April 3, 1998

LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that in the course of the past several months I have met with many victims of the tainted blood tragedy, spoke to them directly, spoke to them about the approach being taken toward compensation and personally explained to those victims, as I have in the House of Commons, the reason for the approach taken by all governments in the country toward the issue of compensation.

I explained to them that as the ministers of health looked at the history of these tragic events they found there was a period between 1986 and 1990 when governments could and should have acted and did not, and that is the basis on which compensation is being offered.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
REF

Grant Hill

Reform

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, we have a solution for the public relations nightmare the minister is facing.

B.C. has said that it is ready to move. Saskatchewan is now ready to have a conference call on the issue. Why does the health minister not just lead a new charge for a supplementary compensation package for all the victims of hepatitis C so that he can once again look those victims straight in the eye?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, every provincial government stands solidly behind this agreement. Every provincial government respects the agreement that they themselves negotiated, including British Columbia and Quebec. Every province and both territories stand solidly with the agreement that they negotiated.

Last Friday we sat opposite victims, looked them in the eye and told them, as we believed, this was the right approach to the issue.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, Howard Bullock, Canada's ambassador to China and the senior official responsible for operation unity at the time of the referendum told the Bloc member for Repentigny, currently in China, that the Bloc Quebecois could ask all the questions it likes on Option Canada, it would find out nothing, because it was he who spent the money.

My question is for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. What can the minister, his boss at the time of these events, tell us about Mr. Bullock's statement?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
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LIB

Herb Gray

Liberal

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is very simple. We, and most Quebeckers and other Canadians, support the Canadian option. The leader of the Bloc Quebecois opposes it and he is mistaken.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
Permalink
BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister can certainly not justify the expenditure of public funds by not responding to any question on the pretext that he is defending Canada. Is that what I am to understand from his response? It does not make any sense.

I would ask him whether the minister responsible for operation unity at the time, now the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, could confirm that the link between operation unity and Option Canada was such that the senior official of one ordered the other to spend?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
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LIB

John Godfrey

Liberal

Mr. John Godfrey (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we have already answered all these questions many times. We have submitted over one hundred pages of responses. The matter is totally clear. There are very few responses, because we have already provided the documents required and requested.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
Permalink
BQ

Stéphane Bergeron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the House that Mr. Bullock, now the Canadian ambassador to China, was then director of Operation Unity and therefore reported directly to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Since Option Canada's budgets were apparently spent, as she herself said, by the director of the Operation Unity team, how could the minister claim not to be perfectly aware of how the $4.8 million given by the federal government to Option Canada right in the middle of the referendum campaign was spent?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
Permalink
LIB

Herb Gray

Liberal

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, first, the question is based on false premises.

Second, we know that the Standing Orders do not allow ministers to comment on their previous responsibilities.

I repeat, it is too bad, but most Quebeckers and other Canadians support the Canada option and the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to it. Present polls show that the Bloc Quebecois is mistaken in its criticism.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
Permalink
BQ

Stéphane Bergeron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister's response is also based on false premises.

Since the federal government could already rely on the services of Operation Unity, which had a budget of almost $12 million at the time, a budget which could easily have been increased if necessary, why did the federal government pay almost $5 million to a phoney organization like Option Canada, unless it needed a front to get around Treasury Board's usual accounting requirements?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
Permalink
LIB

John Godfrey

Liberal

Mr. John Godfrey (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we have responded to the criticisms, of the auditor general for instance, by saying that changes will have to be made in future. We then answered the questions asked.

But we also have our own questions. We could also ask the Bloc Quebecois about Plan O, a plan to spend billions of dollars in the event of Quebec's separation. This question should be put to the representatives of Mr. Parizeau in this House.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Option Canada
Permalink
NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Whether or not the federal minister likes it, health ministers will hold further talks next week on hepatitis C compensation.

To date the health minister and his cabinet colleagues have closed their eyes to the injustice and inhumanity of not compensating tens of thousands of hepatitis C victims. Canadians are watching. What will the health minister take to next week's talks?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is woefully misinformed. Next Monday, Clay Serby, minister of health for the NDP government in Saskatchewan who this year is the chair of provincial ministers, will co-ordinate a conference call among provincial ministers of health to talk about the membership of the board of directors and other details for the creation of the new blood service.

The ministers of health of the governments of the country, all governments of all political stripes, believe strongly that we have an appropriate and a justified approach to the compensation issue. They are solidly behind this deal. The hon. member should not cruelly raise—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Halifax.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the minister can repeat his mantra. He can continue to try to evade his responsibility but it does not change the facts.

Unlike this health minister, some provinces have had the courage to acknowledge that the proposed compensation package does not provide a satisfactory solution for tens of thousands of victims.

Is the minister now prepared to negotiate a new deal? Will he say yes to all victims by bringing more money to the table, or will he continue to say no to fair compensation for all hepatitis C victims?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the member is simply wrong. If her reference is to Premier Clark, I assume Premier Clark has by now spoken to his minister of health with whom I spoke yesterday and has been reminded that the British Columbia government was at the table, part of the discussions, part of the agreement, and stands solidly with the rest of the governments of the country behind this agreement.

As to responsibility, we did take responsibility as those responsible in government. We considered a difficult matter. We came to a conclusion as to the appropriate response. We announced that decision and we have explained the principles behind it. That is the responsibility of public officials.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
Permalink
PC

Scott Brison

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC)

Mr. Speaker, small private woodlot owners are being penalized by the federal tax code for following environmentally responsible standards.

The national round table on the environment and the economy report tabled last October recommended that private woodlot owners be treated as small business owners. This would require a change to the tax code to allow sound forestry management practices and silviculture expenses to be deductible from their taxes against their income.

My question is for the Minister of Finance. What is the government's response to the round table's recommendation, and when can private woodlot owners expect a change?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for giving me advance notice of the question.

It is my understanding that there is a differential between the odd woodlot owner and a woodlot owner who has a business plan and is actually in the business. Owners under the second category are considered to be in the business of operating the woodlot and would be able to claim silviculture expenses.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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PC

Scott Brison

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his unusually succinct answer.

The national roundtable also recommended that private woodlot owners be provided with the same capital gains tax exemption currently available to farmers. At present if an owner wishes to pass on their woodlot to an heir it is more advantageous to clearcut the woodlot and pay less capital gains tax than manage the woodlot in an environmentally sound manner. The current tax code offers an incentive to prematurely clearcut woodlots rather than use sustainable forestry practices.

When will the government respond to this recommendation?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
Permalink
LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I guarantee you that if I am given advance notice I can be succinct.

We have again looked at the capital gains tax. The view was that would be a very small part of the solution to the problem of overcutting. We are certainly prepared to sit down with the national roundtable and with the provincial governments and take a look at the overall problem.

The question is simply one of expense versus the cost.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
Permalink

April 3, 1998