May 2, 1985

?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   SUGGESTED AMENDMENT RESPECTING REGISTRATION OF PROVINCIAL AMATEUR SPORT ORGANIZATIONS
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PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 45 deemed to have been moved.


YELLOWHEAD HIGHWAY-REQUEST FOR DESIGNATION AS NATIONAL HIGHWAY

PC

John Kenneth Gormley

Progressive Conservative

Mr. John Gormley (The Battlefords-Meadow Lake):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to take part in the adjournment debate this evening on an issue of great importance to many people, not only to the western Canadian Provinces of Manitoba through to British Columbia but to my own town of The Battlefords, Saskatchewan, and many communities that extend across our great western area of Canada.

The issue I would like to address is the status of the Yellowhead Highway. This highway is western Canada's major interprovincial highway. It spans over one-half of continental Canada and is over 3,106 kilometres in length. It begins in Winnipeg, Manitoba, connects with Merritt and Prince Rupert, B.C., and extends to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

As early as the 1870s, Sir Sandford Fleming identified the Yellowhead Pass as "the most accessible route through the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean". Many of us who were raised and grew up along the Yellowhead Highway have seen this highway as one of the most basic forms of communication. Before the emergence of the electronic mass media, even before there were telephones or telegraphs, the most basic form of communication was the roadway. Those of us who have lived along the Yellowhead Highway see this as an integral part of communication. A highway transports people across western Canada and, in areas like my home town, it encourages a high degree of tourist travel and encourages people to stop and to stay awhile to enjoy northwestern Saskatchewan and the rest of western Canada.

There is the concern that I have raised in Question Period of the federal Government's commitment to the Yellowhead

May 2, 1985

Adjournment Debate

Highway. This highway, although recognized by many travellers as one of the foremost major methods of road transportation in western Canada, is not officially designated for federal assistance. For that reason, there has not been a commitment by the federal Government in the past to provide funding to build twin lanes on this very important highway.

In my community of The Battlefords, which is a major stopping point on the Yellowhead Highway, an average of 5,750 vehicles travelled through it in 1983 when the last statistics were taken. This made our community the second most travelled community behind Saskatoon on the Yellow-head Highway. It gives great credence to the claim by many of us that the Yellowhead Highway for western Canadian travel is now surpassing the Trans-Canada. The Trans-Canada, of course, is recognized presently by federal initiatives and federal funding.

There is an organization called the Yellowhead Highway Association that represents over 100 rural municipalities and counties and towns and cities that lie along the Yellowhead Highway. The Yellowhead Highway Association has been very actively involved in recent years-with the Progressive Conservative Government of 1979, with the Liberal Government thereafter, and now with our new Government-in talking with Members of Parliament and Ministers of Transport about the importance of the Yellowhead Highway to the economy, tourism and growth of western Canada.

I would like to put forth, with the strongest degree of conviction, my belief in why the Government must see to it that the Yellowhead Highway is designated as a national highway and, further, that there is some funding committed for the twin-laning of this highway. I recognize, along with many good and concerned Canadians in the Yellowhead Highway Association, that the degree of federal involvement, given limited financial resources, is something that will not happen tomorrow or the day after. However, I would like to request of the Government that every serious consideration be given to designating the Yellowhead Highway as a national highway and to securing the much needed funding.

When one looks at the Yellowhead Highway and the service it has provided to the people of western Canada, one discovers that the Yellowhead Highway Association goes back to 1921. Over 60 years ago people recognized this highway for the good means of transportation that it was, and it has been for over 60 years that people of the western Canadian towns and villages have asked the federal Government to do something about it. The Yellowhead Highway, among many other gains and benefits which it provides to road travellers in western Canada, also provides a very good means of transportation through the Rocky Mountains. Having travelled this road many times, I can attest for those who have not had the opportunity to travel it that it is indeed one of the most scenic routes through western Canada. The Trans-Canada Highway in the 12 years from 1970 to 1982 was closed for a total of over 2,000 hours because of snowslides and snowfalls, whereas the Yellowhead

Highway was closed for 50 hours. Obviously we see the benefit of mountain travel and regular, consistent travel which adds to the movement of goods and services, to tourism and to the basic link of communication, people being able to see one another throughout western Canada and taking advantage of one another's offerings, lifestyles, businesses and communities.

I ask the Government to give very serious consideration to the designation of the Yellowhead Highway as a national highway and to give every consideration to the much needed funding.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   YELLOWHEAD HIGHWAY-REQUEST FOR DESIGNATION AS NATIONAL HIGHWAY
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PC

Gabrielle Bertrand (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Gabrielle Bertrand (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the Hon. Member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake (Mr. Gormley) in the name of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Forrestall).

The Yellowhead Highway is a link of the primary highway network and is becoming increasingly important to economic development in the western provinces. The highway runs from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. It follows a more northerly route than the Trans-Canada Highway and passes through Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper National Park and Prince George. A southern arm branches off the main route near the British Columbia-AIberta border at Tete Jaune Cache and terminates at Kamloops.

For several years the Yellowhead Highway Association, an interest group composed of communities located along the Yellowhead Highway, has made representations to have the highway upgraded under a federal-provincial cost-shared arrangement.

The Hon. Member will remember that the Government undertook discussions in 1979 with the four western provinces which sought agreement in principle for a multi-year Yellowhead Highway improvement program worth $ 120 million, with costs to be shared on a fifty-fifty federal-provincial basis. The Liberal Government chose not to pursue these discussions.

At the present time there are no federal-provincial highway agreements in place under which federal funding could be provided for the upgrading of this highway. In fact, all existing federal-provincial highway agreements are under review. These, too, are subject to the economic parameters within which we must work.

Indeed we are fortunate to have the present Minister of Transport (Mr. Mazankowski) note this worthy debate as he had a long and positive relationship with the Yellowhead Highway Association, and I am sure we can look forward to further productive discussions on this subject.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   YELLOWHEAD HIGHWAY-REQUEST FOR DESIGNATION AS NATIONAL HIGHWAY
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SOCIAL SECURITY-BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS AGED 60-64-EXCLUSION OF SINGLE, DIVORCED AND SEPARATED PERSONS

LIB

Jean-Claude Malépart

Liberal

Mr. Jean-Claude Malepart (Montreal-Sainte-Marie):

Mr. Speaker, on November 30, I asked a question to the Right

May 2, 1985

Hon. Prime Minister regarding Bill C-26. I recall that at the time, the legislation had not been tabled. It had been announced in the Throne Speech, and the economic statement that the Canadian Government intended to extend the spouse's allowance to single people but that unfortunately, it would only apply to widows and widowers, which was discriminating against older people who are single, separated or divorced and who have the same needs. I would like to quote the answer given by the Right Hon. Prime Minister:

I can inform the Hon. Member that our objective is to help those people in our society who are most in need, and I think that is the basic purpose of any decent social program in this country.

Mr. Speaker, we believe there is a real need for such measures among people between 60 and 64.

Mr. Speaker, at that time, the Prime Minister agreed to my request that the spouse's allowance should be extended to single people who are in need and whom he mentioned in his answer. He made no distinction between widows, widowers, single, divorced and separated persons. At that time, the Prime Minister agreed to the statement of the Canadian Welfare Council in its report of March 1985, where it said about the poverty level:

Single older people, those who are living alone or in a household where they have no relatives, have a greater chance of being poor. Recent data indicate that about 56 per cent of them, or 434,000, are poor. Almost half of women who are heads of single parent families live at poverty level.

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister had indicated at the time that the aim of his Government was to provide help to all Canadian men and women between 60 and 64 years of age who needed it the most, without differentiating between widows and widowers. What has happened, Mr. Speaker? Something entirely different. The Minister of National Health and Welfare has introduced a Bill which unfortunately restricted to widows and widowers the spouse allowance program which made it possible for these people who, year after year, had worked, paid income taxes, raised children and contributed to society, to get off welfare. This Conservative Government penalizes a great many Canadians, the vast majority of them women, simply because they have remained single or have been forced to separate. There is no more pitiful case than that of the poor woman abandoned by her husband and who must raise alone five or six children, provide them with a good education, and who is told, at 60, that she is not eligible to the spouse allowance because she could no longer stand her husband. I feel sorry for the Hon. Member who will have to deliver such a message in his office should this legislation not be amended, Mr. Speaker.

Last week, I talked about 80,000 people in need, according to the Department's own estimate, but the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Epp) questioned those figures at that time. 1 have them here, Mr. Speaker, and I say again that 80,000 needy persons between the ages of 60 and 64 are not

Adjournment Debate

being taken care of. Of this number, 37,000 separated persons will not be looked after and 45,000 single persons will be penalized if the Government maintains its position and does not revert to its former response as given to me on November last by the Prime Minister.

Government Members often stated that it is a matter of money, that they have no choice because of the deficit. But no Conservative Member ever rose to question the Government's financial capabilities when it became known that the Western Accord would cost $2.5 billion. Even they did not know what that accord was all about but they did applaud it all the same. Not one of them suggested that our deficit was too high. No one stood against changing the colour of the armed forces' uniforms because it would cost $56 million. I repeat that no Conservative Member opposed such actions or mentioned the deficit for that matter.

But when it comes to helping people in need, those who live on $430 a month, Mr. Speaker, they say that the cupboard is bare. Those are not wealthy people, Mr. Speaker, and the proposed increase would only provide them with $536 monthly. Such an increase is not likely to make them millionaires but the Conservative government is opposed to it. As far as they are concerned, they are only prepared to help one group of the population.

I did mention earlier that this government, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson), the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) and the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Epp) were indeed considering the costs of our social programs. The Conseil du patronat and spokesmen for the multinationals have been talking about the deficit, claiming that social programs must be watered down because they cost too much money, Mr. Speaker, but nobody talks about tax shelters.

There are tax benefits for people who contribute to Registered Retirement Savings Plans. But the head of a family or a mother who earns $35,000-or even if both work every week and earn about $40,000-cannot set aside 10 or 20 per cent of their income to contribute to an RRSP and reduce the tax load. Poor people cannot afford to do that. It is always the same class of citizens who can take advantage of it.

Mr. Speaker, I am anxious to hear the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary. Perhaps she will tell me that, as we are speaking, the Prime Minister has reconsidered the decision he mentioned in his first answer. He told me that elderly people between ages 60 and 64 are most in need, that those are the people he wanted to help without discriminating against people living alone and those who are separated.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SOCIAL SECURITY-BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS AGED 60-64-EXCLUSION OF SINGLE, DIVORCED AND SEPARATED PERSONS
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PC

Gabrielle Bertrand (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Gabrielle Bertrand (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, the proposal to extend spouse's allowance to all widowed individu-

May 2, 1985

Adjournment Debate

als aged 60 to 64 was a definite commitment made during the election campaign.

Nobody denies the fact that this group has been identified as one of the most vulnerable groups amongst all the 60 to 64 year olds who are not yet entitled to pension and need help. What surprises me is that a parliamentary task force on pensions, set up in previous years, has produced a report which recommended the measure we just passed. The Hon. member for Montreal-Sainte-Marie (Mr. Malepart) is so interested in social affairs that I suppose he was a member of that task force.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SOCIAL SECURITY-BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS AGED 60-64-EXCLUSION OF SINGLE, DIVORCED AND SEPARATED PERSONS
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LIB

Jean-Claude Malépart

Liberal

Mr. Malepart:

No.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SOCIAL SECURITY-BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS AGED 60-64-EXCLUSION OF SINGLE, DIVORCED AND SEPARATED PERSONS
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PC

Gabrielle Bertrand (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Bertrand:

That surprises me. I thought he would have been.

Then, I inform you that your committee, this task force set up by your party, proposed that very same idea. There is a real and urgent need to help that group, given the fact that more than 60 per cent of widows and widowers aged 60 to 64 would be eligible to the spouse's allowance program whose benefits are income tested.

The proposed measure will do away with the discrimination against widows and widowers aged 60 to 64 which exists in the

present Old Age Security Act. As you know, at the present time, spouse's allowance is only paid to widows and widowers aged 60 to 64 who were in receipt of that allowance before their spouse died.

In brief, this appears to me as a logical means of helping further some people in need, before they are entitled to a pension. About 85,000 people, mostly women, will benefit from that measure as of September 1985, when it becomes effective.

However, I admit that other groups in that same age bracket have financial difficulties. But, we have such fiscal constraints that we must set priorities. I hope the Hon. Member for Montreal-Sainte-Marie is not suggesting that we refrain from helping widows and widowers in need as long as the government cannot give the same help to all people in need who have not yet reached retirement age. And as I said before, the government does not have the means to do so.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SOCIAL SECURITY-BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS AGED 60-64-EXCLUSION OF SINGLE, DIVORCED AND SEPARATED PERSONS
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PC

Marcel Danis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 2(1).

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SOCIAL SECURITY-BENEFITS FOR WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS AGED 60-64-EXCLUSION OF SINGLE, DIVORCED AND SEPARATED PERSONS
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The House adjourned at 6.15 p.m.



Friday, May 3, 1985


May 2, 1985