Ms. Angela Vautour (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to talk about Bill C-28. I think this bill addresses several issues that are very important for Canadians today, and I believe it is important to discuss them.
It deals with taxes, health care, education, social services and social assistance. We have to say that this is a rather complicated bill, and this is probably intentional, to ensure that all kinds of things will go unnoticed, as my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois pointed out. There are certainly some questionable clauses in this bill.
I believe that it is very important that Canadians understand that this bill is extremely complicated, but in another way it is also quite simple. The bottom line is that we in this country still have problems with health care, education and employment, and nothing in this bill will solve these problems. It is important to talk about these issues.
On the flight to Ottawa this week, I was sitting beside a lady from the Fredericton area and I asked her where she was going. She was coming here to Ottawa for an eye operation. The waiting period in Halifax was 15 months, but she could have this operation right away in Ottawa.
I ask myself the question: What is the difference from one province to another in terms of waiting lists? I know that, in the Atlantic provinces, there are very serious problems with hospital services, as well as with health care in senior homes such as the Villa Providence in Shediac. Seniors certainly do not have the services they need in these institutions.
They are short-staffed. Their employees are totally exhausted. As in many other seniors home, several staff members are on extended sick leave because they are exhausted. There is just so much a person can do between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Too much is being asked of these workers and our relatives in these places are suffering because of it. It is important that this be pointed out.
We are told that money is being reinvested in health care, but that is not true. Transfers were cut drastically and people have to be reminded of that. That is the truth. The only thing the government did was not cut the $1.5 billion they had said they would cut. That is the only thing they did.
We are getting even less money than we did previously and there is nothing in this bill to reassure the people who have to wait four or five hours before they can see a doctor or the children who have to wait hours before someone can take care of their broken limbs. These are not imaginary problems; they are real and we keep hearing about them every day. We often hear about people who have to wait or even pay to get a cyst removed, etc.
On the television program This Hour Has 22 Minutes , there was a very good sketch where they said that if you are diagnosed with cancer, you will get your $100 back. That is so sad. How many people will not get their first $100 back and will still get cancer? Why? Because we have a government that took the word care out of health care.
I am also saddened to hear the opposition parties say that the United States have a better health system than we do. We should be careful with this kind of statement, because people in the United States do not have medicare. Health care is for people with money only. This should be taken into consideration when comparing health care in both countries.
Even if I do find fault with our present system, we still have a system which NDP members are striving to preserve because it is important and it should remain as a national system so that the same standard of health care should be available to all Canadians. The ability to pay should not be a consideration as far as health care is concerned. A patient who may have cancer should not have to pay for surgery.
It is about time we take a hard look at where we are headed in this country, because we are in a sad situation. Many people cannot get an appointment because doctors are overworked. We have the same situation in hospitals. The number of beds is down, but people still get sick. And the less health care we have, the sicker they will get, and the more beds and the more nurses we will need.
In the Moncton area, right now, 300 nurses work only part time. This is a problem. We should be realistic about this situation. First of all, people deserve a little bit of security. Bill C-28 does not deal with these issues. We have 730,000 people on welfare, and the government is telling us it has put in the system $1.5 billion more. It has not. It has simply cancelled cuts that were supposed to be made. This is the important thing to remember. The government has been cutting right and left for a long time.
We have seen in the last few weeks that if we have 730,000 people on welfare, it is largely because of the cuts in employment insurance. In high unemployment areas, we should be aware that there are no jobs, and that whatever jobs there are are part time jobs at $5.50 an hour.
I meet women who have worked for 25 years in fish processing plants and who earn $5.75 an hour. That is sad. How many of us could live on just $5.75 an hour? Not many, I think. And yet this is what we expect the poor in Canada to live on.
The places where there are paying jobs, like the employment centre in Bouctouche, where at least three or four full time employees were earning $13 or $14 an hour, they close. These are jobs our children might have had eventually. They are also services that are no longer available to the public. Now people come to my office because they no longer have access to the employment centre. Members of Parliament who want to look after their constituents are the ones who have to deal with these cases and settle the problems. That is what we see.
It is sad to see them continually closing down businesses in a region where the unemployment rate this winter was 50% and where jobs are replaced by seasonal employment, which pays $5.50 or $6.25 an hour. And the provincial maximum is $6.25.
These people cannot live on $5.50 an hour anymore than I can. I cannot expect them to either. This is the sort of thing we have to deal with.
It is no different in education. There is a problem here, too. Sure, our young people can borrow. I have visits from young people who are $40,000 in debt. They have been out of university for two years and they are still looking for work. They move. They leave. As I was saying the other day, half of the people in Calgary are from New Brunswick. It is sad, but that is what is happening.
So we have to look carefully at just what bills like C-28 have to offer. It is not very useful indeed. It may be beneficial to some Liberal members, but it does nothing for those who suffer, for the sick, for the growing number of children who live in poverty because of the cuts made by the Liberals and the Conservatives before them—sometimes we have a tendency to put all the blame on the Liberals, but the party that was in power before them did not do anything good either. It certainly made its share of cuts.
Social assistance is a serious problem in our region. Sometimes we do not want to talk about it, but in our part of the country, it is a reality. Those who do not have jobs live on welfare. Sometimes, when they are not eligible for welfare, they tell us they want to kill themselves.
There is money in this country. Lots of money. It is not true that there is no money. The problem is that governments have decided they will no longer help the poor in our country.
The statistics are clear: the poor are poorer than ever and the rich are richer than ever. And the middle class is paying for both. The middle class is beginning to disappear. I think the rich were sick and tired of seeing middle class people sitting next to them in the same restaurants. It was becoming a problem, a threat.
The middle class and the small and medium size business sector are constantly under attack. The ACOA, for instance, will lose one third of its funding. The government is cutting social programs in Atlantic Canada and it is also taking away the only agency that can help small and medium size businesses. We are beginning to wonder. Will the government totally abandon Atlantic Canada?
A couple of us were elected and we will see to it that Atlantic Canada is not abandoned. There is no job creation, and that is the main problem in our country. If the government did its job and made sure that Canadians had decent jobs with decent salaries, we would not have the problems we are experiencing today.
People are being replaced by machines, well-paying jobs are being destroyed, and then we wonder why there is a high level of unemployment. Do you want to see what high unemployment is? Come live in the Atlantic provinces, or in any rural area in the country. Then you will see what high unemployment is all about.
It is not true that the figure is 9% for Kent county, for Albert county, for Cap-Pelé or Port Elgin. I am sure it is the same in many places throughout the country, in all provinces. We will have to start by going to see how things are in the regions and then doing some long term planning. That is what I would like to see in this House, a government that says “OK. We will have to go to the rural regions to find our why there is such high unemployment. What is not being done right? What have we done wrong? What needs to be done?”
There are factories in our region that need a five to seven year program to ensure that people can be self-supporting. There is no such program. Programs must be created in this country to fit these regions, instead of waiting for us in the regions to change to fit the programs. That is not how it is done. We are serious about addressing the problem of lack of work in the rural communities.
In my riding people are, again this year, having to live for three months without any income whatsoever. And why is that? Because they cannot draw employment insurance. This is serious. Nobody in our region can survive for three months with no money coming in without the danger of getting into a real bind. There is a surplus of close to $20 billion in the employment insurance fund, and yet these people are expected to survive with no income. Ridiculous.
This is a great pity. All this is a real eye opener for a newcomer to this place like myself, as we see bills appear that can work to the advantage of certain companies in this country. That is a sad thing.
I have met with young people and I have asked them “Is there any tax reform that can help you?” They tell me no. I have a young fellow working for me who is way over his head in debt. There was nothing in the last budget, or the one before that, to help him out. Nothing at all. In fact things are getting worse. For 10 years our students will get some assistance, but only 7% of them, while 90% of them will be left out, and there is nothing at all for them between now and the year 2000.
If the government does not start introducing bills and promising to make job creation the number one priority in this country, we will keep on having this problem of young people graduating and unable to find work. There are people who had jobs but lost them. Money is no longer circulating. It is a problem
It is not true that the economy is so wonderful. Come and live in my riding for a while and you will see that things are not that rosy. Our SMBs are trying, however. We are trying to develop them, but we need help. They cannot simply be told that they will have to go it alone now.
All Canadians should have the same rights, whether they are rich or poor, men, women or children. Everyone has the right to food on the table, a roof over their head, clothes to wear, and an education. These are not privileges, although it is starting to look like it. The way governments are operating, a post-secondary education is becoming a privilege. Imagine.
Then they have the nerve to say that companies cannot find trained students to work for them. Something is not right. Once again, I think it is a lack of planning. One has only to think of how many people are on unemployment insurance, which is now called employment insurance. They have tried to change how we think of it, but it is not employment insurance. When people go to an employment centre for unemployment insurance, they are not offered a job. That is not what happens.
The government has tried to convince Canadians otherwise, but I am sorry. And I will not call it employment insurance till people go to employment centres with their little pink slip to find a job there. There would go to these employment centres in search of a job. It is not the case at the moment. People get unemployment insurance because there are no jobs.
The name may be changed over and over again, but no one can convince me or the people that this is employment insurance, because this is not true. We must endeavour to put these people back to work.
We must also be realistic. We have to recognize the impact this reform will have in areas with a high unemployment rate. It is sad to see the situation young people are in. There is no planning. We need long term planning. We need financial assistance for groups willing to invest their time developing our natural resources, whether in fisheries or forestry.
There is potential in our region, hard working people. There are hard working people throughout the country, in regions where the unemployment rate is high. Professionals are supposed to be working to help these people. Where are they? Who is listening when we say we need these programs? I must say that we do not hear much, because I read in the newspaper that ACOA will lose one third of its funding. The government is cutting on both ends.
The same thing is happening in the fisheries. We know that we must ask ourselves some questions about the conservation of lobster and cod. Who are the people who are making decisions that are causing so many problems?
Obviously, the New Democratic Party opposes Bill C-28. I look forward to having the opportunity to debate in the House something that will help people. Perhaps, for once, the Liberal Party will finally give priority to the poor and the destitute and the small businesses that are hurting in Canada.
Subtopic: Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997