Heath Nelson Macquarrie
Mr. Heath Macquarrie (Hillsborough):
Mr. Speaker, on October 22 I inquired of the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Andras) concerning the move of a segment of the Department of Veterans Affairs to Prince Edward Island. He indicated that his colleague, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce (Mr. Chretien), was responsible for such matters. On Thursday it was their colleague, the Minister of
November 1, 1976
Veterans Affairs (Mr. MacDonald), who made the announcement in Charlottetown.
As I indicated in my original question, the date of November 8 is significant. On that day four provincial by-elections are being held in Prince Edward Island and it is generally conceded that the Progressive Conservative party under the leadership of a former member of this House, the Hon. Angus MacLean, is heading for strong gains in these contests. One is loath to suggest partisan motives, but I would have been very much surprised had the announcement been made on November 9.
I am slightly embarrassed that anyone should consider for a moment that the judgment of the P.E.I. voters will be influenced next Monday in four by-elections by a promise on something to commence four years hence. I can assure the House that the electors involved will come to their own intelligent verdict on November 8 and will not be misled by anything extraneous to their desire to elect the best possible candidates in the four by-elections.
In any case, as a long time advocate of decentralization, I welcome this move. I shall certainly extend a hearty welcome to those public servants who will be moving to my constituency. Prince Edward Island is a good place in which to live, and those who leave Ottawa will find a good and warm reception in the beautiful island province.
While welcoming this move, I must ask some questions. One concerns the number of Prince Edward Island people who will find new job opportunities as a result of this move. Ours is a high unemployment area. Statistics month after month and year after year show Prince Edward Island as being at or near the top in this unwelcome area. It is not a very good league in which to attain a leading status.
While agreeing with the principle of decentralization as I do, and while welcoming this particular aspect of it as I do, it is still incumbent upon me to ask some specific questions.
I take it from the minister's press release in Charlottetown that nothing will happen, there will be no transfers of personnel nor will there be any new job offerings before four years have elapsed. This is now the estimated time for completion of the new federal building in Charlottetown. We all know that not all buildings are completed on schedule.
If nothing is to happen for four years, one again wonders about the great urge to make the announcement. I did not have to be a major or a minor prophet to forecast, as I did last week, that the announcement was to be made before November 8. The Minister went to Charlottetown on October 28, 1976, to announce a move that will begin, not end, in 1980.
Speaking of the art of prophecy, the air over Parliament Hill was filled with rumors that the announcement would not be made until after the Ottawa-Carleton by-election, but would be announced before the November 8 provincial by-election contests. It was therefore not too hard to make a fairly accurate prediction, and this I was glad to do to help out my
hon. friend, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, by getting him a little extra advance publicity.
If members of the staff of DVA feel that they were not fully consulted, these important political dates will suffice as substantial explanation. Never has there been such a long period of time between the publication of the bans and the actual wedding ceremony. Even the most confident marriage partners might exhibit a little anxiety over such a protracted waiting period. I would like to know what is being done during the four years between the sounding of the bugle and the beginning of the advance.
We are told there will be new jobs for island people. What provisions are to be made for training? It is unlikely that new personnel would assume their offices immediately upon the opening of the building in 1980 or perhaps later. Therefore I would like to know something about what will take place in the four intervening years.
Subtopic: GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION-POSSIBILITY OF MOVING PART OF VETERANS AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT TO PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND