October 7, 1997

NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister is telling us that it is just too bad about the 1.4 million people who still do not have jobs. I have in my hands a paper—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
Permalink
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The Speaker

I remind hon. members that we can read from papers but I prefer that we not use them as props.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
Permalink
NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough

Mr. Speaker, I refer to a finance department report that says the very best Canadians can expect from the government until the end of the century is 7.8% unemployment.

Before the election the Liberals said their unemployment goal was 5%. Now we learn that it is really closer to 8%.

Why does the Prime Minister not make this his big millennium project and put a million and a half Canadians back to work so they can join in the celebration?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, since we have taken office we have already put a million Canadians back into the workforce.

I refer the leader of the New Democratic Party to the numbers that came out last week. Long term interest rates have dropped and five year mortgage rates are now at the lowest level they have been since 1965.

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 the continual misuse, abuse and rip-off of the employment insurance system by the government, a rip-off we have been denouncing for some time which it refuses to acknowledge.

The auditor general in chapter 17—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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The Speaker

Would the hon. member for Sherbrooke please get to the question.

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

Jean Charest

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Jean J. Charest

Mr. Speaker, my question is this and it is to the Prime Minister. Will he guarantee to the House that his government, as the auditor general reports, will cease to abuse the employment insurance system at the expense of Canadians who are unemployed?

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

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I said last week and I will repeat that when we took over as the government the premiums paid by Canadians were $3.30. This has been reduced to $2.90 and is going down every year.

When we took over the unemployment insurance fund it was many billions of dollars in the red. We put it in the black. Good administration led to a reserve and led to a reduction in premiums. We are doing that on a regular basis.

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

Jean Charest

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Jean J. Charest (Sherbrooke, PC)

Mr. Speaker, surely the prime minister knows that he is alone in this position. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, le Conseil du patronat du Québec all share the view that these premiums must come down.

Let me ask the question to the Minister of Finance. Since the prime minister will not move, will the Minister of Finance accept the recommendations of the auditor general and table here in the House of Commons the analysis on which he bases the premium rate?

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

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the analysis is well known. The leader of the Conservative Party is very badly placed to comment on unemployment insurance premiums. The prime minister has set it out very clearly.

Let us be very clear. For a Tory to blame the Liberals for the unemployment insurance premiums is like a mosquito blaming the doctor for malaria.

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

Deborah Grey

Reform

Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, last night we learned that there is a special government list of companies seeking government funds and that this information gets sent out to the government's regional ministers and the local MPs whose ridings are affected. That means the prime minister must have known about the $600,000 grant proposal by Videon. Then of course Videon made this $5,000 donation to the Liberal Party when it never had done so before.

Let me ask the prime minister this. When he went to cash that $5,000 cheque, did he not smell a conflict of interest?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Political Contributions
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there should be a little respect for the truth. The $600,000 program is going toward the creation of jobs and will be paid when the jobs have been created. Also, the company that is building the hotel is not Videon. A person by the name of Thibault who lives in the riding told the press that he never heard about a company called Videon.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Political Contributions
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REF

Deborah Grey

Reform

Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister talks about a little respect for the truth. We have to watch him from this side every single day, so we certainly understand what he talks about.

Videon is a parent company of Auberge des Gouverneurs which is building the hotel. We know that. The transitional jobs fund lets people in the riding know what is happening. This means that the prime minister would have been informed. This means that the prime minister as the local MP for that area would be allowed to lobby the minister for that $600,000 grant.

The prime minister is digging himself deeper and deeper. Let me ask him how in the world he is able to plead ignorance on more of these shenanigans in Shawinigan.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Political Contributions
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LIB

Jean Chrétien

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member has her facts absolutely wrong. She is not listening. The builder of the hotel is Mr. Thibault. He has a franchise with the hotel chain but the builder and owner have nothing to do with the Auberge des Gouverneurs. Mr. Thibault told the media a few hours ago that he has never heard of the company Videon. This should be enough for the hon. member to shut up.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Political Contributions
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Political Contributions
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The Speaker

I cannot wait for Wednesday.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Political Contributions
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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Finance.

The auditor general has just confirmed that the contribution rate for employment insurance was just pulled out of a hat, and is a matter of pure chance.

When will the Minister of Finance put an end to the amateurism he has shown to date in the way he is administering the employment insurance fund and setting the contribution levels?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is well aware that the contribution level is set according to the economy, the government accounts, and a combination of various data. We are adhering exactly to established procedure.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General
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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the auditor general states specifically that there is no procedure and that the minister is flying by the seat of his pants, for example by excluding, since January, half the people who would have been entitled to employment insurance and no longer are, thanks to him. That is the situation.

I wish to ask this question of the Minister of Finance. Does the minister realize that his haphazard approach greatly penalizes the companies and workers who make the contributions, and the unemployed, who are truly unemployed, not just sort of unemployed?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the facts speak for themselves. When we came to power, there was a $6 billion deficit. Today, there is a surplus. When we came to power, the rates of contribution were going up, year after year. Since we came to power, they have gone down from $3.07 to $2.90 and it has been announced that they will drop to $2.80 in November.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Auditor General
Permalink

October 7, 1997