to some victims but not to others would be unjustifiable.
Is the Minister of Health prepared to defend the federal
government's position, which neither the provinces nor Justice
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I remind the hon. member that
when Judge Krever submitted his interim report the federal
government acted swiftly, immediately, to implement all the
recommendations that applied to the Government of Canada and to
The Minister of Health has moved with the same alacrity to
ensure that this issue is dealt with honourably and justly so
that all affected could be dealt with in the appropriate manner.
I ask him to be patient and to wait until the announcement comes
tomorrow so that we can deal with the specifics of the matter.
* * *
WESTERN ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION
Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa—Vanier, Lib.): Mr. Speaker,
my question is for the Secretary of State for Western Economic
Contrary to what the opposition believes, British Columbia has
many friends on this side of the House. There is always room for
one or many more.
The central ingredient for economic prosperity being
participation in emerging technologies, will the minister tell
the House what the government has done and is doing to help
support high technology in B.C.?
Hon. Ronald J. Duhamel (Secretary of State (Science, Research
and Development)(Western Economic Diversification), Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, high technology investments in British Columbia have
been significant. I want to give two examples.
The Canadian Space Agency announced a contract to MacDonald
Dettwiler of $225 million for an earth observation system
securing 300 jobs.
Besides that, Technology Partnerships Canada has invested
roughly $58 million for the creation of 4,800 jobs in British
Columbia. Ballard Power Systems has received $29.3 million for
the creation of 2,200 jobs and Western Star Trucks, $8.9 million
for over 1,000 jobs.
* * *
IMMIGRATION REVIEW BOARD
Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
I hate to break from the theme of today, but I think we will have
to do that.
Today there was a recent IRB appointee, Anna Terrana, who
appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and
Immigration to be asked about her competence and qualifications.
When asked about her appointment she said that others had applied
for the position who had equal, if not better, qualifications.
Will the minister admit that the factor that tipped the scales
in Anna Terrana's favour was the fact that she is—
The Speaker: The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, will the hon. member admit that when Jack Frazer, a
former Reform member, was appointed to the Veterans' Appeal and
Review Board it was on the basis of competence? That is the case
with the former Liberal member who the hon. member unworthily
attempted to slur.
* * *
DREDGING OF ST. LAWRENCE
Mr. Yves Rocheleau (Trois-Rivières, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question
is for the Minister of the Environment.
The federal government is preparing to give its approval, without
public hearings, for the St. Lawrence River to be dredged in
order to meet Port of Montreal requirements.
Before giving the go-ahead, does the federal government intend to
follow up on the request from the Government of Quebec and
environmental groups that public hearings be held on this
proposal in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Protection
Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the dredging of the St. Lawrence to which
the hon. member makes reference was proposed. An exhaustive
environmental hearing took place in which the provincial
government of the province of Quebec took part.
Recently it sent a communication which appears to be in some
respects not entirely on all fours with its previous position. I
will look at that closely and we will re-examine this question in
the light of their presentation.
* * *
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP): Mr.
Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health
should understand that it is precisely because we do not want to
pit one group of hepatitis C victims against another that we are
asking these questions.
Could the parliamentary secretary assure Canadians that the
government will show leadership and compassion to all those
affected with hepatitis C, will adopt Justice Krever's
recommendations and will implement a compensation package that
includes everyone who contracted hepatitis C through the blood
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this question is no different
from any other. I am glad the hon. member opposite recognizes
that the initiatives of the Minister of Health and the Government
of Canada, in trying to come up with a compensation package,
demonstrate precisely the type of concern and compassion she
attributes to all members of the House but in particular in this
instance, if I might say so, to the Government of Canada.
* * *
MILLENNIUM SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): Mr. Speaker,
yesterday the Minister of Finance said that if the auditor
general would like to have access to the millennium fund books it
would be arranged. Yet the Budget Implementation Act does not
give the auditor general any right of access to the books of the
foundation. In fact the legislation calls for the millennium
fund to have its own auditor.
Based on the minister's commitment yesterday, will he amend the
legislation to ensure access for the auditor general and
eliminate the provision for a separate auditor?
Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International
Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have created
a foundation that will be independent and at arm's length from
government. As such it will have its own auditor but its books
will be deposited before parliament. They will be open to public
scrutiny including the scrutiny of the auditor general.
I suggest that we cannot have it both ways. Either we have a
foundation which is independent and at arm's length from
government or we have one that is run like government is with all
the regulations, et cetera. That is not what we have chosen to
* * *
Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin, Lib.): Mr.
Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister of Foreign Affairs.
If recent reports are any indication there appears to be a
crackdown on Canadians entering the United States. In British
Columbia we have a very important gateway between Canada and the
U.S., one that is very important to the B.C. economy.
What efforts are being made to ensure that Canadians continue to
enjoy a friendly reception at the U.S. border?
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
The Speaker: I think many of us are having difficulty
hearing the questions and the answers. I appeal to members to
listen to the questions and answers.
Mr. Ted McWhinney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government is
seeking an amendment to section 110 of the U.S. Immigration Act.
We are asking for a complete exemption of Canadians from the
proposed draconian border controls.
I personally have been in touch with all the U.S. senators and
congressmen from Washington and Oregon states and asked for their
co-operation. The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on
Immigration, Senator Abraham, has assured us of his full support.
A bill to that effect will be debated by the U.S. Congress in the
next few weeks.
* * *
Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, since the government has been in power, west coast
salmon species have become extinct, west coast communities have
become extinct, DFO scientific research has been swept under the
carpet and scientists gagged. What has been the minister's
response? “Let us study the situation”.
British Columbians want to know what this minister will do to
prevent an east coast disaster on the west coast.
Hon. David Anderson (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, we have to start with accurate
information. The member states that the west coast salmon
species are extinct. This is not so. Last year was a better
than average year for the commercial fishing fleet in British
Columbia in terms of the number of fish.
We have some serious problems with coho, steelhead and chinook
stocks. These are stocks we are doing our very best to protect,
but the first thing to do is to get accurate information so we
can make decisions thereafter to protect them. The approach that
will not work—
* * *
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my
question is for the minister responsible for Canada Post
The vicious policy of closing post offices ended with the
moratorium. Rural municipalities who lost their post office,
however, are gradually seeing their retail postal outlets shut
down. By capping the guaranteed revenue at $4,200, Canada Post
Corporation may well end up closing them all.
Will the minister responsible for Canada Post intercede with the
corporation in order to prevent the closing of these postal
Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Public Works and Government
Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her
question, which will give me an opportunity to say in the House
to all Canadians that, in 1994, the government decided not to
shut down any rural post offices. Naturally, we are also going
to keep retail postal outlets open.
I know that some villages are having problems, but discussions
are now under way with local authorities in order to find ways
of keeping postal outlets open. A way must also be found to
increase revenue. We are holding discussions now. I know that
colleagues are aware of this, because we have a particular case
The Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. minister. The hon.
member for Churchill.
* * *
Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, despite
Canada's high unemployment rate we are experiencing shortages of
qualified computer professionals and medical personnel. We have
a shortage of experienced truck drivers. We do not have enough
qualified marine inspectors to meet our present and future needs.
We turn to other countries to fill these jobs.
The government is failing Canadians by not providing affordable
access to education and training. When will the government
provide better training opportunities for Canadians so companies
are not forced to recruit from abroad?
Mr. Robert D. Nault (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this gives
me an opportunity to remind the hon. member that just this last
year and a half we have signed 11 labour market agreements with
the provinces of Canada.
In those agreements provinces were given the flexibility,
because they are closer to the people, to put in training and
education programs that will meet the needs of their regions.
I suggest very strongly that the member talk to the Manitoba
government and make sure that it puts in the kind of training
that she would like.
* * *
PRESENCE IN GALLERY
The Speaker: I draw the attention of hon. members to
the presence in the gallery of Mr. Lorne Taylor, Minister of
Science, Research and Information Technology for the Government
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
* * *
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, Ref.): Mr. Speaker,
it is not often that a minister from Alberta likes to come and
listen to all this across the way.
My questions for Thursday is to the government House leader. We
would like to know the nature of the business for the remainder
of this week and for all of next week leading up to the break in
the House of Commons.
Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of
Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the minister from Alberta must
have been tired of listening to the heckling from across.
Today we will hopefully complete the CHST bill, Bill C-28, to
increase the transfers to the provinces. The backup items are
Bill S-4, the marine liabilities legislation; Bill C-12, the RCMP
superannuation amendments; and Bill S-3, the pension benefit
Tomorrow we shall consider second reading of Bill C-26, the
Canadian grain legislation.
On Monday we hope to complete second reading of Bill C-25, the
defence legislation. This would be followed by Bill C-37, the
Judges Act amendment.
On Tuesday we will complete second reading of Bill C-36, the
budget implementation bill. Next Wednesday we shall call
legislation not completed previously, to which I have just
referred, followed by Bill C-31, the surveyors legislation, Bill
C-30, the Mi'kmaq education legislation, and other bills that may
be reported from committee.
In order to assist members interested, I wish now to designate
Monday, April 20 as a day for consideration of the standing
orders as provided in Standing Order 51. That is the debate on
amending the standing orders of the House of Commons. I thought
I would give an opportunity for all parties to prepare for that
* * *
POINTS OF ORDER
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS
Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I know very well
that the committees are the masters of their rules, but this
freedom in Parliament does not permit committees to circumvent
the rules of the House and all precedents, all past forms of
This is what I wish to bring to your attention for a ruling from
Today I attended the deliberations of the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs, which is examining the cases of
members who spoke against the Chair before a ruling was made in
the flag matter. The committee chair, without any sort of a
motion, and in contravention of Standing Order 116 and Standing
Order 1, decided to limit the appearances of witnesses to 20
minutes—5 minutes for a statement by the witness and 15 minutes
There was no motion before the committee at that time. That is
the first thing that happened.
Second, the allotted time, unilaterally decreed by the Chair,
picked up later by the government party in a motion, is 15
minutes. Before deciding to set a time for a mandate as
exceptional and specific in nature as this, where the statements
of persons who have, according to some “offended” or
the Chair, it seems to me that it would have to be the judgment
of a good parliamentarian to establish a sufficiently long period
of time for questions and discussion.
All parties were accorded a total of 15 minutes for questions,
which means that our party will have about 5 minutes to question
the witness who will appear.
The only precedent we have from the previous Parliament is the
Jacob case, where one of our MPs appeared before the Standing
Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to respond to
accusations made by another MP. I have checked this out. In the
Jacob case, the committee, quite by chance, in its great wisdom
and with the support of the Bloc moreover, agreed that Mr. Jacob,
the former member for Charlesbourg, would have five to six hours
to answer questions from House members. We felt this would be
sufficient to clarify his behaviour.
The committee worked on the case for three months. During that
period, it questioned a large number of people regarding the
issue, and our former Bloc Quebecois colleague spent five to six
hours answering respectfully the questions asked by his fellow
Today, how could we justify, based on any precedent, limiting
the questioning to 15 minutes in the case of the Liberal and
Reform Party members who are before the committee to be judged?
Mr. Speaker, I am asking you whether the committee chairman
grossly overstepped his mandate by deciding on his own, without
any motion, that these members would appear for 20 minutes. I am
asking you whether the committee had the right, given what is at
stake, to overlook in such cavalier fashion the existing
precedent, and to go from an appearance of five hours in the case
of a Bloc Quebecois member, to five minutes in the case of a
Liberal or Reform Party member.
I am asking you whether the committee, in acting like this,
respects the spirit of the mandate it was given by us, which is
to review the very serious matter of a member whose comments may
have offended, threatened or pressured the Chair.
With five minutes for questioning, is our party—which condemned
the situation and wants to get to the bottom of the matter—in a
position to even begin the work that it was asked to do by the
House? I call upon your judgment and your sense of fairness in
comparing the treatment of a Bloc Quebecois member, who answered
the questions of his peers for five to six hours, and the
treatment of the Liberal and Reform Party members, who will spend
five minutes answering questions from the Bloc Quebecois.
The issue is not any less serious. On the contrary, these are
people who may have threatened the Chair.
Had we accepted the decision made, which unquestionably defies
any logic, it would have meant that, in the future, anyone in
this House—including me—could have threatened the Chair and
made statements such as “If the Speaker does not rule this way,
the Bloc Quebecois will do this or that”.
The result of all this is that one would have five, six or
perhaps ten minutes to answer questions from the other parties
and yet be able to evade questions or to stall for time, knowing
that the ordeal will be over after ten minutes.
This is not right. For the sake of justice and considering the
mandate given by the House to the committee, for the sake of
parliamentary intelligence and given the only existing precedent
in the recent past, I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, to make a
ruling, to review the issue and tell us whether Bloc Quebecois
members are being unreasonable by demanding that these members
spend more than five minutes before the committee.
Considering that the former member for Charlesbourg, Mr. Jacob,
spent five or six hours, is it too much to ask that 30, 35 or
even 60 minutes be provided for questioning the members involved
in this matter?
Again, I call upon your good judgment. I am asking you,
Mr. Speaker, to look at the issue with all the wisdom that
parliamentary law gives you under such circumstances.
Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the
Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am
the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House
Affairs. I think it might be useful if I described the process
the committee is undertaking because the inquiry is still
We received the reference by motion from the House of Commons.
As soon as possible thereafter we convened a meeting where we
heard and were able to question an expert on general matters
concerning privilege and contempt in the House of Commons. Based
on that meeting our steering committee met and decided that first
of all we should invite in our colleagues who were cited in the
article which was part of the reference to us from the House of
We decided at that meeting that they would be invited to a
meeting today, that they would be asked to make a statement of up
to five minutes and that would be followed by a question and
At the meeting today there was a discussion on the nature of the
questioning. It has been agreed the members would appear one at
a time. There was a general agreement in the committee that for
the first round we would confine the questioning and the
statement to a total of about 20 minutes. It was made clear at
the beginning and the end of each witness presentation that he
might be invited back either later in today's meeting or at
future meetings of the committee.
The intent of this approximate time period the committee
provided and for which there was a formal agreement which the
record will show was not to cut off questioning. The intent was
to show fairness and equality to each of our colleagues who would
be appearing before us.
It was made clear that this was not some sort of gag, gag order
that is. The purpose of it was so that each member as the
hearings unfolded would be faced at first with the same period of
time for questioning.
On the matter of the motion and the unilateralness of the
decisions as chair, I believe I was following the clearly
expressed wishes of the committee. The 20 minutes was not a time
limit in the sense of questions. Questions can be put at later
hearings, no doubt. It was intended to show fairness to the
This plan was developed properly through the steering committee
at which all members were represented. As in other meetings, as
chair I have two purposes. The first is to show fairness to our
colleagues. I think that is very important. The second is to
deal with the reference that the House of Commons has given to us
and keep to that discussion.
Mr. Speaker will find that the record will show all parties had
equal time. All members where they asked to speak had equal time
within the limits set by the committee.
I stress the guiding principle of our meeting was fairness
to our witnesses.
As I have mentioned, this is not a question of pressure on any
party or individual on the committee. The next meeting of the
committee is next Tuesday when we will continue these hearings.
Thereafter, once we have considered the evidence we have
received, we may well call members back or proceed in some other
This is an ongoing set of hearings. There was absolutely no
intent to limit questioning of one party compared with the
questioning by another.
The Speaker: I do not want to get into a debate on this
because I think that what we are trying to deal with here in the
House is a matter that should be dealt with in the committee. It
is up to the committee to decide if its president was within
parliamentary practices. In any case, it has been the
longstanding practice of the House not to intervene until we have
a report from the committee.
I would prefer that this matter be dealt with in committee.
From what I am getting from the interventions so far there may
have been an idea that there was to be a limit of time. I am
just repeating what I seem to have heard here. If that is the
case, perhaps it can be worked out.
I do not want to get into a debate but I am prepared to listen
to a few more interventions providing that we give pertinent
information on this specific point of order.
Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I
agree with your analysis that committees have consistently been
the masters of their own destiny and I think that is the way this
place has always run.
There are a couple of things you may want to know about what
happened today in committee. Eventually the members of the Bloc
Quebecois stormed out of the meeting and things ran much smoother
after that. But before that you should know that there was an
agreement among the parties, an informal agreement as has been
mentioned. I thought it was all agreed to. As usually happens in
a committee where members take turns going from the government
side back and forth and so on, I stood up on my first
intervention and said we may want to have these witnesses back if
we are not satisfied with the conclusions we reached today and so
The Bloc Quebecois House leader came in about three-quarters of
the way through the meeting, not having taken part in the earlier
discussions whatsoever. He decided he did not like the rules of
the game and decided he wanted to change them.
The committee then moved to formalize and sustain the ruling of
the chair. There was a motion, do we sustain the ruling of the
chair. That motion passed easily, of course. The Bloc stormed out
and so on.
Perhaps it was a Freudian slip earlier that this was not a gag
order on the Bloc, this whole thing is a gag.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier—Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am
an associate member of the committee that is considering the
matter. I was also on the committee looking into the Jean-Marc
Jacob question. I can tell you the committee works in black and
I do not want to repeat the remarks of the House leader of the
Bloc Quebecois. I think he put his case very responsibly and
fairly. I would like to add, however, that you have made a
prima facie ruling. The matter appeared serious enough to
warrant being referred to committee, so the members of the
committee could consider it seriously.
We have heard from an expert, Joseph Maingot. He stated before
the committee that the matter raised by the referral to committee
was very important and that the context needed to be analyzed.
You are a reasonable man, Mr. Speaker, a man of parliamentary
experience. You will understand that we parliamentarians cannot
do responsible and consistent work if we are cut off by the
chair, if he fails to recognize us or if he intervenes in the
question we have asked.
If points of order are continually raised on all sorts of things,
because the members of the Bloc Quebecois raise a matter that
does not suit the Liberal or Reform Party witness, you will
understand that we cannot do our parliamentary duty.
Furthermore, as you will understand, when someone comes to
testify before the committee, we cannot limit ourselves to 20
minutes to question the witness and we cannot say “It does not
matter, they will be back”.
If we are going to get to the bottom of things and show the
member contradicted his own words, because Mr. Maingot the
government expert said to consider the context the statement was
made in, we cannot limit ourselves to a single newspaper article
from March 8. All that has to be checked, which cannot be done
in 20 minutes.
Mr. André Harvey (Chicoutimi, PC): Mr. Speaker, when this crisis
was raised in the House, we felt as a party that it must not be
treated lightly. After several days of watching what you have
had to go through, we felt it was important that a motion be
proposed in the House to refer a case as serious as this to the
committee on procedure.
I know that, generally, the chair of the committee is a
reasonable man. The important point to be raised is that they
want to restrict us to very specific statements. I believe we
must take advantage of this debate to try to broaden the scope
and to draw conclusions from these actions. The Reform Party and
the government party both tend to want to treat this reference to
the committee as something superficial.
I believe we must take advantage of this opportunity to draw
constructive conclusions for the benefit of our country's
future. Certain behaviour must be stopped. We know that there
have been provocations for the past 25 years throughout the
country, and this has contributed to a growing discontent that
threatens to break this country apart.
Conclusions must be drawn from these events. I therefore wanted
to speak this morning in order to ask some of the witnesses
whether they considered attitudes like theirs—flags in the
House—and statements like those they made to be of such a nature
as to bring Canadians closer together. Unfortunately, the Chair
rose, interrupting me, and stated that this was not part of the
If something positive is to come out of these events, all of our
colleagues responsible for these actions and words should realize
what they have done. This is serious, as we have been saying for
the past 25 years.
The Speaker: I have heard the interventions of four or
five members on this point of order. My view is that when we set
up a committee of this House, it is set up by the House to carry
out the orders of the House. My predecessors have ruled time and
time again that unless there is a report before the House, the
Chair does not intervene.
If this is a misunderstanding of some kind, it should be worked
out in the committee with the committee members. I hope it can be
I will leave this point of order where it is. I suggest that
whatever points of order are brought up here in terms of extra
time or whatever is needed can be brought up in the committee.
They should be dealt with there. I will leave this right here,
INCOME TAX AMENDMENTS ACT, 1997
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, an
act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application
Rules, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada Pension
Plan, the Children's Special Allowances Act, the Companies'
Creditors Arrangement Act, the Cultural Property Export and
Import Act, the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Employment
Insurance Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal
Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act,
the Old Age Security Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act, the Tax
Rebate Discounting Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the
Western Grain Transition Payments Act and certain acts related to
the Income Tax Act, be read the third time and passed; and of the
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP): Mr.
Speaker, I am pleased to continue addressing very serious matters
relating to Bill C-28, particularly the implications that this
bill has for the future of our health care system in Canada.
It is very important for all of us in this House to send a clear
message to Canadians that we are working and using all our
energies and all our resources to preserve medicare.
As I indicated earlier, this bill, with its pretence of
reinvesting new money into health care, does a great disservice
to Canadians and to our beloved national program, medicare.
This bill creates a pretence of allocating new money to medicare
while in fact it does nothing but maintain the present floor of
cash transfer payments for health care. It was $12.5 billion
before this bill and it is $12.5 billion now.
This creates very serious ramifications for health care. It
means that this government has not shown any commitment to start
to reinvest in health care now that it has a surplus, to deal
responsibly with the health care crisis we are facing in every
single part of this country and to show true co-operative spirit
in dealing with the provinces around this very serious issue.
This is not only a question about the false pretence of
reinvesting in health care. This debate is also about the fact
that actual dollars for health care on a per capita basis
continue to drop.
It is a situation very much parallel to the dilemma, to the
problems, to the situation caused by the former Conservative
It is meaningless to suggest that we have a floor, a bottom that
will always be there and will not fall below that floor, if our
population grows, if the needs of our population grow and if the
economy grows. If all those factors are taken into account, in
reality cash transfer payments to the provinces will continue to
fall on a per capita basis.
That puts more and more pressure on our health care system, more
of a squeeze on the provinces and more difficulties for all of us
to work together toward ensuring medicare is preserved and we are
able to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act.
This bill is in effect a misrepresentation of the facts. It
neither puts new money into health care nor ensures that we will
continue to allow health care dollars to meet the needs of the
population as they grow, as they become more intense and more
What does that mean? It opens the door even further to
privatization and Americanization of our system. We often hear
from the Liberal government that it is totally opposed to a two
tier system of health care.
The bad news is we are already there in many ways because of the
underfunding by the federal government, because of the lack of
national leadership, because this government refuses to work
co-operatively with the provincial governments to meaningfully
reform our health care system from the current institutional,
illness based models to a community based, preventive, holistic
wellness model of health care.
Let me cite the serious situation we are already in and why we
are so concerned about the Reform Party policies to actually move
even further more quickly to a parallel system of health care?
The facts are as follows. The ratio of public-private health
costs in Canada has changed significantly over the past 20 years
with public expenditures shrinking and private spending
increasing both through group or individual health insurance
plans and direct out of pocket payments.
In 1975 the spending ratio was 76.4% public and 23.6% private.
By 1986 it was 73.3% public and 26.7% private. By 1995 it was
68% public and 32% private. By the year 2000 the ratio is
projected to be 60% public and 40% private.
Let me raise another important fact. The cumulative loss to the
provinces of federal revenue for health care between 1985-86 and
1995-96 was $30 billion. Imagine what it would be if we rolled
into that the dollars taken out of the health care system by this
federal government since 1995. The federal share of total health
care spending has actually shrunk from 30.8% in 1985 to over 25%
Contrary to the claims of many, especially those critics of
medicare, that Canada's health care system is among the most
expensive in the world, it should be noted, and this fact is
often distorted and misrepresented, that Canada actually ranked
16th among 24 OECD countries in 1994 in terms of public financing
as a percentage of overall health expenditures. However, we know
the situation has actually deteriorated since that time. Canada
has fallen further and further behind other countries in terms of
The great pride we once held because we had such a model to
offer the world has been dashed. Our hopes for holding on to
medicare and showing it to be a shining light for all the world
has been dashed because of the failure of federal leadership.
I suggest to all those present that the solution is not an
agenda of negligence as we see from the federal Liberals. It is
not an agenda of privatization and Americanization as we have
seen from the Reform Party. What is required is a commitment to
medicare, a commitment to the five principles of the Canada
Health Act and a determination to begin to reinvest dollars taken
out of the health care system into a single payer, universally
accessible, publicly administered health care system.
Canadians have indicated loudly and clearly that if there was
going to be a surplus, which did happen, that the first priority
for them was to have money reinvested in health care and money
reinvested in the cash transfer payments to the provinces. As I
have said in previous debates, that shows an amazing
understanding and sophistication among Canadians about how this
complicated system around health care works.
Our job in this place is to respond to that belief, to that set
of values and to show leadership. This bill does not do that.
An amendment was proposed that would have at least made it
possible to have a better system to monitor funding for health
care, to involve Canadians and to involve members of Parliament
in monitoring the system and in providing a medicare watchdog, a
medicare alert system for this country. That amendment was
defeated. It was with great regret that we were not able to at
least accomplish that tiny step forward through this Chamber.
The Liberals spoke loudly and clearly to their own government.
They clearly stated in resolution after resolution that the
present system of health care is underfunded. They begged the
government to make increased funding for a modern and sustainable
health care system its highest priority. They presented a
resolution that was identical to our amendment to Bill C-28 in
demanding that the federal government develop a process to
continuously measure and ensure the quality of health care in
The Liberals sent this message to the government. Canadians
have said with one voice that this is their priority. All
provincial governments have said that the first matter of
business for this government should be to begin restoring
transfer payments so that it can ensure quality, publicly
administered, universal programs in areas of vital importance to
Canadians have been let down. The spirit of co-operation has
been hurt deeply by this government's actions. It has not been
enhanced nor helped by the proposals of the Reform Party. I
would urge all members to rethink their positions and to support
our efforts to convince the federal government that reinvestment
makes sense. It is feasible. It is the only way we can guarantee
medicare continues as a model for all the world to see.
This is a question about moving to a more cost effective health
care system. We know it is through leadership and co-operation
both federally and provincially that we can actually start to
shift our expensive institutional based health care system to one
that is community based, that provides home care, that addresses
continuing care needs and that ensures a balanced drug pricing
policy. All of that will lead to a much more cost effective
policy in the long term.
I conclude by saying this is a question about our values. It is
about the faith we have in human life and about ensuring that the
best health care is available for everyone. That is a matter of
being a member of a civil society.
Mr. Antoine Dubé (Lévis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I would like to
congratulate the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre on
expressing her concerns in the area of health.
She is from Manitoba, and I realize her comments must be based
on the cuts that had to be made in her province as a result of
the federal government cutting transfer payments. I know it had a
major impact in her region.
Before putting my question to her, I would like to remind the
House that, in Quebec, cuts in transfer payments for health
forced the Quebec government to cut back radically, to
rationalize and move toward ambulatory care, which caused major
problems to regional health boards and health institutions.
People do not always understand why that is. In Quebec, it is
obvious to people that managing hospitals and CLSCs is the
responsibility of the provincial government, and that of health
minister Rochon in particular. People tend to criticize him. But
Minister Rochon is really doing his best with what is left after
transfer payments to the provinces have been cut.
I would like to ask the hon. member, who looked into this, to be
more specific about the situation in her province, Manitoba. All
the provinces are affected.
Yesterday, I saw reports on RDI concerning the Atlantic
provinces. Clearly, federal cuts have had an adverse effect on
the management of health institutions in every province in
But I would like her to focus on the impact in her
province, on what she has noticed, and to give us some figures if
she can. I realize she is not a member of the Manitoba government
but I am convinced she could give us a good idea so that the
Quebeckers who are listening can see that the true reason for the
provincial cuts is the cuts imposed by this insensitive federal
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member
from the Bloc Quebecois for his question. This is a very
important question and I will answer it in English because of the
complexity of the issue.
The member is right in addressing this whole question of
provincial government responsibility vis-à-vis the federal
government in this area. The problem we have seen over the last
while is that the federal government has been able to get away
with blaming the provinces for all of the crises and all of the
problems we face in our health care system. The federal
government has been abdicating responsibility for the
developments at that level.
It is the federal government that has taken such a big bite out
of the funding for health care. It has put every provincial
government in a very difficult position.
In most cases provincial governments are working very hard to try
to make up for the sudden loss of federal dollars. They are
shifting their health care systems almost overnight to make up
for the dollars lost and to prevent a huge burden on their health
Some provincial governments, and I think specifically of
Manitoba, seem to be interested in playing the same game as the
federal government. One example is that the Manitoba Conservative
government in its last budget promised to put $100 million into
health care. It turned out that this again was smoke and mirrors.
In actual fact it was $1.4 million, in real dollars.
Many times there is almost a collusion between the federal
government and some provincial governments for offloading, for
privatizing, for getting out of the field of health care and
letting the markets dictate how consumers will be covered under
health care. This is something which would happen if the Reform
Party policies were actually implemented.
The main concern we have is that the federal government has been
able to throw up its hands and say “it is not our problem”,
when it has cut so much money out of the system. Our job today
through this bill and through every measure at our fingertips is
to ensure that the federal government is held responsible for the
actions it has taken, and to require a return to federal
leadership, a reinvestment of funds and a true co-operative
spirit in dealing with the health care crisis in the country.
Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, I cannot let the hon. member go without making some
She is an NDP member. She lambasted the Reform Party throughout
her speech. There is nobody in this House, not a person who does
not want to save our publicly funded health care system, even the
I want to draw attention to her close colleagues with whom she
works, the British Columbia New Democratic Party. The B.C. NDP
has engaged in what I would call the economic and social program
destruction syndrome. The B.C. NDP has foisted it upon British
In that province, they who profess, like the hon. member does,
to uphold the Canada Health Act, willfully acknowledge, aid and
abet certain people, if they have the money, to queue jump within
the publicly funded health care system. They allow Workers'
Compensation Board patients to queue jump within the publicly
funded health care system. If someone gets sick on WCB, more
money is paid and the person goes to the head of the line. If
the person is not, too bad, they go to the end.
The NDP government, her colleagues, has given British Columbia
the worst economic performance in the last two years in this
country. This is a direct result of NDP economics, voodoo
economics, destructive economics.
Where does the hon. member propose to get the money to pay for
the health care needs which she described we have to come up
with? Contrary to her NDP doctrine, money does not grow on
trees. Where is the money going to come from? Who will pay for
it? Do we have to raise taxes? Money does not grow on trees.
Where will the member find the money to pay for the health care
needs we want, given that we have the situation of a balanced
budget and no extra resources?
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: Mr. Speaker, some of the
comments by the hon. member do not warrant a response but I will
certainly attempt to answer the broad question he is posing
today. In effect it is a question that should be turned back to
that member and all members of the Reform Party. That party
wants to talk out of both sides of its mouth.
Members will recall that the Reform Party, notwithstanding the
remarks of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and the member
for Winnipeg North, has called for a reinvestment in health care
to the tune of $4 billion. That is fairly consistent with the
kind of recommendation we have been making in this party.
We know that about $4 billion has been cut out of the system for
health care since 1995. We have suggested that the government
begin to reinstate that money. We have not said that it be done
overnight. We know we have a surplus situation. It is possible,
if health care is a number one priority, for the government to
actually put money back into health care, into the cash transfer
The Reform Party made that a major recommendation in the last
election and in response to the budget. It is clearly on record.
The difficulty for us is that on the one hand it talks about
putting $4 billion back into health transfer payments but then it
wants to take $4 billion out of equalization, so they will cancel
each other out.
More problematic for us is trying to rationalize the commitment
of the Reform Party with the more recent statements of the member
who has just spoken to actually set up a parallel, private, two
tier Americanized system in this country. We totally reject that
approach. We believe we have the wealth and a commitment from
the people of this country. We have a history and a tradition
that allows us to make health care our number one priority and we
will actually be able to reinvest money in health care because of
the balanced budget.
Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-28, an
act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Customs Act, the CPP, the
Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act—the works. It is
quite a comprehensive bill, as other members have mentioned.
This bill nibbles around the edges. There was a great
opportunity within this bill to provide Canadians with the
economic ability to be as good as they can be, to save our social
programs and to ensure that the Canadian economy, the health and
welfare and the standard of living of Canadians could be much
better than they are today.
Our high unemployment rate has been referred to many times in
this House. It is the highest unemployment rate among the G-7
nations. There is no reason for this. If we look south of the
border, the United States has a 4.8% unemployment rate. We have
the situation where large numbers of our skilled
people—economists, nurses, physicians and artists—have left
Canada and gone to the United States.
From Wall Street to Los Angeles, from Hollywood to Atlanta,
Canadians have gone to the United States and have dramatically
improved the health, welfare and economy of Americans.
We need to keep our trained and skilled people in Canada. As my
colleagues in the Reform Party have mentioned, there are ways of
doing this. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We just need
to look at other countries such as the United States which has
managed to drop its tax rate, which has resulted in an
extraordinarily low unemployment rate and an economy that is
Let us look at the measures that have been employed in the
United Kingdom and New Zealand to ensure that people have the
best opportunities. I will get into these opportunities in a
little more specific way in a moment.
I first want to deal with one specific area. The member from
the NDP, who spoke at length, castigated us for our views on
health care. We have a situation in this country that is causing
a lot of pain and suffering. The health care issue is being
bantered around like a football between politicians for political
gain, and all the while sick patients, who cannot defend
themselves, are being sacrificed on the altar of political
We need a sensible debate on the issue of health care. Making
utterly false statements, such as somebody wanting an American
style health care system, is absolute nonsense. These kinds of
comments polarize and poison the debate so the Canadian people do
not have an opportunity to hear the intelligent arguments of both
The situation is that we have limited resources, an aging
population and more expensive technologies. Because of this
governments have been forced to ration. What is happening right
now is that the poor are being compromised. The rich always have
a choice. They can go down to the United States, where they
spend over $1 billion a year to obtain their health care needs.
One of my colleagues in this party did that and it saved his
life, contrary to what the NDP member said.
It is a tragedy that any Canadian has to go south of the border
to get the essential health care services they require to save
their life. We cannot keep sticking our heads in the sand.
How do we solve this problem of limited resources and an
increasing demand? Do we continue to uphold the myth that we are
upholding a Canada Health Act which was a good act when it was
devised in the 1960s, or do we face the facts and realize that
the Canada Health Act is being violated in virtually every one of
its five tenets?
I gave the example in British Columbia that if a person is
injured and comes under the workers' compensation board the
Government of British Columbia will ensure that person gets to
the top of the line over somebody who does not come under the
WCB. That is absolutely unfair. On the other hand, that
government says it believes in a Canada Health Act and a system
that is equal and single tiered.
Is it accessible health care for an elderly person who is in
severe pain to wait 16 months to get a new hip? Is it accessible
health care for somebody who needs coronary artery bypass
grafting to wait six months? Is it fair for someone who needs a
20 minute operation on their wrist to wait nine months for that
operation? Whichever way you slice it that is not accessible
There are numerous examples in health care in this country today
which demonstrate that we have a multi-tiered health care system.
No one in this House, and particularly the Reform Party, wants a
health care system that is like an American style health care
system where under certain circumstances people need to sell
their house. The purpose of having a separate, privately funded,
tiered system where only private moneys are exchanged and not a
dime of public money is used is to ensure that some people in the
public system who choose to will get some of their services in a
private setting which is separate and completely different from
the public system. That is unlike what happened in the United
Kingdom and unlike what happens in the United States.
In that system some people who are rich will get their services
from the private sector. Then there will be more money on a per
capita basis for the public sector. Therefore the people who do
not have the wherewithal would have better access and better
health care than what they have today. The only purpose in
proposing this is to ensure that people who are on our publicly
funded system will have better access. Is it unequal? Yes, it
I would argue two things. We have an unequal system now, but is
it not better to have an unequal system that provides better
access for all Canadians than the declining system that we have
today which compromises the poor and not the rich? If a
separate, completely independent and privately funded health care
system is available, the rich will subsidize the poor. In this
way resources can go toward the health care system without
Ms. Val Meredith: Right now we are subsidizing the
Mr. Keith Martin: Exactly. Right now we are subsidizing
the Americans by spending over $1 billion down south. Why do we
not have private services in private settings and get American
patients to come to Canada? They would only have to pay
two-thirds of the price for their treatment. They would create
employment for health care professionals across the board, from
our techs to our nurses, physicians, cleaning personnel,
accountants and all the people who are involved in the health
care system. This is not only doable, it is pragmatic. Above
all, it would save our publicly funded health care system.
Our system is very distinct and different from the system in the
United States. We unequivocally state that we do not want and
would fight against that system to ensure Canadians get health
care services when they are medically needed and to ensure those
services are not dependent on the amount of money in their
We have to get away from the silly, senseless, absurd,
poisonous, vile rhetoric that the NDP has been putting forward
and have a sensible, constructive debate for the Canadians out
there who are on waiting lists and suffering. We have to ensure
that all Canadians, particularly those who cannot afford it, get
health care when they medically need it. We must not leave them
waiting, and in some cases dying, as is happening now in
emergency rooms across the country.
In the Prince George Regional Hospital, where I work from time
to time, it takes 14 months to get an orthopaedic consultation.
It takes another six months to a year to get the service. It is
not because the surgeons do not want to work, it is because the
hospital does not have enough money to open up more hospital beds
and more operating rooms, so surgeons cannot operate.
Imagine being a physician whose patients come in saying “I have
torn the ligaments in my knee. I need a new hip. I cannot use
my hand”, and having to reply “I am sorry. As we speak my
waiting list just increased from 12 to 14 months because the
hospital cannot open up the operating rooms, cannot open up beds
and does not have the nurses to take care of you”.
It is a big myth that Canada has the best health care system in
the world. It is bunk. But we could have the best health care
system in the world. We need to have a sensible debate. We need
to put all of the minds in this room together. We need to get
the best ideas from the public. We need to look at what has been
done well around the world. We need to reject what has been done
poorly and make the best system in the world.
We should not take what the Americans have done. We should not
emulate the system in the United Kingdom. We should not emulate
the system in European countries. What we should do is take the
best from all of those countries and make the best health care
system to ensure that those people who need it will get it. I
will end on that particular point.
With respect to the economy there are numerous things the
government could do for labour market renewal. The right to work
legislation that has been employed in certain countries has
increased the amount of money in people's pockets by over $2,000.
It has dramatically increased the amount of companies fleeing to
areas that have right to work legislation. The government could
work with its provincial counterparts to ensure this happens.
The government could also remove the egregious surtaxes that
crush the living daylights out of our private sector.
The government could take the opportunity to streamline the GST.
The government could take the opportunity to work with the
provinces to build national standards in education so that a
child who moves from Newfoundland to British Columbia or from
Ontario to Prince Edward Island will be able to integrate into
that system and get the best education possible.
The government could work with industry and the provinces to
ensure that the educational system knows what the needs of the
private sector will be in the future. There is an enormous gap
in certain areas that could provide high paying, interesting jobs
for Canadians, but they are not filled because the education
system has not been able to provide the skilled people necessary
for those jobs.
My colleague from Medicine Hat and others have repeatedly
mentioned the need for lower taxes.
During the era of Brian Mulroney one thing that was done well
was that his government briefly lowered taxes. What happened?
The economy was stimulated and government revenues increased.
What did it do? It started to tax wildly. Government revenues
went down and the economy had a clamp put on it.
The United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and certain
European countries have lowered their tax rates and removed
surtaxes. They have ensured that people have more money in their
pockets by streamlining their tax systems. They have removed the
egregious rules and regulations that put a clamp on the private
Those were removed, their economy improved, the social and
economic situation of their people improved and their governments
had more money to pay for social programs.
There are references to making amendments to the old age
security system and the CPP in the bill. Instead of taking the
Reform suggestion of ensuring people have a super RRSP and enjoy
a greater rate of return, the government has stayed with the
status quo and tried to buttress a system which economists who
originally devised it said would fail. This system is like a
pyramid scheme and will be an abysmal failure.
The CPP system today ensures that Canadians have about the
lowest rate of return they can have. It does not ensure that
young people will have that pension when they retire.
That is not a legacy any government wants to have. That is not
a legacy we can be proud of. Why do we continually try to uphold
sacred cows that compromise the very health and welfare of
Canadians? Why do we not take these sacred cows, these social
programs which in their very essence are good for Canada, and
ensure that they are sustainable, that Canadians get the best
rate of return, and that Canadians have the best social programs
available to them within the context, confines and economic
restrictions in our country?
The NDP put forth a budgetary plan during the last election
campaign that ensured a $40 billion deficit. Money does not grow
on trees. We have to face facts. We have to do what we can do
within the context of our economic situation today. Instead of
nibbling around the edges, the government could have taken
constructive suggestions from around the world on taxes, rules
and regulations, educational systems and social program renewal
and truly built a better future for Canadians.
Except for trying to ensure that the government will look good
in the eyes of Canadians, I do not understand why it continually
tries to support sacred cows which compromise Canadians instead
of help them. There are solutions out there. We must have the
courage to have a sensible, intelligent, constructive debate in
We have spoken at length about other things. Today my colleague
raised the issue of the Delgamuukw case in British Columbia, the
aboriginal treaty situation. If there is one social group in the
country that suffers more than any other, it is the aboriginal
community. Again, governments have again used it as a sacred
cow: it is okay to keep paying billions of dollars into the
system, closing our eyes and saying that we have done our duty
while aboriginal people in the trenches are suffering from the
highest rates of abuse, violence and social degradation suffered
by any group.
It is an abrogation of the responsibility of any government to
merely pay money without accountability. Under certain
circumstances and in some areas those moneys are not going where
they should be going. The best we can do for aboriginal people
in Canada is to work with them to ensure their culture and their
language will become viable and integrated parts of Canada. They
should have the power and ability to stand on their own two feet
and provide for themselves, their families and their children. We
must ensure they have the ability to teach us about their
fascinating culture and legacy that are as integral parts of the
country as we can imagine.
Instead an institutionalized welfare state has been created
which has ripped the heart and soul out of aboriginal
communities. Some have managed to dig themselves out. They have
become self-financing, self-sustaining and self-respecting.
One of the saddest legacies that we have given is that we have
abrogated our responsibility in the House by ensuring that the
institutionalized welfare state we have foisted upon aboriginal
people continues. We have to work with them to ensure that they
have the tools to stand on their own two feet, provide for
themselves and ensure that their language and culture continue.
In closing, Bill C-28 had a lot of opportunity but sadly it was
opportunity lost. The government failed to seize the day and it
failed to do what it could have done to truly make the country as
good as it could be.
Mr. Gordon Earle (Halifax West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the
Reform Party likes to talk about tax relief for ordinary
Canadians. However, when we take a careful look at their
proposals we see that the Reform Party actually wants to give
much bigger tax breaks to the very wealthy than to the average
For example, its election campaign proposal to have the taxes
owing on capital gains would give the stockbrokers working out of
Bay Street and earning $250,000 a tax break of over $85,000.
Does the member agree with his party's platform that it is a
priority to give someone earning $250,000 a tax refund of
$85,000? Is he not afraid that as his party tries to win seats
in Toronto it will be catering to Bay Street rather than paying
attention to the grassroots in its own communities?
Mr. Keith Martin: Mr. Speaker, contrary to the New
Democratic Party, we listen to our grassroots. We are not the
party that has a top down structure.
I do not know where the hon. member is getting his figures from,
but I would generously call them a flight of fancy. We as a
party have repeatedly put forth constructive, economic solutions
to get a balanced budget and to produce a surplus.
The reasons are simple. If we spend more than what we take in,
like the NDP party said during the last election, we create an
increased debt and increased interest payments and chew away at
the ability to pay for social programs.
The New Democratic Party must understand this important rule. If
we are fiscally irresponsible we are also financially
irresponsible. We in the Reform Party live within our means. We
created a plan that I am happy the government and the finance
minister have adopted to produce a balanced budget. In so doing,
we manage to ensure that there is even more money within the pie
that can be spent on programs such as health and education.
I hope the New Democratic Party member will come over, see the
light and try to help us ensure the government continues to have
a balanced budget and a surplus budget. We could work together
to ensure that there is enough money to provide health,
education, pensions and other social programs to those Canadians
who are most dependent on them and to ensure they will not be
Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia—Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I listened
to my colleague, who is a health professional. I was truly
surprised to hear a health professional speak that way because,
if there is one area in which all people should be equal, it is
surely health. We cannot have two systems, one for the rich and
one for the poor.
I remember a time when some people could not even go for
treatment because it cost too much. The rich could go, but
others did not and stayed home.
In Quebec, Mr. Rochon has, as it were, been forced to restructure
the entire health system. Some people find this hard, and it is,
but it had to be done. Even the former minister, Marc-Yvan Côté,
congratulated Mr. Rochon on his courage.
I say that it is wonderful to invest in health. Cuts have to be
made somewhere, as the money obviously does not come out of thin
air. If anything has to be cut, let it be the Senate, the
limousines, duplication, but there should not be cuts in
transfers to the provinces. This has caused terrible harm.
Very often, people wonder why Mr. Rochon took a particular course
He did so because the federal government cut billions of
dollars, leaving very little with which to manage.
I am going to ask my colleague a question. Can he tell us, in
concrete terms, how the two systems he is proposing, a private
one and a public one, could work?
Mr. Keith Martin: Mr. Speaker, many Quebeckers go to Ontario for
The reason for this is that the health care system in Quebec is
falling apart in a dramatic, tragic and sad fashion. I feel very
sorry for the people of Quebec and their health care system. No
one in that system from the health care professionals to the
people and I am sure the politicians want that.
The big myth that politicians and intellectuals like to push for
political gain is that we have a single tier health care system.
That is an utter and complete myth. I would like to use the
l word but I will not.
Premier Bourassa of Quebec went to the United States to get
health care for a malignant melanoma, a terribly malignant
cancer. What a tragedy. If the health care system is so great
why did Mr. Bourassa leave the province of Quebec to get his
health care in the United States? At least he had an option.
Most people in Chicoutimi and la ville de Quebec do not have this
option. Neither do people in the rest of the country. They
cannot afford it.
There is no single tier; there are multiple tiers in this
country. There is an obstruction to getting essential health
care services when they are needed because the government has to
ration those services for the poor who do not have enough money
to pay for them.
This is how it would work. If we had a separate private system
where only private services are received, where only private
moneys are put in, where there is no overlap or mixing of the
private or the public system, we would be able to get more
resources into health care without raising taxes. By relieving
pressure on the public system and having some people going to
this private system for some of their services because those
people would access both, we would ensure that there is more
money on a per capita basis for the public system. Therefore
people would get their health care services when they need them,
particularly those who are impoverished and those who cannot go
to the United States for health care. That is the beauty of it.
It is not an abolishment of the Canada Health Act. It is a new
made in Canada health act that will ensure all Canadians get
health care services when they medically need them. That is the
bottom line in health care.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I do
not know if I can make this brief. I am really disappointed. I
had probably given the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca far
more credit than he deserves.
As someone from the medical profession, I felt he would know in
his heart and soul that nobody in Canada except the Reform Party
wants to see a two tier system unless they can afford to get that
other system. The bottom line is when you put public dollars
into a system, the money is spread and goes a lot further. When
you start to divide it a certain amount still goes to the private
sector because it will claim it is unfair that it is not getting
those public dollars, the same thing that happens with
I am very disappointed that he would even suggest that. I will
continue at some other point.
Mr. Keith Martin: Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is to
ensure Canadians get their health care when they need it. I am a
physician. I did not take any pleasure in telling elderly people
who are in severe pain that they will have to wait 16 months
before they can get a new hip.
The day that member or any other member chooses to go into a
hospital and see what is going on for real is the day they will
see we have a multi-tier system. We have a system where
Canadians are not getting their health care in many cases when
they need it. We see people suffering left, right and centre.
The member should open up her eyes and understand we have a
multi-tier system. The Canada Health Act is violated left, right
and centre. It is the poor who are compromised.
We are trying to create a stronger publicly funded health care
system so all Canadians can get health care when they need it,
and not before.
The Deputy Speaker: It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order
38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight
at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for
Churchill—search and rescue; the hon. member for Delta—South
Richmond—fisheries; the hon. member for South Shore—northern
development; the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill—pensions; the
hon. member for Winnipeg Centre—public buildings.
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I rise
to address Bill C-28, sponsored by the Minister of Finance. Its
short title is “Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997”. It was
important to have a short title for this bill, because the full
title of the French version is 23 lines long.
As for the bill itself, it is a document of 464 pages written in
an obscure jargon that only tax experts or accountants can
understand. I strongly suspect that, like me, a large number of
members of this House did not manage to clearly understand the
measures included in this legislation.
I am extremely concerned that legislators like us, most of whom
have a good education, cannot understand the documents on which
they have to vote.
The Canadian Income Tax Act has so many thousands of pages that,
by comparison, telephone books look like flyers. Moreover, these
thousands of pages are written in a language that is just as
obscure as that of Bill C-28.
The principle of tax equality now only exists in theory, because
it is impossible for ordinary citizens to understand the act. The
individuals and corporations that can afford to hire
administrators, lawyers and tax experts are the only ones who can
benefit from the multitude of clauses that provide tax breaks.
There is a reason why the Minister of Finance is presenting us
with an omnibus bill that includes so many complex tax changes.
The minister is quietly trying to make us pass provisions that
will benefit the shipping companies he owns.
He is even trying to cloud the issue.
My comments will primarily take into account the amendment
proposed by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, which reads
That Bill C-28, Income Tax Amendments Act 1997,
be not now read a third time
but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Finance
for the purpose of reconsidering Clause 241.
In this omnibus bill of 464 pages, clause 241 includes two
paragraphs dealing exclusively with shipping.
Clause 241 of Bill C-28 improves the tax treatment of offshore
shipping companies held by Canadian companies.
As it happens, the Minister of Finance, who sponsored this
bill, is the sole owner of Canada Steamship Lines Incorporated,
an international shipping company with subsidiaries in Great
Britain, Bermuda, Barbados and Liberia. The finance minister's
company might benefit from tax advantages if this bill were
passed at it stands.
In politics, this kind of coincidence constitutes an apparent
conflict of interest, which violates the government's code of
That is why we demand an explanation and a serious investigation
of this matter.
In fact, the code clearly states that, on appointment to office,
and thereafter, public office holders must arrange their private
affairs in a manner that will prevent real, potential or apparent
conflicts of interest from arising. The code has obviously not
been adhered to, and we believe the Minister of Finance is at
The government's own ethics counsellor, Howard Wilson, who works
for the Prime Minister, finds this matter fishy. In his
testimony before the finance committee on February 1998, he
stated, and I quote “Mr. Martin sponsored this bill and questions
have been raised by some members that this constitutes an
apparent conflict of interest.
Had I been informed in advance, before this bill was tabled,
there would have been a discussion on how best to handle the
tabling of the bill under the name of the Minister of Finance,
who is responsible for all tax legislation. However, this prior
consideration of our options did not take place as it should
Mr. Wilson also suggests that the Minister of Finance was
unaware of the contents of Bill C-28 before the Bloc Quebecois
raised these issues in the House a few weeks ago. Could the
minister responsible for the Income Tax Act so easily have
shirked his responsibilities in connection with a bill he was
sponsoring? And how does the public view a Minister of Finance
who did not know what was in his own legislation? Is ministerial
accountability not a fundamental principle of our parliamentary
For several weeks, the government has been denying that the
Minister of Finance's companies can take advantage of this
measure but Department of Finance officials, as well as the
government's ethics advisor, have admitted that Canada Steamship
Lines could do so in future.
Howard Wilson, the government's ethics advisor, stated that same
day, February 5, 1998, on the CBC that:
The fact that the company has told the ethics advisor that it has
no intention of making use of this clause clearly implies that it
could do so if it wished. The fact that it does not intend to do
so at present does not mean that it would not have the right or
the desire to do so later on.
We had confirmation of this from the Standing Committee on
Finance this past February 10, when Len Farber, the Director
General of the Department of Finance's Tax Legislation Division,
stated as follows:
“If the subsidiary or the parent of that company chooses to
repatriate the management of that company to Canada and operates
that subsidiary out of Canada, yes, these provisions could be
available to that company”.
In short, if a company like that of the Minister of Finance or
its subsidiaries were to reorganize its administration, it could
take advantage of the tax benefits in Bill C-28.
Some important questions remain unanswered, and the parties in
opposition are unanimous in calling for the creation of a
finance subcommittee to investigate this matter thoroughly.
The Bloc Quebecois finance critic, the member for
Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, with the support of the other opposition
parties, moved five motions before the Standing Committee on
Finance, so that various witnesses who could shed some light on
this issue for us could appear before the committee.
These motions asked that people from Mr. Martin's company,
representatives from the blind trust managing Mr. Martin's
company, the Minister of Finance himself, and Howard Wilson, the
government's ethics counsellor, be called as witnesses. The
most important of these motions sought permission to call any
other witness that might help the committee get to the bottom of
clause 241 of Bill C-28.
Four of the five motions were rejected by the Liberal majority on
the committee, and the only witness authorized to appear was Mr.
Wilson, the government's ethics counsellor, an employee of the
Prime Minister who is paid by Parliament and who reports only to
the Prime Minister.
So far, by turning down our requests, the Liberal government has
prevented us from doing our work as parliamentarians. The
government's stubborn refusal to clarify this issue is doing
nothing to lift the cloud of suspicion hanging over the
minister, quite the opposite in fact.
In this murky affair, there even seem to have been contradictions
between the versions given by the managers and the owner of
Canada Steamship Lines, the Minister of Finance. On February 5,
1998, the company's vice-president, Pierre Préfontaine, said on
Radio-Canada, and I quote “They [the company's foreign
subsidiaries] are managed offshore.
They are not subject to Canadian tax law”. On February 6, 1998,
on page A5 of Le Devoir, the Minister of Finance, Paul Martin,
said, and I quote “My interests will not benefit from this
legislation. My interests are Canadian companies. They cannot
So the mystery deepens. The vice-president says he is running
foreign companies, and the Minister of Finance says he has
Canadian companies. So, are the finance minister's companies
Canadian or are they foreign? Will they, or will they not, be in
a position to benefit from the tax advantages flowing from Bill
What the public needs to be told about Bill C-28 is that the
Liberal government's Minister of Finance is getting ready to
pass a bill that he himself sponsored and from which he could
very likely, one day anyway, benefit.
I remind you that in their 1993 red book the Liberals promised to
restore parliamentary integrity. They wrote, and I quote “There
is considerable dissatisfaction with government and a steady
erosion of confidence in the people and institutions of the
sector. This erosion of confidence seems to have many causes:
some have to do with the behaviour of certain elected
politicians, others with an arrogant style of political
The Liberal government cannot today allow its Minister of Finance
to fail to meet the high standards of integrity required of
people holding public office. It is deplorable to think the
Minister of Finance is failing to honour the spirit and the
letter of the government's code of ethics.
We in the Bloc will continue to demand that the government
respect the people and honour its commitment to restore
This is why the Bloc Quebecois is calling for the removal of
clause 241 from Bill C-28 until all aspects of this matter have
been brought to light.
Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member
ramble on and on about clause 241. I just want to put some facts
on the table.
First, the amendment Bill C-28 puts forward is an amendment and
a minor modification of a policy that has been in place since the
1920s. The Bloc asked, essentially when this all started, who
asked for this amendment. The response it got and the correct
response is IMC Vancouver asked for this amendment.
Who benefits? It treats all foreign shippers alike whether they
hold their ships directly or through a wholly owned subsidiary.
How much will this amendment cost Canadian taxpayers? The
amendment will cost nothing. It applies to foreign companies
operating in international traffic. They are not and never have
been taxable in Canada. When she talks about the cost to the
Canadian treasury, it is nothing.
Despite all the answers, the Bloc persists with these baseless
allegations. It is pure politics. I hope the hon. member will
at some point decide in her mind that it has gone far enough. It
is completely baseless. Bloc members keep shifting the goal post
whenever they get an answer.
They talk about what Mr. Wilson said in committee. I was
present at that committee. Mr. Wilson said quite clearly that
there was no conflict of interest, no appearance of conflict of
interest. Len Farber from the department, using her words, said
that the minister could actually reorganize his company in order
to take advantage of this. If only the hon. member had the
capacity to understand what it means to organize and reorganize a
company. He would basically have to shut down his entire company
and reorganize it all over again. It is highly unlikely and not
the intent of anyone.
This kind of approach is one that I am sure hon. members in this
House do not agree with, do not endorse, and certainly Canadians
will have the final say. I would encourage the hon. member to
please, if she would like to debate the bill and the contents of
the bill, stay away from the baseless politics that she is
encouraging us to engage in today in this House. I would be
quite thankful. I am sure her constituents would like to see us
get on with the issues at hand.
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay: Mr. Speaker, I will not comment on all the
remarks my colleague made. Nevertheless, we agree with the fact
that there is a marine policy, but it is lost in 464 pages.
If the Minister of Finance has absolutely nothing to hide, he has
only to let the matter be examined as the opposition parties have
unanimously requested. When opposition questions are not
answered, there is something to hide.
My colleague opposite says he was at the committee meeting and
Mr. Wilson did not say what was claimed. I was not present, but
I read the minutes of the meeting.
If the minutes do not contain the remarks of Mr. Wilson, someone
who is a member of the committee should read the minutes and
have them corrected if the secretaries or the clerks have made a
Not being a committee member, I am obliged to use the tools at
hand. The remarks I quoted by Mr. Wilson are in quotes and come
directly from the minutes.
Again, if they want to proceed with a real marine policy, they
should introduce legislation, and we would willingly consider
it. We want it. Canada needs it, but we do not want a grab-bag
bill, a hodgepodge that will enable the minister to hide things,
when it is out of the question.
He should respond to the opposition's request. A subcommittee
should be set up and the matter examined.
The people of Quebec and Canada are entitled to know if the
Government of Canada is as honest as it claims to be day in and
Mr. Antoine Dubé (Lévis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have listened to
the response by the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis, and find it
very apt. I would like to give her the opportunity to add to
it, because I know she is very concerned about a true
There is shipbuilding in my riding of Lévis and this therefore
concerns me a great deal as well. I know there are other
shipyards, for example at Les Méchins in the Gaspé. The hon.
member is right. The government tried to get clause 241 by us in
a huge bill that deals with just about everything.
I will always remember how, in 1993, when I was a first-time
candidate for the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberals running in the
Quebec City region—even the Prime Minister's present executive
assistant— committed to holding a summit on the future of
shipbuilding within a year of the election. Here we are five
years later and still it has not materialized.
The Shipbuilders Association of Canada had made some
representations, followed by some suggestions. The premiers
followed up on this at St. Andrews last fall. Mr. McKenna, the
New Brunswick premier at that time, chaired the conference and
brought the matter up.
At the recent Liberal convention, some young Liberals proposed a
resolution on it.
So, everyone is calling for it, but no, they are trying to get a
little clause 241 by us, one which the secretary of state says
will change nothing and will not mean another penny. Very nice.
Bills and clauses of bills that provide no one with anything.
Are we going to swallow that story?
Would the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis be so kind as to tell me
whether we, the Bloc Quebecois, really want a shipbuilding policy
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay: Mr. Speaker, if the Liberal government
were really aware of the situation and well informed, it would
know that we urgently need a marine policy in Canada.
Some 70% or 80% of the ships in the world need repairing or
rebuilding because they are too old. We need a marine policy to
create jobs throughout eastern Canada, in western Canada, in
Ontario, and even in Quebec. It is vital.
My colleague was referring to the suggestion by Ms. Verreault,
who has a growing shipyard in Les Méchins and who met each of
the premiers involved in shipyards to try to convince them of
this need. She managed to convince them all. There is only one
obstacle in Canada, the president of Canada Steamship Lines.
What he is after is reductions in taxes so he can have his ships
built outside Canada, because that arrangement suits him better.
Here again, they put personal interests before those of the
Mr. Gordon Earle (Halifax West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I
would like to commend the hon. member for her remarks on the
shipbuilding policy because we too in Atlantic Canada feel there
is a strong need for a national shipbuilding policy, something
that will enable all workers who are out of work in the maritimes
to get busy, be productive in the shipbuilding industry and not
have to compete with foreign shipbuilders and compete with the
United States which has its workers protected by legislation. We
feel there is a need for the government to take a lead in the
shipbuilding industry and to put people in Atlantic Canada and
right across this country back to work.
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted with the
remarks by my colleague from Halifax West.
I am sure that if we had more time for discussions, my colleagues
from the west would say the same thing. They need shipyards in
the West too. We need a government that will show leadership and
put Canadians and Quebeckers to work. For that to happen, we
need, among other things, good shipyards with the right
Mr. Jim Abbott (Kootenay—Columbia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I
really appreciate the privilege today to speak on Bill C-28.
I would like to specifically address the issue of film credits
and the way film credits under these amendments are going to be
affected, in particular in the area of the cable production fund
and other subsidies the government is presently doing to the
The tremendous complexity of the Income Tax Act has been one of
the Reform Party's concerns from square one. It is very thick
and because of the counterbalancing references within the act,
the administrators of the act in Revenue Canada will frequently
change their minds after people have filed their returns. This
can be a retroactive process. The process is so complex that
many ordinary Canadian citizens have to patronize H&R Block or
other tax preparers to the tune of between $50 and $150 just for
the simplest income tax returns.
I mention that at the outset because if we can put people on the
moon, we should be able to create a tax system that will not
interfere with people's lives and that will not interfere with
the way people make money. To this point in the history of
Canada, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have been able
to create that.
Frequently when people like me are in the process of speech
preparation, we go to clippings. We extract small portions from
newspaper clippings. Every now and then we run into an article
that is so descriptive that it would be better to simply read it
into the record. That is what I will do. This article by Tony
Atherton was printed in the Ottawa Citizen this past week.
It is entitled “Tax on federal fund could cramp style of TV
TV producers who rejoiced last month when the federal government
renewed a $100 million a year programming fund now are worried
that some of that money might be clawed back through a new tax
A clause buried in the avalanche of housekeeping documents that
accompanied the budget this month could leave producers
scrambling to make up hundreds of thousands of dollars in program
financing on the verge of a new production season.
It will be at least 10 days before the departments of revenue
and finance can clarify whether TV shows which receive money from
one arm of the government-sponsored Canada Television and Cable
Production Fund (CTCPF) are subject to a new measure which would
reduce the federal and provincial tax credits, says fund
president Gary Toth.
“Speed is of the essence, and both revenue and finance are very
sensitive to that,” Toth said. The CTCPF will begin accepting
funding applications from producers in mid-April, and by then
producers will need to know whether the change will affect their
[The Liberal MP for Parkdale—High Park] says the potential
effect of the new tax clause was identified by the TV industry
shortly after the budget papers were tabled. The new initiative
reduces tax credits available to taxpayers who receive not only
direct government subsidies, but also indirect subsidies. The
concern is that the money distributed by the production fund as a
way of topping up a broadcaster's licence fee for a TV program
could be viewed as an indirect subsidy.
If so, says Toth, producers could see their production tax
credits erode by as much as four per cent of overall production
budget. That would amount to a shortfall of several hundred
thousand dollars on a major prime-time series.
“We want to make sure that was not the intention of that
section,” says [the member for Parkdale—High Park], a member of
the parliamentary heritage committee.
Before I complete reading sections from this article, I will say
it is so typical of the way things happen with the Liberals. The
heritage minister comes forward with the topping up of the cable
production fund while the finance minister and his ministry are
doing things that would potentially take money back from that
cable production fund.
It shows that the right hand does not know what the left hand is
doing. More important, for ordinary Canadians, for the people in
coffee shops who will have tax bills and complete their returns
for April 30, this is yet another example of how unnecessarily
complex the tax regulations in Canada are.
Returning to the issue of tax status, the uncertainty about tax
status is one of the concerns that has been dogging the $200
million a year production fund since the heritage minister
announced in February that the government would continue
contributing its half of the pot through to the year 2001. The
other half of the fund's resources would come from the cable
industry and Telefilm Canada. New subjective guidelines for the
fund aimed at encouraging more distinctively Canadian programming
were introduced this month to the dismay of some producers.
This is where we get to the very substantive difference between
the Reform Party and the Liberal Party. The Liberals will do
their social engineering through their tax law. For example,
they reduced the option of choice for parents as to who will stay
home, if anyone will be staying home, to look after children.
The Liberals with their tax policy simply eliminate that choice.
They force people to make decisions on the basis of taxes that
are having effects on families that are outside the control of
families. That is wrong. Taxation policy should not be aimed at
social engineering. Clearly that is what the Liberals are doing.
In this case we are looking at what I call cultural engineering,
the attempt of the heritage minister to manufacture Canadianism
through whatever means she is doing and then running into direct
conflict with the taxman, with Revenue Canada. The Liberals have
a bad enough history in social engineering. I hate to see what
they are doing in the area of cultural engineering.
This is what the changes may mean. The changes mean that only
programs to which the industry refers as super Canadian shows,
programs with little or no foreign investment, distinctively
Canadian themes and creative personnel, can expect to get as much
money from the fund as they did last year. Some programs deemed
not sufficiently Canadian will not be able to apply for it at
all, for instance a drama or children's program based on a game
or toy that is ineligible for funding unless the toy or game was
created and developed by a Canadian.
That stipulation has Vancouver's innovative computer animation
company Mainframe Entertainment in a lather. Its Saturday
morning cartoon Beasties, developed and produced in Canada
but based on a toy developed by U.S. toy manufacturer Hasbro, was
set to begin shooting a third $8 million 13-episode season this
spring. New guidelines rendered the series ineligible for
funding and about $2 billion short of its budget.
Producer Linda Schuyler, president of the Canadian Film and
Television Producers Association, says that while the changes
will hurt some producers this year, especially those in
animation, they are reasonable. She says that their cartoon
series associated with a brand name U.S. toy is arguably more
likely to recoup its cost on international sales and should have
less need for the fund. In terms of the general philosophy of
the fund, she really stands behind it. If they have to make the
fund's modest amount of money go a long way, to take a
pro-Canadian stance is absolutely correct, she says.
This is exactly the kind of cultural micro engineering I am
talking about. When we end up in clear conflict with the social
and cultural micro engineering of the Canadian heritage minister,
we run into direct conflict with what she is doing under the fund
in attempting to micro manage the creative side of Canadian
companies and artists, our Canadian creative community.
She is attempting to micro manage and push them in particular
directions only to find that there is a conflict under the
provisions contained in Bill C-28.
There is no conflict between two parties. There is no conflict
between the opposition and the government. This being Canada,
when the government is a majority government and in power it has
the right to propose legislation. With all the closure and
stifling of debate in this place, it not only has the right to
propose but it takes upon itself the right to dispose of
Here we have a government that has total control over its own
affairs. Yet, how ridiculous, how ludicrous it is that we end up
with the heritage minister and her proposal for her Canadian
television production fund in direct conflict with the finance
minister and his provisions. It is nonsensical.
One thing I have learned in the time I have been in Ottawa is
that usually if I have a simple answer it is because I did not
understand the question. In other words, often we do not realize
the complexity of issues until we first get into them. Surely
the heritage minister and the heritage ministry with its
thousands of employees must have been able to understand or be
aware of what was happening in the finance department.
What is really scandalous is that Canadian production companies
are now put at the disadvantage at the very start of their
production period of not knowing what their bottom line will be.
Why? It is because the heritage minister does not talk to the
finance minister, or at least their departments certainly do not
talk to each other.
I come back to the key issue. We can talk about the very
laughable situation of two departments getting all muddled up. We
can talk about the fact that the companies that are dependent on
this are now in a big quandary as to what they will do as they go
into their production year. That is not laughable to them.
The core issue is why in the world we have the complexities of
the delivery of programs that are put forward consistently by
this government and governments before it. Why can they not
apply their creative talent, their genius that creates all sorts
of ways of grabbing more and more money out of our wallets, to
simplifying the tax system so that everyone in Canada will have
an opportunity to understand the tax form.
One tax form which I think was applicable to the Liberals was a
very simple two line form. It said to list the amount of money
earned this year and the next line was to send it to Ottawa. That
is really the direction these people seem to be going in.
The proposed amendments add to the layering, the complexity and
the confusion we all have in Canada over taxation. That in
itself stifles us as creators of wealth and as earners of income.
It stifles our ability to buy running shoes for our children. It
stifles our ability to have enough money to pay our mortgage.
The overlaying of rules and regulations within the tax
department to which this bill adds is one of the major causes of
frustration for people involved in small business.
To give members an idea of the complexity of the tax system, I
will talk about a situation I had in my constituency a few years
A number of my constituents who own ranches were in a position a
few years ago with a downturn in cattle prices to be able to sell
trees off their ranches that could be turned into lumber. The
reason those two things happened to dovetail together was the
rather boneheaded policies of the NDP in British Columbia
relative to tree harvesting licences and all the rest of it. The
mills were facing a real shortage of wood.
The ranch owners went to their accountants. Let us note that
they did not all go to the same accountant. Some went to CAs and
some went to CGAs; it was all over the map. Some of the public
accountants contacted the Penticton taxation office and asked for
advice. “How should the income from these trees be treated by
these ranchers?” The answer was that it was a capital gain.
Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, with your being a businessman you would
know the terminology better than I do. It was based on the fact
that it was a capital gain as opposed to income from the ranch.
That was the way they filed their taxes, independent of each
Many of my constituents are people in their sunset years. They
are 70 and 80 year old people who are trying to hang on to their
piece of property. They did not know at the time that Revenue
Canada would come back and retroactively say that it had lost too
much money and was going to reassess them not on capital income
but on a form of income to their ranches. It made a difference
in many cases of $15000, $30,000 and even $70,000 of taxes owing.
My constituents are honest, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadian
citizens. Because of the overlaying of the complexity which
currently exists within tax law, Revenue Canada retroactively
taxed these people. In many cases they were faced with the harsh
reality they just might be taxed off their land in spite of the
fact that they complied with all of the rules of Revenue Canada
at the time they paid their taxes.
This cannot stand. This must be changed. I am having meetings
with the revenue minister over this issue because it is not fair,
right or moral to tax people retroactively.
I cite in my capacity as heritage critic this example of the
confusion that exists within our tax laws between the heritage
department and the Minister of Finance which must be cleaned up
Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the
hon. member across the way with respect to the film tax credits
and the situation he described.
I also want to point out to the hon. member that there is an
underlying principle that says one cannot do indirectly what one
can not do directly. Therefore, if one cannot do something
directly, one should not be able to get around it some way and do
it indirectly. That is an underlying principle with which I am
sure the hon. member would agree.
With respect to the cable television and cable production fund,
I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from this
group. They have submitted information for the department to
look at so that any of the moneys they would receive from the
fund would be treated as licence top up fees rather than
What has happened is that the finance department has agreed to
take this information under consideration and provide
transitional support for this group so that any principal
photography commenced before August 31, 1998 would not be
I really appreciate the fact that the hon. member brought this
matter to the attention of the House because it is a very
important issue. I want to reassure him that the government is
very much committed to the production and entertainment industry.
It certainly affects his province specifically.
Mr. Jim Abbott: Mr. Speaker, I also appreciate the
comments of my Liberal colleague but it does not really do away
with the point of my speech.
The point of my speech is that tax law in Canada is so
overlayered, overburdened and unfair. We have a heritage
minister who does not know what is going on with the finance
minister and vice versa. It does not really do away with that
I do respect the fact that the finance department is taking this
under advisement. However if I were a business person in the
film and television production business, I would take only small
comfort. I would want to know what my bottom line was going to
be. Would I potentially be treated in exactly the same way that
the ranchers in Kootenay—Columbia have been treated where
something is going to be done retroactively?
We must straighten up the tax law. We must simplify the tax
law. I do not see any action or direction to simplify the tax
law by the Liberal government.
Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise this afternoon to
address Bill C-28, the income tax amendments act.
The proposed legislation relates to income tax measures
announced in the February 1997 budget and other income tax and
related measures. Many of the proposed provisions are technical
in nature and pertain to the numerous tax code amendments.
This is a housekeeping bill which amends at least 18 different
pieces of legislation. Some hon. colleagues on both sides of the
House have referred to all of those pieces of legislation which
the bill amends. In that sense it is an all-encompassing bill. I
am sure it is hard for the people at home viewing this debate to
relate to it.
To use the term of the hon. Liberal member across the way, we
need to look at the underlying principle. The underlying
principle, to assist people who are watching to have a better
understanding of the debate, is taxes. There is nothing that
raises the ire of the Canadian citizen more than the issue of
taxes. Having recently gone through an election campaign and all
of us in this place having participated in all-candidates forums
leading up to the June 2 election we are well aware of how
important this issue is to Canadians from coast to coast to
Never before in the history of our nation have Canadians been so
concerned about this single issue of taxation. That is why it is
very appropriate that members are given the opportunity to speak
on the issue today and to lay out as clearly as possible what
they hear in their ridings and the views of their constituents.
After all that is fundamentally why we are in this place. We try
to represent the views of our constituents and participate in
open debate debate on these issues to bring forward different
points of view and hopefully end up with legislation that is in
the best interests of all Canadians.
An hon. member: If they would listen to the voice of
Mr. Jay Hill: That is right. If the government would
listen to the voice of reason from all sides of the House, even
in some cases from the government's own backbenchers when they
are trying to represent the interests of their constituents.
Perhaps then the government and the cabinet would put forward
better legislation from the various departments which would have
genuine grassroots support across the nation.
One of the interesting issues I heard loud and clear during the
last election campaign, in consultation with constituents and in
letters, e-mails and faxes that come to all of us as members of
Parliament, which really angered the general public is the whole
issue of payroll taxes. When we talk about taxes we cannot just
talk about income tax in isolation.
The GST is another tax which has angered many people ever since
the Mulroney government brought it in a number of years ago. We
have debated as to whether there was a commitment made by the
Liberal government in the 35th Parliament to actually end that
tax, to abolish, scrap, get rid of the GST. We have had that
debate. Very clearly the average Canadian understood that there
was a commitment. Yet the GST is still in place even though we
have now achieved a balanced budget.
Canadians are desperately seeking genuine tax relief and they
are told once again by the government to wait a little longer and
perhaps they will have some tax relief. Once again we see broken
commitments, broken promises.
Look at the Canada pension plan and the huge increase Canadians
are facing. There will be a 73% increase over the next five years
in their Canada pension plan premiums. We see this government
stand up and brag about what we feel and the average Canadian
feels are relatively minor cuts to the EI, the employment
insurance premiums. The Liberals say it will create more jobs
and it is their way of offering some genuine tax relief to
overtaxed Canadians. That is going to be more than made up for by
the increase in the Canada pension plan premiums.
The government is not fooling anyone. In travelling throughout
the riding of Prince George—Peace River and in talking to my
colleagues as they continuously consult with their constituents
on this and other issues, I can say that average Canadians are
not fooled by this. The wool has not been pulled over their eyes
on the issue of taxation. They know full well what they can
expect in the future, which is more of the same. Canadians are
fed up with being taxed to the extent that they are.
There is a huge social cost to the whole issue of the debt and
taxes which by and large this government for whatever reason is
missing. It is missing the social cost.
The Liberal Party and the Liberal Government of Canada
constantly hold themselves up as the defenders of the
downtrodden. They have tried to perpetuate this Liberal image
that they are there for the poor, they are there for the
handicapped, they are always there defending the rights of the
less fortunate in society. In actual fact the exact opposite is
It is this government's overspending that has threatened the
very fabric of the nation. There is a huge social cost. Even as
we speak today we really do not understand all the ramifications
of this policy of continually raising taxes and until this year
continually increasing the national debt and the interest we pay
out every year on that debt. There is the inability of this
government to make a firm commitment in this year's budget to put
forward a concerted plan on how to deal with the debt.
We heard the finance minister and the Prime Minister make
statements about the $3 billion contingency fund which as I
pointed out a number of years ago during the last Parliament in
communications with my constituents is simply a slush fund. It is
a $3 billion fund set aside for the use of the finance minister.
If the interest rate rises unexpectedly or something goes wrong,
or there is an act of God and commitments have to be made, the
finance minister has this $3 billion set aside.
During the budget debate the government quite generously said
that if it does not need the $3 billion, it is going to put it
toward the debt.
Most Canadians are capable of doing the arithmetic. This
country is almost $600 billion in debt. When I talk about
billions of dollars, I always try to bring it back to what most
of us can understand. A billion is such a huge number. We throw
it around all the time in this place, a billion dollars here, a
billion dollars there, a $3 billion contingency fund. What does
it mean? For us to really understand that, we have to remember
that a billion dollars is a thousand million dollars.
I am getting up in age. I am certainly well aware of that today
after the hockey game last night. The MPs played against the
pages and we were really reminded about how old we are getting. I
can remember when $1 million was a lot of money and it does not
seem like that long ago. When we talk about a debt of almost
$600 billion, that is six-hundred thousand million dollars.
Imagine winning a lottery. The 649 wins are now around $10
million. At one time $1 million generally was the first prize
and it seemed like a lot of money. To me $1 million still seems
like a lot of money. We used to think about becoming a
millionaire. Imagine. Our debt is the equivalent of 600,000
Canadians, and there are not anywhere near that of course,
winning $1 million. Then they could pay off our debt. That puts
in context the size of the debt, the burden we are soon to hand
over to the younger generation, to our children and our
When the government talks about using the $3 billion contingency
fund, it is laughable. As I said, just about anybody can do the
arithmetic. If the government is serious about that, at that
rate it is going to take almost 200 years to pay down the debt. I
do not call that much of a plan to attack the huge burden of the
national debt. It is a grave disservice and an insult to the
upcoming generation that is saddled with the highest taxes, as we
are, in the G-7 on personal income tax.
My eldest child is in her second year at university. My two
younger children are growing up quite rapidly. I am trying to
imagine them looking at the situation in this country and what
hope there is for a future for them and for all the thousands of
other young people. It is an embarrassment quite frankly for our
generation. We should think about that. We should be ashamed of
the mess our generation has made of this country.
Look at the country that was handed to us by our fathers who
came through the second world war and into the 1950s and 1960s.
The opportunities I had when I graduated high school in 1970,
almost 30 years ago. The world was at our feet. We had all
sorts of opportunities. There were very reasonable levels of
taxation for the services that were available. There were all
sorts of job opportunities. Anybody who really wanted to get
ahead certainly had the opportunity to do so.
Today the future does not look that great for young Canadians.
My hat is off to them that they are as optimistic as they are.
Talking with the young pages here, their optimism and enthusiasm
about the future is incredible when you see the obstacles that we
as a generation and governments have placed in their path for the
I want to tell a story about my riding of Prince George—Peace River.
This story relates to the high burden of taxation not only at the
federal level but also at the provincial level. Part of the
riding of Prince George—Peace River is the B.C. Peace River area
which geographically is east of the Rocky Mountains. It is cut off
physically from the remainder of British Columbia. It is kind of
an anomaly. I do not know who was responsible. A lot of people
think we are from Alberta.
Ironically, there has been a recent initiative, largely because
of taxation levels, that the people of the B.C. Peace would like
to join Alberta for some obvious reasons. It really highlights
this whole issue. People can only be taxed to a certain level,
then we are going to have some open rebellion in one form or
A dear friend of mine in my riding, Short Tomkins, a good
Reformer but also a duly elected regional district director, had
put forward a motion to circulate a petition to try to generate a
referendum for the people of the B.C. Peace to secede from
British Columbia and join Alberta. That northeast corner of the
province generates billions of dollars in taxes for the federal
government and the provincial government. Yet in many regards it
is a forgotten corner of the country.
It is virtually ignored. We hardly have a decent road to drive
down in the Peace River district despite the fact that all the
oil and gas industry in the entire province of British Columbia
is in the B.C. Peace. There is a large forestry sector there,
pulp mills, sawmills. We have two very large hydroelectric dams
that provide power to the rest of British Columbia. We have
natural gas with the gas pipelines providing the heat for the
lower mainland of British Columbia. We have two large coal mines
at the town of Tumbler Ridge providing coal for export. It is
a very resource rich region.
Yet what we see in that area is that the infrastructure is
failing because the taxes are being drained out of the area to
Ottawa and Victoria and very little is ever put back. We forget
about that. It is treated like a colony in the old days where we
just take and take and never put anything back.
It is very indicative of a lot of the problems inherent in
Canada today. This huge taxation is what is causing a lot of our
I talked early about the social costs. I am reminded that as we
address the issue of crime in the country today we often think of
it in isolation. We try to think of what the problem is. What
are the root causes of criminal activity and some of these
horrendous crimes we hear about? Today we are all aware of the
recent tragedy down in the States where school children were shot
and murdered by two other young people, an 11-year old and a
When we look at the issues of crime, instead of looking at them
in isolation, I have often remarked that one of the reasons I
believe we see an increase in violent crime is we have a
breakdown of the family structure in this country. One of the
reasons we have that breakdown in the family structure is
directly attributable to the insatiable appetites of governments
at all levels for taxes.
The reality is more and more families, regardless of whether one
of the parents would like to stay at home to raise the children
in the home, find they cannot. If they are going to provide any
semblance of a decent standard of living, with our high taxation,
both parents must go outside the home to work.
There are exceptions. I am encouraged by the increase in at
home businesses. Many parents, in particular women, are
developing their own niche markets for certain products so they
can work from home and try to balance the responsibilities of
parenting and providing a higher standard of living.
The reality is the high taxation policy of this and preceding
governments is failing the Canadian people. It is contributing
to the horrendous social cost for all of Canadian society. We do
not fully understand the price we are paying and the price future
generations will be paying for the high tax policy of this and
The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): Before we go to
questions and comments, I am sure the hon. member for Prince
George—Peace River was too polite to mention that the MPs did
whip the pages six to five with the heroic goaltending of Mr.
Clouthier, the son of one of our members.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, my colleague talked about payroll taxes. He mentioned
that one of the largest payroll taxes is the 73% increase over
the next four years in the Canada pension plan contributions. Do
the young people in his riding he has talked with about this
increase know that in spite of the fact that they will pay 10% of
their earnings into the Canada pension plan for their whole
lifetimes they will receive less than a 2% return on their
lifetime investments? If they are, are they prepared to continue
supporting a program that makes them pay a lot for a little?
Mr. Jay Hill: Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for
her comments. They are appropriate as we are discussing the
budget and tax issues. The hon. member is right on the mark with
her comment. The intergenerational transfer of the burden of
maintaining the Canada pension plan is one of the most horrendous
things we are dealing with in this Parliament in relation to
During the election campaign and since we have become the
official opposition the Reform Party has laid out very specific
alternatives. These alternatives are continually gaining more
and more support, in particular from young people. The hon.
member is quite correct. The word is leaking out among young
people that they will no longer be fooled by the Liberal
government that tries to say we will protect you. We are going to
wrap you in this cloak of security, we are going to look after
you in your old age.
As the member says, in reality they will be getting somewhere in
the neighbourhood of a fifth out of the program. That is
supposing the program can be sustained without future increases,
which is not all that clear despite the assurances of the finance
minister and others.
The reality is young people are becoming more knowledgeable of
these issues. They are coming to understand there has to be a
better way than constantly increasing the premiums of the Canada
pension plan and forcing them to bear the heaviest load of
maintaining that program. They are coming to understand that
they will have to bear the load of the horrendously high levels
of taxation because of past mistakes of successive governments
with government overspending that has taken place in the past.
They are also going to have to face the reality of paying out
billions of dollars, about $45 billion a year currently in
interest charges on the debt that previous generations have built
When we add it all up it is not a pretty picture. I think the
young people of Canada today clearly understand the issue and
there is going to be rising resentment toward this government for
these types of actions.
Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the discussion about CPP is all
about values. You either believe in the CPP or you do not. This
government does and the Reform Party does not.
I wonder if the hon. member agrees with her colleague from
Calgary—Nose Hill who said the system is unfunded, there is
nothing there so we have to decide how we are going to pay. We
need to look at things such as increasing the age at which
benefits are payable. We need to look at some of this unfunded
liability coming out of general tax revenues.
I wonder if the hon. member agrees with his colleague who is out
there promoting the fact that we should be increasing taxes,
personal income taxes and corporate income taxes, increase taxes
in order to deal with this particular issue. This government
decided to consult with Canadians and provinces and we came up
with a program to sustain the CPP. It is a staged increase in
premiums to ensure Canadians have the sustainability of the plan.
The hon. members across the way seem to be indicating they want
to increase taxes. I wonder if the hon. member would like to
comment on that.
Mr. Jay Hill: Mr. Speaker, that is the unfortunate part
of some of the debate that takes place in this Chamber. We have
to face ridiculous allegations like that.
The hon. member knows full well that this party, the official
opposition, has been constant in our demand to reduce taxation.
For him to suggest in any way, shape or form that we are
suggesting Canadians are prepared or that we are prepared to
advocate an increase in taxes in any form is absolutely
I think what my hon. colleague from Calgary—Nose Hill, our
critic on those issues, was referring to was that there would be
perhaps some support from the Canadian people for allocating some
of the surplus, as we move past the balanced budget, toward
bringing down the roughly $485 billion unfunded liability that is
currently in the Canada pension plan.
We are not saying we have to raise taxes. What we are saying is
that we should spend our money more wisely. We have been
advocating this ever since Reformers in substantial numbers came
to this place following the 1993 election. We have been saying
we have to set some clear priorities. Instead of spending $1.1
billion annually on regional development programs, which in many
cases are just payoffs to political friends, we have to allocate
our limited resources in a very prudent manner. We do not see
that from this government. We saw that very case leading up to
this budget. All of a sudden magically this government says it
has $2.5 billion to spend on a millennium fund.
Where did that money come from? We have through our constant
questioning during question period been able to get the Prime
Minister to admit that the auditor general is right, that the
$2.5 billion would have been a surplus.
In reality we as a nation collectively could have made a
decision as to what the best way was to spend that $2.5 billion.
In defence of the government perhaps the official opposition
would have been wrong. The wisdom of the Canadian people would
have been to take 100,000 students out of 1.7 million
post-secondary students and develop a fund for them, a millennium
fund for scholarships for them. I do not think it would have.
Perhaps they would have said that $2.5 billion should have gone
to paying down some of the Canada pension plan unfunded
liability. I think that is the type of thing my hon. colleague
* * *
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The member for
Hochelaga—Maisonneuve advised me in writing that he was unable to
introduce his motion during the hour provided for consideration
of Private Members' Business on Friday, March 27, 1998.
As it was not possible to change positions on the list of
priorities, I ask the clerk to drop this motion to the bottom of
the list. The hour provided for consideration of Private
Members' Business will, therefore, be suspended and the House
will continue to examine the matters before it at that time.
It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the
consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
The House resumed from February 5 consideration of the motion
and of the amendment.
Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley,
Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak
to Motion No. 198, which is a motion to amend the child benefit.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to join any debate where I
can denounce the Liberal government for its high tax policies and
increased use of stealth taxes.
That is what we are debating here, another stealth tax that this
Liberal government is using to fill its tax coffers.
A person needs to review the history of the child benefit to
fully comprehend what is happening.
In 1985 Tory finance minister Michael Wilson set out to reduce
the children's tax exemption and to increase the refundable child
tax credit for lower income families. In the 1985 budget he
introduced a 3% threshold for full indexing. The benefit would
only increase if inflation exceeded 3% in any given year. That
was not a concern in the 1980s, as the lowest rate of inflation
in that decade was in 1985 when it was 3.9%.
In 1988 the children's tax exemption was replaced by a
non-refundable credit. In 1991 Canada was in the midst of a
recession. By 1992 the inflation rate had dropped below 3%.
In 1993, the last year of the Tory government, the three major
child benefit programs were replaced, which were the family
allowance, the non-refundable child tax credit and the refundable
child tax credit.
That government replaced them with a single income tested child
tax benefit that is similar to the old refundable child tax
credit. It meant that the maximum benefit would go to families
with a net income under $25,921.
I want to talk about the threshold effect. Since inflation has
not topped 3% since 1991 that means that neither the amount
families receive for the child benefit nor the income tax level
at which people can collect the maximum benefit have been
adjusted for inflation, yet inflation has risen by a cumulative
amount of 10% since 1991. That means that the real value of the
child benefit has been reduced by 10%.
The non-indexing of the threshold level to receive benefits
means that many families whose income has just kept up with
inflation are now receiving lower benefits.
This is the true legacy of this government: stealth tax.
By not allowing full indexing, this government saves money by
allowing the real value of the benefit it pays out to decline.
By not indexing the income threshold, it means that more families
are collecting lower benefits and paying more taxes.
This is not the only place this government is using stealth tax
technology. I mentioned it the other day when I was talking
about bracket creep. I would like to make a comparison using
that. Bracket creep occurs when an individual's pay rises to the
point where they enter a higher tax bracket. While salaries have
inched up over the past six years, the tax brackets have not.
Like the child benefit payments and income thresholds, tax
brackets are only adjusted when the consumer price index rises by
3% or more in any given year. Thus, individuals whose salaries
have just kept up with inflation often find themselves in a
higher tax bracket.
It looks like we have developed a pattern here. However, what
is even worse than allowing this to happen is the fact that this
Liberal government is doing it deliberately.
In his budget speech the finance minister made it clear that
this is a deliberate move and that he intends to continue with
this practice. He stated “Upon coming into office, the
government and the Bank of Canada agreed to hold inflation inside
a range of 1% to 3% to the end of 1998. That policy has worked.
That is why we are announcing today that we will extend the
current agreement with the Bank of Canada for a further three
Thus, this government has made it perfectly clear that it
intends to keep gouging the Canadian taxpayer in this fashion.
Where is this government's commitment to child poverty?
It would appear that the Liberals only believe in fully indexing
pensions when it comes to their own gold plated MP pensions and
those of their political cronies in the Senate. They think that
someone like former Senator Andrew Thompson, who showed up for
work only 12 times in the past 8 years, deserves full indexing of
his pension. They think it is fine for someone like Thompson,
who received $600,000 in taxpayers' money over the last eight
years, or $50,000 for every time he appeared in the Senate, to
receive an indexed pension. They have no problems that a man who
rarely ever showed up for work should now be receiving $48,000 a
year in a fully indexed pension. That is almost twice what the
average Canadian wage earner receives.
The Liberals eagerly support full indexing for Andrew Thompson,
but when it comes to single mothers or low income families they
are against full indexing. Members on the government side of
this House should be ashamed of themselves.
That brings us to the motion currently before the House, M-198,
and the attached amendment. The original motion read:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review
the level at which the child benefit is indexed.
Unfortunately, I think the Liberals have already reviewed the
level at which the child benefit is indexed and they like it just
fine. Full indexing would cost this government millions of
dollars in tax revenue and that could lead them to actually
having to make cuts. They might even have to lay off a few of
the political hacks they have appointed to patronage positions or
they might have to take away the full indexing of Andrew
Thompson's Senate pension.
The amended version of the motion reads:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review
the possibility of fully indexing the child benefit.
I am sure this government has reviewed the possibility of fully
indexing the child benefit. If I were a betting person, I would
say that the possibilities of the government agreeing to it are
slim or none.
I congratulate the member for Shefford for her motion and her
efforts to make the child benefit fairer.
I assure her of my support and hopefully the support of my
colleagues. But unless a few government members find their
consciences and live up to their commitment to battle child
poverty I do not see this government rushing to create a fair tax
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I rise
today to speak to Motion M-198, moved by my colleague, the
Progressive Conservative member for Shefford.
The motion reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review
the level at which the child benefit is indexed.
I thank the member for Shefford for giving us an opportunity to
discuss the important problem of child poverty and to ask the
government to devote more resources to it.
What is ironic, however, is that it was her own party, the
Progressive Conservative Party, which decided, when it formed
the government, to index the child tax benefit only when
inflation exceeded 3%. The Liberals, who so vigorously opposed
this measure when they were in opposition, maintained it when
they won office, and have stuck with it since.
The result of this Conservative and Liberal policy is that, since
1992, the child tax benefit has not been indexed. During this
time, inflation is driving up the cost of living of families, who
see their buying power being slowly eroded. Collectively,
families have lost over $800 million. They are distinctly worse
My colleague, the member for
Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, moved an
amendment to this motion asking the government to review the
possibility of fully indexing the child benefit.
I am in complete agreement with my colleague.
Right now, the poverty of children and families is serious. It
is obvious that the child benefit must be fully indexed. Large
amounts should also be reinvested quickly, not just to increase
the tax benefit, but also to reinvest in social programs.
Let us look at a few statistics, which will give us an idea of
what poverty means in this country. According to Campaign
2000, the changes that have occurred since the federal
government's commitment in 1989 to eliminate poverty among
children are as follows: the number of poor children has
increased by 46%; poverty in two-parent households has increased
by 39%; the number of single-parent families has increased by 58%;
the number of children living in families where unemployment is
chronic has risen by 44%; the number of children in families
receiving social assistance has increased by 6%; finally, the
number of children living in unaffordable accommodation has
increased by 60%. These figures speak for themselves. The
problem is extremely serious. Poor children today number 1.5
million, one child in five.
Over the past 20 years, the number of double-income couples, the
number of working mothers with young children and the number of
single-parent families have increased relentlessly. The parents
of young families are better educated, but their jobs are not
stable and are often part time. Most of the time they do not
provide benefits. In 1990, in 70% of couples with school age
children, both parents work, whereas the figure was 30% in 1950.
In recent years, the average family income has stagnated, and in
low income families, it has even dropped. In its December 1997
report, Statistics Canada indicated that low income families,
which make up 20% of the population, had seen their family income
decrease by 3% because of the drop in incomes, but especially
because of the drop in government transfers, which account for
59% of their income. Under the Liberals, the poor have become
We have to face the facts: Canada's performance in providing
support for families and children is pretty weak, in the words
of the Canadian Council on Social Development.
The council explains that, in a comparison between Canada and
nine similar countries, Canada ranks second behind the United
States in child poverty, according to market income, and third
in total income, behind the United States and Australia.
Faced with such figures, what have the Liberals done since they
became the government? Instead of vigorously attacking the
problem of worsening poverty, they have reduced transfers to the
provinces for social assistance and are proposing that families
be given the bare minimum for survival.
It is going so far as to suggest that they seek charity. Yet, in
the first Liberal red book, in 1993, Jean Chrétien wrote
“Government must be judged by its effectiveness in promoting
human dignity, justice, fairness and opportunity”.
According to his own criteria, then, the Prime Minister's
government is not a good one, for it allows millions of children
to languish in poverty, jeopardizing their health and
development, to the great despair of their parents.
Instead of equipping themselves with a true social development
policy, the Liberals are settling for managing poverty by
throwing a few crumbs from time to time so that people can keep
their heads above water and to make the government look good.
In the 1997 budget, the Minister of Finance suddenly discovered
the serious problem of child poverty in Canada.
He described it as the most urgent problem.
This year's budget announces a $425 million increase in the child
tax credit effective July 1999, with another $425 million to
follow in July 2000. For July 1998 there is nothing more than
has been announced ad nauseam for the past two years.
The Bloc Quebecois campaign platform called for an extra $1.15
billion to be invested immediately in the child tax credit. The
minister had the necessary financial leeway to do so, since he
shows no reticence about invading as sacrosanct an area of
provincial jurisdiction as education with his millennium
scholarships, to the tune of $2.5 billion.
It is not, therefore, any lack of money that is keeping the
Liberal government from fighting poverty, because when
visibility is at stake, it can easily find $2.5 billion in its
The real problem with this government is its lack of political
choices. Poor children do not vote, but university students do.
I have to say that child poverty is not an isolated phenomenon
and any fight against it must provide support for families
through employment, social security and community support
The Canadian Institute of Child Health last year considered that
the best way to improve the standard of living of children was to
establish a national job creation strategy for adults with family
The Minister of Finance claims to be helping poor families by
increasing the maximum deduction for child care from $5,000 to
$7,000 or from $3,000 to $4,000, according to the age of the
child. This measure is totally unfair, because, for the same
$1,000 of child care, a high income family gets a lot more than
does a low income one.
Poor families whose income is so low that they do not pay any
taxes do not benefit in any way from this change.
Last year, the Bloc Quebecois proposed that the child care
deduction be replaced by a refundable tax credit, which would
have resulted in poor families receiving a cash payment.
The Liberal government may be able to keep on ignoring the
public's suffering, and refusing to reinvest in social programs
to improve the lot of the most disadvantaged, but it could at
least agree to full indexation of the child tax benefit so that
they do not sink even deeper into poverty.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I
am very pleased to speak today in support of the motion of the
hon. member for Shefford which reads:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review
the level at which the child benefit is indexed.
The NDP has already gone on the record in speaking to the motion
as fully supporting it. We also support the amendment put
forward by the Bloc Quebecois.
I begin my remarks by saying the year 2000 is very close. I
begin in that way because the year 2000 has very special
significance in the House of Commons, not just because it is a
new millennium but because back in 1989 members of the House
unanimously passed a motion sponsored by Mr. Ed Broadbent, the
then leader of the New Democratic Party, that by the year 2000
child poverty would be eliminated in this country. It is now
1998, nine years later, and the situation has not only not
improved. It is appallingly worse than it was nine years ago.
I am very happy the motion is before us because it addresses in
a very small way one thing that could be done to ensure the child
tax benefit, put forward and agreed to by the provinces, would be
fully indexed. Campaign 2000, a non-governmental organization
made up of many supporting groups, has vigorously campaigned on
the issue of child poverty and holding the House of Commons
accountable for the motion that was passed in 1989. Much work
has been done.
Here we are today still talking, not about fully eliminating
child poverty but about one very small piece of it. In fact the
child tax benefit is only partially indexed. What that says to
all of us is that we have not come very far.
I looked in Hansard to find out what government members
had to say about the motion during its first and second hours of
debate. Frankly I assumed that government members would support
something so modest that would bring us a bit closer to making
sure the benefit was accessible and meaningful to low income and
poor families. Regrettably that is not the case.
One of the Liberal members who spoke to the motion in the first
round of debate said “Let us not forget that with an inflation
rate of 1.6% per year restoring full indexation of the child tax
benefit would cost the government about $160 million per year”.
He went on to say that such revenue losses could threaten the
government's programs to restore fiscal balance.
What about the threat to Canada's poor children? What about the
threat to poor families suffering from the impact of years and
years of slash and burn approach by this government? What about
the threat to kids who are still living in a world where they
cannot access programs, where they do not have adequate housing
and where government programs are being cut back? Now we are
living in an environment of increasing poor bashing. What does
the government member have to say to those kids, the 1.4 million
children in Canada who are living in poverty?
It is astounding because this is the same government that claims
it wants to stop poverty for children and deal with poverty in
Canada. This is the same government where the Minister of Human
Resources Development said in a committee meeting late last year
that the child tax benefit was the greatest social policy since
the 1960s. If that is true, why cannot government members find a
measly $170 million to protect poor families from inflation by
fully indexing this benefit?
I will read further from Hansard the comments of other
government members who spoke to the issue and who were trying to
explain and rationalize why they could not deal with it.
On February 5, 1998 one member said “Second, there is a
trigger. The Income Tax Act states that the child tax benefit
will be indexed each year by the amount which the annual change
in the consumer price index exceeds 3%. This policy of partial
indexation is consistent with the treatment of most other
parameters of the personal tax system and is respectful of the
fiscal problems which are facing the federal government.”
Here we have another government member who is trying to defend
what is really an appalling record by saying that the kids of
Canada and poor families have to be respectful of the problems
the government created.
The people of Canada, groups like Campaign 2000 and other
anti-poverty groups like the National Anti-Poverty Organization
are simply appalled at the government's record. The kids of
Canada and their parents who are facing unemployment and massive
EI cutbacks will be delighted to hear that they need to be
respectful of the government's problems.
The reality is that the child tax benefit is being used as a
political shield by the government. The government wants to hide
behind the reality of poverty in Canada. The political
grandstanding that has gone on in this issue by government
members is simply disgusting.
The child tax benefit has now been announced four times. It is
obvious the government will not provide adequate funds to index
the fund. There was no announcement in the budget we just dealt
Earlier today when we were debating Bill C-28, the income tax
amendments, there was reference to the so-called increase in the
Canada health and social transfer from $11 billion to $12.5
billion. We know that it is not an increase at all. There is
not one new dime, not even a penny, going back to the provinces
in terms of transfers. It is simply a shell game being conducted
by the Liberal government. It is the same kind of shell game that
has gone on with the child tax benefit. This so-called new
increase is a recycled announcement that the latest cuts will not
come into effect.
One thing is clear. Poverty among Canadian children and
families will not be eliminated by the kinds of measures that
have been put forward by the government. What we need to see is
a recommitment to national standards. What we need to see is
full indexation of the child tax benefit. What we need to see is
an increase in the child tax benefit to poor children living in
one parent families so that the benefit will not be lower than
what they would have received under the 1996 federal budget.
We need to ensure that all poor families receive the child tax
benefit, including families on social assistance. Under the
government's program those families, the poorest of the poor,
will be excluded.
We also need to pressure the federal government to commit to a
new national child care program, an early education plan and
150,000 new child care spaces by the year 2000. What happened to
the promise from this Liberal government and the former Liberal
government to create a national child care program? That too has
evaporated. As my hon. colleague says, the election is over and
it is back to the same old dirty business.
We in the NDP are committed to holding the government
accountable. We are committed to working with organizations in
Canada to ensure that the government is held accountable.
There is real disappointment about the performance on the child
tax benefit. In fact government members—and there are the empty
rows here today—are not even listening to the debate. The
motion was an opportunity for the government to come forward and
say that it would ensure full indexation at least on this small
basis. Unfortunately that has not been the case. There is real
disappointment over this matter.
We will continue to pressure the government to ensure there is
full indexation of the child tax benefit. I thank the member for
bringing forward the motion. It has been good to hear support
from other parties. We have to keep the pressure up on the
government to come through and say, if it is truly committed to
eliminating child poverty by the year 2000 as members voted in
1989, that it has to take this one very small step. We have to
take other steps as well, but this one in a very minimal way that
will at least ensure full indexation and that poor families will
not be losing pace with inflation.
The Deputy Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to order made Tuesday, March
24, 1998, all questions on the motion are deemed to have been put
and a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred until
Tuesday, March 31, 1998 at the expiry of the time provided for
Private Members' Business.
The Deputy Speaker: Does the House agree to call it 6.30
Some hon. members: Agreed.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to
have been moved.
SEARCH AND RESCUE
Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, on
December 11, 1997, I asked a question to the minister of defence
concerning the process taken for the rescue of survivors of the
Little Grand Rapids tragic crash. I asked the minister to
explain why his department had failed to enlist locally available
helicopters in this rescue, as was the case with the Red River
The twenty hour wait for a rescue plane endured by the Little
Grand Rapids plane crash victims was a result of what I believe
is botched decision making by search and rescue operations.
Officials had access to helicopters at the Canadian forces flying
training school in Portage, la Prairie. However, they chose
instead to try to use a plane to rescue survivors.
Those same helicopters were used during the Red River flood.
They could have helped this time too. Instead of using those
nearby helicopters, the military sent helicopters from Cold Lake,
Alberta which never made it to the crash site.
The end of 1997 did not go quietly. Another plane crash
occurred in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It was a miracle that no
one died in that crash. This incident has made people aware of
how cuts and downsizing may be affecting airport safety. But let
us go back to the Little Grand Rapids crash.
I have questioned the minister on the process of this rescue but
that crash worries me in relation to other issues. There is no
question that this fatal plane crash demonstrates the importance
of having better landing facilities in isolated areas. When air
is the only mode of transportation in and out of a community, it
is an absolute must that the landing facilities be in the best
The landing strip in Little Grand Rapids had been described as
the worst in northern Manitoba long before the crash. It is well
known that its surface is uneven and gives pilots the impression
that their angle of approach is too steep. The crash on December
9 was the third fatal plane crash to happen in Little Grand
Rapids. The limited services to response measures in remote
communities make it even more important to have a safe
infrastructure. The plane was carrying one doctor and four social
service workers who were travelling north to provide treatment
for northern residents.
I was annoyed when the Reform Party suggested that a private
helicopter went in to save the injured. It went in for one
reason. He was taking in reporters to get a story. Had the
intent been to help the injured, medical help should have gone
with him, not a reporter. However, once they were there it only
made sense to send out the most injured, and he is to be
commended on that note.
Why did search and rescue workers not avail themselves of those
local resources? Do they not have that flexibility? Lately we
have received an alarming report concerning the rescue in Little
Grand Rapids. The report states that the hercules rescue plane
dumped more than 10,000 gallons of fuel at less than 600 feet
within three miles of the runway. I understand the normal
procedure is to dump it at no less than 5,000 feet. This is to
allow for dispersion of the fuel and to decrease the risk of
ignition. The fuel would be less concentrated on the ground or
wherever it landed.
The minister mentioned in the House that this was done to save
lives and that the weather conditions were not good enough to
follow the guidelines. Nevertheless, when the dumping occurred
the hercules had gone below the fog. It had cleared somewhat.
The crew knew the ceiling had lifted and that the most critically
injured had already been flown out. Was the option of taking the
time to fly to the height requirement ever considered? Was the
community informed that this was not the usual procedure?
The most critically injured were flown out by a private
helicopter which landed before the hercules. The helicopters
nearby could have landed as well and the injured would not have
had to wait 20 hours to be rescued. Was the best option used
during this rescue?
Mr. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the incident that
occurred last December in Little Grand Rapids was tragic.
We all know that despite the difficulties that were encountered
as a result of the bad weather at the time lives were saved.
Everyone who contributed to the rescue, including the RCMP, the
Canadian forces and the local community of Little Grand Rapids,
should be applauded for their efforts.
Now the hon. member has asked why the Canadian forces did not
hire a civilian aircraft to assist with the rescue. As the hon.
member knows, poor weather conditions were a key factor in this
rescue. Immediately after the Canadian forces were notified of
the accident a hercules aircraft from Winnipeg and a Labrador
helicopter from Trenton were tasked to proceed to the site of the
accident. The hercules aircraft was airborne with nine search
and rescue technicians on board but poor weather hampered its
ability to land immediately in Little Grand Rapids.
Nevertheless, it circled the area in the hope that the weather
would clear and it could land.
Despite the poor weather the Canadian forces did manage to
deliver much needed medical supplies by parachute which offered
some relief to those involved in the rescue. Due to time,
distance and weather conditions, the Labrador helicopter in
Trenton was stood down and two griffon helicopters from Cold Lake
were tasked to proceed to the site. Unfortunately they were
unable to make it due to bad weather. A Labrador helicopter and a
second hercules aircraft remained on standby in Trenton ready for
immediate take off if needed.
The Canadian forces did what they could to assist with the
rescue. The Canadian forces decided not to hire a civilian
aircraft to assist with the rescue because the crew of the
hercules had advised that the weather conditions at Little Grand
Rapids were severe and that a helicopter would have extreme
difficulty flying into the site. In other words, the Canadian
forces determined that to send a civilian helicopter into the
area would have placed the helicopter and its crew at undue risk.
In the end, under the circumstances Canadian forces search and
rescue personnel did everything they could in order to save
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Ref.): Mr.
Speaker, in the budget of 1996 this government proposed changes
to the old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, as
well as the elimination of the retirement income tax credit and
the seniors tax credit based on age. These proposed changes
were, for reasons known only to Liberal spin doctors, called the
Many seniors quickly realized that they would not benefit at
all. Instead they would be heavily taxed on their retirement
savings. Marginal tax rates on retirement savings could reach
75%, far higher than the maximum marginal tax rates imposed on
Members can well imagine the anxiety and consternation this
proposal has created among Canadian seniors as well as those
trying to make sensible decisions about saving for retirement.
Despite numerous questions in this House from the official
opposition as well as other parties, the government has done
nothing to relieve or diminish the concerns of Canadians about
their retirement security.
On February 23, I asked the minister to provide some assurance
to Canadians that this government will abandon its proposed
clawbacks and taxes on Canadians' retirement savings of as much
as 75%. The response from the parliamentary secretary was “wait
for the budget”.
As hon. members and the Canadian public know, there was nothing
in the budget the next day about the seniors benefit that would
reassure seniors or those planning for retirement. The
parliamentary secretary would have been well aware of that
omission when he evaded my question.
That was over a month ago; one more month with Canadians left in
limbo, left totally in the dark about what this government might
or might not do to finalize its announced cuts to seniors
programs and clawbacks of retirement savings.
My question is simply this. When will the government end this
Mr. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased
to respond to the member for Calgary—Nose Hill.
The member could not be farther off base when she says this
government has done nothing. This government has done much and
is continuing to do more. As she will see in my answer, this is
what we intend to do.
The government is committed to making the public pension system
sustainable so that it will be there for future generations of
Canadians at an affordable cost.
The proposed seniors benefit will slow the future growth in
public pension costs by targeting benefits to the low and middle
income seniors who need the benefits the most.
Last fall we took time to consult extensively with seniors
groups, social groups and pension industry experts on the
proposed seniors benefit. Meetings were held from Halifax to
Vancouver. We listened carefully to the issues that were raised
and the concerns that were expressed.
The government is currently reviewing the 1996 proposal in light
of those consultations in order to ensure that the best possible
policy is brought forward. We expect to bring forward
legislation in the coming months. When legislation is introduced
in the House, there will be further opportunity for public input
during parliamentary committee hearings.
The government is committed to moving forward with the seniors
benefit. It is vital that we ensure public pensions are there
for those who need them.
Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, a
short time ago I asked a question regarding the concept of job
creation through energy conservation and the energy retrofitting
of the federal government's some 50,000 publicly owned buildings.
The idea is based on the concept that we can benefit in many
ways from the demand side management of our energy resources and
the increased commitment to the concept that we should be doing
everything we can to embrace this concept for any number of
The first obvious reason is that the federal government could in
fact save as much as 30% to 50% in operating costs. All the
evidence shows that huge gains are possible in streamlining our
energy use in our federally owned buildings.
The second reason is that we can reduce the wasteful use of
energy. We can also reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions
which obviously should be of some concern.
The third benefit, the most obvious one and the reason I raised
the question, is that we have the opportunity to create thousands
and thousands of jobs in the building trades, in engineering and
in the manufacturing of all the technology that goes into high
tech and state of the art energy efficiency.
The study we conducted with the carpenters union shows that
there are between three to seven times the number of person years
of employment in energy retrofitting as there are in new
construction. This should be of great interest.
The last point is that every time we undertake a comprehensive
energy retrofit of a building, the ambient indoor air quality
benefits to such a degree and all the evidence shows that there
are fewer days of sick time, people are more productive and they
feel healthier. The best and most graphic example of this is my
own staff who suffer because of the air quality in the Wellington
building. It is one of those old, dated federal government
buildings that could benefit from an energy retrofit program.
The reason I raise this now and the reason I am hoping the
federal government will embrace this idea is that all of the
above can be achieved at no upfront cost to the taxpayer. Many
private sector financiers are anxious and willing to finance the
upfront costs of this energy retrofit at 100%. The property
owner, in this case the government, then pays the financiers back
slowly out of the energy savings, and only if there are energy
savings. It is an idea whose time has come and it is too good to
Another reason we should be showing the world how to live in a
harsh northern climate in the most effective way possible is the
unbelievable benefit in terms of the engineering and technology
associated with energy retrofitting. We could be marketing it
around the world and exporting our expertise in this area.
A unit of energy harvested from the existing system is
indistinguishable from a unit of energy produced at a generating
station, except we can preclude the need to build more generating
stations at a huge cost. We could harvest these units of energy
and resell them to other customers or export that energy to the
United States or to wherever we want to sell that energy. This is
another good reason environmentally why we should be doing
everything we can to use our energy resources in a better way.
The government's answer to my question was that there already
was a federal building initiative which was undertaking to try to
energy retrofit federal government buildings. My problem with
the federal building initiative is that it has been ponderously
slow. It has only affected a handful of buildings. The red tape
or bureaucracy involved is such that many of those investors have
found it impossible to participate.
We are asking the federal government to release a block of
buildings of 100 or 1,000 at a time, to get this thing under way
and to put some people to work.
Mr. George Proud (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of
Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased for the
opportunity to speak about energy efficiency in federal
We must rest assured that the FBI program will not be cancelled.
It has met with such success that NRCan is working to expand it
in co-operation with the provinces, municipalities and the
Earlier this week I participated in an FBI announcement in Place
Vincent Massey in Hull, Quebec, with three of my colleagues. The
federal government is committed to a 20% reduction from 1990
levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2005 within its
Federal departments are delivering on this commitment through a
number of energy efficiency programs administered by the office
of energy efficiency. The FBI program is one of these. The FBI
is an initiative developed by NRCan to assist government
departments and agencies to improve the energy efficiency of
It is estimated that once fully implemented in all government
facilities the FBI will result in the creation of 20,000 jobs,
the reduction of energy costs by $160 million annually,
investments in the order of $1 billion, and untold market
opportunities and environmental benefits.
In short, we are hoping to use energy efficiency programs such
as the FBI as catalysts for a more vibrant economy.
The Deputy Speaker: The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed
adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow
at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 6.16 p.m.)