April 17, 1980

PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

We had a policy, but you did not give us time to implement it.

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?

An hon. Member:

That's your problem.

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PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

It was your motion, but if you wish to interrupt and get on to last year's problems-

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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I regret to interrupt, but would the hon. member address his remarks to the Chair?

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PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

We have heard talk, Mr. Speaker, of heritage funds. Saskatchewan, as well as Alberta, has a heritage fund, although it is not as large as Alberta's fund. It is not one tenth as large as Alberta's heritage fund. Saskatchewan's heritage fund contains approximately $600 million which is broken down into $350,000 in cash, $18 million in investments, and the balance invested in Saskatchewan government corporations which pay no interest and therefore there is no return to the people of Saskatchewan.

The pricing system of our resources must be based on the same pricing system as that of the other provinces. Why is there an export tax for the sale of oil outside Canada? There is no export tax on the sale of hydroelectric power from Quebec to the United States. There is no export tax on gold exported from Ontario. There is no tax on Ontario's nickel or Quebec's asbestos, so why is there an export tax on oil? I am sorry to have mentioned this fact, because with the present government's inclination toward taxation it will probably tax the products of the provinces that I have mentioned.

What do we produce in the province of Saskatchewan? We produce grain which is sold on the world market at the world price, the price which the farmer can get. When we buy goods in Canada, it is under the protection of a tariff. When we try to sell all our oil resources it must be according to a blended price, not a world price! Saskatchewan has shared greatly with the rest of Canada and will continue to share, but we do not like to have our resources treated in the export market differently from the resources of the rest of the country. We would like to have our resources treated in the same way. We do not have a blended price for nickel or asbestos, but a price which the market will bear.

With the present government's lack of commitment to energy self-sufficiency, we will continue to pay large subsidies for the importation of oil into Canada. We in western Canada pay for the subsidy through taxation, and we do not receive the world price for our resources. That is not fair. It is not what Confederation is about, and it is not acceptable to the people of Saskatchewan nor, I am sure, to the other provinces.

Another major resource in Saskatchewan is uranium. The premier of Saskatchewan has spent millions of the taxpayers' dollars to develop this resource. But we cannot develop uranium or the other minerals found in our province unless we know that they will not be taken away from us. We cannot continue

April 17, 1980

to put our tax dollars into development and have it taken out by having to share through lower prices to the rest of Canada.

A great deal of concern has been expressed by some members of the CLC and NDP about development in other countries. I would like the members from Saskatchewan in that party to express the concerns of their constituents for the development of their regions. I hope that they will express these concerns to their leader so that we can get on and develop our part of Canada and contribute to the rest of Canada.

We have made a contribution to Canada, and we will continue to contribute.

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?

An hon. Member:

Practise what you preach.

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PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

I hear some members saying "practise what you preach". Western Canada, through its oil resources, has contributed and will continue to contribute up to $20 million in subsidies to the rest of Canada. Another form of contribution which we make is the two-price wheat system. For those hon. members who do not understand what it is, the two-price wheat system is a system through which the western wheat farmers subsidize the consumers of Canada in the price of bread. This is costing the western Canadian grain farmer over $50 million a year, approximately $1 million a week.

The interest rate is higher now than it has ever been in the history of Canada. The Speech from the Throne recognizes the problem but offers no solution. The burden felt by the farmer and small businessmen of Saskatchewan cannot continue. We presented a small development loan plan which would have substantially reduced the cost of interest to the farm and business communities of Canada. Right now the Farm Credit Corporation is short by $50 million in its funding, $50 million more than it would have been had our government stayed in power. The interest rate for the FCC is 13 per cent. This is the highest in its history, and it comes at a time when there has been a net decrease in farm income in the province of Saskatchewan over the past three years. The effect on farmers is devastating.

Farmers, both young and old, are being forced to sell their land. Unfortunately, in Saskatchewan their land is being sold to the Saskatchewan Land Bank. They are selling to the land bank, which is a system whereby government owns the land and the farmer is a tenant. This is the only option open to some of the young and older farmers in the province of Saskatchewan. If the goal of the government of Saskatchewan is to assist individuals in farming they could do it, presumably, by allowing the farmer to hold the mortgage. That way he would be able to build up equity and eventually own his farm, but there is a socialistic insistence by this government that it own the land. Right now this policy has made the province of Saskatchewan the largest holder of cultivated land in Canada. Over one million acres are owned and controlled by that government.

April 17, 1980

To add insult to injury, the province of Saskatchewan will take freedom away from people who love freedom, from people who came to this country as individuals to make their mark, to better themselves, and make a better life for their families. The Saskatchewan government has set up a committee to study the size of farms, and to limit individual ownership in the province. This is intervention in private life. 1 know that hon. members opposite are not concerned about government intervention because in the throne speech I noticed the creation of four more Crown corporations.

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NDP

John Edward Broadbent

New Democratic Party

Mr. Broadbent:

In Alberta?

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PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

Four more Crown corporations, Mr. Speaker, and then they make the statement that the people do not want less government but that they want more efficient government. If the record continues as it has in the past, it will not be more efficient, it will be more expensive government.

1 hear a member of the New Democratic Party asking what about Alberta? Well, what about Alberta? We in Saskatchewan know the meaning of government bureaucracy because we have the highest percentage of government employees for our population, west of Ontario. In Ontario it is .99 per cent; in Manitoba, 1.13 per cent; in British Columbia, 1.42 per cent; in Alberta, 2.41 per cent, while Saskatchewan has 2.79 per cent of the population employed by the government.

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?

An hon. Member:

They are a bunch of socialists.

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PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I think they are a bunch of socialists!

It was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne that the Post Office was to be made a Crown Corporation. Apparently that is a brand new idea. As I recall, a member of our party was commissioned to do a study of the Post Office. He recommended that it be made a Crown corporation and, Mr. Speaker, if we had continued in office we would have moved in that direction.

I should like to refer to the present situation in Saskatchewan, Mr. Speaker. I know the Postmaster General (Mr. Ouellet) would not understand the postal service in Saskatchewan. I am sure he understands it in Papineau and Montreal, but he does not understand it in rural Saskatchewan. The condition of the post office buildings and the working conditions of the post office employees are abysmal-

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?

An hon. Member:

Pathetic.

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PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

Somebody said pathetic, so maybe I could use both words. I suggest to the Postmaster General that he should look at some of these post offices and try to find a washroom, a bright interior-try to find anything in a post office in rural Saskatchewan in my riding of Kindersley-Lloyd-minster that would make it a pleasant experience to work there, or that would make employees happy and comfortable in their jobs.

The Address-Mr. McKnight

That is not the worst of it, however. Now they want to close up on Saturdays and at noon hour. People in rural Saskatchewan drive 20 miles and further to pick up their mail. When you drive 20 miles to pick up your mail you would like to do something else as well. The social and economic problems that will be created by post offices in rural Saskatchewan closing on Saturdays will be the death of some small communities. I know the Postmaster General is concerned with the quality of life in the new suburbs and the cities, and that he is concerned with daily door to door delivery. But when we in Saskatchewan and rural Canada pay 17 cents to mail a letter or a postcard, we at least deserve an open building when we go there to get our mail. I should like the minister to visit these post offices; indeed, he should spend a day in one.

I have an example of the patient waiting of people in Saskatchewan. In a letter to me dated April 8, 1980, the town of Landis informed me that the federal government has been considering upgrading the postal facilities at Landis since 1964. The people of the community forwarded a petition in 1978 requesting improvements, and to date they have not received an adequate response saying when they may expect some action. They are patient; they are in no hurry; it is only 12 years since they asked, and another 12 years later on they will have the same old rundown post office building, and I am sure they will petition again.

Is it any wonder that there is a feeling of alienation in western Canada? Is it any wonder, considering the callous disregard for regional aspirations in all parts of the country apparent in the Speech from the Throne, that the people of Canada arc dissatisfied to the point of wanting to withdraw- to break up Canada? In my part of Canada we have concern. So that hon. members opposite and this government may understand that it is not just one region of Canada that is concerned, I should like to read from the Montreal Gazette of April 15, as follows:

In the western provinces, he said, 32 per cent of the population favour the status quo, compared with 33 per cent in Quebec; 58 per cent of westerners favour change in the form of renewed federalism or independence compared with 59 per cent in Quebec; and 10 per cent of westerners favour joining the U.S. compared with eight per cent of Quebeckers.

These are the figures of the Canada West Foundation given by Stanley Roberts, the former leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba.

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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member but the time allotted to him has expired. He may continue with unanimous consent of the House. Is there unanimous consent?

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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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?

An hon. Member:

Tell us about Dick Collver.

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PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKnight:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and 1 should like to indicate my appreciation to my colleagues. My remarks will be brief. I shall try to explain my point of view and my feelings toward our country.

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April 17, 1980

The Address-Mrs. Beauchamp-Niquet

1 have expressed the concern from my region of Canada and I feel they are valid concerns. I am speaking for myself, but I sense that particularly among my French Canadian friends there is often a feeling that those of us not from Quebec may not understand and may not care about what happens in that province. Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that those of us not from Quebec also understand the problems of Quebec.

I agree with the hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. Mackasey) who said that by being members of Parliament we will be enriched and will have opportunities that we may not otherwise have had. My colleagues in this party, and the leader of this party, are trying to bring insight and understanding to the aspirations of the people of Quebec, even though they do not live there.

I would implore all sides of this House, particularly those responsible for developing policies and constitutional changes, not to ignore what might be said by those who do not come from Quebec, because we do care about Canada, we do care about Quebec. As a Canadian who has lived most of his adult life in Saskatchewan, 1 care that Quebec stays in Canada. 1 want to say to my fellow-Canadians who live in Quebec: stay in Canada. "Dit Oui". Say no. We want you. We need you.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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LIB

Suzanne Beauchamp-Niquet

Liberal

Mrs. Suzanne Beauchamp-Niquet (Roberval):

Mr. Speaker, when we went before the Canadian people last winter, we stated what would be the meaning of our policies if we were re-elected. A few days ago, the throne speech confirmed our intentions of solving the problems experienced by the majority in a way which would favour the majority.

In short, the government has kept its word, as we commonly say. The policy statement of the government introduces realistic measures for all of us, including the communities in the Saguenay and Lake St. John area. That region is one of the most typical and owing to its physical geography and its social fabric, it is one of those parts of the country which could be self-sufficient, if its people so decided. This is surely a caricatural description. However, it explains the character of its inhabitants who have learned to rely on themselves before depending on some external aid.

Madam Speaker, the economy of the region depends, like other outlying regions of Quebec and Canada, on the development of natural resources. In the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean area forestry, mining and hydroelectric industries are predominant. A secondary industry based on these resources has been developed.

After a period of stagnation in the 1960s, the seventies saw a slight increase in population, although lower than the Quebec average. The main centres, towns like Alma, La Baie, Chicoutimi, Jonquiere, as well as the towns in my riding of Roberval, namely Roberval, St-Felicien, Normandin, Mistassini and Dolbeau, of which I am the mayor, encompass about 80 per cent of the total population of the area, which is of approximately 300,000. As in other Quebec regions, and I am thinking here of eastern Quebec, the migration of young people towards Quebec City and Montreal shows that there is still room for improvement and that the people's ingenuity deserves the attention of central governments.

in 1977, Mr. Speaker, in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, the personal disposable income was 9 per cent lower than the Quebec average and a labour market survey shows that unemployment is far greater than that of Quebec in general. Earnings, as far as employment is concerned, are in the manufacturing industry, especially following the opening of the Donahue plant in St-Felicien, and in the building sector. Since its implementation some months ago, the Alcan development project in Ville-de-la-Baie for example has created over 500 jobs. Besides creating hundreds of jobs, the taxation data centre of Revenue Canada in Jonquiere opens interesting opportunities for the available manpower.

However, Mr. Speaker, despite these important efforts made at developing our region, the backbone of our economy-I am referring to our forestry, mining and hydro industries-require constant attention. Our prosperity depends closely on the development and processing of our resources in these three specialized sectors. But as production becomes more and more specialized, it gets more and more dependent upon the efficiency of government policies and the fluctuations of international markets. Given the fact that these three industries are largely dependent upon government actions, I look forward to the establishment of a coherent industrial policy on the development of remote areas.

In another vein, the emphasis put by the government of Canada on the use of sources of energy other than oil-and I am thinking here, Mr. Speaker, about energy produced from wood scraps, bark, for example-can only promote the competitive accounting of production costs. The consolidation of access roads as envisaged in the Speech from the Throne will provide another element of rationalization of transportation costs which, as everyone knows, are constantly on the rise.

So we can anticipate in the rather near future a framework likely to reassure the main participants in those sectors. 1 note with relief the possible gradual conversion of enormous investments made available in the form of social programs into more productive investments, particularly, as already pointed out by the present Minister of Regional Economic Expansion (Mr. De Bane), in so far as an industrial strategy will be solidly backed by fiscal and monetary measures more likely to promote reinvestment. I am assuming here a close relationship with the Department of Finance in any step towards regionalization, including the regionalization of the fiscal policy.

Mr. Speaker, the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area is known favourably as one of the places in Quebec where pride runs high and the sense of belonging to something is perhaps very

April 17, 1980

deeply rooted. A Jeannois or a Bleuet speaks loudly and does not go unnoticed. Such a will to overcome the humiliations suffered as a result of our remoteness has led us to answer those who reply yes, but your place is far away. Far away from what? It is right to say that we of the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean area are somewhat our own masters.

In that respect, Mr. Speaker, I would point out the unique testimony in our history of the setting up of Entraide Econo-mique, one of the more progressive financial institutions in Quebec. Started from a simple but good intention less than 20 years ago, that savings co-operative now handling billions of dollars has undoubtedly contributed more in at least the past ten years to the development of small and medium-sized businesses in our area and in Quebec as a whole than all levels of government put together. You know, Mr. Speaker, there is no miracle there.

But there was a certain Jacques Gagnon, a worker from our own region, who 20 years ago, having enlisted the help of other workers, was determined to do something and to enable the people of his own region to help themselves. These people I say have now regrouped around the new president, Mr. Eric Forest. They are still working very hard, not only at the regional level, but also at the provincial level, and I believe that they have now proven themselves completely.

I have quoted this particular example to illustrate what I consider the profound meaning of the present constitutional debate. The main issue concerns on the one hand the distribution of present powers, and on the other the coherent use of the powers already existing. In this regard, Mr. Speaker, in the eventuality of redistribution of jurisdictional areas, we have to take into account the irreversible upward thrust of the regions and I would even suggest, as Senator Maurice Lamontagne said, that no commitment to any constitutional change can be undertaken before we evaluate the impact of these regional characteristics on which our opportunities for economic, social and cultural development will increasingly depend. My experience within regional organizations and as head of a municipal government has convinced me and many others that the real debate does not concern a fight between central powers, but rather the means that those who hold these powers are willing to take to provide the members of regional communities with the control required to better develop the ways of meeting their regional needs.

The upcoming reality tends towards the virtual admission of "small is beautiful". Indeed, no constitutional changes should be initiated without respecting regional assets. And, when I think of regional powers, I refer to the latitude to which local communities could afford to go in the administrative process, in political and financial issues concerning the quality of life of all citizens of a region, normally defined by human and natural factors.

The Address-Mr. Deans

Mr. Speaker, in view of the trends which I have listed, I would support any proposal to renew our political equilibrium which would take into account the true aspirations of the citizens. The political history of Quebec in this regard and the disequilibrium it is now causing in the Canadian structure do not in my view provide the whole context of the problem. The separation of Quebec would not solve anything, but could well delay the granting of the regional powers which are so important for our communities, and my region is certainly not the least concerned in this matter. The political separation of Quebec from the Canadian nation would bring about an undeniable flow of centralization towards Quebec City at the expense of the regions, and the process has already begun with Act 57 on municipal reform, Mr. Speaker. This eventuality can be verified by the consequences of jurisdictional reorganizations which a sovereign Quebec would have to face.

The mood and the temper in the Canadian government as well as in that of Quebec, temper which has been obvious for several years already, would threaten to abort and minimize, if not contradict, reality. The same phenomenon in other parts of Canada, if they too decided to copy the behaviour of present day Quebec leaders, would provoke a comparable imbalance. Still, Mr. Speaker, those other areas express their regional needs energetically without rejecting the federal formula for political organization. Of course, some will say that Quebec is a different province. I recognize that. But how is it different? In that we are Francophones, but if we have survived to this day, it may be that some protection spared us from becoming the fourth underdeveloped state of northern United States.

Mr. Speaker, as a Quebecker, proud to be a Quebecker and proud to be a Canadian, I want to repeat to this House what I said throughout my election campaign: I consider myself every bit as much of a Quebecker as any woman who is a member of the PQ in the province of Quebec. 1 am Quebecker and, as 1 have already said, I am proud to be a Quebecker, and I want to remain a Quebecker in a united Canada.

[English |

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NDP

Ian Deans

New Democratic Party

Mr. Ian Deans (Hamilton Mountain):

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to be here. I have looked forward to this day for some time, as you can appreciate, having watched the workings of the federal Parliament for a long number of years.

1 first want to congratulate Madam Speaker on the assumption of her new role, and to say that if the last two or three days are any indication of the way in which she will handle the business of the House, she is to be commended for the way she has picked up and assumed that role.

I also want to congratulate all members who are either returned or have been elected for the first time. 1 know as a first-time member how exciting it is to get elected to Parliament, and how important the role is that we all have to play. I want to say to the constitutents who trooped out to the polls on election day and voted in vast numbers to send me here that I hope I will provide them whith the kind of satisfaction and

April 17, 1980

The Address-Mr. Deans

leadership they anticipated and that, in the final analysis, they will find what I have done here on their behalf will be to their liking and they might even consider sending me back, which is unusual for the constituency that I represent.

1 do not intend to dwell at great length on the constituency, although I want to point out a couple of things that are important in terms of what my constituents feel about both government and Parliament. To begin with, I sent out a little questionnaire not long after the election. 1 asked them to explain to me what they felt were the important matters that should be dealt with by this government and what they expected of me in terms of what I should be saying.

It came through loud and clear that the primary concern of the majority of people, all of whom are very hardworking and have spent a great deal of time trying to build their place in the Hamilton community, is the impact of interest rates, not only in terms of mortgages, although that would be one of the primary concerns, but also in terms of the purchasing power that they are losing day by day to the ever-increasing mortgage interest rate and the ever-increasing consumer rate that they are going to have to pay and, indeed, are now paying.

They are also expressing a concern about the impact of that on jobs as they are unable to find the necessary consumer dollars to buy the goods that they normally would purchase. They know, as I know, as any member here knows, that the impact of that on the people who are working and producing those consumer products that would normally be purchased, is a very great impact indeed. Over the course of the next short while, because of the reduction in purchasing power that the higher and higher interest rates are bringing about, there will undoubtedly be a reduction in the manufacturing sector. That reduction will mean fewer people working. As one person said to me, as fewer people work, those of us who can find jobs will be required to pay even more in order to maintain the structures that we have set up.

It seems to me, and to a lot of people like me in this country, that it is vital that this Parliament address itself immediately to the problem of high interest rates. The cost of purchasing in terms of what must be paid in interest alone has gone all out of proportion. I expect to hear better from the Minister of Finance (Mr. MacEachen) than his statements which, frankly, made no sense in the last two days when he spoke about the small number of people who may be assisted by a mortgage interest program. He spoke about the others who will simply have to bear the burden and find a way to pay it. I know my constituents do not agree with that, and 1 want to make it clear to the Minister of Finance on their behalf that I do not agree with it either.

The high cost of living, which is a subject rarely addressed, exacts its toll on pensioners, on low and middle income families attempting to find their own way. It is time Parliament set aside a block of time to deal with the components which make up the ever-increasing cost of living. It is time members set aside time to speak to each other and to the government about

what specific actions might reasonably be taken to control the ever increasing cost of living because, unless we do, we shall find that the industrial base of the country is being undermined-less and less of the money people earn will be available for the purchase of the things we produce across the country, and if we cannot buy what we produce because we have to tie up so much of the money which is available simply to provide the essentials, then obviously the effect will once again be a reduction in manufacturing and employment.

We must ever be cautious that we do not allow the cost of the essential part of life-housing, food, medical care, education-to reach such outrageous proportions in terms of capacity to earn that people having nothing left to spend on other and more enjoyable but, nevertheless, in our society from an economic point of view, equally important areas in which money ought to be spent.

I want to say a brief word about the problems in Quebec. I do not understand them well, I must confess, and I say to my colleagues from Quebec, not being from Quebec, that it is difficult to be truly understanding of what is happening in that province. I would have liked, tonight, to say a word or two in French, but I say to you, quite truthfully, Mr. Speaker, that had I done that I would not have understood it and, perhaps, neither would you. But I have enrolled in a French class and some day before this Parliament is over 1 swear I will stand here and do it, believe me.

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April 17, 1980