February 17, 1993

PC

Pierre Blais (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; Minister of State (Agriculture))

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Blais:

Mr. Speaker, look at what goes on on the other side when we discuss serious issues. We are giving a great deal of attention to this matter and we hope that our colleagues will co-operate by supporting Bill C-102.

Oral Questions

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   TOBACCO SMUGGLING
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NATIONAL DEBT

NDP

Lorne Edmund Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lome Nystrom (Yorkton-Melville):

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. It concerns the C.D. Elowe document.

One of the comments made in the document is that the debt crisis is now a federal-provincial crisis and that in this country we have only one taxpayer, whether federal or provincial. The transfer of federal debt to the provinces through cutbacks and transfer payments does not help.

In light of the fact that the federal government has cut back by billions of dollars in transfers to the provinces over the last number of years, is the federal government planning in its next budget to reverse that policy and keep its commitments to the provinces rather than transferring its debt to the provinces of this country?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   NATIONAL DEBT
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PC

Donald Frank Mazankowski (Deputy Prime Minister; Minister of Finance; Vice-President)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Don Mazankowski (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the observation that there is only one taxpayer. I have been saying that for quite some time. I am glad that the opposition members across the way have picked it up, thanks to the C.D. Howe Institute.

The hon. member says that we have cut transfer payments. That is wrong. It is absolutely wrong. Transfer payments continue to grow. As a matter of fact in the last "Fiscal Monitor" which was just issued for the third quarter of 1992-93, he will see that major transfers to other levels of government have grown by 7 per cent this year and major transfers to persons, 4.8 per cent.

That does not sound like a cutback to me. That is a substantial increase, much larger than the over-all growth in program expenditures.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   NATIONAL DEBT
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NDP

Lorne Edmund Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lome Nystrom (Yorkton-Melville):

Mr. Speaker, the House knows that the rate of increase in transfers to the provinces has been cut back by billions of dollars. In Saskatchewan alone this year, offloading will cost my province some $538 million. That is more than the provincial deficit.

In light of those facts, and this is information that I have from the federal government department, is the federal government willing to reverse its policy and keep its commitments to the provinces rather than jeopardize the credit ratings of the provinces of this country? This is happening not only to Saskatchewan but to many of our provinces.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   NATIONAL DEBT
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PC

Donald Frank Mazankowski (Deputy Prime Minister; Minister of Finance; Vice-President)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Don Mazankowski (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member clarified his question when he in fact admitted that there were not cutbacks to provincial transfers.

As a matter of fact, there has been some reduction in the over-all growth of program expenses commensurate with the other disciplinary measures that we have had to take upon ourselves in terms of reducing federal government expenditures.

Just for the record in terms of cash payments, transfers to the provinces, in 1984-85 it was cash plus tax transfers something in the order of $25 billion. That is now about $39 billion. That does not sound like much of a cutback.

Of course I understand that the provinces, and particularly his home province of Saskatchewan, are facing some very serious financial difficulties. I have met with the Minister of Finance, we have talked and we are attempting to work and co-operate with him.

I would ask the hon. member to go back to his provincial colleagues and ask them to reconsider the harmonization of the GST which would have provided a major benefit to the people of Saskatchewan and provided revenues to the Government of Saskatchewan. It may have been able to capitalize on some of these jobs that are being created through NAFTA and through the free trade agreement.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   NATIONAL DEBT
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PICKERING AIRPORT LANDS

PC

René John Soetens

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rene Soetens (Ontario):

Mr. Speaker, in the 1992 budget the government announced it would proceed with selling some of the surplus airport lands in Pickering. Recently the government held an information session in the riding to explain to the people the process, but lacking from that was a time frame.

February 17, 1993

Can the Minister of Transport tell the constituents of Ontario riding when they will be able to buy back their farms and homes?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PICKERING AIRPORT LANDS
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PC

Jean Corbeil (Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Jean Corbeil (Minister of TVansport):

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for putting this question. As he knows, over 200 million square feet of land has to be disposed of as a result of this decision by the Government of Canada.

As he aptly said, we did consult with the people at the site a couple of weeks ago. It is part of the process in order that we can present a proper submission to Treasury Board. As soon as this is done, which should be within the next few weeks, the process will be finalized.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PICKERING AIRPORT LANDS
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PROPERTY TAXES

LIB

Alfonso Gagliano (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Alfonso Gagliano (Saint-Leonard):

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. When we met with the mayor of Montreal, we learned that the government had promised that no change would be made to the system of paying grants in lieu of taxes to municipalities for services provided to federal facilities.

Why did the government not keep its promise to Canadian municipalities? Why did it make this announcement when most municipalities had already adopted their budget for 1993?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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PC

Elmer MacIntosh MacKay (Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; Minister of Public Works)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Elmer M. MacKay (Minister of Public Works):

Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows that the grants in lieu of taxes expenditure for our government has been rising at an unacceptable level. The Minister of Finance has indicated the necessity for a little bit of restraint.

As a matter of fact, I met with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. We are very sympathetic to the difficulties that they are undergoing and we intend to work with them as closely as we can.

I want to point out that with respect to the city of Montreal, last year the account that we had to pay was around $8 million. This year it is about $13 million. Under its new system, the present system of taxation, the mill rate has gone from about 52 cents to $2.06. The

Oral Questions

member can understand, I am sure, that something had to be done to bring a reconstruction and a more equitable means of assessing the federal government for some of these facilities.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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LIB

Alfonso Gagliano (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Alfonso Gagliano (Saint-Leonard):

Mr. Speaker, my supplementary question is for the Minister of Public Works, then. The freeze on grants to municipalities in the Montreal region involves cuts totalling some $15 million. How can the minister impose these cuts totalling nearly $15 million on taxpayers in a region with over

225,000 unemployed? These Montrealers are unemployed or on welfare. Is that not enough? Why should they also have to pay higher municipal taxes?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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PC

Elmer MacIntosh MacKay (Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; Minister of Public Works)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Elmer M. MacKay (Minister of Public Works):

Mr. Speaker, I have tried to explain to my colleague opposite that we are prepared to do everything we can to accommodate the municipalities within the constraints that the Minister of Finance has been obliged to put on us.

To compare a reasonable assessment for grants in lieu of taxes with the unemployment rate of a city, I think he would agree, is rather like comparing apples and oranges.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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BQ

Lucien Bouchard

Bloc Québécois

Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister for International Trade.

I understand that the government recognizes the need to negotiate supplementary agreements which would add guarantees on minimum standards, wages and the environment to the main North American free trade agreement. If that is so, I commend him for it.

The minister must have felt the need for these guarantees even more yesterday when he heard his Mexican colleague boast in Montreal, where unemployment is 14 per cent, about the merits of Mexico's plentiful labour supply.

February 17, 1993

Routine Proceedings

Can the minister assure us that the Government of Canada will not sign the main treaty until the parallel agreements have been negotiated?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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PC

Michael Holcombe Wilson (Minister for International Trade; Minister of Industry, Science and Technology)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Michael Wilson (Minister of Industry, Science and Technology and Minister for International TVade):

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend has distorted what the minister of trade from Mexico said in Montreal yesterday and I would ask him to reconsider what he has just said.

Regarding the supplementary agreements, we will be starting the discussions on these agreements in the middle of March. This has been agreed among the United States, Mexico and ourselves just today. At the same time, we will be considering the legislation in this House, as will they be in the United States Congress and the Mexican Congress.

These will all move together at around the same pace and we will be able to consider the implications of each as that process continues.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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BQ

Lucien Bouchard

Bloc Québécois

Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

Mr. Speaker, I quoted an article from the daily Le Devoir on what the Mexican secretary allegedly said in his speech.

As for the supplementary accord, the minister knows very well that the process can easily be derailed and that the expected deadlines might not be met, in which case he must consider the possibility that the government will have to decide whether or not to sign the treaty alone. The minister has enough experience to know that if he wants to win from the Mexicans the kind of concessions we need for the environment and minimum labour standards, he must not give them what they want right away but rather negotiate on both items with them at the same time.

The Americans are doing that, as Mr. Kantor said recently. I ask the minister why he leaves it up to the Americans alone to fight for environmental protection and Canadian workers.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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PC

Michael Holcombe Wilson (Minister for International Trade; Minister of Industry, Science and Technology)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Michael Wilson (Minister of Industry, Science and Technology and Minister for International Trade):

Mr. Speaker, I said this morning that we had agreed with the Americans and the Mexicans to continue discussions on the environment and on labour as well.

We made some proposals on these accords a year ago and I think that now, with the new American administration, it is possible to have a discussion on these accords.

As I said, these discussions will begin in the second week of March.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROPERTY TAXES
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POINT OF ORDER

NDP

Lynn Hunter

New Democratic Party

Ms. Lynn Hunter (Saanich-Gulf Islands):

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question in the House yesterday on the North American free trade agreement, the Minister of the Environment characterized an internal environmental review as an environmental assessment. I invite him to correct that impression.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   POINT OF ORDER
Sub-subtopic:   COMMENTS DURING QUESTION PERIOD
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February 17, 1993