April 2, 1998

LIB

Lloyd Axworthy

Liberal

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 109 I have the honour to present to the House in both official languages the government's response to the report of the Subcommittee on Sustainable Human Development of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade entitled “Ending Child Labour Exploitation: A Canadian Agenda for Action on Global Challenges”.

On behalf of the government, in particular the Minister of International Co-operation and the Minister of Labour, I would like to express my appreciation for the work the standing committee has put into producing such a detailed report and into ensuring that abolition of the exploitation of child labour remains a priority for us all.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs And International Trade
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LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 12 petitions.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Government Response To Petitions
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LIB

Roy Cullen

Liberal

Mr. Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Transport on Bill C-15, an Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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LIB

Ivan Grose

Liberal

Mr. Ivan Grose (Oshawa, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The report is in relation to the Public Accounts of Canada, 1996-97. Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests the government to table a comprehensive response to this report.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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REF

Philip Mayfield

Reform

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, all of the opposition parties, the Reform, the Bloc Quebecois, the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democratic Party, have unanimously agreed to present a dissenting opinion to this report.

The fact that all four opposition parties agreed to this dissenting opinion says a lot about the difference of opinion on this issue existing between the opposition and government members of the committee. We are all concerned with the government's failure to follow what are standard accounting procedures. We also feel that the government should take every step possible to avoid receiving another qualified opinion from Parliament's watchdog, the auditor general, on its latest budget.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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LIB

George Baker

Liberal

Mr. George S. Baker (Gander—Grand Falls, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present the second report from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. This is a unanimous report by all committee members. It is a tribute to the excellent job done by MPs from all parties, as well as the clerk of the committee, Mr. William Farrell and the research branch of the Library of Parliament in the person of Mr. Alan Nixon. I wish to table this report in both official languages.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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LIB

Shaughnessy Cohen

Liberal

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor—St. Clair, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, February 11, 1998 your committee has considered Bill S-5, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code in respect of persons with disabilities, to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act in respect of persons with disabilities and other matters and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Your committee has agreed to report it with amendments. In doing so I would like to thank witnesses who appeared before the committee, my colleagues on the committee and of course our clerical and research staff who were very helpful.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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REF

Dave Chatters

Reform

Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present on behalf of my constituents in and around the Athabasca area. These petitions are two more in a series of petitions presented by myself and other members asking the House to reconsider the provocation defence in the Criminal Code. The petitioners believe that the provocation defence unjustly changes the focus of the criminal trial from the behaviour of the accused and his or her intention to murder, to the behaviour of the victim. Certainly I concur with the petitioners.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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REF

Peter Goldring

Reform

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this Chamber as the humble servant of the constituents of Edmonton East. I am pleased to discharge my duties today by presenting to this House a petition which is signed by over 700 persons.

The petitioners ask for a very prudent review of the mandate of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to discourage the propagation of pornography and to encourage the broadcasting of ecclesiastical programming that supports morality and wholesome family lifestyles.

The petitioners ask this House to heed their words and I concur.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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REF

Philip Mayfield

Reform

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present petitions from the citizens of Quesnel in the constituency of Cariboo—Chilcotin.

The first petition has 50 signatures. The petitioners request that parliament impose a moratorium on ratification of the MAI until full public hearings on the proposed treaty are held across the country so that all Canadians can have an opportunity to express their opinions on it.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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REF

Philip Mayfield

Reform

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the second two petitions are also from the citizens of Quesnel. There are 50 signatures on each petition. The petitioners request that parliament deny the right of any board or group to remove or confiscate natural herbal supplements until public hearings are held across the country.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, if question No. 73 could be made an order for return, that return would be tabled immediately.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McLelland)

Agreed?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed. .[Text]

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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PC

Peter MacKay

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Peter MacKay

With respect to the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Works program: ( a ) what projects have been approved under this program since June 2, 1997; ( b ) what was the location of each approved project; and ( c ) what was the financial contribution made by the Government of Canada for each approved project?

Return tabled.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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?

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. McLelland)

Agreed?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
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The House resumed from March 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Children's Special Allowances Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Employment Insurance Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act, the Old Age Security Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act, the Tax Rebate Discounting Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Western Grain Transition Payments Act and certain Acts related to the Income Tax Act, be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment.


BQ

Pauline Picard

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Pauline Picard (Drummond, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again to the bill before us today, Bill C-28.

There are a number of things wrong with this bill. There are the measures that supposedly demonstrate the government's concern with respect to social programs and the deterioration of health care, which it brought about itself by cutting provincial transfer payments in the health, social services and education sectors over the last three years.

This bill is an attempt to make us think the government has invested in social programs, especially health. The reality is that the government has put no new money into transfers, particularly not for health. The $48 billion in unilateral cuts announced have now dropped to $42 billion. We are told that the government is investing the $6 billion difference, but in reality no new money is being invested; the government is cutting $6 billion less.

We are told that health is a priority. We feel it is arrogant of the government to try to persuade the public that it is investing heavily in social programs.

As things stand now, the provinces have been cut so many times by the federal government, particularly in the health sector, that they are running out of steam and are having a great deal of trouble maintaining the existing level of health care and keeping the whole system from falling apart. And the federal government remains indifferent to what the provinces are going through.

Worse yet, on top of cutting transfers to the provinces, the government is set to interfere in health, which is a provincial jurisdiction. We are told that, instead of rushing into restructuring, the government is investing; it is investing, however, by cutting less than originally forecast and dropping a little money into new programs that really fall under provincial jurisdiction.

The government wants to enhance its visibility by giving everyone the impression that it is good to the people; it comes up with programs like medicare and home care, when such programs already exist in several provinces, including Quebec.

Once again, after vowing to avoid duplication and overlap, the federal government projects an image of itself as saviour while it interferes in jurisdictions that are none of its business.

Management of health, social programs, education and social assistance comes under provincial jurisdiction. Normally, the government should transfer their share back to the provinces instead of interfering in an area that is not under its jurisdiction.

The government does not seem to realize that no one has waited for it to take action. What the provinces need today is not more talks but the financial means to implement solutions designed to meet their needs.

In this respect, I would like to quote from the Quebec finance minister's last budget speech, which sums up well the mess the federal government has left the provinces, and Quebec in particular:

Since we took power in 1994, the federal government has unilaterally deprived us of $7 billion for health care, $3 billion for education, and $1 billion for asocial assistance. This adds up to $11 billion. The figure does not include the $2 billion that Ottawa has refused to pay for the harmonization of the QST and the GST, although the three Atlantic Provinces were granted $1 billion.

Were it not for these depredations, we would already have achieved a zero deficit and avoided many of the painful, sweeping spending cutbacks that some observers are trying to ascribe to our wishes alone. The health and education departments are not located in Ottawa, but it is there and without our input that the cutbacks have in the main been decided. That is how absurd the system has become... The latest budget confirms the federal government's complete insensitivity to a number of our needs, notably in the health sector. Ottawa prefers to distribute cheques to the population, emblazoned with the maple leaf. Lacking vision, Ottawa is investing in visibility.

That is what we have to live with in Quebec and how we view the situation.

I would also like to share another concern regarding Bill C-28. There is an apparent conflict of interest. Through Bill C-28, the Minister of Finance is trying to have legislation passed that is likely to give his shipping company, Canada Steamship Lines Inc., of which he is the sole owner, certain tax advantages.

Clause 241 of Bill C-28 would amend section 250 of the Income Tax Act. In this 464-page omnibus bill, clause 241 is only two paragraphs long and deals exclusively with international shipping; moreover, the Minister of Finance himself is the bill's sponsor.

How can the Minister of Finance sponsor a bill which includes tax provisions that could benefit his own company, while continuing to suggest that these measures will not apply to him and to his shipping holding company? There is indeed an apparent conflict of interest and, given the importance of the minister's position and the integrity he must show while managing the country's finances, there should not be any suspicions whatsoever about him. However, with Bill C-28, his personal name as a shipowner and that of his holding are directly linked to the legislation.

Even though the minister is defending himself by saying that his company has been held in a blind trust since he assumed his current position, he will not be a minister all his life and he will eventually benefit from that tax amendment.

The very first day that we questioned the Minister of Finance about this issue, he advised us to talk to Len Farber, director general of tax legislation at the Department of Finance. We did meet Mr. Farber, but he could neither confirm nor deny whether the minister might benefit from these changes, thus raising serious doubts in our minds.

Our next step was to table five motions before the Standing Committee on Finance, asking that various witnesses appear to shed light on the issue. The only witness authorized to appear before the committee was Mr. Wilson, the government's ethics counsellor, who is paid by the government and who is accountable only to the government. Nevertheless, Mr. Wilson's appearance before the committee strengthened our position, since he himself put the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance in an embarrassing position.

After candidly admitting that he was not an expert on international taxation and that he could not adequately answer a number of our questions, Mr. Wilson also recognized that, indeed, there could be an apparent conflict of interest in this case, adding that had he been informed at the very beginning of the details relating to clause 241 and its impact, things would have been done differently.

He recognized, as we do, that there were serious problems with the way the finance minister was doing things and that the code of ethics the government had adopted in 1994 was not observed. Indeed, the code of ethics clearly states that public office holders must, as soon as they take up their duties, take necessary steps to avoid real, potential or apparent conflict of interest. Obviously, the code of ethics was not adhered to and the finance minister is at fault.

After the Liberal majority on the finance committee refused to agree to our request, the four opposition parties called a press conference to demand that the Prime Minister order a special committee to be struck to shed light on clause 241 of Bill C-28. As yet our request has remained unanswered.

The government's ethic counsellor, who answers to the Prime Minister, claims it is irrelevant to know whether or not CSL, owned by the finance minister, may benefit from provisions in Bill C-28. If so, why did Mr. Wilson get in touch with CSL management, the very first day this became an issue, and ask if it was making use or was planning to make use of these provisions?

Moreover, Mr. Wilson admitted he was no financial planning expert. And yet he seems to accept without questioning or seeking an outside second opinion CSL's statement that it does not intend to make use of Bill C-28's provisions.

For weeks now the government has been denying the finance minister is at the very least in an apparent conflict of interest because he is not the one who was in charge of the shipping provisions.

However, the ethics counsellor contradicted the government when he admitted that the finance minister's sponsoring of Bill C-28 gave the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Mr. Wilson stated in this regard that procedural problems within the finance department had put the finance minister in an awkward situation, and that things would have been done differently had he been contacted, as he should have been, before Bill C-28 was introduced.

Since the ethics counsellor admits the finance minister is in an apparent conflict of interest, how should the June 1994 federal government code of ethics apply in this particular case?

Mr. Wilson also suggests that the finance minister was not aware of the contents of Bill C-28 before the Bloc Quebecois raised these issues in the House a few weeks ago. On the one hand, can the minister responsible for the Income Tax Act so easily avoid his responsibilities toward a bill that he is sponsoring and, on the other hand, what must the people be thinking about a finance minister who does not know the contents of his own bills? Is ministerial accountability not a fundamental principle of our parliamentary system?

In conclusion, there are many issues and these issues are serious enough that we should take the time to address them. So long as the government continues to ignore the requests of all opposition parties regarding Bill C-28, we will continue to put pressure in all possible and imaginable ways until finally, in the interest of transparency, someone answers our questions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
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April 2, 1998