November 22, 1979

?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Joseph-Roland Comtois

Liberal

Mr. J.-Roland Comtois (Terrebonne):

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. I would like to join with those who spoke before me by saying that I support this bill. Even though it is a step in the right direction, however, I consider this a very timid step. 1 agree with the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) when he talks of a pension for all people 60 years of age or over on a universal basis as long as they retire from the labour market. I know the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie) has very little room to manoeuvre budgetwise but perhaps I might suggest to him a formula which would be acceptable to the whole House and which could be part of the next budget to be brought down by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie).

The formula would be similar to the one we had a few years ago and which was used to reduce the age of eligibility for the old age pension from 70 to 65, on a gradual basis, year after year. So, in 1980, we could reduce the age of eligibility to 64, in 1981 to 63, and so on until the age of 60 for everyone, for all those who would retire from the labour market, and this way we could phase in this budget over a period of four or five years. This would be an easy way, I believe, for the government to finance it. That is the proposal I wanted to make to the Minister of National Health and Welfare. I hope he will consider it and submit it to his cabinet colleagues and on the night of the budget, next December 1 1, we will have good news for all those needy people who for the most part would like to retire but cannot. That would also allow several people between the ages of 50 and 60 to occupy the positions of people now aged between 60 and 65. That would enable young people of 20, 21 or 22 who are on social welfare to work in their place, and I think that by having a universal formula we could reduce the bureaucracy that is costing millions of dollars. I would much rather have a universal program than bureaucracies watching and snooping on everyone. That is what I wanted to say, and I hope the Minister of National Health and Welfare will act in cabinet as the spokesman for citizens between the ages of 60 and 65.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Robert Phillip Kaplan

Liberal

Mr. Bob Kaplan (York Centre):

Mr. Speaker, like the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona (Mr. Kilgour), 1 had no

Old Age Security

intention to speak on this measure when I came to the House tonight, but 1 cannot resist taking a moment to deal with the charge that he levelled against the former government, members on this side, the charge of hypocrisy. What exactly are the elements of the indictment of hypocrisy?

Certainly we cannot be blamed for having failed, when we were in government, to introduce a very far-reaching and important social welfare program for senior citizens. We do not think he should make that charge because we did bring in one of the most advanced measures in the world, which is fully indexed, although it was not perfect, and in fact hon. members opposite conceded that we were moving to fill the gap, a relatively small gap that was left and that has been the basis of the legislation introduced by this government. Filling that gap hardly puts members opposite in the position of being able to say that they are embarking upon a very major social program.

The indictment, specifically, by the hon. member opposite was that in doing all this and some other worth-while things in the country we had stimulated a lot of inflation. Maybe we did, maybe we did not. Inflation is an international phenomenon. Not all of it came from the social welfare programs introduced by the Liberal government. It would have been less, if there had been higher taxes during the period. I took it from what the hon. member opposite said that this new government will not do that, they will not increase inflation by giving away benefits without increasing taxes.

I have heard about a benefit which is coming to Canadians in the next few weeks in the form of a $2.5 billion tax reduction for the "best-ofF' sector of the Canadian population, those lucky enough to own homes. A lot of people in that category need the money. 1 am not saying that there should not be some measure to help people pay their mortgages and property taxes. 1 say that because of the manner in which interest rates have been driven up by this government, and the way the cost of heating homes will skyrocket after the new deal is negotiated or dictated by Peter Lougheed at the beginning of next year, there will be a good case to be made for helping some people with their mortgage interest problems, but $2.5 billion is a tremendous amount of money. After the promise by the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona (Mr. Kilgour), members on this side will be looking forward, with very great interest, to finding what tax increases will take place or what other measures will be cut back to provide this $2.5 billion. As for social conscience, the first small step of this government is to close this very small gap we were proceeding to close, too slowly, 1 think. At least we were proceeding toward closing it.

What is step No. 2? Compared to the couple of hundred million dollars which will be given to needy senior citizens, this $2.5 billion program will benefit every prosperous family in Canada. It is some indication of the priority of this government: a few hundred million, important for some senior citizens, and a $2.5 billion giveaway based on an election promise! I am looking forward to the budget, because if there is a $2.5

November 22, 1979

Old Age Security

billion tax increase in it which is progressive, 1 and all of us will be most surprised.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Monique Bégin

Liberal

Hon. Monique Begin (Saint-Leonard-Anjou):

Mr. Speaker,

1 would also like to comment on the very short but highly partisan speech made by the new member for Edmonton-Strathcona (Mr. Kilgour). I think he is a young and brilliant lawyer who arrived with the election of 1979, on May 22, but I do not know whether he is used to mingling with very wealthy people. One thing for sure, one is tempted to tell him that he is not acquainted with the facts of life and that he should be reminded of a few of them. He is a parliamentary secretary, and that is already quite good for a newcomer. He could surely exert his influence on his colleagues in his caucus. He strongly attacked the deficit, for which he blamed the previous Liberal government. He forgot to mention that the Economic Council of Canada, which is not necessarily a dangerous organization of social reform, has recently clearly established that as a result of our procedure of paying to the provinces huge sums for equalization purposes, the real provincial deficits appear nowhere while the federal deficit seems to increase and to become an inflationary factor for the country.

I should like to remind the new hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona that the philosophy of his party is not very strong in the social field. The only electoral promise made by his leader, the new Prime Minister (Mr. Clark), was to give widows and widowers who lost the spouse's allowance the possibility of remaining on the program until they had reached age 65, at which time they would become eligible in their own right for old age pension.

We never heard the new Prime Minister speak of medicare. We did not even know where he stood on that. Finally we learned, because we asked questions in the House, that he had rejected the strange speech of his then minister responsible for pensions, the hon. member for Missisquoi (Mr. Grafftey), the new Minister of State for Science and Technology. The minister questioned the universality of pensions. We had to ask for a correction. Hon. members opposite did not see fit to issue a statement in order to calm the worries of the senior citizens of the country who wondered what was going on. Their lives were at stake; they have just enough to survive.

More than half the senior citizens in Canada need the GIS. That means they live in poverty. I do not think it is fair to start fooling around with words such as deficits, the supposed printing of $15 billion, or whatever the government spokesman said. That is the usual language of very wealthy lawyers who forget what life is all about. That hon. member reminded me of the new hon. member for York-Scarborough (Mr. McCrossan).

It is always interesting to find in the hallways the householder mailings members can send four times a year to their ridings. The stories in them are extraordinary. By the

way, usually such members do not have the guts to say such things loudly in the House of Commons before the television cameras, because they know they are not true. Also it is interesting to listen to conversations in the elevators, around the Parliament buildings but outside the chamber. That new member said that I helped the Tories a lot when I spoke of "only" $200 million more needed for senior citizens who are over age 65, in receipt of the GIS, but unattached: widows, widowers, single people, separated men and women. That young man suggested that when he was back at home in wealthy Toronto, he could go around saying that the crazy Grits say that $200 million is just nothing, peanuts! That is not what I said when I spoke in the House of "only" $200 million more needed to bring all senior citizens now over the age of 65-not pre-65 but in official retirement-just above the poverty line. 1 am talking about a very conservative poverty line, the Statistics Canada one.

1 will always repeat that $200 million more are needed right away, not in ten years' time. Less than a year ago we found $300 million. I do not call that "fueling the deficit". The hon. member just forgot to say what the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie) did, which was a mistake. Of course he brought forth a bill which gives $10 million more to some people below age 65 who are in need, but it will cover only 5,000 people, not more. It is good, but there is nothing in it to think that this is very generous and extraordinary. It seems to me that it is to buy peace. It is nothing to me, until I see proof that the Tory government, the new government in Canada, is ready to make choices which will show its real colour.

The Minister of National Health and Welfare made a mistake; he accepted the envelope system at Jasper. That envelope system has a very bad disadvantage. It freezes the status quo of official direct expenditures, but it does not take into account the indirect expenditures through the tax system. That is the mistake which the minister and his colleagues have made. What is worse-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I regret that I must interrupt the hon. member, but it being close to 9.45 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier this day, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith the question necessary to dispose of the bill now before the House. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Motion agreed to and bill read the third time and passed.

November 22, 1979

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink

PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION


English] A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 40 deemed to have been moved.


THE CANADIAN CONSTITUTION-REQUEST FOR RESTORATION OF TELLIER TASK FORCE TO PREPARE ANSWER TO WHITE PAPER ON SOVEREIGNTY-ASSOCIATION

LIB

Francis Fox

Liberal

Hon. Francis Fox (Blainville-Deux-Montagnes):

Mr. Speaker, on November 5 in response to a question I put to the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Clark), he indicated that it was not his intention or that of his government to respond to the separatist government's white paper on sovereignty-association, of which the sole interpretation can be described as a call for independence. Since the right hon. gentleman took office we have heard a great deal on his side of the House about the new attitudes he wishes to bring to federal-provincial relations. We have been told that concrete steps, rather than so-called confrontation politics, would be the hallmark of his government.

I would like to put a few questions to the right hon. Prime Minister and to his representative here this evening. I would like to ask him whether responding to the white paper, which he of course refuses to do, and to the inaccuracies and distortions within it, is indeed a question of confrontation? I would also like to ask him whether responding to the charge that federation has been a dismal failure is considered by him to be a confrontation? It seems to me that it is simply not enough for the Prime Minister of this country to say that he will not participate in the referendum debate in Quebec on the grounds that he is neither a citizen nor a resident of the province of Quebec. Indeed, this is an astounding stance for the man who holds the most senior position in government in this country.

I would like to tell the Prime Minister that it is not sufficient for him to state that sovereignty-association is not acceptable to his government. To date, the Prime Minister, who talks about taking concrete steps, has taken two negative steps. He has dismantled a group within the federal-provincial relations secretariat known as the Tellier group, which was in a position to respond to some of these distortions and inaccuracies and to set the record straight. Secondly, the Prime Minister has withdrawn the federal bill on the referendum.

While all this is happening on the federal side, we face a Quebec government which was elected on a platform of good government, not a platform to take Quebec out of confederation. We see that government unhesitatingly using public funds to spread its message of independence. On the other hand, on the other side of this House we have a government, which not only has a right but a sacred duty to promote Canadian unity, refusing to use public funds to set the record straight and to fight the referendum.

I would like to remind the Prime Minister that the course of action which he has chosen to date is not to take any action at

Adjournment Debate

all, and yet on the response to this challenge rests the future of this country as we know it today. It is not a Quebec question or a French question, as the Prime Minister seems to think it is. It is truly a Canadian question, and the real issue is not the separation of Quebec. The real issue is the future of Canada, Quebec being an important part of it.

The government has been remiss in its most sacred, most important duty. It has called its failures principles-the principle of not wishing to set the record straight, the principle of refusing to respond to the detractors of federalism, and the principle of not standing up for the country in this, the most trying year of its history.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN CONSTITUTION-REQUEST FOR RESTORATION OF TELLIER TASK FORCE TO PREPARE ANSWER TO WHITE PAPER ON SOVEREIGNTY-ASSOCIATION
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN CONSTITUTION-REQUEST FOR RESTORATION OF TELLIER TASK FORCE TO PREPARE ANSWER TO WHITE PAPER ON SOVEREIGNTY-ASSOCIATION
Permalink
PC

John William Bosley (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. John Bosley (Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be given this opportunity to respond to the question of the hon. member for Blainville-Deux-Montagnes (Mr. Fox) on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Clark) and the Minister of State for Federal-Provincial Relations (Mr. Jarvis). The part of the speech made by the hon. member that is true, is that it is not the intention of the government to publish a comprehensive document rebutting the Quebec government's white paper on sovereignty-association.

It seems to us that the opposition has not yet understood that our basic attitude toward the Quebec referendum has not, and will not, be determined primarily by the position of the government party in that province; it is based on our conception of what the federal authority of the federation should do in such circumstances, given its nature and its functions.

The Prime Minister again expressed our first role in the House on November 5, as reported at page 932 of Hansard:

In the months to come the federal government will take steps and make proposals which will continue to show Quebeckers that there is now in Ottawa a government ready to consider changes.

These changes will make federalism work better for the people of Quebec, as they will for those of other provinces.

The second role of the federal government, in our view, is to reduce conflicts and tensions between the federal authority and the Quebec government, and our deeds over the past six months have shown that this is not mere rhetoric. Our over-all efforts to improve the climate of federal-provincial relations are an integral part of what one might call our "strategy", vis-a-vis the Quebec referendum.

The government's third role is to remind all Canadians, first and foremost, of course, those of Quebec, that we must not allow the referendum being held in that province to become a national obsession. Whatever its outcome, that event will not have as its immediate consequence either the dismemberment of the country or the ultimate consolidation of Canadian unity. There again, the views of the government have been made quite clear, for quite some time, and many times. In short, the government trusts the people in Quebec, and believes that Quebeckers will ensure that their true preferences about their

November 22, 1979

Adjournment Debate

political future will be made clear-preferences which survey after survey has shown to be a continuance of the province's membership in the federation.

The people of Quebec know that the proposals of the government of Quebec are unacceptable to the federal government and to the other provinces of Canada. There has been no lack of examination of this document by politicians, interested groups and journalists. Their conclusions tend to stress that the document seriously misrepresents the history of our country and Quebec's participation in the development of Canada.

In our view it would be highly presumptuous for the federal government to prepare and distribute publications presuming, for example, to remind Quebeckers that some of the affairs in early Quebec history are expressed wrongly. I refer, for example, to the governmental reforms which led to the formation of Upper and Lower Canada. In short, the federal government believes it does not have to remind Quebeckers of the true events of their history.

Our essential job, the one for which only the federal government can provide the required leadership, is to show that Canadian federalism can be renewed quickly and for the better. That is our essential responsibility and we will not shirk it.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   THE CANADIAN CONSTITUTION-REQUEST FOR RESTORATION OF TELLIER TASK FORCE TO PREPARE ANSWER TO WHITE PAPER ON SOVEREIGNTY-ASSOCIATION
Permalink

AIRPORTS-EXPANSION OF MOUNT HOPE-HAMILTON AIRPORT-GOVERNMENT POSITION

PC

Geoffrey Douglas Scott

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Geoff Scott (Hamilton-Wentworth):

Mr. Speaker, over the years the late, great parliamentarian, the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker used to say to me "Never ask a question to which you don't know the answer in advance".

Well, sir, on October 31, during question period I asked the Minister of Transport (Mr. Mazankowski) a question on the long-awaited expansion of Mount Hope airport. Due to Mr. Diefenbaker's advice, I knew the answer I would receive in advance-that there would be no specific answer from the minister to the specific question I put to him, as reported at page 805 of Hansard for October 31, 1979:

In view of concern expressed by several mayors of Hamilton and the surrounding communities on behalf of many thousands of my constituents who have been faced for years with uncertainty about whether the airport would expand and, if so, in which direction, could the minister give the Hamilton-Wentworth area a clear indication of the kind, and direction, of expansion that his ministry is looking at-and how soon will it happen?

You will note, Mr. Speaker, that some anonymous interjection came from the other side, "What a set-up"! Well, the Minister of Transport did not know it was coming, hence a very brief, albeit encouraging reply, but that is why I am elaborating on my question this evening, in the hope of securing a more complete answer to a concern of the entire greater Hamilton area.

Let me very briefly set the stage for the answer that this House, I hope, will receive in a minute or two. Hamilton Civic Airport in my riding at Mount Hope is not what you would call one of Canada's more sophisticated or palatial terminals,

nor is our one main runway receiving rave reviews from any pilot who has, within the past few years, tried to land or take off in anything more modern than a DC-3.

To put it more bluntly, the people of Hamilton and any visitors to the industrial capital of Canada, find our ticky-tacky tin-shack terminal either a disgrace or laughable. And any pilot with more than 100 hours' flying experience-let alone the fellows who operate Nordair's 727 and 737 regularly-scheduled aircraft several times a day in and out of Hamilton-will testify that they are operating under primitive landing conditions, especially for a metropolitan area like Hamilton, and a vast and important region such as south and southwestern Ontario.

The problem is real. It has been recognized by several successive governments, for ten or 11 years now. The previous administration did a lot of studying of the expansion of Mount Hope Airport. Boy, did they study! I could never keep count of the kind and importance of studies conducted through the years on expanding Hamilton Airport. These were the latest: Air Quality Study March, 1976; Comparative Environmental Assessment, Study of Alternate Airport Sites at Hamilton, March, 1976; Hamilton Airport Agricultural Study, April, 1976, Hamilton Airport Social-Economic Impact Study, May, 1976; Hamilton Airport Social-Economic Impact Study, January, 1977; and a noise Evaluation Study which I believe is still under way.

In other words, Mr. Speaker, in the not necessarily immortal but nonetheless apt words spoken by Hamilton Mayor John A. MacDonald, "Every bullfrog in every bullrush around Mount Hope has been studied to death." It is true. There have been some 27 to 29 different studies on Mount Hope airport. There now exists the threat of yet another formal hearing of the Environmental Review Board, which could delay things for another few months.

It is this constant delay that is greatly irritating and upsetting my constituents, Mr. Speaker. Many hundreds of people have been in a chronic state of uncertainty in terms of expropriation of their land, and their potential discomfort in terms of aircraft noise levels, traffic patterns and so on, depending on which layout concept the federal Minister of Transport decides upon.

Adding to the frustrations of not only the people in the immediate environs of the proposed expansion, Mr. Speaker, but of the whole Hamilton-Wentworth region, were the empty promises of the previous administration about the great things coming to my area. The former minister of transport, Mr. Lang, created considerable excitement when he touted a $90 million expenditure to expand Hamilton airport.

Well, we have discovered that while the Liberals did an awful lot of talking about it, they were not ready to put their money where their mouths were. Had the former government allocated even half of what they promised in the spending estimates of 1977 or 1978, construction toward some form of expansion of Hamilton airport might have begun long before now.

November 22, 1979

Mind you, their concept, had the funds been allocated at all, would have ended up as the most expensive proposal. An ad hoc citizens' committee had recommended a concept known as 10-4 as being environmentally more acceptable than the then government's chosen 10-3 concept. You would have to live in the Mount Hope vicinity to appreciate the difference of these concepts to the people 1 represent. I should point out that Glanbrook and Ancaster are lovely areas.

After all talk and no action on behalf of the Liberals, 1 was delighted to play host at Mount Hope airport to the government's federal Minister of Transport, the hon. member for Vegreville, a bare six weeks after this new administration took over. The minister slipped quietly into Hamilton airport in late July, toured the facilities, met with the two very concerned mayors of the communities most affected by the proposed expansion, Her Worship Ann Sloat of Ancaster, His Worship Don Weylie of Glanbrook. It was the first time a federal transport minister had ever personally attempted to get a handle on the physical situation affecting Mount Hope and Ancaster and the people I have the honour to represent. I want to say here publicly in this chamber how much I am indebted to the minister for interrupting his incredibly busy schedule to give his personal attention to our problem. However, it remains a problem for Hamilton-Wentworth, a big problem for our area, this unholy delay in letting my constituents know what is going to happen, and when.

As the former right hon. member for Prince Albert used to say-know the answer before you ask the question. I do know one part of the answer. I know that the expansion of Hamilton civic airport is a number one priority on the minister's desk. My question to the Ministry of Transport is: what is going to happen, how soon, or how much later?

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   AIRPORTS-EXPANSION OF MOUNT HOPE-HAMILTON AIRPORT-GOVERNMENT POSITION
Permalink
PC

Ronald Stuart (Ron) Ritchie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ron Ritchie (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, 1 am pleased to be able to respond on behalf of the Minister of Transport (Mr. Mazankowski) to the comments made and questions asked by the hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth (Mr. Scott). As the hon. member noted, the expansion of the Hamilton airport at Mount Hope is a high priority, and I can assure him that detailed plans will be announced once the airport master plan is developed and approved, which we expect will be early next year.

In preparation for the expansion, improvements are continuing. The Minister of Transport expects to be able to announce the award of contracts for improvements to the parking lot and access road later this year. Early next year he hopes to announce the award of contracts for runway work. This should be a major step in improving the capabilities of this airport in advance of the initiation of the major development program.

The minister has had representations from several groups and organizations from the Hamilton area, all generally favouring the development but concerned various aspects of it. I know that he has taken these into consideration in reviewing the current state of plans for the expansion, and I believe that we will be able to develop this airport in a manner that will

Adjournment Debate

accommodate most of the expressed concerns and still ensure a viable airport operation. This will also be done in the most financially efficient manner possible.

The expansion will not take place overnight. At the present time we expect that it will not be until the spring of 1984 that we will have it completed, but on site construction of expansion projects should begin next fall. The further development of the Hamilton airport at Mount Hope should prove to be of major benefit to the people of the Hamilton-Niagara-Brantford area. It will permit expanded air services commensurate with Hamilton's being an important Canadian urban centre. No longer should it be necessary for residents of this area to have to rely on Toronto international airport because of a lack of airport facilities at Mount Hope.

Studies of requirements for airport facilities for the Hamilton-Niagara-Brantford area have been going on for years now and one result is, as the hon. member noted, that the expansion of the airport is long overdue. I want to assure the hon. member that we intend to proceed with the new facilities at Hamilton as quickly as practicable, with due regard for the realistic requirements for additional facilities.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   AIRPORTS-EXPANSION OF MOUNT HOPE-HAMILTON AIRPORT-GOVERNMENT POSITION
Permalink

FINANCE-HIGH INTEREST RATES-STEPS TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESS

LIB

Donald James Johnston

Liberal

Mr. Donald J. Johnston (Saint-Henri-Westmount):

Mr. Speaker, on November 20 I directed a series of questions to the Minister of Finance. The supplementary question I asked was in part as follows: Referring to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie) I asked:

I wonder if he would give consideration to the report of the Canadian Tax Foundation to the minister of finance back in, 1 believe, 1977 to try to modify this rule-

That is the rule of budgetary secrecy.

-so that we can carry on a more meaningful dialogue in this House during the pre-budget period.

It was a very serious question, one that deserved serious consideration by the minister, the Department of Finance, and members of this House, for a number of reasons which I will outline. Unfortunately, I did not receive a serious or thoughtful response to that question. If you refer to page 1487 of Hansard you will see that the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie) said:

Mr. Speaker, after the last 16 years it is certainly nice to hear that hon. members opposite want to loosen up on budget secrecy and secrecy in general. They were the paragons of secrecy. I am glad to see they have been converted.

And so on and so forth. I am delighted that this evening we have with us the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Ritchie). I might say that in the past I have been very satisfied by his replies on other matters.

One might say I have an axe to grind here because the report to which I have just made reference was a report of a committee struck by the Canadian Tax Foundation at the suggestion of the then minister of finance, the Hon. Donald

November 22, 1979

Adjournment Debate

Macdonald. I was a member of that committee-it was a small committee of six people and we worked at some length to develop a program for the minister and the department to consider so as to determine whether this rule of budgetary secrecy could not somehow be modified to the advantage of the parliamentary system.

The rule today is an anachronism. There are many complex provisions in finance bills coming before this House which could easily be divulged to the public in advance so as to permit thorough and complete discussion of changes designed to modify in a structural or a major way the income tax system or, for that matter, any part of the tax system-1 was particularly interested in the income tax system. But the rule has become entrenched in our procedure, Mr. Speaker.

One has only to think back to the celebrated case of Hugh Dalton in 1947. On his way to the House to deliver his budget address Mr. Dalton, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a comment to a journalist about the budget changes he intended to introduce. The news immediately went out to the papers-in fact they were on the street at the time he was delivering his budget-and he resigned the next day notwithstanding the fact that no one had suffered or been advantaged by the disclosure. This gives us an indication of how far the rule of secrecy has been carried, to the detriment, I submit, of the parliamentary process.

There are several problems to be overcome. The first is the conception of major tax pians. These plans are now made by a small group of individuals, for the most part in the Department of Finance, and as we pointed out in our report it would indeed be unusual for a minister of finance to have the expertise and background which would enable him to assess the full implications of many of the proposals in question.

Another problem is that submissions to the Department of Finance made by individuals and groups across the country are not necessarily public. So a submission made by one group which might be to the detriment of the interest of another group would probably never come to the attention of the other group. Hence, the adversary process, which is such an important part of our system in terms of developing adequate legislation, is subverted. In fact it is ignored.

We made a number of specific recommendations. One of them dealt with the problem we have here in the House of Commons. Finance bills go to the Committee of the Whole and, as we know from the exercise we went through in connection with Bill C-17 several weeks ago, nothing is more complex today than income tax legislation. Yet the bill is taken in Committee of the Whole where no experts can be summoned to testify, no outside counselling can be obtained. It is thrust upon the members of the House and, as a number of speakers pointed out at the time, they can hardly be expected to understand and appreciate the complexity of legislation of this kind along with its implications. So one of the recommendations fundamental to our report is that technical legislation should either be separated from policy considerations, if you like, and referred to a standing committee, preferably the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs

or to a subcommittee of that group which would have the opportunity to examine witnesses from the private sector, to examine it fully and avoid the prospect of innumerable amendments.

I do not have the exact number here with me, but I counted them some years ago, and the number of amendments arising out of the 1971 tax reform bill exceeded something like 2,000 amendments at that time. Much of this could be avoided by opening up this process and making these bills available for scrutiny in committee. That is fundamental, I think, to a proper understanding and analysis of fiscal legislation.

I therefore will repeat my question and hope that I might obtain a more sensible answer from the parliamentary secretary. Would the minister and the department consider looking at the report and bringing to the House and to the attention of the public in some manner, their response to that report? That report represented many months of intensive work and investigation by members of the committee, and particularly by the people responsible for the final draft, and I think it would be a shame if that valuable exercise under the auspices of the Canadian Tax Foundation were to be ignored. I ask the parliamentary secretary to respond to that request.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   FINANCE-HIGH INTEREST RATES-STEPS TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESS
Permalink
PC

Ronald Stuart (Ron) Ritchie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ron Ritchie (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Saint Henri-Westmount (Mr. Johnston) was kind enough earlier today to give me some advance warning of the particular direction of his comments tonight, and I appreciate that very much.

As we all know, under the tradition under which we have been living, it is the unique responsibility of the Minister of Finance to provide details of any tax measures planned for the government's budget, and it is up to him under that tradition to make the decision as to whether any early disclosure of a particular measure will be in the best interest of the nation as a whole. As I am sure the hon. member knows, there are good reasons for this.

The hon. member during his very serious question referred to the report of the Canadian Tax Foundation on the budget process and budget secrecy. I am sure he will be glad to know that this report has been receiving very serious consideration from the department, and that the minister is giving it very serious consideration. At this point I am sure the hon. member would not expect me to give a detailed assessment of how far that consideration has gone because it is such a complex subject, but I can say that the minister is very strongly disposed toward as open a budgetary process as possible, having regard to the possible dangers of premature disclosure of particular measures.

That being said, as far as I can go tonight is to say that at this point the original question the hon. member asked about the treatment of small business under the forthcoming budget will have to await what the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie) says on budget night.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   FINANCE-HIGH INTEREST RATES-STEPS TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESS
Permalink
LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Motion agreed to and the House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.

Friday, November 23, 1979

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   FINANCE-HIGH INTEREST RATES-STEPS TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESS
Permalink

November 22, 1979