April 23, 1993

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT

PC

William Hunter (Bill) McKnight (Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Bill McKnight (for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance) moved

that Bill C-93, an act to implement certain government organization provisions of the budget tabled in the House of Commons on February 25, 1992, be read the third time and passed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

I have received notice of a question of privilege.

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Subtopic:   BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Simon Leendert de Jong

New Democratic Party

Mr. Simon de Jong (Regina-Qu'Appelle):

Madam Speaker, my question of privilege arises out of debate concerning Bill C-93.

During report stage debate, the government introduced some new figures. The debate very much hinged on the efficiency and cost savings to be achieved by bringing the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the external cultural program into the Canada Council.

We heard testimony from Treasury Board, the Privy Council as well as Finance in committee stating there were no savings. We tried as well to bring in the minister and the people from the Canada Council in order to allow us to verify whether there would be any savings and efficiencies. We were not allowed to do that. During the debate the government introduced a new set of figures, claiming some $5 million per year in savings will be achieved.

It is important as a member of Parliament that I know where these figures come from and that I have an opportunity to review them because they are important in determining what position we will take on this bill. It is also important to the academic community because, as would members on this side of the House, it would like to see greater efficiencies and cost savings. We would like to see that this is proven.

I believe my grounds for the question of privilege are that my ability to perform my duties as a member of Parliament have been infringed. As well, the authority and the dignity of Parliament and of all members have been offended by the action of the government. The action in question is the introduction of new and previously unavailable and arguably withheld evidence to the House. The lack of the evidence in question affects my judgment as a member and potentially the judgment of my party. In short I have a right to examine the evidence and to draw conclusions, a right I tried to exercise in the committee without success.

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Subtopic:   BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Donald Alex Blenkarn

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Don Blenkarn (Mississauga South):

Madam Speaker, I am at a loss to understand the view of my friend from Regina on this matter.

During the committee hearings government witnesses indicated there would be a considerable saving in combining these agencies. Rather than two separate boards of directors of 21 each there would be one board of directors, reducing the total number of combined counsel from 43 to 21. That is an enormous saving.

Currently there are two administrative and support structures with personnel, financial information and the rest. The member was advised of all this in the committee hearing. All can examine the committee report. That has now been quantified at $5 million in years four and five of this program.

I do not understand the member for Regina-Qu'Appelle raising this as a question of privilege. It may be a matter of debate, whether he listened to the debate or

April 23, 1993

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not. It certainly is not a question of privilege and I think that the claim ought to be dismissed out of hand.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Simon Leendert de Jong

New Democratic Party

Mr. de Jong:

Madam Speaker, I think an examination of the record of the committee hearings will show that documents obtained under freedom of information from Treasury Board showed zero savings. I assume that conceivably by bringing various boards together there are savings on one hand but there are also costs associated on the other. That is why I assumed Treasury Board came to the conclusion there would be zero savings in years one, two, three, four and five.

The savings figure of $5 million a year was never once mentioned in committee. The government now claims at this very late stage of the progress of the bill through various stages that there is going to be this type of saving. I suggest if that is the case, this bill go back to committee for further discussion.

As it stands now I feel my rights as a member of Parliament have been infringed on and I do have a question of privilege.

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PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

I do not think we have a prima facie case of privilege. In fact, we were moving, it seems quite rapidly-and I think the hon. member will agree-towards the debate that is about to start.

I did not have time, from the moment we received the notice that the hon. member would raise this question of privilege and the opening of the sitting, to go back to reading what had happened in committee.

On the other hand, I do believe that we will have time at this point to debate all these different points as we proceed with third reading. However, I must tell the hon. member that although he may have a grievance that is real, I do not think at this point that it is a prima facie case of privilege.

Nonetheless, I will ask the clerk and his officers to look into the matter and, if required, we will get back to the House with another ruling. For the time being, I do not think that this is an appropriate question of privilege.

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NDP

Iain Francis Angus (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Iain Angus (Thunder Bay-Atikokan):

Madam Speaker, on this point. Am I to understand from the comments you have just made that during the course of third reading debate you will interrupt if you determine after consultation that a different decision is appropriate and at that point in time we will deal with the matter? In any case, am I to understand that you will report back to the House prior to the completion of third reading of this particular bill?

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PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

As I have just said, I do not think at this time that there is a prima facie case of privilege.

Should our clerk through a study of whatever happened in committee advise me otherwise then of course we would come back to the House.

I must tell the hon. member at this time we do not see a question of prima facie privilege.

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NDP

Iain Francis Angus (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Angus:

Madam Speaker, I understand and accept that. It becomes a moot point if this House has already triggered a vote on third reading of this particular bill and then a decision is made after that. Therefore my question is: Will you indicate before that point in time if as a result of your review there is any change in your decision?

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PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

If there should be a change in my decision I would definitely come back to the House before 2.45 p.m. when we have to vote. Otherwise there would be no reason for it, would there?

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Subtopic:   BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Jean-Marc Robitaille (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Finance and Privatization))

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Jean-Marc Robitaille (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State (Finance and Privatization)):

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to begin the debate at third reading of Bill C-93.

We on this side of the House have worked relentlessly to reduce the size and cost of the federal government. We have restrained federal spending, including public sector wages. We have implemented the Spending Control Act and the debt servicing and reduction account to ensure that fiscal responsibility is a matter of law. By privatizing over 20 Crown corporations we have reduced the public payroll by 50,000 employees. Nevertheless, we

April 23, 1993

realize, as do Canadians, that the task of streamlining the federal government and making it more efficient is not yet complete. Bill C-93 is a further step in that direction.

Bill C-93, the budget implementation bill, is the second of a series of omnibus bills designed to give effect to the government streamlining measures announced in the 1992 budget. The first one, Bill C-76, received royal assent on April 2, 1993 and a third one, Bill C-92, dealing with the Income Tax Act and other technical measures is proceeding to second reading in the other place.

The purpose of the Bill C-93 is to reduce government overhead and to provide services to Canadians more efficiently. The Bill includes the necessary amendments required to give full effect to the budget decisions affecting 14 organizations.

Contrary to the campaign which my friends opposite have waged with their filibuster of this bill in the House and with their allies through the media, this bill is not simply a "cuts" exercise, and its success will not be measured only in the calculation of dollars and cents over the short term.

As we are bound to repeat once again for the benefit of the opposition, there will be savings over the longer term as the size of government is reduced and overhead costs are diminished, and this is precisely what Canadian taxpayers wish to see.

More to the point, these changes are part of our broader commitment to smaller, simpler, more cost-effective government, able to provide Canadians with the programs and services they need in the challenging circumstances of the 1990s and at an acceptable cost of delivering them.

I want now to review some of the more contentious issues raised in earlier debate with respect to specific organizations addressed in Bill C-93.

The positive features of Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation or ECBC will be retained after the Corporation is merged with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, commonly called ACOA. In particular, financial assistance will continue to be available for new and existing businesses that are likely to make a substantial contribution to industrial development and employment opportunities in Cape Breton Island outside of the coal

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producing and steel industries. ACOS's new statutory powers will be restricted to Cape Breton Island and a portion of mainland Nova Scotia around the town of Mulgrave.

Dissolving the ECBC and carrying over its specific statutory powers to ACOA will eliminate a duplication in program delivery and the administrative overlap which that duplication entails. ACOA clients in Cape Breton will be the beneficiaries of increased efficiency in promotion, financial assistance and development of industry on the island.

During debate on this part of the bill on Tbesday, April 20, 1993, the member for Regina-Qu'Appelle made reference to estimates of the costs and savings to government from the merger of ECBC with ACOA. I refer to page 18151 of Hansard. Specifically he stated that the merger would cost the government $1 million over five years.

The $1 million cost figure referred to by the member for Regina-Qu'Appelle was an early estimate of costs which was made prior to the February 1992 Budget and prior to any specific knowledge of the parameters of the integration of ECBC into ACOA. That estimate assumed far greater job losses and severance costs than will actually be the case, since most of ECBC's employees will be transferred to ACOA.

It is now estimated that there will be no additional costs to government as a result of the merger. The corporation, like any responsible corporation, has set aside annual contributions for employee termination benefits. There are sufficient resources in this fund to pay all anticipated severance costs associated with the merger.

With respect to savings it is estimated that the annual savings to government from merging ECBC with ACOA will be at a minimum $250,000. Saving could reach up to $1 million annually on the successful divestiture of ECBC'S industrial park and farm operations.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Simon Leendert de Jong

New Democratic Party

Mr. de Jong:

I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker.

I am sorry to interrupt the parliamentary secretary but again he is quoting figures that were not available in committee. I wonder if the hon. member would be willing to table those figures in the House so we can all see the source of his figures from which he claims to have these savings.

April 23, 1993

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PC

Jean-Marc Robitaille (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Finance and Privatization))

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Robitaille:

Madam Speaker, I was simply saying that the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation had set aside some funds for severance pay. The costs associated with the merger or integration of the corporation and ACOA will be paid but out of the funds set aside for that particular purpose.

I take note of my hon. colleague's question and will see when I am through with my speech if I can provide these documents and confirmations to the House.

Questions were also raised in debate at report stage with respect to the future of ECBC's industrial park and farm operations. The member from Cape Breton-The Sydneys stated at page 18150 of Hansard that at present, ACOA has no provision to own land but ECBC does. He is correct. However, he neglected to inform the House that ECBC's power to acquire or hold land will be transfered to ACOA as part of the provisions of Part II of Bill C-93.

With respect to the future of the two properties identified by the member, the industrial park and demonstration farm, it is the government's objective to assist private-sector operators to take over these operations.

I trust these clarifications put to rest once and for all any residual anxiety about the nature of the programs for ECBC Cape Breton.

This is strictly a legislative initiative to streamline the administrative component of program delivery, simplify the access to information for the business community on the island and improve the quality of service to all Cape Bretoners.

Next I want to deal with what appears to be the most difficult aspect of the bill for my friends opposite to get their minds around, Part III-the integration of the Canada Council with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the international relations programs.

In spite of efforts by members on this side of the House to set the record straight, the opposition speakers continue to characterize this section of the bill as an empty exercise motivated by fears of the government having to cave into right wing political pressure.

They are, of course, entitled to their opinions, but I am here again today to tell the House that this government will not be put off from finding reasonable and prudent ways to relieve the burden on the Canadian taxpayer whether the pressure is coming from the so-called right or from any other self-serving lobby.

This merger, once the transition has been completed, will result in increased efficiency in the delivery of programs and services. I am talking about grants to artists, promotion of the arts and the provision of scholarships in the social sciences and humanities and enhancing our capacity to project our national personality and the expression of our culture abroad.

The opposition continues to demand of us why are we proceeding with this merger. The answer remains straightforward and has not changed since they first posed the question at second reading: to improve program delivery and reduce overhead. Let me say one last word about the operation of the councils. It is important to recall, as my colleague from Winnipeg South told the House on Wednesday, the Canada Council worked well as one council for over 20 years.

Over time, the council developed a structure adapted to the two clienteles with the creation of an Academic Advisory Panel as a parallel to the Advisory Arts Panel, and the establishment of a separate administrative staff to deal with the academic community.

The differentiation of roles between the two was fully understood and accepted by the two bodies and their relationship was characterized by mutual respect.

It is also significant to note that in its appointments to the new council, the government of the day took the Canada Council as its model and gave the new body, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, a predominantly lay composition and similar budgetary and expenditure practices.

The merger of the two councils in no way represents a lesser commitment to the academic community. The government is on record as saying that the interests of all its clients will be protected. Social research will in no way be compromised, as opposition members tried to say.

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Both the Canada Council and SSHRC are granting Councils and the international programs. One more

councils, both have well-established peer review struc- time, once the transition is complete, ongoing savings of

tures. The distinct peer-review structures will remain in approximately $5 million annually are expected from this

place after integration. However, as my friends opposite measure, in all probability starting three years after the

conceded on several occasions in this debate-and again integration, that is, in the fourth and fifth years,

as late as Wednesday afternoon at continuation of report Hopefully, this is the end of the phoney "no savings"

stage-there is a need to streamline government to deal ' as painful as it may be for the opposition to abandon with the growing fiscal pressures on the public purse. xt-

Simply put, one more time, we no longer need and can no longer afford a separate council for each sector. This has no relationship to the level of appropriation for the grants and contributions which the three sectors receive or to the level of funding for the respective programs which they deliver. For more than 20 years, the Canada Council included both councils and operated very well. We know that this can be done again while protecting the interests of all three client groups-the arts, the social sciences and humanities and the international academic and cultural relations programs. Despite the protestations to the contrary of my friends opposite, the structure of Bill C-93 is clearly designed to reflect this intent.

Furthermore, the government never said that the Council would have only one vote for appropriation purposes. While the ministers of the Treasury Board will decide how many votes there will be, I can once again assure the House, and especially the opposition, that they have taken into account the wishes of the granting councils management and the views of the client organizations and will continue to do so.

I have been truly astonished at the tenacity of members opposite on the question of savings associated with the merger. They managed to get their hands on an outdated, pre-budget estimates draft and totally distorted its meaning. That may be understandable for people who are not familiar with the bureaucratic processes involved in our parliamentary routines for voting appropriations. I can even appreciate the political expediency involved in their behaviour which implies, "Look, don't bother me with the details. The answer you are going to give me is not one I want to hear, because it does not suit my line of argument."

What totally floors me is when the members opposite continue to cling to their story line in the face of clear statements telling them that there will be significant ongoing savings resulting from the integration of the

I would like to come back to that amount of $5 million which my colleague from Winnipeg South and I put forward here in the House. We clearly said, and I clearly said in my speech at report stage, that it would be inadvisable for the government to try to detail the savings and how they would be made, since the new Council, like any Crown corporation, must operate at arm's length from the government.

I was listening a few moments ago to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member and I would like to remind the Speaker that the Canada Council is an independent Crown corporation and that, on the issue of savings, it is up to the Council itself to determine how these savings will be realized. Therefore, we are not in a position to give further details at this moment, nor are we required to do so.

I would like to refer to a letter from Mrs. Paule Leduc, director and president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, to my hon. colleague from Regina-Qu'Appelle, of which I received a copy. With unanimous consent, I am prepared to table this letter, which I will read to you.

Dear Mr. de Jong:

Following our telephone conversation this morning concerning future savings resulting from the merger of the SSHRC and the Canada Council, I think we can reasonably expect that ongoing savings in the order of $5 million annually could be achieved after four to five years of the existence of the new combined agency.

I also expect that savings will occur earlier in the process, probably as soon as year three, but at this stage I cannot give a definite amount.

It is premature for me now to identify in detail how those savings will be achieved, but we can already identify that integration of corporate and administrative services, the sharing of a single location, as well as some program rationalization will combine to reach a target of that magnitude.

April 23, 1993

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That letter is signed "Mrs. Paule Leduc, director and president, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council". I could table the document with unanimous consent of the House.

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Subtopic:   BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION (GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS) ACT, 1992 MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member to table that letter?

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?

Some hon. members:

Agreed.

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PC

Jean-Marc Robitaille (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Finance and Privatization))

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Robitaille:

Madam Speaker, I hope this confirmation by Mrs. Paule Leduc will dispel the doubts that the opposition is trying to cast on the savings this merger will bring.

As we said on Wednesday, it is normal that in the first few years of operation there are costs associated with the merger. Nevertheless, we expect, based on the preliminary judgement which the management of both councils has given us, that reduction in overhead will result from a streamlined program structure with three-year funding instead of annual grants, simpler and more flexible financial management, co-location under one roof, rationalized common services-by that I mean personnel, financial and information-and the return to one governing body, one council, instead of two.

I congratulate my friends opposite for the entertainment they have provided the House and the public with their misleading attacks on this merger. We have been patient and have tried to correct the record a number of times. Now-enough is enough. There are significant ongoing annual savings asssociated with the merger in part III of Bill C-93 over the long term.

We have told the members opposite the magnitude of those savings and when we expect to begin to realize them. That should be sufficient. I know it is more than sufficient for the taxpayers of Canada.

I have one final point on the specifics of the recent debate on this bill. I am referring to the point raised by the honourable member for Regina-Qu'Appelle on part VIII of the bill and the debate on Motion No. 67 on Wednesday.

Although, this is a highly technical area of intellectual property litigation, I think that in his remarks on cost recovery, the member has confused user fees, passthrough costs and awarding of costs for frivolous proceedings. That would appear to be the case with his statements in Hansard on pages 18260 and 18261.

He argued that SOCAN will have to absorb the cost of frivolous proceedings brought against them. This is not the case. I refer the honourable member to page 80 of the Bill. Section 12 of the new Intellectual Property Tribunal Act clearly provides the Tribunal with the discretionary power to award costs against nuisance proceedings of this sort.

Therefore, I believe that SOCAN's fears in this regard are unfounded.

Moreover, Madam Speaker, you will allow me to point something out with reference to a remark the hon. member for Regina-Qu'Appelle made about me as recorded in Hansard of April 21, 1993, page 18260 and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, I really tried to follow what the parliamentary secretary was saying but I am afraid I am going to have to wait until I read Hansard tomorrow. I think what the parliamentary secretary was doing was just reading out what bureaucrats had told him to read out.

It is a technical amendment. There are technicalities in it.

The hon. member for Regina-Qu'Appelle went to

say:

I am not quite certain the parliamentary secretary totally understood what he was saying but I suspect what was happening is that he was given something to read by some bureaucrats. It sure sounded bureaucratic to me.

I regret the hon. member had difficulty understanding properly what I was saying. He said that I was referring to notes prepared by bureaucrats and he is right because I was indeed referring to notes prepared by public servants and by my staff; these notes are only aimed at giving good, detailed explanations to the hon. member because of our concern, as a government, to explain properly the positions and decisions we take, and I regret the hon. member had difficulty understanding. Hopefully he would have read Hansard, but I must assure him I never read here a text or refer to notes without fully understanding their meaning.

April 23, 1993

I will come back with some explanations in a language which, hopefully, will be better understood by the hon. member for Regina-Qu'Appelle.

The thing is very simple. The government has a user pay policy. Take passports, for example. There was a time when even passports were subsidized, that is to say that the fees charged to the user were less than the production costs. Then the government came up with a policy to apply the user fee principle. The same principle applies to the Intellectual Property Tribunal.

And in that instance, we are only saying that SOCAN and other users will have to bear the operating costs of the Intellectual Property Tribunal.

Second, this particular amendment which would have added the word "user" or "consumer" could have been interpreted in such a way as to impose a tremendous administrative burden on the Intellectual Property Tribunal which, by law, would have had to take upon itself the tremendous burden of billing for its services.

I believe that SOCAN, which represents around

35,000 members, should bear the costs connected with using the Intellectual Property Tribunal and then charge its members. That way, the Intellectual Property Tribunal does not have to be laden with such a burden.

I believe I have now dealt with the main concerns which the opposition has raised with respect to Bill C-93. I also think it is important to remember that there are seven other parts to this bill and that they have drawn very little attention during our proceedings. In fact, there are sections of the bill with which the opposition have expressed their support, like the winding up of the Veterans land administration and its integration into the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, Bill C-93 is in line with the government policy, with the economic statement and with the 1992 budget aimed at providing Canadians with better services for less, at streamlining administrative costs and in the end at alleviating the tax burden of the people.

Ever since 1984, every bill presented with that intent, namely to slash government spending, to reduce the machinery of government and therefore administrative costs, everyone of those bills was systematically opposed

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by the Liberals and the New Democrats and now by the Bloc Quebecois.

We introduced bills on privatization. The Liberals voted against the privatization of Nordion and Tethra-tonics, Bill C-13, second session. On third reading, they opposed the sale of government shares in Telesat Canada proposed in Bill C-38. They did not support the privatization of Petro Canada, Bill C-84, second session. The Liberals voted against the act respecting the control of government expenditures which was meant to cap government spending, Bill C-56, third session. They opposed Bill C-26, third session, a legislation to improve the efficiency and accountability of the public service. That bill also includes other measures that would create better employment opportunities for women, natives, handicapped persons and visible minorities. They voted against.

The Liberals did not endorse the amendments to the Patent Act which will promote pharmaceutical research and development, Bill C-91, third session. They voted against some substantial amendments to the Bankruptcy Act, Bill C-22, third session. Finally, if we look at the legislative package put forward by this government to streamline expenditures, which is the wish of the Canadian people, I think it is clear they systematically voted against it each and every time.

This is not surprising. When a party like the Liberal Party is in power for so many years and when we see that over a period of 12 years the deficit grew from $1.8 billion in 1969-1970 to $38.5 billion in 1984-1985, with an accumulated debt of $200 billion, it is not surprising.

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PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

The hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier rises on a point of order.

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LIB

Jean-Robert Gauthier

Liberal

Mr. Gauthier:

Madam Speaker, I have been listening very carefully to the hon. member's speech on Bill C-93 at third reading and I have to ask myself the following question: does the rule of relevancy require that we pay special attention to the bill not under consideration?

Until the hon. member launched an attack against the Liberal Party, I thought he was only being a bit partisan. However I would like the member to concentrate on the subject matter of Bill C-93 and explain to us how the government will sell that bill, which is bad for Canada, to the people it will affect.

April 23, 1993

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April 23, 1993