January 19, 1994

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The Speaker

Thank you.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources
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BQ

Francine Lalonde

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Lalonde

Mr. Speaker, would the minister reassure everybody by telling us when the government will finally do something and which initiatives it will take to help the many Quebecers and Canadians who want to work but who cannot find jobs?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources
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LIB

Lloyd Axworthy

Liberal

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate you as the new Speaker of the House, which is a difficult task to assume.

I also want to congratulate the hon. member for Mercier for her interest in this issue. I hope that we will have many opportunities to exchange our views, for the benefit of all Canadians.

As the hon. members will know, the Throne Speech includes several initiatives and measures. For example, the Youth Service Corps is a very important tool to put young Canadians to work. We will also set up a training program for all Canadians. I believe this can provide a good solution to the important problems which our young people are facing.

We have also announced a comprehensive reform of our social security system.

This is a good response to the concerns voiced by the poor and it will bring about the essential changes needed to develop an employment program for a large number of Canadians.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources
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BQ

Francine Lalonde

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier)

Mr. Speaker, this answer is totally unsatisfactory. I have a supplementary question for the minister. Why did he agree to the $800 million increase in UI contributions, given the disastrous effect this measure will have on the economy, and considering that the government invests only $1 billion a year in the infrastructure program?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources
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LIB

Lloyd Axworthy

Liberal

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure what the exact question is but as I tried to outline to the hon. member I will be very glad to provide her with a full explanation of the measures.

In the throne speech we detailed very specific commitments that are made in the red book for providing employment for young people and for the very serious problem of transition from school to work.

The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry have outlined a number of measures to help create employment in the small business sector and in high technology to help the provinces develop new initiatives.

As the hon. member will know, we are presenting a series of more detailed explanations. Each minister will be giving an outline of those during the reply to the speech from the throne. I am sure that after the hon. member has had an occasion to listen to the excellent speeches presented by my colleagues she will

fully understand the major commitment we in this government have to jobs.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources
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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

The Auditor General tabled his report today. In it he has pointed out that unless some real changes are made the federal debt, that is, the federal debt alone and not the national debt, will reach 100 per cent of the gross domestic product by the year 2008.

The Auditor General has red flagged the situation as being of serious concern. He has stated in his report: "Hard choices lie ahead".

The speech from the throne has focused on spending programs with no recognition of the serious fiscal situation facing this country.

Is the Minister of Finance now able to assure Canadians that deficit reduction is this country's number one priority rather than introducing more spending programs as we heard about yesterday?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development -Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that deficit reduction is a major priority of this government.

There is no doubt that we share the views largely expressed by the Auditor General. We did so in a matter of weeks after taking office. There is no doubt, as well, as the Prime Minister said so well in his opening remarks that we are not going to get the deficit reduction unless we also understand that economics is about people and that this country needs jobs.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert)

Mr. Speaker, we understand that this country certainly does need jobs.

However, having looked at and read through the report, it would appear that there are many areas where this government can take charge of its own finances and ensure that money that is currently being wasted and misspent is available for Canadians.

Will the Minister of Finance assure us that he will look at the Auditor General's report and implement the recommendations there to ensure that Canadian taxpayers' money is spent for the best benefit of this country?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development -Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite and I certainly share one thing in common. When I first came to the House and was up I also forgot to ask my question.

The hon. member can rest assured that we are going to take the comments of the Auditor General very seriously, especially since he is looking at us from up there. We have already begun to do so.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval)

Mr. Speaker, there is a broad consensus in Quebec on eliminating costly administrative duplication in manpower programs. Unions, management, the government and hundreds of thousands of unemployed Quebecers agree. The 26,000 Quebecers waiting for occupational training, even though skilled jobs are available, also agree.

My question for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is as follows: Does he intend to conclude an agreement with the Government of Quebec as soon as possible on eliminating this costly duplication and thus respect the commitment which the Prime Minister made at the first ministers' summit on December 21, and the commitment which he himself made in early December?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Manpower Programs
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LIB

Marcel Massé

Liberal

Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister responsible for Public Service Renewal)

Mr. Speaker, our government is in full agreement with eliminating overlap and duplication so as to reduce the cost of government. We said that in the throne speech and we obtained an agreement to that effect at the first ministers' conference.

As for an agreement on occupational training, my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, has already discussed this with his colleague who is now Quebec's finance minister but who then was responsible for the manpower agreement, and he is continuing with the discussions.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Manpower Programs
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BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval)

Mr. Speaker, since experts say that eliminating these overlaps would save at least some $250 million a year from the moment the agreement is reached and signed, would the minister not agree that for a cash-strapped government, it is time for him, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues to get with it as soon as possible?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Manpower Programs
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LIB

Marcel Massé

Liberal

Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister responsible for Public Service Renewal)

Mr. Speaker, I feel that we are already with it because we intend to cut government spending by much more than $250 million by reducing overlap.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Manpower Programs
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REF

Stephen Harper

Reform

Mr. Stephen Harper (Calgary West)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the infrastructure program.

At the beginning of this month the government announced the program's first project, a convention centre in Quebec City. Since then many Canadians have wondered how this project was approved prior to the government's announcement on the criteria for qualification.

I would like the minister to explain to this House by what criteria and by what process the project in Quebec City was approved.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Infrastructure Program
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure)

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Quebec had for some time been in negotiations with the previous government here in Ottawa with respect to the project of the convention centre in Quebec City. It was anxious because of the change in leadership coming in the Government of Quebec to be able to bring the matter to a head. The premiers had been here on December 21 and had come to an agreement about the the program. They in fact unanimously agreed to be participants in the infrastructure program.

We then said to the Quebec government that it was conditional-and I want to point out that it is conditional upon signing the formal agreement-that the project would be one that could proceed.

Once the formal agreement is signed the project will in fact have to go through all of the tests required. We already have, however, through the Federal Economic Development Agency in Quebec, processed the application on an informal basis. I Must say that it is an excellent project. It will put over 1,000 people to work in construction jobs and create more than 400 long-term jobs after that. It is a project that will help get the people in Quebec City, the province of Quebec and Canadians to work and to work fast.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Infrastructure Program
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REF

Stephen Harper

Reform

Mr. Stephen Harper (Calgary West)

I have a supplementary question, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for his clarification. Obviously this was a case of a political announcement occurring before this House was consulted and before criteria were publicly known. It creates the impression that we have another pork-barrel program. What action is the minister going to take to ensure that this type of situation does not occur in the future and what precisely did he do about the fact that the announcement was as ill timed as it was?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Infrastructure Program
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure)

Mr. Speaker, this is going to be a very open and transparent program. Information has been supplied to all members of the House with respect to the criteria under which the projects will be examined. The projects are not initiated at the federal level even though the program has been. The projects are initiated at the municipal level and are designed to meet the priorities of local government and the provincial government.

That is what we have done in the case of this project to meet the priorities and the needs of the province of Quebec and the people of Quebec City and with the full support, I might add, of the mayor of Quebec City, members of the Quebec caucus and the Quebec government. I believe that is a good example of how we can get all levels of government together. It is the kind of thing we want to do to make sure this program succeeds, ensure that it be very open and transparent and in fact avoid the very kinds of concerns the member has.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Infrastructure Program
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BQ

Richard Bélisle

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Richard Bélisle (La Prairie)

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the President of the Treasury Board. Does the Minister responsible for the Treasury Board intend to react to the request made by the Auditor General who, year after year, has revealed cases of income tax revenue lost as a result of the use of tax shelters, and does he intend to give the Auditor General a clear mandate to evaluate what these tax shelters cost the Federal Treasury?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure)

Mr. Speaker, the government, as I think was indicated previously by my colleague the Minister of Finance, finds itself very substantially in agreement with most of the observations that have been made in the Auditor General's report. Even though those observations relate to what went on previous to this government taking office, nevertheless it is the responsibility of this government to make sure we respond to the concerns the member has raised.

Indeed, we have already done so to a great extent in things like the opening up of the budget process which my colleague talked about earlier and streamlining the decisions in cabinet and various other programs that have been put forward by the Prime Minister to reduce the costs of operation of different ministries, the size of political perks and many other things. We have responded to some of the concerns the member has raised.

We are going to continue to take note and look into all of these matters. I am sure we will be able to come back to the hon. member and to this House with some further observations and suggestions as to how we can meet many of these requests of the Auditor General.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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BQ

Richard Bélisle

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Richard Bélisle (La Prairie)

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General says in the report tabled today that it may cost Canadian taxpayers another $1.2 billion in income tax revenues lost in the resource sector and the petroleum and mining industries.

Here is a case that was mentioned by the Auditor General. After 14 years of dispute, litigation, negotiation and discussion, there is still no consensus on how the profits of these corporations should be calculated.

How does the minister intend to end this judicial saga, which has already cost Canadian taxpayers a great deal, recover the amounts outstanding, and plug these expensive tax loopholes once and for all?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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January 19, 1994