June 8, 1993

LIB

Rey D. Pagtakhan

Liberal

Mr. Rey Pagtakhan (Winnipeg North):

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the Minister of National Health and Welfare that on the report on the HIV tainted blood tragedy he was able to adopt when questioned by this member, by this opposition, one recommendation of the committee on the same day the report was tabled. Why can he not answer today?

The National Council of Welfare regards LICOs as poverty lines. Its report released four days ago concludes "the only guarantee that welfare offers consistently is poverty".

Will the minister ignore the definition used by his own citizens' advisory body and further lower social assistance or will he ignore-

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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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:

Would the hon. member put his question? This is getting into a speech.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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PC

Benoît Bouchard (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Benoit Bouchard (Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Madam Speaker, I missed the last part of the question, but I assume it was a corollary of the previous one. I said that I would give the same answer, if necessary I will read the report, and then I will be in a position to comment.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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NDP

Chris Axworthy

New Democratic Party

Mr. Chris Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing):

Madam Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister will remember that yesterday the Minister of National Health and Welfare said that poverty was on the increase in Canada.

He will remember too that in 1989 he voted with all other members of the House of Commons to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Today he knows three of his own members have issued a report which would reduce poverty by redefining it.

Is this what the Prime Minister had in mind when he voted in 1989 to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000, by changing the figures rather than finding solutions to resolve it?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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PC

Martin Brian Mulroney (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Brian Mulroney (Prime Minister):

Madam Speaker, why would my hon. friend ask a question of such importance in such a vexatious manner?

Everyone in this House has treated the question of child poverty with the greatest seriousness. I have just provided his leader with facts and figures indicating that the Government of Canada and the people of Canada have dramatically increased their assistance to social programs, including those for children.

One child living in poverty is one child too many. The object of the exercise of programs initiated by the minister of health, $2.6 billion for example in new money alone, indicates the enormous commitment and sensitivity of all Canadians to this problem of children living in poverty. That is the record. That is the record-

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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NDP
PC

Martin Brian Mulroney (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Mulroney:

Madam Speaker, my hon. friends in the NDP are asking questions. They apparently prefer not to have the answer.

All I can do is indicate-

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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?

Some hon. members:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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NDP

Chris Axworthy

New Democratic Party

Mr. Chris Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing):

Madam Speaker, more children are living in poverty today than there were when this government came to power. Those are the facts no matter what the government has done.

June 8, 1993

I would like to ask the Prime Minister about his commitment under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He knows that he agreed to provide Canada's children with first call on the nation's resources in good and bad times.

Child poverty is on the increase. This government has spent $5.8 billion on helicopters while child poverty continues to rise. Is this what he means by fulfilling the commitment to Canada's children?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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PC

Martin Brian Mulroney (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Brian Mulroney (Prime Minister):

Madam Speaker, this is exactly the way in which a serious problem is trivialized by members of the NDP.

I just indicated to his leader that this year we are spending $103.3 billion on social expenditures, a major portion of which is devoted quite properly to children.

My hon. friend points to an expenditure he disagrees with spread over 14 years which averages approximately $200 million a year-which he deplores for our national defence. Whereas $2.6 billion, 14 times that amount, was deployed in a new initiative last year by the Minister of National Health and Welfare to assist children.

Why does he not stop trivializing Canada and its achievements and work with people constructively to help children rather than engage in this kind of attack?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   THE ECONOMY
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HOUSING

LIB

Joseph Frank (Joe) Fontana

Liberal

Mr. Joe Fontana (London East):

Madam Speaker, last month the Minister of State for Finance told the House that housing starts were expected to increase throughout the year, but to the surprise of no one there has been a large drop in new housing construction so far this year from the abysmal level in 1992.

This is not just a short-term phenomenon. Figures released this morning indicate that housing starts fell 14 per cent in May. Contrary to everything this government has to say about the economy, new housing construction is still stuck in recession.

When will the Minister of Finance admit that Canadians have no confidence in an economic recovery and have no confidence in this government's policies?

Oral Questions

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   HOUSING
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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):

Madam Speaker, it is somewhat discouraging but the hon. member knows that month to month statistics tend to be very volatile.

If he were to look at the housing starts in the first two months of this quarter there were about 14,000 more units than in the first quarter of 1993. I think he has to look at a longer period of time in order to get a more accurate reflection of the reality of the situation.

I remind the hon. member that housing affordability is at an all-time high. Interest rates are the lowest in 20 years. There are lots of opportunities at the present time for people to become engaged in housing through the low down payment that was provided through the co-operation of the minister responsible for CMHC as well as by tapping into their RRSPs.

The conditions are right for a vibrant housing industry.

I have every expectation that we will see a continued increase in housing starts as we proceed throughout the year.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   HOUSING
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LIB

Joseph Frank (Joe) Fontana

Liberal

Mr. Joe Fontana (London East):

Madam Speaker, all that would be correct if a person had a job or could look forward to a job. That is the problem with this government's policies.

The minister should know because he said on a month to month basis the figures are volatile. The fact remains that for the first quarter of this year housing starts are down 13 per cent.

The point is this: His own officials keep quoting

182,000 units a year when in fact the entire industry, including the Canadian Bankers Association, Clayton Research and even the CMHC, says that the starts will be less than 20,000.

Thousands of construction workers are out of work. Hundreds of construction companies are waiting to work. When will the government put people back to work, give people a chance to work, and start up housing construction in this country?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   HOUSING
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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):

Madam Speaker, I just indicated that the fundamentals are in place, low inflation and low interest rates. A number of incentives for the construe-

June 8, 1993

Oral Questions

tion industry, in particular the home building industry, are in place. I ask the hon. member to once again look at it not in terms of the month to month volatility but indeed a longer period of time.

The hon. member states that the decline is continuing. I say that with the growth that has occurred in the economy in the first quarter of almost 4 per cent, backed up by the strong performance in the fourth quarter of 1992 of 3.5 per cent, the hon. member should be encouraged. Any other data that we see is very encouraging. That is exactly why the IMF and the OECD have proclaimed Canada to have the best growth rate in 1993 and in 1994 and indeed the best job creation rate.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   HOUSING
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PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT

LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Alfonso Gagliano (Saint-Leonard):

Madam Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Labour. The criteria for the Program for Older Worker Adjustment unfairly penalize older employees in small businesses in the Montreal area.

Does the minister think it is fair that a worker aged 55 or over and laid off by a company where there are 100 lay-offs, is eligible for POWA, but a worker laid off by a company with only 50 lay-offs is not?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT
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PC

Marcel Danis (Minister of Labour)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Marcel Danis (Minister of Labour):

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is aware that the government made some changes to the former program put in place by the Liberals, adding POWA to help people aged 55 and over. I must admit that I would like to change the criteria if we had enough money to do that. For instance, last year, the federal govemmnent invested $70 million in POWA, and altogether we are paying more than $233 million in annuities for these workers. I think the federal government has done something worthwhile. Of course, if we had more money we would be able to do more, but considering the state of the economy I think we are doing a good job.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Alfonso Gagliano (Saint-Leonard):

Madam Speaker, I have a supplementary for the same minister. He must be aware that in the Montreal area alone, 83 per cent of older workers laid off as a result of plant closures receive no assistance at all. When is he going to act to correct a situation that was created by his own government?

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT
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PC

Marcel Danis (Minister of Labour)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Marcel Danis (Minister of Labour):

Madam Speaker, I think the hon. member's statistics, and I am referring to the 83 per cent who receive no assistance at all, must be totally inaccurate. My colleague, the Minister of Employment and Immigration, helps workers who lose their jobs by providing training programs.

As for POWA, I can inform the hon. member that last year in consultation with the Government of Quebec we changed the criteria. As the hon. member well knows, until last year workers had to be employed for 15 or 20 consecutive years to be eligible. Tb include more people under the program, especially women, we made it 13 years instead of 15, at the request of the Quebec Government.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT
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June 8, 1993