September 24, 1997

BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, in exchanging niceties with the Prime Minister, might I remind him that he was the one who was traipsing all over Quebec during the last election campaign promising Quebecers that he would sell the rest of Canada on the idea of a distinct society, not I.

Is the Prime Minister now telling us that once again he is going to change his story and not fulfil the commitment he made to the voters of Quebec?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we have always stressed the necessity of recognizing the distinct character of Quebec because of its language, its culture, and its Civil Code.

The formula the premiers saw fit to accept a few weeks ago is a new one which describes the Quebec reality, something we continue to fight for, while the Bloc Quebecois, in the House of Commons, and the Parti Quebecois, in the National Assembly, have voted against anything which could accommodate Quebec so as to enable it to prosper within Canada.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I have waited a long time for this moment. My question is to the Prime Minister.

On behalf of 1.4 million unemployed Canadians, will the government commit today to set clear timetables and targets for the reduction of unemployment? The government has done it with respect to deficit reduction. When will the government do the same for unemployment and show that it is serious about putting Canadians back to work?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to welcome the hon. leader of the New Democratic Party to the House of Commons. I am happy to have her here. I know she has waited a long time and I hope she will stay for a long time too.

I would like to say that we want to reduce unemployment and we are working very hard on it. In fact during the last 46 months the Canadian economy has created 975,000 new jobs. The level of unemployment went down from 11.5 per cent to 9 per cent but we have to keep working.

The first thing we had to do was to put the finances of the nation in order. A few years ago we had a deficit of $42 billion and very soon we will have reduced it to zero. We have to do that in order to create jobs. When there is no inflation, low interest rates and a competitive dollar, we can produce and be very competitive. It is in that way that we will create the jobs.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that 155 Liberal cheerleaders over there are pretty pleased with their record.

Since the last Liberal throne speech promised to tackle youth unemployment, 26,000 more young people in this country have not been able to find jobs and they are not cheering.

My question. Will the government commit today to set targets and timetables to reduce unemployment? If not, will it admit that it has simply given up doing anything to help the young people who most desperately need its help?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have tried to explain in a few words that we must have the basic elements to create jobs in the country. It is not by spending money that we will cure the problems of the nation. We have to do it in a responsible way and we have to put the books of the nation in order.

I would like to quote some advice I read on February 10 of this year. It was said that we have come too far and have worked too hard to restart the cycle of careless spending. Therefore, we will not follow the advice of the leader of the New Democratic Party. We will follow the advice of Mr. Roy Romanow who spoke in front of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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PC

Jean Charest

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Jean J. Charest (Sherbrooke, PC)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. It has to do with his government's shameful abuse of the unemployment insurance system.

His government said in the Speech from the Throne that it cares about unemployment in general and about youth unemployment in particular. The government could take concrete action immediately by reducing employment insurance premiums.

This is what the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, as well as Quebec's Chamber of Commerce and Conseil du patronat, are asking for.

What is this government waiting for to end this abuse and put people back to work?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to welcome the Conservative Party leader, who is now back in the front row. We are happy to see him and look forward to be closer to him and to see him more often than in the last Parliament.

The Conservative Party leader should know that, when we came to office, the unemployment insurance fund showed an enormous deficit, because the Conservative government had not exercised prudence. The Conservatives had to increase premiums from $2 to $3.30, at a time when unemployment was on the rise in Canada.

These premiums were to go up to $3.30 on January 1, 1994 under the legislation passed by his party's government. We reduced them to $2.90, and will lower them again to $2.80 on January 1, 1998. We are reducing premiums gradually, but we must do so responsibly, because we still have work to do to clean up the fiscal mess we inherited in 1993 from the Conservative Party leader's government.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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PC

Jean Charest

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Jean J. Charest (Sherbrooke, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Prime Minister for his kind words in welcoming me back to the House. I would caution him against wishing that I be here too often and remind him of the old Chinese proverb that he may end up getting what he wishes for.

Today I want to offer the Prime Minister a great opportunity, an opportunity to do something for unemployed Canadians and young unemployed Canadians. If he acts today he can put thousands of people back to work in the next few weeks by reducing employment insurance premiums, this tax, this rip-off on Canadians to the tune of billions of dollars.

To be clear, I want to ask the Prime Minister one simple, straightforward question. Does he and his government believe that this employment insurance system should be used for the purpose of reducing the deficit, yes or no?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we did not want to run the affairs of the nation the way that the previous government did. It never had any surplus in the unemployment insurance fund. When Canada was in a deep depression in 1991, a time when there were more and more unemployed in Canada, the Tories took the insurance premium from $2 and moved it up to $3.30. That is not the way we want to do it.

We want to act as prudent managers in order to make sure that our financial situation is good in Canada and that we have low interest rates. We have that now and that is what is creating the 4 per cent growth that we will have this year in Canada. We are the leaders of the G-7 countries in this.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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REF

Deborah Grey

Reform

Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the equality of citizens and provinces became a huge factor and played a large part in the Calgary premiers conference last week. In fact their framework for discussion listed the word equality five times. Yet yesterday in the throne speech we did not hear the word equality even once; uniqueness, diversity, all kinds of words, but not equality.

My question for the Prime Minister is in yesterday's throne speech why in the world was the equality of citizens and provinces deliberately left out?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, when we said we want to work in partnership and in collaboration with the provinces it is because we believe in equality. That is exactly the purpose of it.

About the equality of individuals, I do not have any lessons to receive from the hon. member for Edmonton North because I was the minister of justice who gave the charter of rights to all citizens of Canada to make them equal.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
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REF

Deborah Grey

Reform

Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the concept of equality and the word equality is what is important. Speaking of justice ministers, it is a wonder that this justice minister did not notice the absence of the word equality and insist that it be put in the throne speech.

It is very strange that the government would mention the unique character of Quebec society and the diversity inherent in the federation and yet not mention equality.

If it is important to him, let me ask the prime minister this question one more time. Why does the prime minister not believe in the inherent equality of all provinces and all citizens, and why was it not in the throne speech?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
Permalink
LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is something I have talked about and lived by for the last 34 years that I have been a member of Parliament. I do not have to repeat the obvious every day, but if the hon. member is not reassured, I am for the equality of citizens and I am for the equality of the people of Canada. I have been for that all the time I have been in Canada, but equality does not mean that diversity cannot exist. This is very important.

Equality means that we recognize the people for what they are. In a family equality means that sometimes we have to have solutions that are meeting the needs in one part of Canada but which are not needed elsewhere.

We have, for example, despite equality a terrible problem of poverty in Canada. This means that those who are rich have to help those who are poor. It is what we believe in. The type of equality where we do not care about the poor like the Reform Party—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
Permalink
?

The Speaker

The hon. member for Témiscamingue.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
Permalink
BQ

Pierre Brien

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Prime Minister.

In the throne speech we heard that the federal government, as its financial position improves, intends to intervene increasingly in areas of provincial jurisdiction, including health and education.

How can the Prime Minister justify increasing involvement by its government in health and education, considering that these areas have always been the responsibility of provincial governments?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
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LIB

Stéphane Dion

Liberal

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, Canada happens to be one of the most decentralized federations in the world, and together we have built a federation that has provided us with the best quality of life of any country. And we managed to do this because both levels of government, federal and provincial, are learning to work together and to concentrate on the areas for which they are responsible.

In the health sector, the federal government's responsibilities are those that are recognized in the Constitution. There is nothing unconstitutional about having five moral principles that are accepted throughout Canada, including Quebec, and as a result can be applied anywhere in Canada, both in the wealthiest and the less wealthy provinces.

I may remind the hon. member that the province that benefits the most per capita from the Canada Social Transfer happens to be Quebec.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
Permalink
BQ

Pierre Brien

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time a federal government has so clearly indicated its intention of interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction, especially education.

Would the Prime Minister or his minister agree that his program to measure the readiness of children to learn is, in fact, a foot in the door of the education sector, with all the consequences that involves: federal programs, federal assessment criteria, federal employees, and on top of that, taxpayers who will again pay twice as a result of this latest duplication?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
Permalink
LIB

Pierre Pettigrew

Liberal

Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am always amazed by the excessive reactions we get from that side of the House. However, if they get their kicks by measuring the orthodoxy of every word, by all means, let them make a study of semantics.

What we promised in the throne speech yesterday was to let Canadians benefit from a study by Statistics Canada, for which my department is responsible. I am referring to a national longitudinal survey we have been doing for several years. Since we invest enormous amounts of money in the well-being of our children, we feel it is very important to measure their progress, so that when they go to school, they are in the best possible position to learn.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Throne Speech
Permalink
REF

Rahim Jaffer

Reform

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, except for Premier Bouchard, who did not attend the Calgary conference, all of Canada's provincial premiers agreed to put the question on national unity to the Canadian people.

Does the Prime Minister think it is acceptable for Quebecers to be the only Canadians who will not be consulted on national unity?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Unity
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September 24, 1997