June 7, 1993

LIB

Sheila Maureen Copps

Liberal

Ms. Copps:

When was the last time you were at Hamilton airport, Shirley?

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Subtopic:   INFRASTRUCTURE
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PC

Shirley Martin (Minister of State (Transport))

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Martin:

A week ago, Sheila.

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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:

Getting to the first question and the first answer, I would like to hear the answer.

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PC

Shirley Martin (Minister of State (Transport))

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Martin:

Madam Speaker, we have been working with our provincial counterparts as of course this House knows that highways other than the Trans-Canada Highway are a provincial responsibility. Even though that is so we have been working with them. We have over the last three months announced a total of $200 million in the east and west and also another $40 million for the Alaskan Highway and another $50 million for the Trans-Canada Highway in Alberta.

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LIB

Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Hon. Jean Chretien (Leader of the Opposition):

Madam Speaker, the trouble with the minister's remarks is that these expenditures were planned long ago and have no connection with the current economic situation. What we are suggesting is a three-level program, in other words, one-third funded by the municipalities, one-third by the provincial government and the remaining one-third by the federal government.

We were in the Montreal area not long ago, which is certainly one area where the infrastructure needs improving, and where there are serious problems. Other lands of government are asking the federal government to start a program now, while there is a labour surplus. I would like to hear from the minister how much the government is prepared to invest in the Montreal area, at a time when unemployment has reached incredible levels and Montreal is referred to as the poverty capital of Canada.

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PC

Shirley Martin (Minister of State (Transport))

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Shirley Martin (Minister of State (Transport)):

Madam Speaker, moneys have already been set aside for bridge repairs in the Montreal area. This is not old money but rather new money under the Strategic Capital Investment Initiative that was announced by my colleague the Minister of Finance.

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LIB

Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Hon. Jean Chretien (Leader of the Opposition):

Madam Speaker, the member for Beausejour is from New Brunswick.

According to today's report by Transport Canada, New Brunswick is the worst place in the country where investment in the infrastructure is needed and in particular in the highways where during the summer many

June 7, 1993

people lose their lives on the terrible highways. There is virtually no Trans-Canada Highway at all.

Why did this government make commitments to New Brunswick some months ago and now it is negating its word with Premier McKenna?

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PC

Shirley Martin (Minister of State (Transport))

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Shirley Martin (Minister of State (TVansport)):

Madam Speaker, we are not negating our word with Premier McKenna.

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LIB

Joseph Frank (Joe) Fontana

Liberal

Mr. Joe Fontana (London East):

Madam Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance or the Acting Prime Minister.

Each time the provinces, municipalities and this Liberal Party have promoted an infrastructure program the Minister of Finance has complained of fiscally irresponsible spending. The recent Transport Canada documents indicate that this government has been the culprit and has been fiscally irresponsible by ignoring Canada's crumbling roads and bridges, leaving an even larger bill for someone to pay in the years ahead.

I want to ask the Minister of Finance how he could have been so fiscally irresponsible. Will he now work co-operatively with the provinces and the municipalities to put people back to work and put our infrastructure on a sound, competitive foundation?

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PC

John Horton McDermid (Minister of State (Finance and Privatization))

Progressive Conservative

Hon. John McDermid (Minister of State (Finance and Privatization)):

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Finance has been very, very responsible in his presentation of financial statements and budgets over the past couple of years and in fact brought forward an infrastructure program to deal with our national transit system.

It was a modest program. The Minister of Finance has said that many times as others in our caucus have said. It is a modest program, but it is one that the government felt it could afford in the times that we are in.

The hon. member stands up and says that we should be throwing $14 billion, or whatever it is, at a highway program. What he fails to say to the people of Canada is

Oral Questions

where the money is coming from. He knows it will come from two places: either we borrow it or we raise taxes.

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LIB
PC

John Horton McDermid (Minister of State (Finance and Privatization))

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McDermid:

Well, here is the opposition. Their answer to every financial problem in the country is helicopters. That is rather interesting. That is their answer to every financial question. What they do not talk about are the 42,000 jobs that the helicopter program is producing in this country. They forget that and they do not tell that to the people of Canada.

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LIB

Joseph Frank (Joe) Fontana

Liberal

Mr. Joe Fontana (London East):

Madam Speaker, modest is not the word. Insignificant is the word.

This government's lack of plans for infrastructure is irresponsible and the transport document indicates that. This government claims to have a strategy for Canada's economic growth and prosperity but its policies are all smoke and mirrors just like we have heard from the minister again.

Canada invests about $53,000 per kilometre on highway infrastructure compared to $352,000 for the United States, $504,000 for Italy and $237,000 for France.

If Canada's global competitiveness is a priority of this government, why has it deliberately ignored the diminishing quality of our transportation system compared to other countries? Why will this government not invest in Canada to ready this country for the 21st century?

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PC

John Horton McDermid (Minister of State (Finance and Privatization))

Progressive Conservative

Hon. John McDermid (Minister of State (Finance and Privatization)):

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of comments I might make on the hon. member's statement.

Only a Liberal would say that half a billion dollars is insignificant. It is a tremendous amount of money and it comes from the taxpayers of this country.

Second, he compares the expenditures on highways to the United States and to Italy. First of all the United States does its highways in a different manner than we do. It is responsible for more of the interstates than we are in this country, as the hon. member knows. There are toll roads in the United States. Is he advocating that? We do not know if the Liberal Party would do that or not.

June 7, 1993

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Italy is responsible for the roads. It does not have provincial governments that are responsible for roads like we have in this country. He is comparing apples and oranges.

The Minister of Finance has brought forward a responsible program to help with infrastructure and certain parts of the Trans-Canada Highway which I think is very responsible, at the same time keeping in mind the fiscal responsibilities that any government in this country has.

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EMPLOYMENT

NDP

Audrey Marlene McLaughlin

New Democratic Party

Hon. Audrey McLaughlin (Yukon):

Madam Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Employment and Immigration.

Last Friday the Minister of State for Employment repeated the various tired responses that we have heard from this government in response to Canada's job crisis. I say to the minister that it is true that unemployment claims are down from 1992 but that is because one million Canadians exhausted their benefits under unemployment insurance, putting almost three million Canadians total on welfare in various provinces and territories.

I would say also to the minister that the government's unemployment rate is very high, up to 11.4 per cent officially, but much higher as we all know in various regions of this country. It is almost close to double that of the United States, our main trading partner.

I ask the minister, on behalf of his government, when this government is going to seriously address the jobs crisis in this country. While this government has been obsessed with one job, the leadership of its party, it has ignored the millions of unemployed Canadians.

I ask the minister when this government is going to have a real jobs plan for Canadians and not just one member of his government.

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PC

Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Employment and Immigration)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Employment and Immigration):

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is asking what is being done to create jobs. A low interest rate and low inflation are required by the private sector to invest and to create jobs. This is the recipe the government is pursuing.

The hon. member asked what we are doing. In the 1990s the New Democrats should realize that in this information age, with the skills required for the new jobs that this economy is creating, we have to invest in the skills of people.

Notwithstanding the objection and the steadfast refusal of her party, we have decided to activate the passive use of UI funds so that this year $3.8 billion will be invested in the skills of Canadian workers. This is the way we can create a climate that will encourage investment and get people working. It is working and there are good signs things will be improving.

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NDP

Audrey Marlene McLaughlin

New Democratic Party

Hon. Audrey McLaughlin (Yukon):

Madam Speaker, the minister said there were some good signs, but only a few, because the number of full-time jobs has been reduced by 78,000, the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector by 37,000, and among young people 23,000 jobs have been lost. This is a tragedy. When will the minister and this government do something about this human tragedy?

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PC

Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Employment and Immigration)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (minister of Employment and Immigration):

Madam Speaker, once again one can get upset about statistics and prefer to remain oblivious to the facts. If we look at the indicators that give Canadians some idea of what is happening in our economy, we realize for instance that the Canadian economy has improved in March, which shows the highest monthly growth rate in two years.

At that time there was a recession not just in Canada but also in other countries, and especially in the United States where there was a tremendous economic slowdown, but we managed to increase our exports to that country at a rate unheard of in Canada's history. And exports, the Leader of the New Democratic Party will agree, create jobs in Canada. We are on the right track, we are on course and we will create jobs by encouraging investment in our economy not with make-work projects that are very expensive to run and do not help anyone.

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NDP

Audrey Marlene McLaughlin

New Democratic Party

Hon. Audrey McLaughlin (Yukon):

Madam Speaker, my supplementary question is for the minister.

It sure is time for this government to go when all we hear from this government is "don't worry, be happy", ignoring the fact that this government leaves the highest

June 7, 1993

number of unemployed Canadians ever in the history of Canada. The minister refuses to look at this issue.

In this same area the Canadian Labour Congress released a study this week revealing the following effects of the recession for women in the labour force. The 25-year trend of increased participation of women in the labour force has been reversed. In fact more women have been pushed into part-time jobs not full-time jobs. One in five women is either underemployed or without employment.

One leadership candidate in the Tory party talks about the politics of inclusion but never about jobs. It would be real inclusion if that leadership candidate did that. I ask the minister again, does the government have a plan or is it content to see Canada remain as 11th in the world in quality of life for women?

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June 7, 1993