Mr. Speaker, in the recent speech from the throne the new Liberal government promised to restore the court challenges program which had been cancelled by the previous Conservative government in 1992.
The court challenges program was originally established by the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau in 1978 and it was expanded in 1982. Its purpose was to assure that Canadians could enforce their constitutional rights before the courts.
In 1981 we established a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guaranteed certain basic rights to all Canadians, rights such as fundamental freedoms, equality rights, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights and language rights.
It is one thing to have these rights guaranteed in the Constitution, but it is another thing to enforce these rights in court, especially against big government or big business. One needs the funds to hire lawyers over a long period of time, very often in appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Without the funds to enforce your rights in court, these rights become meaningless. That is why a Liberal government established the court challenges program: to provide funds to individuals and groups who had important constitutional rights to enforce, especially where a precedent was involved.
During the life of the program the most important cases dealt with language rights and equality rights. In my constituency in particular there is great concern over the erosion of language rights. On several occasions there were important court actions taken against Quebec Bills 101 and 178 which were successful in knocking out repressive sections of those laws. There were similar actions in other provinces by francophones. The battle has not ended. There are still sections of those and other laws which must be challenged and citizens need help from the government to do that.
I would like to know today when the government will bring back the court challenges program as promised in the speech from the throne. I want a clear commitment that it will cover court challenges to legislation which restricts or rescinds language rights.
Ms. Albina Guarnieri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage)
On behalf of the Minister of Canadian Heritage I am pleased to have the opportunity to clarify the scope of the court challenges program for my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
As the hon. member mentioned, this government initially indicated its intention to reinstate the court challenges program in the red book and recently reinforced the commitment in the speech from the throne.
In fact the government is committed to not only the reinstatement but also the expansion of the court challenges program. In addition to language and equality rights the new program will fund test cases of national significance involving challenges to fundamental freedoms as outlined under section 2 of the charter.
I am pleased to reassure my colleague that the reinstated program will continue to support national test cases concerning federal and provincial statutes that come under sections 93 and 133 of the Constitutional Act of 1867, section 23 of the Manitoba Act, 1870, and sections 16 to 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The program will also financially support challenges to federal statutes, practices and policies under sections 15 and 38 of the Charter or when an argument based on section 27 of the Charter confirms arguments based on section 15.
The minister hopes to have the new program operational early in the new fiscal year as he indicated to my colleague previously. As a result of the broad range of interests, experience and expertise that will be taken into account by the government, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is confident the program will be implemented as quickly as possible in a manner accountable to the government and the people of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to continue with some comments and questions I raised in the House a couple of weeks ago having to do with small business in Canada.
We know that in 1993 small business bankruptcies reaped a heavy toll on the Canadian economy. Nonetheless, of one million businesses registered in Canada 97 per cent have 50
employees or less, employing 40 per cent of the Canadian workforce. Of those, 35 per cent are located in western Canada. Certainly for my constituents in Provencher small business is an important aspect of the local economy.
In 1990 despite the difficult operating environment of small business, small firms with less than 20 employees filled the employment gap left by large businesses as they restructured or closed. In fact, smaller expanding and newly established firms accounted for virtually all of the net job creation during the recession of 1990.
One of the principal obstacles to the growth of small business in Canada has been what is described as the credit crunch. Expansion into new global markets by utilizing new technology and advanced equipment occurs all too infrequently in Canada particularly in western Canada. Yet outside of its leading role in job creation and economic growth the significant contribution of small business to the economy is its ability to be self-financing.
Long term debt of small business accounts for 25 per cent of business financing with government grants and loans less than one-third of 1 per cent. The credit applications of micro businesses or those with even a smaller number of employees, 20 or less, I regret to report are rejected very frequently. However we know that in 1993 in particular most of the job growth occurred in this area.
Outside of that obstacle one of the other things we face is the difficulty in providing the human resource capabilities and capacities to staff those young and emerging new firms which create jobs in Canada. We know that in Japan 96 per cent of the students graduate from grade 12 with at least one year of calculus while comparatively in Canada 30 per cent of our young people do not even finish high school. We are told by Statistics Canada that 36 per cent of our people have difficulty even with basic numerical and reading material.
As employers in Canada not only is there a credit crunch and a deficit in terms of financing for small business but the young people and the human resources we need to staff those firms are lacking as well. I think we can compete successfully in Canada. We have the capabilities, the human resources and the infrastructure resources. I point particularly to my riding of Provencher and Atomic Energy of Canada that has been successful in applying its scientific research applications into world markets and really is second to none in the world.
My question, and I want to continue on this theme, is what is the government prepared to do to work with the Canadian banks in Canada to ensure that small business and people who are putting their lives, their resources, their homes and what they have on the line to run these small business, have access to capital and to increase the training in Canada for young people and in western Canada in particular?
Mr. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for an excellent question.
Let me just say, as the hon. member said, that small businesses create 85 per cent of the new employment in Canada. If the government can create the right environment, small business will take the lead in promoting more stable economic growth in western Canada.
In the past too much reliance has been placed on using public funds to attract large corporations. This has encouraged a culture of granterpreneurship when we want to encourage entrepreneurship. We need to encourage co-operation among jurisdictions rather than competition.
In a period of fiscal restraint, the government must work more effectively with the limited dollars available. This can be done by relying on the entrepreneurial talent of westerners and by working on the entrepreneurial talent and strategic partnerships with provincial governments and the private sector.
To encourage small business that generate new jobs, the Minister of Western Economic Diversification directed on November 26 that the western diversification program focus its repayable assistance on independent small businesses, usually with less than 50 employees.
Projects are now being assessed on the basis of their contribution to the strategic diversification of the western Canadian economy.
To create the right climate for business, governments must work co-operatively and pool their efforts in implementing strategic economic initiatives. By working together and not duplicating efforts, we can save tax dollars and create new jobs.
A recent report by the Calgary based Canada West Foundation estimated that the removal of interprovincial barriers could result in the creation of 28,000 new jobs across the four western provinces.
As well, economic and administrative co-operation-I know my time is up, Mr. Speaker, but let me just conclude that there are a number of areas-
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to talk about this issue again under Standing Order 37(3) regarding Sunshine Development in Banff National Park.
Calling a FEARO panel to assess development of the Goat's Eye ski run in the government approved leaseholding area of
Sunshine Village Corporation costing a loss of hope for jobless Albertans is a waste of taxpayers' dollars. Every step necessary for discovering the environmental impact of Goat's Eye ski run has already been studied and restudied since 1978. This project received environmental assessment review panel approval.
The formal notice of the Goat's Eye screening decision sent to Sunshine stated:
Environmental impacts predicted to result from the proposed development of Goat's Eye for skiing at Sunshine are either insignificant or mitigable with known technology as defined in section 12(c) for environmental assessment and review process guideline order 1984.
The minister should be aware that section 12(c) means the proposal may proceed or proceed with mitigation with no referral for panel review and under section 12(c) there is no need for a FEARO panel.
The hon. minister stated that Goat's Eye was virgin territory. How can that be when this is one of the five areas in our national parks the government has allowed access for public skiing recreation?
The hon. minister stated that Goat's Eye deserves an environmental assessment. May I suggest that she review the history of the project. She will find that an environmental impact assessment was completed by Gail Harrison, Canadian Parks Service, western region. Ms. Harrison found no evidence why this development should not be allowed to proceed. A regional screening committee concluded this development has minimal impact or mitigable impact consistent with EARP requirements in section 12(c).
A three day conference including environmental non-government organizations studied the long range plan and initial agreement on the plan including the parking lot and the study was presented to the Minister of the Environment.
In terms of the parking lot Bruce F. Leeson, chief, Environmental Assessment Sciences Division, Canadian Park Services, western region stated the parking lot could be developed without extraordinary environmental and engineering difficulties. We have successful experience with this kind of project.
In July 1992 Canadian Park Services stated the project was mitigable under EARP guidelines order. A preliminary screening indicated the long range plan was doable within environmental constraints. In August 1992 the Minister of the Environment approved the project.
Sunshine held an open house for the public to scrutinize the development. A majority of those present agreed with the proposal. The Federal Court in Vancouver upheld Sunshine's legal right to proceed with this development against special interest groups' intervention.
Did special interest groups pressure government to change the legal procedure and rules Sunshine followed with success? Will special interests again overrule the legal process and have the government order a FEARO panel for every project special interests do not agree with?
When will this government follow the wishes of the majority of Canadians?
May I remind the minister that two out of three notices received when the government called for the redundant public notice favoured completion of Goat's Eye. May I again remind the minister that a redundant FEARO review wastes taxpayers' dollars and prevents unemployed Albertans from having jobs on construction which could get going immediately. Then there would be ongoing operations that would create long term jobs which fits right down the alley of the red book.
Why would this minister continue to put a stop to this particular item? Calling a FEARO panel on this issue is a contradiction of 12(c) of the guidelines the minister states the government wants to uphold.
Ms. Albina Guarnieri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage)
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I am pleased to give additional information concerning the question of the hon. member for Wild Rose on the development of Sunshine Village.
As the guardian of our national parks and historic sites system Canadian Heritage is committed to the continued protection of our national heritage. Protection of heritage resources is fundamental to their continued use and enjoyment by present and future generations. As Canadians we must do all we can to ensure that any development within a national park is respectful of our natural heritage.
The Sunshine lease covers 918 hectares of federal crown land in Banff National Park. Parts of the ski area are located in a highly environmentally sensitive alpine meadow.
Following public review of the application for the Goat's Eye permit phase II we have found that there is significant concern about the impact of the Goat's Eye project on the environment and that the Goat's Eye development and the 1992 plan are indeed closely related. As a consequence the Minister of Canadian Heritage referred both development proposals to the Minister of the Environment to establish an environmental review panel.
The review of Sunshine's proposal is following the legislated environmental assessment and review process. There are legal requirements to respond to scientific deficiencies and public concern with the present proposal.
Environmental assessment has been key to the development that has already occurred at the ski hill. In fact much of the data collected earlier can be used in the current evaluation. We will continue to be mindful of our responsibilities as managers of Canada's precious natural treasures.