February 28, 2000

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Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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BQ

Suzanne Tremblay

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-13, which establishes the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This bill is now at report stage, following the hearing of witnesses and clause by clause consideration by the Standing Committee on Health.

I will remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois supported the principle of the bill and voted in favour of it at second reading stage. First of all, I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve and health critic for the Bloc Quebecois, for working so hard on the health committee to try to convince the government majority that this bill needed amendments to make it acceptable to Quebecers.

I also heard my colleague from the New Democratic Party, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, talk to us about all the amendments she proposed to the government because she wanted to see some changes made to the bill. In many respects, she finds it just as unacceptable to Canadians. However, members of the government majority have shown no openness with regard to the amendments proposed by the opposition parties and no co-operation whatsoever. Therefore, my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve had no choice but to bring forward his amendments here, in the House, at report stage, to give us at least an opportunity to talk about what is unacceptable in this bill.

Bill C-13 is important to us. However, as it is worded, it concerns us. In fact in its 52 clauses, it refers over 15 times to research into the health care system and health issues, which are without a shadow of a doubt provincial matters.

Thus, the amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois make it clear that the bill focuses on health research and not on the potential expansion of mandates beyond the field of research.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to make sure that it is the provinces making the decisions on the choices and principles underlying the health care networks and services to the public as is provided in the Constitution, which the Liberals claim they are defending and which they are blithely flouting with ever more obvious encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.

When the federal government was not at war with Quebec, when it respected its partners in the Canadian federation, when it was not led by individuals with complexes who need to go behind Quebec's back to reassure themselves that they are powerful, when it was guided by the values of public good and community welfare rather than political visibility, it passed laws in this House creating federal agencies such as the Medical Research Council or the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council that respected provincial jurisdictions.

It is therefore possible for the federal government to introduce bills without disregarding provincial jurisdictions, which also means that Bill C-13 could quite easily have been amended to reflect the distribution of jurisdictions at each level of government without watering content down. The government's bill ignores the distribution of jurisdictions. This negates the very principle of what a federal government should be.

This is why the Bloc Quebecois introduced amendments to allow the establishment of these institutes while also respecting the distribution of jurisdictions. These amendments also seek to ensure that what is being promoted is indeed the communication of information among researchers, so as to improve health networks, rather than the implementation of rules defined without the provinces' input.

Through Bill C-13, the government once again decided to invade a provincial jurisdiction and to legislate without having had the courtesy of inviting its partners in the federation to help develop this legislation.

Again, this government claims to know better than all the other governments what needs to be done regarding biomedical research. Once again, as was the case with the millennium scholarships or the transitional job fund, the federal government is finding ways to spend our billions, which are not its money, as it pleases, primarily to gain more visibility and buy votes in the process.

Sure, some will argue that the interim governing council that developed this bill included Quebecers, competent people, and I have no doubt that this was indeed the case. Through their experience and expertise, these people undoubtedly made a remarkable contribution while sitting on the interim governing council. However, they had no mandate to represent Quebec and, more importantly, these people's primary concern was not to be a watchdog for the Constitution and for the respective jurisdictions of the various levels of government.

Could it be that this government, which claims to be a champion of clarity, which wants to give lessons in democracy to the whole world and which boasts that Canada is the most decentralized federation in the world, is afraid of giving real autonomy to these research institutes? Is this government that afraid of true decentralization?

Once again, this arrogant, conceited, know-it-all government is refusing to listen to the opposition's call to reason.

It is not so much the creation of the institutes of health research that should put us on our guard but the fact that once the institutes come into being, even virtually, there will still be a serious risk that, with their federal mandate, they will conduct research into public health services without first consulting with the provinces, thus interfering directly in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

The Bloc Quebecois is therefore proposing a series of amendments whose primary purpose is to emphasize the importance of respecting respective jurisdictions and to reaffirm that provincial jurisdiction takes precedence over federal jurisdiction when it comes to health.

Investment in research and development is necessary and very much desired in hospital and university research circles. In addition, it is important that Quebec receive its fair share of federal research and development grants.

In recent years, Quebec has been seriously neglected when it comes to research and development grants and it is high time that the federal government restored the balance by ensuring that additional funds are made available to researchers and universities so that they can pursue their work.

Historically, it is known that Quebec receives only 14% of federal government research and development spending with respect to infrastructures. However, it is well known that research grants are awarded on the basis of merit. It is also important to note that, under the peer assessment system, approximately 30% of grants go to researchers in Quebec. It must therefore be recognized that Quebec's researchers are good at what they do and that they excel, particularly in the fields of mental health, cancer, and genome and biotechnology research.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of increasing research and development budgets by creating virtual institutes and that it has supported this principle at second reading.

The federal government must respect the specific characteristics and strengths of researchers in the regions of Quebec in order to focus on their successes and their skills in the areas in which they excel.

The Bloc Quebecois says yes to the creation of a flexible and multidisciplinary structure to facilitate the organization of health research. The Bloc Quebecois says yes to increased R and D funding in the health field. The Bloc Quebecois says yes to all measures of such a nature as to provide more security to our researchers and to slow down the brain drain. The Bloc Quebecois does not, however, say yes no matter what the price.

We set two preconditions: the government must put an end to its diversionary tactics and re-establish the transfer payments, and it must respect the jurisdiction of Quebec and of all the provinces with Bill C-13.

We all accept, and understand, the urgency. But care must be taken to ensure that democracy does not suffer once again. We have had our fill of government urgency creating great upheaval in the entire process of this House and of the standing committees. Our duty as parliamentarians forces me to remind hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois is not prepared to vote in favour of just any bill, even one that acknowledges that the researchers of Quebec need funds.

In closing, I wish to state that the Bloc Quebecois is offering its co-operation to the federal government in getting this bill amended so that it will really serve the development of health research, while respecting federal-provincial divisions in jurisdiction and impacting on the health of the people of Canada and of Quebec.

If, however, our amendments should be rejected, then unfortunately the Bloc Quebecois will have to vote against this bill on third reading.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this important debate on Bill C-13.

I want to start by saying how very proud we are of our health care critic, the member for Winnipeg North Centre. She has done a great job in representing our concerns and interests in the various stages of debate on the bill. I notice that she moved some amendments.

I read with interest the speech she made on February 24. She cited the fact that while we are in favour of Bill C-13 and the whole concept of the proposed medical health research institutes, we have some real reservations not only about the process and how this bill came about but about the government's lack of willingness to entertain a number of the issues we raised. We thought they would augment the bill and add to the whole concept of promoting Canada as a centre of excellence for medical research which surely must be the ultimate goal in any bill of this nature.

Many groups made representations on the bill when it was before the committee not the least of which was the Canada Labour Congress. The Canada Labour Congress brought forward a very good point which we are disappointed the government did not automatically welcome and embrace. The issue it wanted addressed was that the one thing really lacking from a worker's point of view is that there is no medical institute specializing in occupational health and safety. One would think that in this day and age that would be automatic, an absolute given.

If we are concerned about occupational safety and health, which surely the government purports to be, it is a very timely recommendation. Part II of the Canada Labour Code is currently being debated and amended. That part of the labour code deals with occupational safety and health. Why would the government not have welcomed the recommendation that an institute be created that is dedicated solely to eliminating workplace accidents and lost time, injuries et cetera? Other countries have such a thing. The United States is way in front of us in terms of its research capabilities on occupational safety and health.

The government failed to respond to what we thought was a very creative and a very worthwhile recommendation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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An hon. member

That is too bad.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member next to me, it is too bad. We consider it a lost opportunity if the government were really soliciting input from the general public on this issue.

Other groups have welcomed the idea of dismantling the Medical Research Council of Canada and replacing it with the Canadian institutes of health research, the CIHR. The Canadians for Health Research wrote a letter recently to inform us, and I will repeat this publicly for the House, of a meeting that they will be holding here on March 22 to celebrate the creation of the new Canadian institutes of health research and the dismantling of the Medical Research Council of Canada. The letter from this organization reminds us that much of the country has been eagerly anticipating this development. It also reminds us that this will further Canada's ability to be seen as a world leader in terms of medical research.

It is not any secret that Canada's health system is the envy of the world and arguably the best not for profit and publicly funded health system in all of the world. The rest of the world watches Canada for examples of how to expand or improve their health care systems. This is another reason that what we are doing today with this bill is very timely.

This initiative expands the role of the public health care system. It is not just the delivery of medical services to people in need but the whole concept of medical research as a holistic approach to the well-being of all Canadians. Obviously this is the direction in which we should be going in the Canadian medical system.

I should repeat here some of the amendments to the bill that the member for Winnipeg North Centre thought it necessary to introduce. The government should welcome these amendments. They were made in good faith. We believe they help bring clarity to the bill and to improve some of its shortcomings.

The first amendment was Motion No. 48 in which the member for Winnipeg North Centre recommended that Bill C-13 be amended to add the words “the members of the advisory boards shall not, directly or indirectly, as owner, shareholder, director, officer”—et cetera—“have any pecuniary or proprietary interest in any business which operates in the pharmaceutical or medical devices industries”.

That is a point which really needed to be made. I am very glad the member for Winnipeg North Centre made that point. Clearly it is a conflict of interest situation. She saw that the bill was seriously flawed. It did not say anything to preclude the idea that a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical firm could end up sitting on the advisory board of one of the research organizations funded by the government. We can see how this could be a disaster.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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An hon. member

Pretty cozy relationship.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Certainly it would be a disaster. The publicly funded organization could be doing research that the pharmaceutical company wanted to have done. Let us face it. That is a glaring oversight.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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An hon. member

It is Bill C-91 all over again.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

I would certainly hope that the government would see fit to at least put in a basic safeguard so that none of the advisory boards shall have appointed to them anyone who has a financial interest in a pharmaceutical company or a medical devices company. It is common sense.

One of my colleagues mentioned Bill C-91. That nightmare surfaces again. We all know how powerful the pharmaceutical lobby is already. We certainly do not need it infiltrating the boards of our medical research institutes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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An hon. member

Like it does with the Liberal caucus.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

When the Liberals failed to deliver on Bill C-91, when they collapsed and succumbed to the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, it was the largest single cost to our health care system. The costs of pharmaceutical drugs exploded and the generic drug companies were unable to make a substitute at maybe one-tenth of the cost. Giving 20 years of patent protection to the pharmaceutical companies was hardly in the best interests of Canadians. It is certainly coming back to haunt us now.

I am very proud that the member for Winnipeg North Centre saw fit to add this safeguard for all Canadians. We will not see that kind of conflict of interest on the boards of directors of any newly established medical research centres.

In Motion No. 49 the member for Winnipeg North Centre also points out that the conflict of interest and post-employment code for public office holders should apply, with such modifications as circumstances require, to all the members of the advisory boards. It is a conflict of interest reference to make sure that the current post-employment code that exists for all public office holders shall also apply to these boards. In other words, not only should they not have a financial interest in the pharmaceutical company or some such thing, but there has to be a reasonable length of time to put them at arm's length distance from their former occupation.

The member for Winnipeg North Centre is standing up for the interests of ordinary Canadians by ensuring that this kind of conflict will not take place in the newly established institutes of medical research.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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NDP

John Solomon

New Democratic Party

Mr. John Solomon

Where do the Liberals stand on this? Where does the Reform Party stand on this?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Speaker, we certainly hope that all the parties in the House can see the common sense in making sure that Canadians' interests are safeguarded in this respect.

Motion No. 50 that the member for Winnipeg North Centre moved says that within three months after this act coming into force, the governing council shall make a bylaw to establish and put in place a code of ethics for the members of the advisory boards. In the newly struck advisory boards and the newly established institutes of medical research, we want a certain code of ethics put in place. These are reasonable, basic measures we would expect all public figures to uphold.

We do not expect any objections to any of these motions because they are obviously put in place in good faith, in good will, to look after and safeguard the interests of ordinary Canadians.

In closing I will repeat what the member for Winnipeg North Centre said in her remarks on February 24. We support this bill. We support the idea of the Canadian institutes for medical research. We had some reservations concerning the structure of the advisory boards. We are satisfied that those will be remedied with the adoption of the amendments put forward by the member for Winnipeg North Centre.

We want Canada to be a centre of excellence for medical research. The academics, universities and scientists in this country are poised, willing and ready to take their place at the forefront of this burgeoning new industry and the commercial possibilities of medical research. We welcome the opportunity.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, PC)

Mr. Speaker, we have heard from most members regarding Bill C-13, a bill to establish the Canadian institutes of health research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.

We have heard from member after member on this side the frustration at the committee level concerning the bill. Many of us, myself included, have put forward amendments. I have put forward two dozen amendments. The frustration comes from the fact that the government does not want to listen to the opposition to make this a better piece of legislation.

The member who just spoke, the health critic for that party, alluded to the frustration. It is legislation which we could all embrace. We could support it. What we are attempting to do as opposition members is to improve the legislation, but we get the sense from government members that they want the legislation now. They will not entertain amendments, unless they happen to be put forward by government members, over which they have absolute control. The government's position is not to listen to the opposition, that the opposition should not tell the government what should be in the bill.

That is where this whole exercise falls flat. None of us in the House wants to be seen as running in the face of the legislation because it is long overdue.

We are simply modelling what has been done in the United States and most European countries for the last 25 years. We are about 25 years behind the times in setting up these institutes for research. We do not have a whole lot to be proud of. We have a whole lot of ground that we have to gain if we want to be competitive in terms of medical research with the rest of the world, so let us get on with it.

Again, it goes back to the frustration of the Liberals not listening to what we are saying in terms of how we can strengthen the legislation. Let me give the House an example. This is the way we have always done things in this place, especially the Prime Minister. We will go through the makeup of the institutes, how the board is created, who picks the people to sit on the board and who will determine what institutes we will have, because as we speak we do not know. The president of the Canadian institutes of health research shall be appointed by the governor in council to hold office during pleasure for a term of not more than five years.

When we hear the term governor in council it simply means that the Prime Minister of Canada will appoint the president of the council as he appoints senators. We have heard just about everyone in the House from time to time rail on about the appointments of senators, how they happen and how they might be improved. Here we go again. The Prime Minister will determine who the president of the council will be. Not only that, each of the 20 members on the governing council will again be appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada.

Why would the government not consider rejigging that formula? It is very obvious the government wants absolute control as to how this will be set up, how it will run and who will be the boss. At the end of the day it will be the Prime Minister of Canada determining the agenda for this council. In my opinion and in the opinion of many members on this side of the House it will be he who will have absolute control. That is why the government will not entertain any sense of change in how these councils will be set up, how the president is appointed or how they will conduct business.

Unfortunately, the government has the opposition in a corner on this one, because just about every think tank, every university, every research institution in this country wants us to move on and get this thing on the road, as do we. The frustration, of course, comes from the fact that the government will not listen to anything which might slightly rejig the formula.

The Prime Minister has been around this place longer than any other member of parliament. When he was in opposition he would rail on about these types of appointments taking place in this country, whether he was talking about a board, a council or the Senate of Canada. Only when he takes office does the tune change. I do not think he is going to change in terms of how these institutes will work and how these appointments will be made.

Talk about arrogance. The Minister of Health is criss-crossing the country under the old health research council, giving away money, grants, as if this bill had already passed, knowing full well that it has not. It is an insult to this Chamber, to this institution called parliament. The Liberals are assuming this bill is going to be passed and they are assuming it is going to be passed post-haste.

I would suggest that something is wrong with the formula, and this is the place where it has to change.

This bill is good news for Canada, with the exception of who is calling the shots. Unfortunately there is a political overtone to this bill which I do not like. I think it is incumbent upon the Prime Minister and those who sit on his side of the House to say a word or two on this issue of appointments and how these institutes will be guided in the work they will do over the next number of years.

There are over 50 amendments to the bill. The government has simply decided to railroad us, forget about the opposition, forget about anything that might improve this bill. It simply wants to get the bill passed. We are suggesting that we could pass a better bill.

The government has the opportunity to listen to the opposition in the Chamber. Many of the amendments were discussed at committee, but were voted down by members of the government. However, now we are in a bigger, wider forum where Canadians will have a chance to hear us debate the bill.

I would suggest that the government take us seriously, take a look at the makeup of these institutes and consider some of the amendments that we have put forward in terms of the selection process.

This is reminiscent of the Liberal way of doing things. The Liberals, with this legislation, have stolen page for page, clause by clause, from the very platform which this party ran on in 1997. If we look at what Mr. Charest was talking about in his platform in 1997 we would find that the Liberals have basically modelled these institutes on what we were suggesting. That is not new for the Liberals, is it? They adopt the ideas of other parties, claim them for their own and back off only when they have to.

Let us get on with it and continue to engage in debate. I would like the government to take seriously a number of our amendments before we give our approval to pass this legislation through the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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BQ

Jean-Guy Chrétien

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien (Frontenac—Mégantic, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-13, which we are debating this afternoon is important and significant. It should be approved by all parties, but, the government being what it is, there are concealed flaws.

Bill C-13 concerns the creation of institutes of health research in Canada. These institutes are to replace the existing medical research centres.

One reason it might be tempting to support this bill is the fact that the Department of Finance must substantially increase the amounts allocated to research. However, the problem lies in the intrusion this government is preparing to make once more into an area of provincial jurisdiction.

I can clearly recall, in 1978 when the current Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, that he attempted an unprecedented intrusion into the provincial jurisdiction of municipal affairs. We in Quebec had just elected René Lévesque, and the federal government was trying to deal directly and by mutual agreement with the municipalities in Quebec and the rest of Canada.

The Quebec municipal affairs minister at the time, Guy Tardif, had systematically blocked the federal government's attempt to deal directly with the municipalities.

You can see how tricky the Prime Minister was at the time, in 1978. To get around that, he sent a cheque for $85 directly to all Quebec taxpayers. To annoy and ridicule the government of René Lévesque, he took another tack and gave each taxpayer $85.

At the time, I was a member of the Parti Quebecois. In our funding drive we collected not all of federal government cheques for $85 but a few of them. People said to us “What the government is doing at the moment is so stupid, we will give the same amount, or $85, to the Parti Quebecois”.

The Bloc Quebecois cannot endorse Bill C-13 as it stands. My colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve has prepared a series of amendments in this regard, which we tabled in the House together on Thursday. We will try to talk members opposite into accepting them. We hope to see the majority of these amendments passed, because the bill would then reflect the spirit and the letter of the charter that is a part of the Constitution the Prime Minister himself patriated when he was Minister of Justice, without Quebec's agreement, following the “night of the long knives”.

When we watch the little guy from Shawinigan, the member for Saint-Maurice, in action, we get suspicious. We are also suspicious about the amount that Quebec will receive out of the budget allocated to health research, to discover new treatment techniques. We are concerned because we wonder whether Quebec will get its fair share.

Traditionally, Quebec has only been receiving 14% of the moneys allocated to research and development. The federal government's track record is not good. This is why we have serious concerns. We would like to see a framework where Quebec receives at least 24.2% or 24.3% of the budget earmarked for research and research centres located in Quebec benefit from these amounts.

All this is very nice, but members are well aware that, unfortunately, Quebec has not been getting its fair share of federal investments.

Today, all opposition members are proudly wearing a red heart on the left side. This is because today is budget day.

The Minister of Finance has made deep cuts to provincial transfers. I remind this House that the Minister of Finance who, in a few hours, will be tabling his seventh straight budget, cut $1.7 billion in social transfers to Quebec for fiscal year 1999-2000.

If the minister wants to create duplication and a structure that will interfere with provincial jurisdictions, he should be reminded that, this year, in Quebec alone, he made cuts totalling $850 million. That is close to $1 billion in the health sector alone. Since 1993, he has cut health transfer payments by $3.4 billion in Quebec alone.

Earlier I was listening to a conversation. He seemed a bit disappointed that we are not giving our support for Bill C-13 so that it can be passed quickly. We in the Bloc Quebecois are only too familiar with the Liberal Party and the agenda of the Prime Minister and there is no danger that we are going to give him our blessing and make it easy for him.

I was reading the newspapers on the weekend. What is going on at HRDC is scandalous. The Prime Minister said that only $2.59 was unaccounted for. The RCMP is investigating two cases right now and, in one alone, $100,000 is involved. It is no longer $2.50. In another case, close to $166,000 is unaccounted for. It has literally been lost track of.

The $166,000 was supposed to go to a relatively poor riding in East Montreal, Rosemont to be precise, the riding next door to Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, and the hon. member for Rosemont had signed the agreement with HRDC for a grant to create 45 jobs in Rosemont. I was going to say “transfer this money” but that is not quite it. It has disappeared. The RCMP should conduct an investigation.

In any event, Saint-Maurice won out, supposedly because it was closer to the border with the United States. But it is not—it is further away. If the Eastern Townships had been considered, that would have been smart, because the Eastern Townships are very close to the U.S. border.

Right now we are looking at a government that is rotten at the core and the rot is starting to spread outwards.

Last week, I read the speech given in the House by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health in support of Bill C-13. In the not-so-distant past, I was a teacher and the president of our union was the man who is now the hon. member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies.

It is terrible to see how someone can change in a dozen years. I do not know if it was the year he spent with Marcel Pépin and Ti-Louis Laberge in his cell in Orsainville that so altered him that he is now defending the very policies he once so vehemently opposed. He even took his orders from Colonel Khadafi.

Today, this man rises in the House to speak about the virtues of Bill C-13. This just does not make any sense, and the mere fact that he is defending this bill today should make us suspicious.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Division No. 752
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February 28, 2000