May 31, 1994

LIB

Dennis Mills

Liberal

Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood)

When I have to sit in the nation's boardroom with people who are trying to destroy it, from time to time my emotion gets the better of me. I find this hypocrisy distasteful at times. At any rate, I want to get back to the bill.

Bill C-17 was a tough decision made by the government to revamp unemployment insurance. It was not done in isolation. It was done in the context of a very good strategy put forward by the Minister of Finance and the minister of state for finance who I have the privilege of sitting next to in this Parliament.

When we look at the work we are doing on access to capital, the work we are doing on tax reform, pushing small business to go abroad, and when we see the opportunities that are out there, if we all work together, then within very short order we could really get Canadians feeling good about themselves again. The best way to get them to feel good about themselves is putting them back to work.

I believe that we as a government are on the right path.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
BQ

Francine Lalonde

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier)

Mr. Speaker, the day Bill C-17 is passed will be a sad day in Canadian history. Let me say to my hon. colleague who just spoke that it will be a sad day because of this bill which has the support of his government and, for the most part, of the Reform Party.

Unlike my hon. colleague who spoke before me, I would hope that my comments will be guided by intelligence rather than emotion. You will understand, however, if occasionally I do get emotional. It seems to be much easier to attempt to discredit members of the Bloc Quebecois who were democratically elected by Quebecers than it is to rationalize Bill C-17, an outrage for this party and for this government, which calls itself liberal but will soon have to find a new name, much like the Progressives became the Progressive Conservatives.

Before moving on to the heart of my presentation, I would like to focus on one point that has been troubling me ever since my hon. colleagues began talking about the instability that the Bloc Quebecois is creating with its sovereignty plans. Those responsible for the demise of Meech are sitting on the other side of this House. They are the ones responsible for the movement that has grown in Quebec, although neither I nor many of my colleagues felt that Meech would be the agreement to settle Canada's fate once and for all and to clearly satisfy Quebecers. It is a certainty.

However, Meech was an attempt, an open door, and that is why even sovereigntists could not reject it. Those responsible for the death of Meech and for creating permanent instability are not sitting on this side of the House, but rather on the other side.

Instability was a problem during all those years when French Canadian Quebecers were withdrawn, docile and poor.

Getting back to my prepared text-

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Excuse me, Madam, there is a point of order.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
BQ

Gérard Asselin

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gérard Asselin (Charlevoix)

Mr. Speaker, would you please call the hon. member to order. If he wants to comment, he should be polite enough to listen and comment after the hon. member has finished her speech. Good manners also apply here in the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
?

An hon. member

We are as well-mannered as you.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Let me say that there was a motion from a member in the previous Parliament on a subject which I think affected members more than any other, namely the lack of public respect because we did some things here that the public found awful. I see your point and I hope that your colleagues opposite will respect your point as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
LIB

Dennis Mills

Liberal

Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood)

Mr. Speaker, I think you have addressed most of this. The member knows that it is not uncommon for members from time to time after they have given a long speech to walk out into the lobby. As Canadians should know, we have a television monitor there so I was listening to the hon. member's remarks. I was not being rude to the member.

The record would show that I have listened to many speeches of members of the Bloc Quebecois in an effort to understand where they are coming from as they try to destroy the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

I will say this in English. If I understood the point, and I was speaking momentarily with counsel at the table, the member was not criticizing the parliamentary secretary. He was criticizing another member in the House for interrupting the speech of the member who had the floor. I do not think the parliamentary secretary was in anybody's mind to be criticized.

We have had this discussion before. The parliamentary secretary, with respect, will remember the low repute that Parliament went into in the last Parliament. He and I were both here. As I said in French, the reason they did is because our constituents thought we behaved improperly in this place.

Therefore, I hope that all new members in this Parliament will give each other more respect than we gave each other in the last Parliament.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
BQ

Francine Lalonde

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Lalonde

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I repeat that the day Bill C-17 passes will be a sad day in Canadian history. Of course, it is much easier for the party in power to talk about anything but this bill, because this bill shows a bias to attack the unemployed, welfare recipients and public servants and carefully avoids touching the wealthy, family trusts and tax shelters.

We agree that something absolutely must be done about the deficit, but we disagree when those opposite attack only the unemployed, the poor and public servants, as we see in this bill. It attacks unemployment insurance and social assistance at a time when unemployment is extremely high, when few Canadians feel their jobs are safe, even and I might say especially small and medium-sized business owners because of recent incidents that have come to my knowledge, incidents that happened not in faraway places but in my own riding, where small businesses have gone bankrupt. I know that a great many small businesses are having a very hard time right now. I will address this issue as well.

The Liberal government decision to cut as much as it has in the unemployment insurance program is an historic one on the part of people who cloak themselves in the Canadian unity flag and claim to be promoting national unity. If they have done their homework and taken a good look at what they are doing, then they should know how much of an impact these cuts to unem-

ployment insurance will have on the various regions of Quebec and Canada over the next two years.

I have quoted these statistics on several occasions in this House, Mr. Speaker, but they are at the heart of this bill. In fiscal years 1995-96 and 1996-97, cuts in that area alone will total $630 million in Atlantic Canada and $735 million in Quebec. Is that what Canadians have to hope for?

This means that together Atlantic Canada and Quebec will bear 60 per cent of the cuts, while only one third of the total population of Canada lives in these two regions. The situation is even worse in the case of Atlantic Canada. That region alone bears 26 per cent of the cuts, with only 8.5 per cent of the population.

Besides the Bloc Quebecois, who has risen in this House and denounced loudly the fact that the Maritime or Atlantic provinces are made to pay the largest share? The other side may refuse to hear, but we did point this out. We have not heard the hon. members from Western Canada complain about how hard Maritime workers were hit either. We, from the Bloc Quebecois, are the ones who have made this regional disparity public. It was no big secret and it should not be, but the information had to be leaked out just the same. Then, the government was forced to provide explanations.

I am pointing out for the first time in this House the extent to which the Maritimes and Quebec are indeed targeted by these cuts. Why is that? Just because they raise UI eligibility requirements from 10 to 12 weeks. Is the effect achieved a surprise? No, Mr. Speaker. If we in this House could show the very nice charts compiled by Employment and Immigration Canada, the people watching us would see that the great majority of UI recipients with short periods of employment are in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. It is known fact.

More surprisingly, it is even a known fact that the number of recipients with 8 to 19 weeks of insurable employment fell from 610,000 in 1975 to 250,000 in 1990.

This means that when we "improved" unemployment insurance, recipients generally had a short period of employment behind them. Since that time, however, the number of unemployed people with a long history of employment has increased. That is no reason to reduce benefits for those unable to find longer-term jobs in their local economy, as I will demonstrate.

In a document based on the data available, Employment and Immigration Canada tried to predict how many people would be affected by the fact that, in these regions where seasonal employment is very important, the minimum number of weeks of work required to qualify for UI will be increased from 10 to 12. So how many Canadians will be affected by this provision, according to Employment and Immigration Canada's forecasts which are likely very conservative. Forty-four thousand people. Where are these 44,000 people? Newfoundland, 16,000; Prince Edward Island, 2,960; Nova Scotia, 3,575; New Brunswick, 11,535; Quebec, 8,000.

Of course, some may find it strange that people cannot find longer-term jobs. It may be strange that the East has a different economic structure but history explains it. However, so far, Canada's unemployment insurance has taken these different economic structures into account. And I could go on, Mr. Speaker. How many will be affected in Ontario? In all of Ontario, how many will be affected? That is an interesting question. We could hold a lottery with that. According to Employment and Immigration Canada's estimates, 305.

How many will be affected in Manitoba? Two hundred and five. This is 205 too many. In Saskatchewan? Zero. Alberta is also a winner: zero. In British Columbia? Eight hundred and fifteen.

These figures are telling. Why have UI cuts been made in this fashion? The government wilfully targeted those who live in an economy based on seasonal employment and who try to survive by doing odd jobs. These are economies where, unlike in Ontario, there are fewer good jobs, that is permanent jobs. This is the truth. Perhaps those who drafted this legislation do not realize that it is not out of laziness, carelessness or contempt that a very large number of Canadians have short-term jobs which, from time to time, force them to rely on UI benefits, never knowing if they will be able to find another job the following year. Well, now these people know; they know that they will not be able to work next year.

According to this very interesting study, the number of those people who will eventually have to go on welfare is not known. Yet, social assistance estimates for provinces are established on that basis.

There are two other types of cuts which will particularly affect people who use up their UI benefits. Again, the big losers will be those living in eastern provinces.

Some, including members of this House, may laugh. Let me tell them what Alain Dubuc wrote. Mr. Dubuc is an editorial writer in La Presse , an economist by training, and he is certainly not a spokesperson for community groups. He wrote: Axworthy is making a mistake-'', the expression hon. minister is missing because this is a quote,-because he is cutting before helping. I too deplore the fact that so many people, in Quebec and in Canada, have to rely on that program. But it is a mistake to think that we will succeed by depriving them of UI benefits, without programs and a policy to give them hope of finding work-''. We can talk about hope but in reality there is more

despair than hope for these people, and this is something which can also trigger instability.

This morning we were told that the UN is starting to make a parallel between the resurgence of trouble in the world and the rise of poverty. Those who enjoy job security for five years or who, in some cases, are sheltered from financial setbacks forever cannot imagine, from the comfort of their homes, that there are people who depend solely on UI benefits or welfare, whose lives are in the hands of a civil servant who will decide if they are entitled to UI benefits and for how long, people who keep submitting their resumes and hoping for training programs that are not available.

The truth is not what we are hearing here today, that Parliament should ensure that all Canadians have access to training. The truth is that there are a great many people waiting to take part in training programs which are not accessible to them. That is the truth. We are in the middle of a psychodrama here with, on one side, all of the lazy people who do not want training and, on the other side, the Liberal government acting like a saviour and saying: "First, we will reduce you to poverty and then we will urge you to get some training and go back to work".

To think like that, you cannot be living in the real world. You must, however, have a vision of what development and hope should be. As far as I am concerned, this bill deals a severe blow to the Atlantic provinces. The vast majority of the people in Atlantic Canada voted for the Liberals. And with no warning whatsoever, from what we can tell, they will now end up with an economy in worse shape than ever, because the infrastructure programs also included in the budget will not begin to offset the economic impact of cuts to the unemployment insurance program.

The Atlantic provinces stand to lose $630 million. This shortfall of $630 million will not be offset by the Groundfish Adjustment Program. This is a very sad day indeed, because it seems to me that ideology is taking precedence over the real needs of ordinary people. The government is proceeding with cuts without having a real employment policy.

An hon. member opposite said the Bloc Quebecois never made a single constructive proposal. Well, from the very beginning, in committee and in the House, we mentioned the need for a genuine job creation policy. In Quebec, we call that a full employment policy, a pro-active employment policy.

In the committee on which I sit, I had to make a big fuss before they would invite someone who is an expert, not on mini-measures, mini-reforms and mini-programs but on the kind of pro-active employment policy that involves a large number of components and instruments and whose chief characteristic is the basic and abiding concern of the government for job creation; not employment created at the cost of productivity but an employment policy that would require taking a closer look at all the measures taken by the government, in the light of the need to deal with unemployment.

Last night I read a very interesting document by one of the advisors on the task force of the Minister of Human Resources Development. It started by stating that, in Canada, governments have not been concerned about employment. Incidentally, the same advisor was deputy minister at Employment and Immigration Canada for a number of years. I think that is an interesting point. And I think he underestimates an aspect that we in Quebec have developed, perhaps because we were hit harder by the first recession, and I am referring to the need for consultation between companies, workers represented by their labour organizations, regional interest groups and governments. Consultation has to be learned, and let me tell you, from what I have seen of the government opposite, it has yet to realize that consultation is necessary.

I wish, and I consider this another constructive proposal, that the government in its search for a job creation policy would realize that consultation is essential. What does Bill C-17 do? It starts by destroying the trust that is a necessary part of the consultation process. The government starts by saying: Cut unemployment insurance, and cut in the Maritimes and Quebec, before our social reform and before we consult people, and freeze public service compensation before starting a genuine discussion but do not touch corporations, the tax treatment of the rich, tax shelters or trusts. And then they say: Let us consult!

There are words to describe this, but they would be unparliamentary.

Oh, and another thing, Mr. Speaker, I want to say I am very disappointed that we did not have an opportunity to discuss the amendments one by one in the House. And I also want to mention a point that is very important, and I am referring to the negative impact on the economy. I will be brief, since my colleagues will get back to this later on.

I wanted to say that the money that will not go to the provinces is money that was used to pay for basic necessities, including the rent. This means small landlords will be affected because it will be harder to collect the rent. The money was used to pay for food and for all those basic necessities that are often produced locally and are in fact part of the economy of each community, of my riding, of your riding and of the regions. It is money that will not go into the economy. It affects the most vulnerable members of our society. It affects those who already have no security in their lives. It affects those who often make seemingly irrational decisions. It affects people on welfare who, once a month, receive a cheque many members here would spend in less than a week-end, and people who depend on their unemployment insurance cheque, but do not know how long they will keep on getting it.

The number of people who may have to rely on unemployment insurance is growing. I met one of them this week, he is not young, although many young people are affected too. He is a teacher with 20 years of experience, who has never enjoyed job security and is now unemployed in spite of having 23 years of schooling. He is extremely angry because when you are unemployed you feel as if society has no respect for human beings.

Right now, how many people are in the same situation? Do not tell me that the budget as a whole gives Canadians hope for the future. In what way, may I ask? First they cut, and them they ask us to believe them.

My colleague opposite who, a while ago, mentioned instability, reminds me of a pyromaniac who starts a fire and then bemoans the fact that it is burning. With its measures, this government is not rekindling hope for all those who live in a precarious situation, a situation many know nothing about, a situation so precarious that they end up with no self-respect, that they cannot have a family of their own, and that they do not dare look at people straight in the eyes. Unemployment insurance is a lifeline, and when it is taken away, you drop quite a few notches.

People come to my riding office, in a panic, because their UI benefits are about to end and they may have to go on welfare. They feel as if they were falling into a big black hole. Obviously, we try to encourage them, but what is there to tell them except that the situation is extremely tough and that there are few opportunities?

One wonders what kind of social and economic model forms the basis of this bill. By reducing the payments from 57 to 55 per cent for 85 per cent of the unemployed, and by reducing the number of weeks ever closer to half a year, we are moving towards the American model. Whether we like or not, this is a fact. The truth is that the Canadian unemployment insurance program resembles more and more the American one.

A few days ago, a member from the opposite side was saying: "Even with today's globalization, a country remains the master of its social and economic organization". In reality, the Liberals are pursuing the policies of the Conservatives. Or, putting it another way, the Conservatives, while in power, followed a Liberal policy. Everybody is following the policy of the McDonald report.

I remind members that the McDonald report was produced by a commission chaired by Mr. McDonald who was appointed by Mr. Trudeau. The Conservatives implemented its recommendations and now the Liberals are implementing the last part, the one concerning income security.

We cannot ignore the facts and keep on saying that the new Canadian jobs will be provided by China.

The pretext, heard several times in this Chamber, was that we have to give small and medium-sized businesses a chance. On that point I would like to say to my colleagues opposite that they are stretching the truth a bit. First, I should point out that we were the first, before January, to say that UI premiums should not increase. They were at $3 and they should have stayed at $3. We had proposed to freeze premiums. The government did not listen to us. It increased them. Now, it is bragging about the fact that it will lower them to $3 next January. And it adds-again stretching the truth-that this will create 40,000 jobs.

The fact of the matter is that by raising premiums to $3.07, the government has made it more difficult to create jobs this year. With Bill C-17, it should at least have had the decency to reduce the UI premium rate to $3 immediately, if this move could have created jobs.

There are other ways to continue funding unemployment insurance without reducing the benefits of the least fortunate and creating in the process social and economic problems for those regions hardest hit. There are countries that have found alternative solutions. For example, why will the government not consider increasing the average industrial wage through contributions? Such a move would help to fund UI by getting large companies, even those with few blue-collar workers, to contribute without the government having to resort once again to lowering the benefits of the least fortunate and, in the process, creating additional social burdens.

When a government drives people onto welfare and then is forced to invest money supposedly to convince them to leave it behind, then its policies are illogical. Such policies cannot, ultimately, create jobs.

This bill which unfortunately will be adopted shortly is a total disaster. I would like to think that my hon. colleagues will be convinced by our comments directed to all of Canada and to all Canadians of the importance of equity and job creation in Canada.

The government claims to be concerned about child poverty. However, child poverty begins with poverty in the home. Thousands of people are being forced into poverty and, later on, the government will shed crocodile tears regarding their sad fate.

Before concluding my remarks, I would like to point out that one of the many provisions in this bill has not been given a sufficiently high profile-not that we have not tried to focus on it-is the total discretion enjoyed by the minister as far as pilot projects are concerned. Allow me to explain myself.

Pursuant to this bill, when the minister designates a region to be the focus of a pilot project, he alone can decide whether the provisions will not apply to a particular group of citizens, to whom no recourse is available.

One could even wonder if that is not "unconstitutional" under the Charter. The minister selects pilot projects and, because of this, legislation, the application of which is usually general, no longer applies to a prescribed group.

Of course, we can argue that the idea is always to improve on the existing legislation. But the fact of the matter is that it is not the case. It is not. Various conditions may be added that do not apply to other employees, as was recently the case in the adjustment program for ground fishermen.

So, this measure in itself would have required that we take a closer look at it and ask ourselves if Canada really wanted to introduce such a discretionary measure, and give a minister-incidentally, a minister whose department is so large that one cannot help but wonder if, as in the case of the British Empire, the sun never sets on it, and how the minister can keep up his fences-that much power, without any possibility for ordinary citizens, except perhaps through constitutional remedies not provided for by the act, to protect otherwise recognized rights.

As you know, in the context of unemployment insurance, there is always a tribunal where, among other parties, workers are represented. I would have much more to say, from the bottom of my heart, on this bill which affects all Canadians, a bill that divides Canada, a bill that abandons Atlantic provinces. We will discuss the adjustment program for groundfisheries, but you are not going to come and tell me that this program alone will revitalize the economy of that region. As I said earlier, Atlantic Canada and Quebec are hard hit, savagely hit, while this government blows its own trumpet, boasts, brags about being a national unity government.

Yet, among the political parties represented in this House, only the Bloc called attention to this problem. I am pointing this out because I noticed it and I would like the hon. members opposite to notice it as well. They are of course bound by ministerial discretion. The Reform Party failed to do its job as the national party that it claims to be. Let me assure you however that our vision in the Bloc is not to destroy Canada.

We have tried to find our place within this Canada and the response we got was "no". So, yes, we want to leave this confederation, but not destroy Canada, quite the contrary. All our action in this place, whether on cultural, social and even economic issues, is fundamentally constructive. Yes, we want to leave Canada, but we want our future friendly neighbour to be a strong one as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
REF

Ray Speaker

Reform

Mr. Ray Speaker (Lethbridge)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-17, the budget implementation act. In my remarks I will attempt to give an overview of the Reform Party's position or, more accurately, positions on the assortment of measures that constitute Bill C-17 and explain why we will be voting against the bill on third reading.

I will comment on the objections Reform has with certain aspects of the bill, but I will also give praise where praise is due. In fact, many of the measures contained in Bill C-17 are supported by the Reform Party.

Before getting into Bill C-17 I would like to take this one last opportunity to speak of the government's budget and to the concerns my party has repeatedly expressed in the weeks and months since the budget was presented to this House of Commons. Those ideas we feel have not been heard as they should and have fallen somewhat on deaf ears.

I would like to make four points with regard to the budget as I see what has happened in this assembly since February 22. First of all, it is very clear that the government does not have a concrete deficit reduction plan. We find that most of the cuts were done in a haphazard way. There is no an over-arching direction given to those cuts. Most of the cuts are merely a combination of what we call Conservative policies and were a continuation of thrusts that were set prior to the government taking over in the fall of 1993.

Cuts to such programs as unemployment insurance which were so eloquently talked about a few moments ago and the defence policy were taken before any comprehensive foreign policy review or a social policy review were put in place. It was ad hoc in nature at best.

The target that the government has set for itself, what is called the 3 per cent solution, which is supposed to be based on the Maastricht treaty is an aberration of that treaty and not an accurate reflection. It does not measure what is called the net debt as it is in the Maastricht treaty. The Maastricht treaty talks about all of the net debt of a country. In the formula presented here by the government, provincial and municipal debts are not taken into consideration in seeing the difficulties we face as a country in terms of expending money and revenue sources that are available to us.

The actions of the government are not a true reflection of what I would call a meaningful Maastricht treaty 3 per cent policy. I feel there is a gap between what should be done and what is being done by the government.

Second, we feel the economic assumptions that were placed before us have already been thrown off course. As the Prime Minister noted yesterday, the Quebec situation is creating uncertainty and the higher rates of interest in the budget have not been factored in. Interest rates have climbed significantly higher than projected with no end in sight. Certainly the prospects for interest rate declines are out of the question given recent bond downgrades and the Quebec question that is before us in the months ahead.

Most reputable economic firms have downgraded their growth projections after noting the interest rate increases. The growth in revenues that are so necessary to the Liberal plan are in jeopardy. Unemployment is staying stubbornly high and with downgrades in growth projections this key projection also appears to be in jeopardy. The Liberals seem to be making as little progress in job creation as they have made with deficit reduction.

We raise the question, as we have done over and over again as the Reform Party: When will the Liberals realize that in our current situation only meaningful deficit reduction will lead to long term job creation in our nation? That message is clear and becoming more clear each day.

The third point I wish to make is that the second phase of the deficit reduction plan is in jeopardy as it will be overridden by larger political concerns. With the looming Quebec election and the possibility-we hope not-of a victory of the PQ, the political environment for further cuts and serious deficit reduction is seriously in doubt.

The active work of the Bloc in the House and out on the hustings to major changes in the UI system is a bad omen for future deficit reduction. How will the federal government be able to achieve significant savings when every move to do so will be used by the separatists, as they have done in the House already, as further fuel for their fire?

The apparent refusal of the government to clearly lay the groundwork for the separatist debate now can only mean that significant resources that are needed for deficit reduction may be diverted to fight battles with Quebec separatists. That is unfortunate.

If I may make a comment on what the previous speaker from the Bloc said, when the separatists say they are not here to break up the country, the inferences and the actions of that party have already started a turmoil within our economic community. They are reflected in the future lives of not only businesses but individuals, and certainly in the overall public responsibility that we have in the House of Commons.

Reformers have a plan. We are currently developing a comprehensive deficit reduction plan which looks at each department of government with a view to comprehensive cuts and reductions that we know will result in economic confidence and growth. What actions are contemplated and what will we do in the months ahead? First of all, we will have a department by department review to determine expenditure excesses and the elimination of certain functions that government can no longer afford.

Second, the comprehensive plan will be further developed over the summer and will play an integral role in the Reform legislative agenda for this fall. Third, the comprehensive plan will be presented in detail to the Minister of Finance during the pre-budget consultations also scheduled for the fall. I give full credit to the minister and the government for setting up those consultations. They are a first and the government deserves accolades for taking such action.

Fifth, this plan will be ready for any crisis that may take place in our national finances. It will also function as the Reform platform for suggestions of future government reductions and future government initiatives that lie ahead as a responsibility in this House.

With those few comments about the budget, I would like to turn back to Bill C-17, the budget implementation act. The bill contains many measures which, as I have said, the Reform Party supports. A number of the principles that underlay changes contained in Bill C-17 are compatible with Reform policy, yet we cannot support the bill and will vote against it at the conclusion of the third reading debate.

Let me explain why Reform is voting against Bill C-17 despite supporting much of its content. There are two reasons: the omnibus nature of the bill and the lack of an overall plan or vision of where these changes will lead. Let me first talk about the omnibus bill.

The Oxford dictionary defines omnibus as follows: "serving several objects at once; comprising of several items". What we have before us today is an omnibus bill composed of five distinct pieces of legislation which bear little relationship to one another. This approach is not new and I am sure members have witnessed it many times in the House. Certainly I have in the provincial legislature of Alberta.

Today I am reminded of an event that is somewhat similar as this. Some 12 or 13 years ago the government of the day of which the Prime Minister and a number of his colleagues were members tried to pass another omnibus bill. The loyal opposition fought back the only way it could, by refusing to report for the vote. As a result, the bells rang for days until the government finally agreed to break the bill up to allow members the opportunity to represent their constituents.

The problem with omnibus legislation is that there is no way for an individual member to sort out the wheat from the chaff. One must either hold one's nose and vote in favour, which I suspect a good many of my colleagues on the opposite side will do when we come to the voting stage, particularly those from the east, or members will vote no, thereby risking the defeat of some of the measures that they believe are good, sensible, progressive pieces of legislation.

Of course that is the purpose of omnibus legislation, to allow a government to hide a number of lemons among the Cadillacs. It is a procedural tactic employed to prevent members of Parliament from effectively representing their constituents, a tactic that deprives them of the opportunity to exercise their direction in choosing which policies they support and which policies they oppose.

In the case of Bill C-17, the use of this tactic forced the Reform Party to play politics somewhat, to engage in procedural games in order to represent its constituency. The only way we could express our support for some of the clauses in Bill C-17 while simultaneously expressing our opposition to other parts of the bill, notably the clause granting borrowing authority to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was to table a series of report stage amendments.

This allowed us to break up the bill for the purposes of debate. It also produced a situation in which members of the Reform Party were forced to vote against their own amendments. I know a lot of members were concerned about it and raised that question. However, it was the only way we were able to set up a circumstance where we could vote on individual items in the bill and then be able to express our constituents' will.

The second point I wish to make is with regard to lack of a plan. That is the second reason the Reform Party opposes Bill C-17. While we view many of the measures contained within as a good first step and while we support the general principle and the direction of some of these changes, we are troubled by the absence of any overall vision in Bill C-17. It is similar to the vision we witnessed in the budget as a whole where there was not a vision that was seeking some kind of a plan or a future or an identifiable objective for the country as a whole.

I would like to look at the parts of Bill C-17. It consists of five parts as the House well knows. First, public sector compensation; second, reductions in the Canada assistance plan and the public utility income tax transfers; third, the reduction in transportation subsidies; fourth, CBC borrowing authority; and fifth, the item that is being well aired and vented in this assembly, unemployment insurance and the actions taken thereon.

Let me deal with each one. The first one is public sector compensation. The Reform Party supports the government's move to extend public sector wage freezes for an additional two years. While we are troubled by some of the inequities that arise from the freezing of pay increments within salary grades, we are prepared to support this in recognition of the government's difficult fiscal situation.

Some people have tried to portray the Reform Party as public servant bashers. This is absolutely unfair. The reason we support the continuation of the public sector wage freeze is because of the recognition that in difficult times, and these are difficult times, everyone must make sacrifices. While it is true that many in the public service have not had a raise in a number of years, the fairness of the wage freeze becomes apparent when we compare what has occurred in the private sector in this last recession.

We need only ask the tens of thousands of private sector employees who have been victimized by corporate downsizing, those who have been laid off as businesses struggled to meet the demands of globalization. We should ask these people if they would have accepted a salary freeze in return for job security. I am sure the answer would have been: "Yes, I am prepared to do that".

However, most of those people were laid off and are out looking for other ways to support their families, their mortgages and their responsibilities. In fact, a considerable number of private sector workers have gone even beyond just salary freezes. They have gone to salary rollbacks in order to save their jobs.

This is not to be seen as a positive development but rather as an acknowledgement that if Canadians are to meet the increasing demands of the global markets then everybody, employer and employee, must be prepared to sacrifice in this partnership that is a responsibility of all of us.

With an equally formidable problem facing the government in the form of our massive debt, Reformers do not see it as too much to ask that the public servants, who according to a recent study conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses are paid 14 per cent more than those people in the private sector with comparable jobs, accept the extension of a salary freeze.

We in the Reform Party, in acknowledgement of this difficult fiscal situation, have tried as well within our own party and our own caucus to demonstrate some leadership in this area by taking a voluntary 10 per cent to 15 per cent salary reduction. We are not asking the public service to do anything that we are not prepared by example to do ourselves.

However, while we support the government's action in this area, we also believe that this alone will do very little to bring the government's deficit under control. It is my guess that the government had no idea where to cut or how to deal with the priorities, and it saw the salary freeze of the public service as an easy target and that target was placed before us in the budget.

The next areas I would like to deal with concern the reductions in the Canada assistance plan and the public utilities income tax transfers.

First of all, while we support reductions to the Canada assistance plan, transfers to the provincial governments, we believe that the corollary of this is that the federal government where it has a responsibility must give the provinces more freedom in adjusting to the lower level of funding. They cannot make ground rules that cannot be lived with within their economic means. If we cut funds from the provinces, then we must also change the level of responsibility in order that adjustments can be made at the local provincial level.

If we look back when the Canada assistance plan was created, the federal government used its fiscal powers to intrude into an area that was exclusively provincial jurisdiction. It agreed at that time to pay 50 per cent of costs if in return the provinces agreed to certain national standards. That was the deal. Since both levels of government were happy with this cost shared agreement there was no problem. What we have to do is look ahead and see what happened.

However, after continuous cutbacks of Canada assistance program transfers the federal contribution, for example, in Ontario today is just 29 per cent, about half of what it was in the first commitment that the federal government made. Yet the federal government at the same time insists on the provinces maintaining certain national standards. The government cannot have it both ways. There must be a change in planning, policy and attitude.

If the federal government wants to continue to have the say in the field of welfare, a field exclusive to provincial jurisdiction, then it on the other hand must be prepared to pay its full share. That is not what I am talking about here today, but that is the option that should be open to the government.

We in the Reform Party recognize that the federal government simply cannot afford to maintain such a level of funding. That is why we support a cap on the Canada assistance program. However, as the quid pro quo we are prepared to allow the provinces the freedom which I have talked about that they need to experiment in creating sustainable and efficient income support programs.

My concern with the government's cuts to the Canada assistance program is that they have been made in isolation, with no consideration of the consequences that these measures will have on other aspects of Canada's income security system. This measure does not move the country closer to a permanent solution to our financial crisis; it only offloads the debt from one level of government to the other. We cannot afford to do that in our nation. It is unfair.

As a senior government we have to take a parental responsibility and understand that we cannot unload the debt on our children, that we have to deal with the circumstance here in this assembly as adult, parental, responsible persons in charge of the program across this nation.

We must remember in doing this that there is only one taxpayer and if we keep loading it down from one government level to another that taxpayer is going to be suffocated in this transfer of funding responsibility.

I would like to now talk about the reductions in the transportation subsidies. The Reform supports the principle of reducing transportation subsidies but we question the wisdom of making these cuts in isolation from other measures which would address the various serious transportation problems facing the country.

Supporting reductions in the grain transportation subsidies is not an easy thing for me to do. I am a grain farmer and many of the voters who sent the Reform Party to Ottawa have benefited from the Crow rates. However, we must be realists. I realize that the federal government simply cannot afford to continue subsidizing western and Atlantic transportation costs at their current level. Last year alone federal subsidies for the Crow benefit totalled $720 million.

Unlike the government the Reform Party does have a plan. The Reform approach is to eliminate transportation subsidies and redirect the funds to the Reform Party's proposed comprehensive safety net programs which will defend Canada's food producers against matters over which they have very little control.

In order to create a genuinely competitive transportation environment we will deregulate the rail transportation system and will consider privatizing the Canadian national rolling stock.

Unlike the Liberal government's insensitive, across the board approach to reducing transportation subsidies, the Reform policy is a balanced one which provides support to those who truly need it while laying the foundations for an efficient and market driven transportation system that will carry Canadians into the 21st century.

The next subject I would like to deal with is CBC borrowing, the borrowing authority that is given in this bill. It is the first borrowing authority to be provided to that crown corporation by the government through legislation.

I want to say very clearly that the Reform Party is strongly opposed to the provisions in Bill C-17 that would amend the Broadcasting Act to allow borrowing by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. CBC representatives have told us that this $25 million would be used for a purpose that would provide a more business like flexibility to the organization. We in the Reform Party see this as nothing more than a back door way of

providing the CBC with additional funding. Rather than coming through the front door as a subsidy or a grant from government it is another way it can access funds outside of the purview of the House of Commons. That is not correct.

On a more fundamental basis, Reform feels it is time to re-examine the purpose and the mandate of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. First, in this new age of satellite dishes and information highways, of cable TV and pay per view, is it realistic to expect the CBC to retain a sizeable viewing audience? By the CBC's own admission this audience has already declined to just 13.3 per cent of viewing share. It has diminished significantly.

Second, is it fair to allow the CBC to straddle the line between market player and crown corporation? While some have called on the CBC to act like any other private sector business, this is not possible. In the private sector you have to earn a profit or you die.

The CBC does not have to confront this discipline of the marketplace. It does not matter if it loses staggering sums of money. At the present time as Canadians we are subsidizing it. Many Canadians do not realize that $1.1 billion is going directly out of the public purse to subsidize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That is the way it is. The government has always been there to bail it out when necessary.

We are in a period of time when this is a legitimate question. How can a private network like CTV be expected to compete against a company which has billions of dollars of government money behind it? This question must be addressed.

Communication and technology are so different today than ever before. People who did not have access to television or radio at one time in our history today have that access. Anywhere in the world you can project television, anywhere in the world you can project radio or communication systems. We do not require a subsidized organization to meet that communication demand that was there at one time.

I recall my stint at the University of Alberta where one of my colleagues, the Right Hon. Joe Clark, and other colleagues I spent time with debated this issue. At that time I supported the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on the basis that there were places in Canada unable to receive this communication of television or radio and we needed the corporation for that purpose. I supported it at that time. That reason is gone today. We have to look at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation running on its own two feet on a non-subsidized basis from the Government of Canada.

The last item I would like to deal with is the unemployment insurance question which has been discussed in this assembly. The Reform Party supports the direction the Liberal government has taken in the principles it has embraced in the changes to the unemployment insurance plan.

First, Reform congratulates the Liberal government for reducing the unemployment insurance premium rates. It has long been the Reform Party's position that the most effective job creation tool available to government is to reduce the tax burden of individuals and of businesses.

Second, Reform fully supports changes designed to improve the link between work history and unemployment insurance benefits. These changes move the unemployment insurance plan back toward a true insurance program, as it was intended to be in the first place. As I will argue later, many of the other policy goals UI is currently serving would be better accomplished through other government programs.

Third, Reform supports changes to the qualifying period, the benefit rate and the benefit period, all of which reduce some of the program's disincentives to work. While we have some concern about changes making it easier to allow voluntary quits to collect benefits, the general direction of the changes is to encourage people to find employment, whether it is self-employment or employment with another individual or another business firm.

In another area, while Reform is glad to see the Liberals abandon the principle of universality by moving to a two tier benefit structure which targets those most in need, we believe that such means tested criteria are not suitable for an insurance program. Such goals should be met through other government programs.

While we in the Reform Party support these actions in and of themselves we are disappointed that they were not part of a comprehensive review program, the comprehensive social review program that is currently going on. We feel that as with the rest of Bill C-17, the changes proposed in the bill are indiscriminate, ad hoc measures taken with little or no consideration as to the impact these changes will have on the broader network of Canadian social programs.

The government seems to have forgotten that the income security system of our country is not a crazy quilt of piecemeal programs, all existing independent of the other. Rather it is an intricate series of interdependent programs consciously designed to complement and strengthen one another to meet a broad range of needs faced by Canadians in their daily lives.

In the last portion of my speech I will address the vision of the Reform Party of the unemployment insurance program and its proper place within the broader family of programs that constitute Canada's social safety net. It is instructive to look at the government's approach to UI reform, for it is representative of

the government's overall approach to the budget: ill planned, disjointed and demonstrating little sense of an overall objective or goal.

I was struck during the finance subcommittee hearings on Bill C-17 by the confusion and the concern of witnesses surrounding one small provision of the bill, that dealing with allowing the government to experiment with pilot projects. Group after group denounced the provision.

Some union briefs portrayed it as a back door thought to institute workfare or to supply business with cheaper labour. Others asked what criteria were being used to monitor the success of the pilots or even whether there were any guidelines on what qualified for consideration as a pilot project. A number asked what right the government had to appropriate moneys from the UI fund, moneys paid 100 per cent by employers and employees to develop programs that seemingly had little to do with providing insurance to those who had lost their jobs and were needing support on a temporary basis.

The confusion became so persuasive that the hon. parliamentary secretary for finance felt it necessary to have a clarification of the criteria for pilot projects and how they would be funded read into the record of our meetings.

While I am not completely satisfied with the government's assurances, the principle of the pilot project does not trouble me very greatly. Reform has always supported the idea of experimenting with new and innovative ways of updating and improving our social programs. What troubles me is the reason for all of the confusion in the first place.

There was no consultation into these provisions and we witnessed that very clearly in each committee meeting. Where was the input of the people who were to be directly affected by these somewhat innovative measures? There was none. None of the business or labour organizations appearing before the subcommittee had been consulted on what the experimental initiatives should be.

It was a top down exercise controlled by bureaucrats and departmental officials rather than from the bottom up involving the program's true stakeholders, the employers and the employees who fund the UI program. That was a major neglect of government in this process.

What were all the witnesses appearing before the subcommittee really saying to us? They asked whose program it is. The question from them was a good one. After all, unemployment insurance is completely self-financing. The government theoretically contributes nothing to UI, neither toward the payment of benefits nor toward the cost of administration. Yet it still controls the program.

Much of what ails the UI program, the $6 billion debt, the inefficiencies and the allegations of abuse, stems from the simple fact that the original purpose of UI has been compromised by politicians and by bureaucrats who distorted the program to perform a number of functions for which the UI program was never intended and which it is relatively ineffective in performing.

Let us look back to the 1930s and 1940s, which is far in one sense but not so far in another sense depending how old one is, when the concept of unemployment insurance was first originated. In those years people had in mind that it should be a pure insurance program, one that would provide temporary income support to unemployed individuals and would entitle contributors to benefits commensurate with their contributions.

Unemployment insurance, if we look at it today, is far from that ideal. Over time changes have been introduced which created inequities based on where one lived and caused a disproportionate share of benefits to flow to workers engaged in seasonal industries, to those who live in high unemployment regions and to those who live in areas with a relatively weak attachment to the workforce.

I look back at the Forget commission 1985 report. In the report it was argued that the program's provisions for regionally extended benefits amounted to an income supplemental program rather than an insurance program. It was noted that in 1985, nine years ago, the program's original objectives were off track. What has led to this drift of first principles? A conclusion was reached in the Forget commission report:

The innumerable modifications to the program over the years were political compromises. A review of the history of the unemployment insurance program reveals that the major influences on this policy since 1940 have been the result not of negotiations between the employer and the employee interest but rather of political and bureaucratic interventions.

It is government that caused the distortions, not those really paying the bills.

We in the Reform Party believe that ownership of the unemployment insurance program must be given back to the people who founded it and are the stakeholders in that plan: the employers and the employees. The case of the unemployment insurance is the extreme example of the phenomenon alluded to earlier of the federal government continually trying to have its cake and eat it at the same time.

We have seen this in other areas of social assistance where the government freezes its contributions to the Canada assistance plan yet insists on continuing to have a say in how the program is being run. We have seen this in the area of health where the federal component of health care funding has eroded to the point where it is now in the neighbourhood of or on average 22 per cent of health care spending. Yet the federal government insists

at the same time it has the right to tell the provinces how medicare should be run.

We have said in the House in question period and through other mediums that the whole format should be changed so that the provinces can react to their own individual needs and circumstances under the economic situation that may prevail in their respective areas of the country.

In the case of unemployment insurance the government does not pay a full share of the cost. It pays none of the costs. Yet it legislates changes which amount to expropriating moneys paid to the contributors, arbitrarily transferring them into certain categories of contributors at the expense of other categories of workers, or to experimental pilot projects as I mentioned a few moments ago.

It is unfair. It is inefficient. It certainly should not continue. This program needs review like every other social program that is the responsibility of this assembly.

The federal government must decide whether it is in or whether it is out. If it wants to continue controlling the principles and the administration of UI programs, and if it wants to continue using UI to perform other social policy objectives, it has a moral obligation to become a full partner in terms of funding the programs.

If the federal government is not willing to assume its share of financing it should relinquish ownership of the programs to employers and employees, the stakeholders who are paying for and should be benefiting from unemployment insurance.

In conclusion, the Reform Party's position is that government should return UI to its original function as a true insurance program and allow employer and employee groups to administer the program. This is not a new idea. Nor is it a radical idea, as I listened to the variety of groups that made presentations to us. It is an approach which both employer and employee groups appearing before the finance committee supported. These grassroots groups supported the concept the Forget commission recommended to the government of that day.

We should listen to those representations and to what is being said by the private sector. It is time for government to trust others in terms of responsibility, to trust the provinces in terms of meeting some of our economic goals, and to work in partnership. We cannot do it alone. Nor can we take away the funds from those who carry out legislated responsibilities for us, such as provinces, such as municipalities, such as the unemployment commission, and so on. We have a grave responsibility.

I appreciate the time I have had to spend on Bill C-17. As I said earlier even though the Reform Party supports a number of initiatives, because of the omnibus nature of the bill and because we feel the bill and the budget have not presented to us as Canadians and as legislators a good vision we have an obligation to vote against Bill C-17 at third reading.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

We will now revert to 20-minute speeches.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
LIB

Marlene Catterall

Liberal

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be able to say a few words today on this important legislative measure.

When this government came to office late last year, the economy was stagnant and the public purse was burdened by a deficit exceeding $40 billion. The government reacted, especially in the recent budget, by opting for a balanced solution to turn the economy around, reduce the deficit and introduce social reform.

Our goal is to substantially reduce the deficit in the current fiscal year while promoting an economic recovery.

The bill we are discussing today, the budget implementation act, 1994, represents some measures the government believes it must take if we are to remain optimistic about the economic future of Canada.

We believe immediate measures are necessary to reduce the deficit. It imposes severe constraints on economic recovery and growth. It imposes severe threats to programs that are important to all of us as Canadians: unemployment insurance, social programs and health services among others.

It is fair to say that all Canadians realize we cannot blindly spend our way out of the financial problems facing us but rather we must do better with what we have. They and we realize that government leadership to create the climate for job generation is an important factor in balancing our books.

With that in mind, I would like to focus particularly on measures affecting Canadians who work for the Public Service of Canada, the RCMP or the Department of National Defence.

Bill C-17 extends the public service wage freeze currently in effect for a further two years. It suspends pay increment increases for a two-year period and enables payments to be made to full time employees of national defence who are retiring under a civilian reduction program.

Solving our fiscal problem required taking more restraint measures in operating budgets. Public service salaries account for a major portion of federal expenditures. The total compensation cost of the government including the military and the RCMP amounts to some $19 billion. Any measure to control the deficit must therefore take these costs into account. Freezing salaries and pay increments will contribute $1.5 billion in savings over the next three years.

We know the debt and deficit problem will not be solved only by cuts to the public service. The entire cost of operating the Government of Canada is $20 billion out of total government expenditures of approximately $168 billion. The compensation cost of the public service employees who run that government is $12 billion, considerably less than 10 per cent of the budget of Canada.

Given this morning's clippings, I would like to comment on the report of the C.D. Howe Institute. It has identified further cuts to public service wages and government operating costs as a major candidate for government reductions. I must admit I am confused. Not long ago the Conference Board of Canada was telling Canadians that a freeze on public sector wages at the federal level would have a dampening effect of 1.5 per cent on economic recovery that would be even further intensified if the example was followed by provincial governments and the sectors at other levels.

As I said, we realize the debt and deficit problem cannot be resolved only by cuts to the public service. Therefore we have implemented many other cuts in an attempt to achieve the deficit target we have set for ourselves.

Many have questioned why pay increments were suspended in addition to the wage freeze. The answer quite simply is fairness. Increments were frozen because it is important that all public service employees be treated equally in this difficult time. It did not seem to us to be fair that some people working for the public service were seeing their salaries rise while others were not.

I know very well that some consider these measures to be severe, but it is important to place them in their proper context. The government is committedto maintaining job security for its employees. In its opinion, extending the salary freeze and suspending pay increments are better ways to control public spending that forced leave, wage reductions and layoffs. In addition, this approach will minimize the impact on our ability to offer quality services to Canadians.

I recognize there is concern over potential job losses. While there have been layoffs and wage rollbacks in the private sector and in other public areas, our government is committed to maintaining a high level of job security in the public service. Despite these measures, our government is taking a number of steps to rebuild a positive and constructive relationship with the public service.

We believe that our best allies in controlling government expenditures while maintaining the delivery of quality services to the people of Canada are the people who work for the Government of Canada. That is why in the budget we committed to undertake an efficiency review in co-operation with the unions. Any efficiency savings in government operations identified through this process will be used to shorten the period of the wage and increment freeze.

These discussions have begun and are addressing longstanding concerns of our employees, such as contracting for service and the use of temporary employees from outside the government. Already we have been able to show that under the previous government while departments were being downsized, while Canadians were being told that costs were being reduced in this manner, the cost of contracting actually increased at a rate 43 per cent higher than other government expenditures.

The efficiency review is not limited to these two areas, although they are certainly a prime concern to our employees. We are prepared to consider any area of government spending that the unions, our employees, our managers, or indeed members of this House of Commons believe should be looked at in terms of their efficiency in delivering quality services to Canadians.

This is a new process and naturally enough, there is some apprehension on both sides as to how successful it will be. A great deal of time and effort is needed on both sides to ensure that a relationship of trust is built up so that we can work together on this.

In addition to a close examination of contracting as part of the efficiency review, the President of the Treasury Board has asked a committee of Parliament to undertake a full review of contracting and to prepare a report to the House. Throughout government as well, deputy ministers have been asked to work closely with the unions representing their employees and indeed with their employees at all levels to find the necessary means of meeting their operating cost reductions.

I believe that by working together we will be able to identify those savings that will not affect the delivery of services to Canadians but will allow the period of the wage and increment freeze to be shortened. It will allow us to assure Canadians that we are working to get the best possible value for the dollars they pay in taxes.

This is the first opportunity employee representatives have had to work with the government, to work with their employer, to help manage the difficult economic situation we face and the changes it necessarily entails.

The unions have correctly made the point that the pay increment freeze will affect proportionately more women than men employees. At the same time I should indicate that for our lowest paid employees earning under $30,000 proportionately more women than men have benefited from reclassifications and promotions which have improved their earnings, even during the period of the wage freeze. Nonetheless it is the case that approximately two-thirds of employees at the lowest salary

levels are women. It is of course at these levels that a wage freeze has the greatest impact.

That is one reason I am proud to say the President of the Treasury Board has already initiated discussions with the two largest unions representing those employees in female dominated categories of work to explore ways of resolving the pay equity issue. For many years outstanding pay equity complaints have been making only slow and painful progress through the human rights tribunal process. We would like, if at all possible, to work with the representatives of the employees to settle these complaints by negotiation, thereby improving the economic status of more than 60,000 employees in female dominated groups in the public service.

For the first time, public service unions were involved in prebudget consultations, as were many other Canadians. We realize the period of time for these consultations was short. We realize the amount of impact they could have on the budget was limited because of that. We will in fact be conducting those consultations much earlier in the process for the 1995-96 budget.

Many proposals made to us in these consultations by the public service unions and by others were implemented in this budget or are being reviewed for possible implementation in the 1995-96 budget. It is worth mentioning a few.

Corporate profits transferred out of Canada that were not previously subject to taxation will now be subject to taxation in Canada. The capital gains tax exemption is being removed. Tax deductions for business meals and entertainment have been cut to 50 per cent. Operating budgets were reduced to reflect our government's red book commitment to reduce spending on contracting for professional services.

As far as items proposed by our unions and by others to be reviewed for possible inclusion in the next budget, among them I include such things as RRSPs and their role in providing for the future of Canadians, and the taxation of family trusts.

The other message we got very loudly and clearly from the unions representing government employees was do not roll back wages, do not enforce unpaid leave, do not lay off. That is why this government has renewed its commitment to the workforce adjustment policy.

This policy was negotiated with the unions and has been in effect. The previous government threatened to legislate this policy out of existence. We have said quite clearly that we are committed to the workforce adjustment policy. Changes we might want and changes the unions might want are now being negotiated. Any changes will be subject to agreement at the bargaining table.

This government recognizes and values the important role members of the public service play in the governance of the nation. Without them, no law, no policy, no program we approve in this Parliament can be implemented. They keep our food, our skies and our borders safe. They perform needed research, provide rescue operations at sea and deliver pension cheques to millions of Canadian seniors.

Our government intends to restore the relationship of mutual trust with the public service. Both unions and managers will be involved in the broadest possible dialogue on matters of concern to them as our employees and as our partners in delivering quality, efficient and cost-effective services to Canadians.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that this government recognizes these measures are difficult but are necessary as part of a number of measures to control public spending. They are necessary to maintain both employment security for our employees and quality service for Canadians.

Recovery must start somewhere and these measures are only part of that recovery. If we are to meet our objective of a deficit which is no more than 3 per cent of GDP by 1996-97 then all Canadians, public service employees and ourselves included will have to realize that our future prosperity depends on the action we take today.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
BQ

Louis Plamondon

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Richelieu)

Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised to hear the hon. member who just spoke touting the benefits of such a direct, sneaky attack in one of its first pieces of legislation; it is sneaky because the Liberal Party never talked about it or discussed it in the election campaign.

She is taking a completely different line than the Liberal members took when they were here in the opposition and the Conservative government attacked federal public servants and the whole federal policy and administrative machine through legislation.

Suddenly, they only see benefits in a measure announced by the Minister of Finance. That measure is devoid of content or any long-term vision; it just sets up 22 committees to study this and that, but when it comes to public servants, they are hit hard. Their salaries are frozen much more drastically than under the Conservatives, because pay increments are also frozen. This means that someone who works at a certain level, gains experience, wins a competition and advances to a new position keeps the same salary, even if the level changes. That is incredible.

So what does this mean for the lowest-paid people who enter the public service? They want to rise in the public service. They apply for new positions, but if they obtain one, their salary is frozen. That was not the case when the previous government froze public servants' salaries.

So the lowest-paid people in the public service are penalized. I am surprised to hear the hon. member praise such dictatorial action taken against public servants.

I ask the hon. member who just spoke if it was one of your election promises. During the election campaign, you never talked about attacking the public service. But it is typical of the Liberal Party to do the opposite when it takes power.

We will remember the wage freeze in the Trudeau years, against Stanfield. He promised that he would never freeze salaries, but Stanfield, during the election campaign, wanted to freeze them. Six months later, the Liberals froze salaries.

What is really going on? The Conservative and Liberal policies are exactly the same. In fact, the Liberal policy is even worse in this case, in terms of thrust and dictatorship over the public service with the salary freeze, the total lack of negotiations and the denial of the right to strike. What good is the right to negotiate if it is denied before even beginning and if new rules are imposed by orders in council?

You referred to possible discussions concerning women in the public service, because they are the most discriminated against by this measure, but you are prepared to discuss after the fact. You allude to consultations after saying: "This is it: salaries are frozen and programs are cut. Do your share". I ask the hon. member: Why is the sacrifice which you are asking from civil servants and unemployed people so great-we are talking billions of dollars, here-when you do not ask the rich to make a sacrifice too?

You are considering looking into tax havens. We all know that 16 billion dollars are hidden in tax havens every year; this represents hundreds and hundreds of millions! But no! You would rather protect the rich, who finance your party as well as the Conservative Party. You should have denounced this situation as soon as you took office; you should have told these people that they would have to pay taxes like everyone else. Why do you not go after these people? Make them do their share, with their hundreds of millions!

They are not doing it! It is easy to force the unemployed, the poor and the civil servants to do their share. This is what is not logical in the hon. member's argument. What is her government doing about tax havens, family trusts, and rich families who resort to lobbying? It was mentioned in an article that Prime Minister Mulroney had been the victim of the lobby representing rich families. The same is true in the case of the current Prime Minister: He is a victim of the same lobbying by rich families.

Why do these people have the right to carry over their family trusts, right down to the youngest survivor? In 1972, the act provided that 21 years later, in 1991, an evaluation would be made of family trusts, so that the rich were going to pay taxes like everyone else. Yet, this review is now being postponed and you are responsible for that situation.

I remember that, when you formed the opposition, you questioned that for a long time. So, I ask the hon. member: Was the salary freeze in the public service, including the pay increments, an election promise you made after denouncing such a measure when you were in the opposition?

Is this a permanent denial of the right to negotiate, and when will you also make the rich pay?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
LIB

Marlene Catterall

Liberal

Ms. Catterall

Mr. Speaker, I am not at all surprised that the hon. member remembers so well what happened during the last Parliament and especially the salary freeze introduced in this House by the government he, his leader and many several other members of his party were part of. At that time, I would have liked to hear the hon. member say what he just said.

I would like to correct some of the statements the hon. member made. I am sure it was a mistake and that he did not intend to misinform public servants, but he did say that public servants would not get a salary increase even if they accepted a new position. That is not true.

I do not mind if the hon. member takes part in this debate, but I want him to stick to the truth. I want to remind him that it was the government which he, his leader and many members of the Bloc were part of that maintained the tax exemption for family trusts for another generation. It was not a decision made by this government, but we are trying to find a way to right the wrongs for which the previous government is responsible.

Of course, my government and I are not happy about the tough measures we have to take, but these decisions have to be made if we want to give our employees the assurance that they will not lose their job or see their salary decrease. We know this is a tough measure for civil servants to accept, but it is also necessary for their job security.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup)

Mr. Speaker, today I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-17.

This bill is almost symbolic, because in it the government turns its back systematically on its political commitments, a government that was elected on a promise that it would put Canada back to work and that has now reversed its position. It decided that it is was back to the old routine, that nothing had

changed, although it promised something quite different during the election campaign.

Instead of proposing a strategy to promote employment, it has proposed the very opposite. Let me explain.

First of all, the number of weeks worked to be entitled to unemployment insurance has been increased. Instead of ten weeks of work to be eligible for employment insurance, people now need twelve weeks. In the Magdalen Islands, for instance, 43 per cent of the people who are on unemployment insurance cannot find work for more than 10 weeks. Today, I imagine the voters who elected the Liberal candidate in Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine must feel betrayed, because the 43 per cent who worked only the minimum number of weeks will now have to go on welfare.

There was no consideration for the seasonal aspect of the economy in the Maritimes and especially in the Magdalen Islands. Even worse, the government is doing the exact opposite of what it promised during the election campaign, so it is also a matter of political ethics, and perhaps that is the worst aspect of Bill C-17. The bill could be seen as a symbol of the ineffectiveness of this government and of the way it has started to mislead the people during its first mandate and its first six months in Parliament.

And the same holds true for the reduction in weeks of benefits. Speaking on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, the hon. member for Mercier explained how this bill would have a negative impact on all parts of the Maritimes, not only on the people affected by unemployment insurance cuts who will now have to go on welfare, but also on the small businesses that depend on the money these people spend.

I find it very hard to understand why members from the Maritimes who were elected by their constituents to provide a different kind of government have chosen to remain silent today and are not rising in the House to call their government to order and to say this does not make sense and it cannot send this kind of message. The unemployed are getting the following signal: the government is first going to make it harder to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, and then they will introduce social reform.

This could explain in part the comment by Wood Gundy in an investor's guide which says that in the defence sector the government has finally decided to use restraint, but that the measures announced so far impact only on a small part of the economy. This means that instead of a real employment strategy we are given a series of smaller decisions taken to respond to fiscal pressures, to soothe lenders. The original solutions that voters expected to put Canada and Quebec back to work have not been forthcoming.

Another thing which was clear and simple, and that we proposed in an amendment rejected by the Liberal government, was a lowering of premiums paid by employers. In the fall of 1993, immediately after the election, the government pulled one over on us and increased the premiums to $3.07. Then, for Bill C-17, it made a wonderful announcement. In a press release dated March 16 the minister says: "One of the measures is the lowering of unemployment insurance premiums, which will decrease the cost of job creation".

This lowering to $3 is scheduled for 1995. Tell me, do you know any unemployed who have long term jobs? I would like to know them. We must create jobs now, not just next year. It is not next year, or the year after or just before the next elections. The economy needs to be revived now. Wood Gundy said something I find very apt about the budget: "The government is hoping for a cyclical recovery of the economy to revive job creation". What it means is that the government machine is on automatic. What the government said is: "We do not have the means, we do not have the guts to make fundamental changes, and we do not have any clear idea of what we want in terms of job creation". So we have a piecemeal approach, we have measures that allow us to wait for a recovery. I am sure that every day, every month end, the ministers wonder whether the unemployment rate will finally go down a little, so they can use it as an argument. None of their actions has any impact. The automatic pilot is on, and we are waiting to see if the economy will recover somewhere.

Moreover, they are killing consumer confidence for those who could help the economy recover, namely UI recipients-who are also consumers-and civil servants whose wages are frozen.

Only a few months after being elected, this government told people: "We do not trust you. We will not enter into bargaining with you on behalf of others, since we would not be able to agree, anyway". It said that, just after the elections, to the Public Service Alliance of Canada which had told its members to vote for the Liberal Party in order to bring about changes. This government is devoid of political honesty and sends the message that, once elected, it does not have to honour its commitments. It is pure rubbish, of course. The way the Liberal government betrayed its campaign promises, especially with Bill C-17, will come back to haunt it.

Allow me to give you a little inkling of what this government is really like. During the election campaign, we were told that it would cut waste, tighten up the public purse, and manage everything as best as possible.

And then, it tries to put one over on us with this bill, giving borrowing authority to the CBC, a corporation which, in the past, has not always been the best of managers, and in fact, has often spent money unwisely and is still doing so. As we know, it offered $28 million for the TV rights to the next Olympic Games, whereas TVA had offered $10 million, while claiming that it had made no profit. Can you imagine the taxpayers' money being used to broadcast a world event for three weeks?

People in my riding find it totally unacceptable to spend $28 million that way, when the entire network of CBC regional stations has been closed down, and to see that the Liberal government has never said a word to reverse that decision. This kind of attitude is a slap in the face of people who are entitled to regional services. The government is taking advantage of an omnibus bill to put one over on us quickly as far as borrowing authority is concerned, without requiring the corporation to account in any way for the use of these funds.

Even when I give my children an allowance, I ask them to tell me a little how they plan to use the money. In some cases the government lends money and asks for an accounting, while in this instance, it is giving the corporation a $25 million margin to manoeuvre, without asking it for any king of accounting. This is another example of how this government behaves: as if it had been in power for eight years and was totally incapable of coming up with any fresh ideas or solutions to problems. The fact is that this government is only beginning its mandate. In its first few months in office, it has introduced a bill which systematically reneges on the commitments made during the election campaign.

I want to come back briefly to the issue of employer premiums. On the one hand, the government creates a nice, politically correct program such as the Infrastructure Program which allows it to announce in various locations available seasonal, temporary jobs. On the other hand, it introduces a measure which is not as glamorous as the Infrastructure Program, but which would allow those who create the most jobs, namely small and medium-sized businesses, to be active and give some confidence back to people. So what does the government do? It tells businesses to wait until 1995 for the premium level to be brought back to $3 per $100. In other words, it is sending out a message that job creation is not such a priority after all, that the machinery of government will lumber on, that the unemployment rate will fall one day and that jobs will ultimately be created.

Basically, this is typical of a government that has decided not to honour the promise it has made during the election campaign to give priority to job creation, to put the people of Quebec and Canada back to work, especially young people. Take for example the 4,000 engineers in Quebec who are out of work. Would it not be possible to develop some aggressive job-creation programs to provide work for these people?

I would say that, as far as job creation is concerned, this government does not make the grade. It is a failure. During the summer holiday just a few weeks away, wherever we go, if we visit campgrounds or attend any number of functions, people are going to tell us: "You politicians are all the same. You make election promises you never keep". That about sums up what this government, a government that wanted to give people hope, has accomplished.

I derive great pride from the fact that, for various reasons, the people of Quebec have decided that this government did not have what it took in terms of commitment, I mean the necessary level of credibility to honour its commitments. In that respect, we can be pretty proud of ourselves in Quebec. The people have voted for a party capable of representing them in the opposition, to make itself heard and state clearly what commitments have to be fulfilled in Quebec. There is nothing in Bill C-17 to give people hope.

When you tell people in need of a job: "The first thing we are going to do for you is to require that you work more weeks to qualify", you kill their confidence in the economy and contribute to maintaining the negative dynamics by which fear is fostered.

Bill C-17 was a golden opportunity for the government to put its cards on the table. Such a bill could have been used to address problems like tax havens and family trusts. Where in this bill are there measures affecting well-off people who could make a significant difference in terms of creating jobs? They have not be called on to help create jobs.

In fact, this bill is somewhat reminiscent of the budget as a whole. The Liberal government prepared a budget that was a little lazy. It could have taken advantage of the momentum created by its election to bring together all segments of Canadian society, including employers, unions and social groups, and ask them in December 1993: "What shall we do to stimulate employment?", to clearly show we must join forces on this.

Their budget consultation process was a bit of a sham because they did the opposite of what the people told them to do. They decided to throw out the old files prepared by the bureaucrats and to recycle the Campbell material into the Martin material. They continued to act like before without really stimulating employment.

I think this government relies way too much on the four-year mandate that lies ahead, telling itself: "We will hand out the usual goodies at the end of our mandate to ensure that we get re-elected". But they forget that their mandate is not to win the election but to offer good government, to ensure that Canadians have jobs that they like and that they can do something with it.

I would also like to let you know that some people asked this morning: "How can the people opposite-that is, Bloc members-criticize such a bill when what they want is to break up Canada?"

Instead of scaremongering, I can tell you that in proposing our amendments to Bill C-17, we tried to defend the interests of Quebecers. When we say that increasing the number of weeks of work required to qualify for UI goes against common sense, you

can be sure that in my region, in the Lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé and the islands, everyone understands what it means.

This bill does not bring into question Canada's structure but rather the efficiency of this government. It offers a number of little recipes, of mini-measures, that did not convey to anybody the message that the first budget of the Liberal government would really emphasize job creation. They decided to give a little to everyone and tried to get by on a traditional economic recovery.

Although these people call themselves experts and say they are concerned about the economy, I think there is a lack of vision. They did not see that North America and the entire Western world are currently undergoing deep structural changes and that such measures will not provide Quebec and Canada with the tools they need to hold their own in the new global economy.

I think that Bill C-17 is unacceptable. I am thinking especially of members who represent ridings in eastern Canada. Personally, if I were a member from the Maritimes and I voted for this bill, I think that I would find the coming summer, fall and winter very long, because after the summer when a few seasonal jobs are available, people will face the fall and winter and, if they did not work the minimum number of weeks, they will end up on welfare. They will have less to spend on consumer goods and this will affect the whole economy of eastern Canada.

If this had been presented by a Conservative government, we would have said that they were keeping their commitments, people elected them for that, we may agree or not, but they would be doing what was expected of them. But this is presented by a government that said it would be different, a different kind of government that would change things and take a different approach to the economy and make job creation a priority. And nowhere do we find any of these things there.

All we find, and I think that I will conclude with this, is a budget whose only purpose is to make some lenders feel secure and it does not even achieve this result.

The people who lend money to Canada now did not applaud this budget; they just said that they thought the real Liberal budget would come next year. There was no Liberal budget, it is the same as the Conservatives'. The message given to the senior federal public service is that things are all right and that we will continue as before; with this government, we will continue to pass on our good figures, our good results, and our vision of development, whereas the people who were elected, especially the 200 or so new members, whatever their party, certainly came here to manage Canada differently from the way it was run in the past and to make Canadians feel that changes were being made.

If they said that they would tackle unemployment head on, it would have had a small effect on inflation, but I think that the people would have been prepared to accept it because they have suffered so much from the negative consequences of unemployment. A whole generation was sacrificed. When you look at the résumé of someone who is 25, 30 or 35 years old, you see that they worked on a project for three months, then were unemployed for six months, worked on another small project for two months and then were jobless for a year. That generation will not have the skills needed to take over when the time comes.

Bill C-17 is important for the government, because it will be judged by it. The people in our communities will not say that Bill C-17 is a bad piece of legislation. Instead, they will say that the Liberal government does not keep its promises or its commitments and that it has absolutely no credibility. The people will easily come to those conclusions, because they can expect nothing concrete to come out of these measures, nothing that would prove that economic recovery is on the way.

We will eventually achieve economic recovery if the government decides to launch initiatives that bring all stakeholders to focus clearly on one priority, job creation. By telling small employers that, in 1994, they will get $3.07 for every $100, the government is sending them the message that they need not put so much emphasis on job creation, because it is not giving them the flexibility they need to create more jobs.

All of the provisions included in Bill C-17, whether it is the increase in the number of insurable weeks to become eligible for UI benefits, the reduction in the weeks of benefit, the salary freeze for civil servants, or the unaccountable borrowing authority given to the CBC, send out a very clear message to Canadians, which is that the current government has decided not to honour its commitments, but instead to watch the economy from the sidelines rather than play an active role in this area.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
LIB

John Bryden

Liberal

Mr. John Bryden (Hamilton-Wentworth)

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated the remarks of my colleague opposite and I listened to them with great attention. I certainly appreciate the sincerity with which he made many of his points and I think all of us on all sides of the House are very conscious of the fact that any changes to unemployment insurance have to be done with great care and forethought. Certainly to extend the number of weeks of eligibility for unemployment insurance is to bring a certain amount of hardship to some people.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he feels that unemployment insurance as a concept is something sacrosanct, that can never be touched, that can never be reformed. We really

do have to look broadly across the social services in Canada which I think he will acknowledge we are having difficulty as a country affording.

In that context, if he is going to answer yes to that would he then take the concept of unemployment insurance and go the other way? Would he reduce the number of work weeks in his area for eligibility and if so how can we pay for that?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Crête

I thank the hon. member for the relevance of his question. It is indeed a timely one.

I think that unemployment insurance is a tool which Canadians devised to avoid a repetition of a crisis such as the Depression in the thirties. At the time, there was no social safety net and people were no longer able to consume goods. Consequently, the whole economy came tumbling down. In a sense, the scenario is the same with Bill C-17. The government has decided to limit the spending power of UI recipients and the consequences of this decision will be similar, albeit less severe, to those in the thirties, during the Depression. There will be reduced consumption which, in turn, will mean even less jobs, thereby adversely affecting economic recovery.

Generally speaking, I think that the unemployment insurance issue must be considered in the context of an active employment policy. First, the government should announce that employment will be a priority. Second, it should develop an appropriate strategy. An important aspect of such an initiative-and something which we have been doing in Quebec for 20 years now-is to consult the various stakeholders to make employment a priority.

I believe it is very important, in such an exercise, to respect the effectiveness of local officials. In other words, if we try to implement the same employment policy right across Canada, we will experience the same problems as we did with the Bank of Canada trying to control the value of our dollar. Indeed, the Bank of Canada controlled the dollar based on the overheating economy of Ontario, while other parts of the country were not experiencing that activity. This had the effect, in those regions, of killing economic recovery.

The same thing will happen with employment if we think we can develop an employment policy applicable throughout the country. Because of the issues of mobility and of different types of workers, I think that, at least in each of the main regions, and possibly in most provinces-and that has long been one of Quebec's claims-the whole issue of employment should be managed in an integrated fashion, from the training provided to people to the way that we deal with people who are unemployed and who are looking for jobs. We should to able to bring all these aspects together, and also avoid spending money, as we are doing at the manpower level, where governments are wasting $250 million each year only because of the double structure.

If this decentralization were to occur in all parts of Canada, we would have annual savings of $1 billion which, instead of being spent on the structure, would be directly spent on providing training activities through programs allowing people to find jobs.

So, concerning the question of whether unemployment insurance is something that can never be touched, I believe it is a tool. In my mind, unemployment insurance should instead be an employment insurance allowing people who have the ability to work to effectively do so and, if they worked for 15 or 20 weeks before their employment came to an end, they would be able to earn money with, for example, social, community or government employers, but they should not be exploited. If these people were trained as technicians, for example, and would deserve a salary of $10 an hour, we should be able to offer them something through the insurance which they would earn and which would correspond to that amount, even if it were only be a part-time job.

So, some changes are possible in that area. I think that unemployment insurance is a tool, but it should be integrated into a structure, into an active employment policy so as to make it work. Countries where this works have given a very clear direction to these things.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Hon. Roger Simmons (Burin-St. George's)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill C-17, the budget implementation act, because the bill seeks to legislate a number of measures announced by the minister in his budget in February. The bill reflects the widely shared conclusions reached by many Canadians from all walks of life who participated in the prebudget conferences. They agreed at that time and I believe we agree in this House that action is needed on three major, closely linked challenges.

First, Canadians want the government to create job opportunities and to take action to restore the country's economic viability. Second, Canadians have called on government to address the deficit problem. Third, they point out, as they did in those prebudget conferences, the urgent need to reform Canada's social security programs, including unemployment insurance, so that these programs better serve those who are in need while remaining affordable for a nation with a growing debt. These are three important challenges: job creation, deficit reduction and the reform of social programs so that they can better serve the needs of Canadians.

On that last point, when we gave the enabling legislation in this House with respect to the reform of social programs, I said at that particular time when this issue was under debate at least that reforming social programs ought not to be a code word for dismantling, for gutting social programs. I am careful to say at all times when I talk about this that it must be an effort which

improves, better tailors those programs for a new time, not an excuse for gutting those programs.

There are people in need. There are people who depend on those programs. That is why I am proud to live in Canada. We were told this week once again that we live by internationally accepted criteria in the best country in the world. That comes as no surprise to us; even those who are working hard to leave the country must grudgingly acknowledge that.

The budget addresses all three of those important elements or areas. There are initiatives to create jobs, including the $6 billion shared cost infrastructure program which is now well under way. In so far as Newfoundland is concerned, the first phase was announced a month or so ago. The second phase will be announced tomorrow, a number of other projects that will help stimulate the economy and some short and medium term job creation.

The budget also contains important support for technological innovation and for the small business sector, a subject dear to the heart of my good friend from Broadview-Greenwood.

There is also important action in this bill, in this budget, to reduce the deficit primarily through cuts in government spending. Gross fiscal savings including the savings announced in previous budget secured by this legislation total $28.6 billion over the next three fiscal years. Net savings in that period total $20.4 billion. These measures will help to shrink the deficit from $45.7 billion in the year just ending to $39.7 billion in 1994-95, and to $32.7 billion the year after; $13 billion savings in two years.

I say to my good friend from Yellowhead, whom I am always delighted to see in this Chamber, it is important that the choice is not seen as being between jobs and the deficit. It is not one or the other. We would be irresponsible as parliamentarians if we saw it as one or the other, as if we said put the whole job need on hold for five years until we get the deficit under control, or put the deficit issue under control for five years until we get the job situation properly addressed. It is not that simple. Life does not stand still for people who have to buy the groceries, nor does life stand still in terms of accruing interest on our indebtedness as a country.

We have to juggle those two very difficult balls at one time. That is the challenge. The country is full of experts there who will tell you how to create jobs, who will tell you how to reduce the deficit. The crunch comes when you ask them to hold both balls in the air at the same time. Whatever the rhetoric of various members in this House, including mine, I do not believe there is a single soul in this chamber who believes that we can put one of those issues on hold while we solve the other. That would be irresponsible and I do not think Canadians sent us here to be irresponsible.

The measures announced in this budget last February will, of course, be supplemented with further initiatives next year as we reform major spending programs. We are taking some action now and will take some more in the future to ensure the deficit continues to decline steeply.

The budget also takes some measures to provide stable, sustainable funding for Canada's social safety net. This funding will provide a secure and constructive environment for both individual Canadians and policy makers at all levels of government as we embark on the process of reform and renewal that is currently under way. This legislation, Bill C-17, addresses two areas of spending in this regard: transfers to the provinces and changes to the UI program. I want to spend a moment on each of those.

First, the matter of unemployment insurance, a matter that is dear to my heart because it is dear to the hearts of my constituents who, through no fault of their own, have gone through the following traumatic situation in the last few years.

I say to my friend from Okanagan-Shuswap that when I first came here in November, 1979 my riding had a rate of unemployment which was the same as that in Alberta, the province of my friend from Yellowhead. It was 3.8 per cent in November, 1979. The riding of Burin-St. George's with its deep sea and inshore year round fishery, unaffected by ice conditions which have an impact on other parts of the island of Newfoundland, has always had a basic 11.5 month fishery, never a 12 month fishery. We believe strongly in certain things in Newfoundland and one of the things we believe in is the 12 days of Christmas. We take that time off for a great celebration of a great Christian festival and for a great party. In Newfoundland these two issues are not mutually exclusive.

It is an 11.5 month fishery. It never was a 12 month fishery. I would oppose it from ever becoming a 12 month fishery for the above reasons. It has degenerated, through no fault of the hard working people whose ancestors came to that coast 500 years ago. It is certainly not laziness or what we call in Newfoundland being a hangashore, one who stays ashore rather than go fishing. We have a very provocative and descriptive term for a lazy person in Newfoundland; he or she is called a hangashore and by definition that is somebody who will not go fishing. In Newfoundland work is fish, basically. That is why 17,000 people in my riding, until the recent catastrophes in the fishery, have traditionally earned their living either in the fishing boat or in the fish plant.

I was saying to my friends from Alberta and British Columbia across the aisle that in 1979 the rate of unemployment in my

riding was 3.8 per cent, the same as in Alberta, the province at that time with the fastest growing economy in Canada and the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. My riding was identical.

Today I could not even put a figure on it. Is it 40, is it 50, is it 60, is it 70 per cent? It depends on what you do with all those people who through no fault of their own are not in the boats today, not in the plants today, drawing a compensation package as a result of the moratorium.

This UI issue is very dear to my heart because it does affect some of those people. Contrary to public popular opinion in Ontario, I would say to my friend from Bramalea-Gore-Malton, all the people down there are not on the the fisheries compensation package. Many people in Newfoundland ply their trade in terms of forestry and in terms of seasonal construction activity, in terms of mining, in terms of tourism, and so on. These are impacted by unemployment insurance changes as well.

These changes being proposed through this bill are designed to achieve a couple of things. The first is to encourage the private sector to create jobs. We believe firmly in this party that government cannot be the employer of last resort. We believe that government can help create the climate, but it is private industry, including the small business sector, which must create the jobs. My hon. friend from Okanagan-Shuswap agrees. He and I agree on many things and this is one of them. It is the private sector. That is one of the objectives.

The second is to increase the fairness of the system by increasing benefits to low income recipients with dependents. To help create jobs, the bill rolls back the UI premium for 1995 and 1996 to $3. We believe and we hope this payroll tax relief will encourage business to create jobs.

By the end of 1996 the government expects that there will be 40,000 more jobs in the economy than would be the case if premiums had been allowed to rise to the levels required by the previous legislation.

Those rollbacks have to be accomplished in a way that supports deficit reduction. With this in mind, the legislation proposes measures to reduce UI expenditures by $725 million in this fiscal year and a further $2.4 billion annually thereafter.

I submit that these rollbacks in expenditures are being done in a way that is fair so that persons in areas with high unemployment will still be eligible for more benefits with less work activity than people in other regions of the country.

Our package of UI reforms promotes fairness in other respects. It increases the benefit for low income claimants with dependents. As well, the benefit of the doubt will be given to claimants who quit voluntarily. I have to say that this is an issue that I had a lot of difficulty with when the former administration brought in that change, about letting the axe fall when people quit or were fired because it put employees at the mercy of the employer in a way that they never should have been. This redresses that issue in a way with which I am comfortable.

Let me come to the Canada assistance plan. To help create a positive, co-operative climate for social security reform, the government is providing a two-year period of predictability and modest growth in social security transfers under the Canada assistance plan and established programs financing.

This means that in 1994-95 there will be no new restraint measures applied to either CAP or EPF transfers. The legislation before us today will place a ceiling on subsequent CAP transfers to the provinces, so they do not exceed the current year's levels. This ceiling will remain in place next year pending social security reform the following year.

EPF financing is not affected by this legislation. However, the existing restraint will be maintained. The process of social security reform has a goal of central interest to all Canadians, no matter where they live, to renew and revitalize Canada's social security system over the next couple of years. We will preserve protection for those in need. We will improve incentives to work and we must ensure that the social safety net remains affordable.

Bill C-17 is a key part of the government's agenda, an agenda that includes job creation, deficit reduction and renewal, and reform of our social safety net. Our mandate for this agenda comes from the people of Canada who entrusted us last October to set a new course. We, the Prime Minister and his team, are keeping faith with that trust by listening to what Canadians told us last year.

The recent budget was an important step, an early step, a big step, but just one step in making our agenda a reality. That budget reflects clearly the input we received from Canadians as do the measures in this legislation. That is why I am hopeful that members on all sides of the House will see fit to want to identify with what I believe are a handful of good initiatives, not the whole nine yards. We are not there yet. If we, through the infrastructure program, the youth corps and otherwise can see the jobs generated that we have projected, we will create just a little less misery for people out there, including young people.

If we are going to achieve our goals in terms of deficit reduction to get it under $40 billion, to have these $13 billion in savings over the next couple of years, that will go a long way to reducing the drain on our capacity, the drain we are paying out in interest charges, and be able to take that and redirect it to more job creation, to more social program underwriting.

Third, if we can, over the next couple of years, reform the social safety net in a way that does it credit to Canadians, in a way that meets the needs of those who are in need, while at the same time crafting it in a way that is affordable for us as a country with severe financial restraint facing us everywhere we turn.

Nobody in this Chamber, whatever their partisan platform during the election past, whatever their particular political ideology, can be against putting those young people back to work, putting people of all ages into productive labour activity. Nobody can argue with our goal of bringing down the deficit to free up dollars for use elsewhere. Nobody can disagree with what this party has said and stood by for many decades, that there is a group of people out there who have need for social programs through disability, through age, through other circumstance, through no fault of their own particularly, have need for those programs.

There but for the grace of God go I, go you. Again I repeat I am proud to live in a country that has that kind of social safety net for people in those circumstances.

For all of those reasons I hope members of the House would find it in their hearts to support with a heart and a half Bill C-17.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
LIB

Shaughnessy Cohen

Liberal

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could assist us a little bit in understanding the relationship between these UI changes that are taking place in this bill and the plans that the government has for social security reform.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink
LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my good friend from Windsor-St. Clair for her question.

The important thing to keep in mind is that what we are doing here, and I wanted to emphasize this during my remarks, is but a first step, an important and integrated first step.

I take my hat off to my friend the Minister of Finance. If anybody ever came well qualified for this job it has to be him, not only in terms of his paper credentials and his commitment to public life but in terms of the preparation that he did, the leg work he did across the country in the two or three years leading up to the election.

He together with the Prime Minister have such an amazing grasp of the problem, it is no surprise that his first budget and Bill C-17 which flows from it give us the beginnings of a coherent, sensible is the term, approach to addressing some of the problems we face.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
Permalink

May 31, 1994