February 13, 2004

LIB

Mauril Bélanger

Liberal

Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties and if you were to seek it, I think you would find consent of the House to adopt the following motion:

That if a recorded division is requested on the motion to refer Bill C-18 to committee before second reading, it be deferred to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 17, 2004.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise on Bill C-18, an act respecting equalization and to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments with respect to health, and to support the motion that the legislation be referred to committee.

The bill is designed to achieve two goals. First, the bill would enable the continuation of the equalization payments while the renewal legislation is being finalized. Second, the bill would provide the federal government with the authority to pay $2 billion to the provinces and territories for health, as confirmed by the Prime Minister following the first minister's meeting.

My hon. colleagues are aware that the federal government is in a partnership with the provinces and territories and it plays a key role in supporting the Canadian health system and social programs.

The large majority of federal transfers are delivered through four major programs: the CHST, the Canada health and social transfer; the equalization payments; the territorial formula financing; and the new health transfer.

The bill today only deals with equalization and CHST. However, collectively, those four programs actually represent 2.4% of the nation's GDP, a significant sum of money by anyone's standard and constitute 18% of the government's revenues.

The equalization program is a constitutional obligation that ensures that less prosperous provinces have the capacity to provide reasonably comparable public services according to their levels of ability. It is not a program that transfers wealth among citizens.

Payments are unconditional. Receiving provinces are free to spend the funds on public services according to their own priorities. Payments are calculated according to a formula set out in federal legislation. The formula responds to the changing economic fortunes and circumstances of each province. It is designed to measure a province's fiscal capacity relative to the average fiscal capacity of the five middle income provinces, which forms the threshold standard.

The formula puts 33 revenue sources in a basket to measure fiscal capacity. Each province's fiscal capacity is measured relative to the middle wealthy five provinces.

The formula is dynamic and, as revenues go up or go down over the year, the average moves as does the fiscal capacity of each province. If any province has a good year, that affects equalization and, conversely, if any province has a bad year, so also is equalization affected.

If a large province has a bad year, naturally there is a ripple effect. Population movement, as reflected in the 2001 census, also affects the flow of payments.

The good news is that over the past 20 years, with all the ups and downs of the nation's provinces, there has been a slow but steady narrowing in the fiscal disparities.

At the same time, equalization payments are subject to a floor provision, which provides protection to provincial governments against unexpected large and sudden decreases in equalization payments. The floor limits the amount by which a province's entitlements can decline from one year to the next.

Federal and provincial officials review the equalization program on an ongoing basis to make sure that differences in the capacity of provinces to raise revenues are measured as accurately as possible.

In addition, and central to today's debate, is the fact that equalization legislation is renewed every five years to ensure that this review is undertaken and that the integrity and fundamental objectives of the program are preserved. The last renewal was in 1999. The current legislation is set to expire on March 31, 2004.

Discussions on the full five year renewal of the equalization program are underway but may not be set by April 1, 2004, which would leave a gap in the government's authority to make equalization payments.

Briefly, the bill before us today would provide the Minister of Finance with the authority to continue to make the equalization payments according to the current formula for up to a year in the event that the new legislation is not ready before April 1.

The bill would ensure an uninterrupted stream of equalization payments following March 31. It is basically an insurance policy to ensure the continuation of payments while renewal legislation is finalized.

Passage of the bill would ensure that public services provinces fund through the equalization program will continue to be protected for the benefit of their citizens.

Of course, when passed, the renewal legislation would supercede this extension. When the full renewal legislation is passed it will be retroactive to April 1, 2004. The renewal legislation would ensure that the program remains up to date and that the best possible calculations and data are used to determine equalization payments.

As I indicated, until the renewal legislation is introduced and passed, hon. members should regard the measures in Bill C-18 as insurance to continue payments and minimize the impacts upon the receiving provinces.

I want to turn now to the other provision in Bill C-18, which is the Prime Minister's commitment to provide a further $2 billion to the provinces and territories for health.

As the largest federal transfer, the CHST provides provinces and territories with cash payments and tax transfers in support of health care, post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, including early childhood development and early learning and child care. It constitutes 1.7% of the nation's GDP.

Since the CHST was created in 1996, the federal government has strengthened the transfer numerous times and it will continue to be a key priority for the government.

Let me take a moment to review the major funding increases.

In September 2000, Canada's first ministers reached a five year health renewal agreement under which the federal government made its largest ever increase to the CHST. The September 2000 agreement provided $21.1 billion to the provinces and territories for health care and early childhood development, bringing CHST payments to their highest levels ever. To support the agreement, the federal government also provided an additional $2.3 billion in targeted advancements for medical equipment, primary care reform and new information technologies such as electronic patient records.

When that money came to the hospitals in my riding the CEO of that hospital identified information technologies as his critical need and, in some direct measure, the federal government responded to that.

Drawing on the commitments supporting reform and renewal outlined in 2000, the 2003 budget confirmed $34.8 billion in increased funding over five years to meet the goals outlined in the 2003 health accord.

As a result of the investments I have just outlined, in 2003-04 the federal will provide a total of $37.9 billion in support to the provinces and territories through the CHST.

That brings me to the second measure in the bill, which is the $2 billion from the consolidated revenue fund in 2003-04 for health.

Additional funding for health care was committed under the 2003 health accord where the government indicated that in an addition to $34.8 billion over five years, it would provide an additional $2 billion for health at the end of the fiscal year 2003-04 if the Minister of Finance determined during the month of January 2004 that there would be sufficient surplus above the normal contingency reserve to permit such an investment. The commitment was reiterated in the February 2003 budget and again in the November 2003 economic update.

This government intends to live up to that commitment. This money is in addition to the increased federal investment of $17.3 billion over three years and the $34.8 billion over five years already confirmed.

The passage of the bill before the end of the fiscal year will provide provinces and territories with the flexibility to begin drawing down these funds as they require, which will help them better plan for the future.

The bill would ensure that Canada's health care system continues to be, in the words of the Prime Minister, “A proud example of our national values at work”.

In considering the equalization measures of the bill, I urge hon. members to also keep in mind that the bill underscores the priority the government places on equalization and ensures uninterrupted funding until renewal legislation is in place. This would ensure that the receiving provinces continue to receive the resources they need.

I encourage hon. members to support the motion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
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PC

Loyola Hearn

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, anybody who did not know the difference and who listened to what we just heard from the government member would think we have a wonderful government. It is giving all this money to the provinces and now, because it thought there might be some disruption in the program, it will extend the current program for another year.

Has this not been a very familiar ring in the Chamber over the last few months? The government is going to extend, going to put off, going to refer to the courts. When is the government going to make a decision on something? What more important decision can it make than on the equalization payments to the provinces?

The provinces have known for years that the present equalization payment agreement would end at the end of this fiscal year. They have been working extremely hard and have been placated by little bits and pieces.

The member says that the government is giving more in equalization payments than it ever did before. If people worked for me in 1970 and I paid them $5 an hour and I now give them $5.25 would I ask them why they were complaining since I was paying them more? We must look at the effect in real dollars. The provinces have been shafted entirely.

Let me read into the record what the Constitution says. Section 36(2) states:

Parliament and the Government of Canada are committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

It does not say comparable levels of service. It says reasonable, meaning close.

Perhaps we should look at some of the provinces we refer to as have not provinces. Why are they have not provinces? It is because we have not. The federal government takes it away.

One of the reasons we have to fight for equalization is to make sure we can provide these reasonably comparable levels of services. Can it be done? Let me be parochial and talk about Newfoundland and Labrador. Can we provide reasonably comparable levels of services? The answer is a blatant no.

Why is that? One just has to look at the geography of our province and the infrastructure necessary to deliver reasonably comparable levels of service to our people. Let us look at the health care funding, which the government has scuttled. The CHST payments have been reduced to almost non-existence despite the promises of an extra $2 billion that we have heard about for three years.

Most of the premiers come up and take the money begrudgingly and go home. However the bottom line is that they are worse off than they were before they took the money. We are not even close to keeping up with regular payments. In fact, at one time the provinces and the federal government shared the cost 50:50. Now some of the provinces are down to a 14% federal contribution. The burden is on the provinces and then, of course, it is on the municipalities and on the taxpayers and the services cannot be provided. Is this reasonably comparable? That is poppycock. Services are not reasonably comparable.

When we again look at the geography of Newfoundland and Labrador, or anywhere in rural Canada, can we provide reasonably comparable services under the present system? The answer is no.

What are the premiers looking for? The premiers and the ministers of finance are looking to the government to give them what the Constitution requires, nothing more and nothing less. They only want adequate funding to provide reasonably comparable levels of service.

What difference does it make to Newfoundland, under the present arrangement, where we see the average based upon not only five provinces, but which also excludes a number of different factors that affect what we would call equalization?

When look at the 10 provinces and we base it on equality, the difference to Newfoundland and Labrador is about $200 million annually. Where can we find that money? It is about the same amount as we have now seen wasted on the sponsorship program. Right now we are talking over $100 million, and every day we see other bits and pieces come out. With the sponsorship program alone, the money that has been squandered and covered up could have equalized the payments to Newfoundland and Labrador.

That $200 million is only 20%, or one-fifth, of the money spent on the gun registry. If we had taken the gun registry money alone, five provinces, like Newfoundland and Labrador, would have received proper and adequate equalization payments. It is incredible to think that the government blatantly can throw away such money.

The Liberals can go behind closed doors and in five minutes make a decision to bring in the foolish long gun registry that has wasted $1 billion. They can go behind closed doors and pass out $100 million to their friends. It is unbelievable. Yet they cannot, within two years, sit down with the provinces and come up with a reasonable agreement on equalization. This is completely and utterly unheard of.

What can they do to correct this inadequacy?

First, if they moved to the 10 province formula instead of the five province formula, it would be a major factor and it would help all the provinces.

Second, and more important, let us take this designation of have not away from the provinces by letting them develop their own resources. The development of natural resources and the economy generated by that should be taken out of the equalization formula if they are non-renewable resources. Let the provinces benefit from their own resources. If that happened, provinces like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and the developing north would do very well on their own. Not only would we be equal in the economic standards of the country, we would be contributing partners. We would not have other provinces complaining about paying more than their share, and perhaps rightly so. They would not have them dumping into the public purse to equalize provinces like ours. We would be able to pay our own way and help maybe a few provinces who could not.

The Liberals look at us, the new Conservative Party, and ask where our policies are. They will see them when we hit the campaign trail. However, I will tell them one right now. In relation to equalization, we would move to the 10 province formula for which all the provinces have asked. We would remove non-renewable natural resources from the equalization agreement which would give provinces that have these resources a chance to get on their feet and become contributing partners. Then the services across the country would be comparable. We would be contributors and would not be held subservient to a central government that just does not care.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this bill. I find it very symbolic and very representative of the kind of stunts this government, the Liberals and this Prime Minister seem to enjoy playing. Of course, this is to be expected just before an election. Bill C-18 is basically a partisan piece of legislation that goes against the interest of Quebec and the rest of the provinces.

First, in Bill C-18, two distinct components have been combined. The first one deals with extending the current equalization program that the provinces, and Quebec in particular, do not like and have been criticizing. The second one is to approve the $2 billion that was first promised to the provinces by Jean Chrétien and then by the former finance minister and that will probably be paid by the current Prime Minister.

On the one hand, we are against the extension of the current equalization program, because it penalizes Quebec and Atlantic Canada, in particular. On the other hand, we agree with the $2 billion for health promised by Jean Chrétien. The government thinks it can fool of us by coercing us to vote in favour of a bill that would penalize Quebec and Atlantic Canada over the next fiscal year. It is not fooling anyone, not the people of Quebec and not the Bloc Quebecois.

We demand that this bill be split. While we are in favour of Bill C-18 being referred to a committee, we will be bringing forward in committee an amendment to split the bill into two very distinct parts, as I mentioned earlier. So much for the first stunt.

Second, by introducing a bill that would extend the equalization program and provide an additional $2 billion for health, as promised over and over again, the federal government would have us believe that it is being very generous and that the provinces will be the big winners here. That is not true.

In this fiscal year alone, federal transfer payments to Quebec have been cut by about 5%. That means $423 million less in Quebec's coffers, even with the $2 billion, of which Quebec will receive $472 million.

We are not stupid. The federal government is financially starving the provinces, especially Quebec. Next year, if the equalization formula is maintained and if there is no agreement to increase health care funding, transfer payments to Quebec will drop by $1.55 billion. This is unacceptable. We will not allow Ottawa to financially starve the Quebec government at the expense of Quebeckers. We will not endorse this.

Third, the federal government is making a big deal about the $2 billion it is transferring for health care but has failed to mention that this year it will save $2 billion in equalization payments. That is the federal government's strategy: to take with one hand and give with the other. The problem is that the rules are not the same when it comes to equalization or the CHST.

The CHST is based on population percentage. Equalization, however, is based on the relative wealth of the provinces. Consequently, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces lose under Bill C-18. The proof is that, this year, under the equalization program, our share of the 2002-03 amount will drop 38%. These figures bear repeating because they are evidence of this third stunt pulled by the Liberals and the federal government.

The figures I am providing are from the study by Quebec's finance minister, Mr. Séguin, who is far from being a separatist, as the Liberals say, and who should have a certain credibility in their eyes. In 2002-03, under the equalization program, Quebec received $5.315 billion. In 2003-04, the current fiscal year, it received $3.29 billion. That is a 38.1% decrease. Projections for next year are approximately $3.5 billion. Compared to 2002-03, this is a 34.1% decrease.

And now they are trying to sell us on the idea of extending the current equalization formula at the expense of Quebec's finances. This is unthinkable.

Looking at the Canada health and social transfer, we see that in 2002-03 we received $2.648 billion. In 2003-04 we received $2.58 billion, a drop of 2.6%.

This year there is of course the increase provided for in the February 2002 agreement plus the $2 billion, which means for Quebec a total of $1.647 billion. And there is $1.367 billion in other transfers. So this year Quebec will receive in federal transfer payments $8.884 billion compared to the $9.3 received in 2002-03. That is a net loss of 4.5%.

They want the Bloc Quebecois, the sole defender of the interests of Quebec in this House, to accept such a unilateral reduction in transfer payments by the government. Next year, again compared to 2002-03, according to our very conservative estimate, the losses will be in the order of 16.7%.

We therefore cannot accept the sort of stunt they are trying to pull with Bill C-18, which will, when all is said and done, penalize Quebec and the Atlantic provinces in particular, as I have said, by strangling them financially.

We can see, since the numbers are there, that the basic intent of Bill C-18 is to allow the federal government to save money. The $2 billion—which, I will remind hon. members, is $2 billion with no guarantee of repetition next year, far from it—is merely an attempt to conceal what they are doing. This is why they have put the two elements into Bill C-18. But, once again, we are not taken in, nor are the people of Quebec.

Fourth, since there has been a new prime minister, since there has been a new finance minister, they have copied the tactics of the former finance minister, now Prime Minister.

They claim the financial situation is very difficult, pointing to examples of current issues that are indeed of great concern: the mad cow crisis, which the federal government should come up with more money for, the SARS crisis, and a number of other things such as the power outage in Ontario.

The government says finances will be very tight now. It expects to have a lot of difficulty raising $2.3 billion in surpluses. What did we learn this week? From April to December, the federal government already raised $5.2 billion. The surplus will be closer to $6 billion or $7 billion, as the Bloc Quebecois predicted earlier.

Consequently, the federal government put up a show to try to relieve the pressure on the negotiations concerning equalization and health. When he met with provincial premiers, the Prime Minister said, “I will not solve the problem now. I will wait until July”.

Why will he wait until July? Because he hopes to hold his election before then. Of course, I am not convinced that, with the current events, it will be easy. However, at the time, his idea was to call an election as soon as possible and postpone the problems.

It is the same with Bill C-18. The government does not want a debate, it does not want to negotiate the equalization formula with the provinces. It is downloading, hoping that the election will be held before then.

In an attempt to cover all this, it is pretending that it is having financial problems, which is false. Not only there are surpluses, but there is $6 billion sitting in the foundations that were created by the current Prime Minister.

We know that Jacques Léonard, the former president of the Treasury Board in Quebec, did a wonderful job for the Bloc Quebecois. He showed that the federal government had increased its spending at a pace that was double that of Quebec and Ontario, and that there was a lot of waste. It is not just the sponsorship scandal; there is also a culture of waste within the federal government. If things were tightened up, we would have ample means to settle the issue and negotiate quickly.

Fifth, all this is done with one goal in mind, which is to put all the problems off until after the election. Afterwards, the government will give the bad news to Quebec and to the other provinces.

We will not be fooled. We will not play this game. We will not condone what the Liberals want to do to the provinces and to Quebec in particular, which is to put a financial stranglehold on them and not deal with the fiscal imbalance.

Nor will we condone the laxness of this government, which could easily have negotiated the new equalization rules before March 31. We will not play this game and we will not support Bill C-18.

We hope that this bill will be split and that the issue of the $2 billion for health will be addressed separately.

As I said, we will ask that the $2 billion be a recurrent amount and that the equalization program be extended before March 31 if possible, but in any case before the election.

In conclusion, we will support the referral of this bill to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-18, an act respecting equalization and authorizing the Minister of Finance to make certain payments related to health.

I listened very carefully to the parliamentary secretary's comments on introducing Bill C-18. What we heard essentially was a bit of a historical account and a somewhat clinical recitation about equalization payments and the Canada health and social transfer which is a critically important part of the Canadian fiscal regime. In a way the parliamentary secretary's comments are significant not for what was included but for what was omitted.

He expressed concern and sounded ever so committed to the federal government keeping its fiscal and moral commitment to Canadians to ensure that regardless of which province people happen to live in they will be entitled to a roughly comparable level of service in the vital areas of health, education, child care and so on.

What the parliamentary secretary failed to say despite this show of concern is that the government has been so unwilling to see it as a priority to ensure not just that equalization payments continue but that there be a fair formula for equalization payments. The government has been dragging its feet and the current regime expires at the end of March. It has had five years to negotiate a renewal agreement that would be more fair and more effective.

What we are dealing with here is a stop-gap measure. We are dealing with a bill that is necessitated because the government has not seen it as enough of a priority to work in good faith with the provinces to put in place the new formula for equalization which is desperately needed and long overdue.

We know that the provinces have been working hard and in good faith to put forward a new formula. We heard from the parliamentary secretary about how the old formula works. What he did not say is that a very specific proposal has been brokered and worked on over a period of years that is based on a 10 provinces agreement and a 10 provinces formula.

The federal government has not been willing to come to an agreement about that new improved formula. Why? Despite the expression of concern about the inadequacy and deterioration of services across this country as a result of federal policies over the last 10 years, it seems content to continue using the same formula because it saves the government money. It needs to find ways to save money no matter whether it comes out of the hides of Canadians who are the most vulnerable in this country or wherever the government can find it because we know what the government's priorities are.

When the government decides that a corporate tax cut of $4.4 billion comes first, then no wonder it is avoiding entering into a good faith agreement with the provinces that would allow the equalization funds to be more adequate and more fair.

So much for the notion that the Prime Minister can claim that it is a new, different and better government. What we see by the introduction of this bill today is simply an admission of failure. It is a revelation of how vacuous the Prime Minister's claim is that he is a Prime Minister that has a much improved working relationship with our premiers.

There is more to having an improved working relationship with our premiers than going to a football game with the boys. There is no question it is a good photo op and it is smart to come out of the starting gate saying that he is getting together with the premiers so they can just get along better.

I would not presume to speak for any premier. However, I think one could say without fear of contradiction that the vast majority of the premiers would be a lot more impressed with the supposed commitment of the new Prime Minister to work in better harmony and good faith with them if the government had moved to endorse the 10 province formula. That formula was worked on over a very long period of time. If it could be in place so that it took effect April 1 we would not need this stop-gap legislation.

Let us make no mistake about it. It is not going to be missed on Canadians why this stop-gap legislation is needed. It is needed because when it comes to the fiscal regime and equalization, the new Prime Minister and the new finance minister have behaved no differently, no more responsibly, no more in response to the need for change by the provinces than the old regime, the previous finance minister and the old prime minister. And I do not mean old in years, I mean old in terms of chronology.

I want to refer to the second part of the bill which is to deal with the $2 billion that we hear trumpeted as a great achievement of the new Prime Minister. Let us not be that easily taken in by the notion that the $2 billion desperately needed for health care was an option and the Prime Minister might have said, “We are not going to do that after all because we do not have enough money”.

We have heard all the posturing from the new Prime Minister, the new finance minister and the other cheerleaders for the new regime. They are saying that they have to be fiscally responsible, that they may not have that $2 billion that was absolutely recommended as the rock bottom measure. That was the first measure needed to begin to make up for the money that was lost, that was clawed back by the federal government, that was held back from the health and social transfer over the last several years.

There was not an option, not unless the new government, the new Prime Minister and the new finance minister wanted to engage in a massive kamikaze effort here. It is clear that health care is the number one priority of Canadians. It is clear that the loss of those dollars at the insistence of the former finance minister, who now happens to be the Prime Minister, has very severely eroded the quality of health care, particularly in have not provinces like my own, Nova Scotia, and in the other six have not provinces. It has made it very clear that the provinces have to carry the load. They have to bear the burden of the elimination of much of the federal funding for health care over the last several years.

It is not surprising that the premier of Nova Scotia has said that the $2 billion clearly is not sufficient to deal with the horrendous waiting lists for specialist services and diagnostic services. It is not sufficient to deal with the log-jam at emergency hospital rooms. It is not sufficient to deal with the damage done over the last nine years because of the former finance minister's budgets.

What is absolutely clear is that even with the $2 billion granted, it does not begin to close the Romanow gap. When the Romanow report on the future of Canada's health care was presented, it was absolutely clear that there was a need for changes to the equalization formulas. There was a need to address many of the other aspects of the health care system which had been badly damaged by the government's misplaced priorities.

In conclusion, there is no indication whatsoever with Bill C-18 that the government is seriously committed to creating a fairer, more effective equalization regime. There is no indication that the government will begin to do what is needed to put in place the kind of health care system that Romanow recommended, that was put before the Canadian people. Health care remains the number one priority for Canadians.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
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LIB

Paul Bonwick

Liberal

Hon. Paul Bonwick (Simcoe—Grey, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay praise and tribute to Auditor General Sheila Fraser, and to fully support our Prime Minister for his decisive actions in response to Ms. Fraser's report.

We recognize that without doubt there are those who have abused the public trust. As elected officials, we are privileged to serve our constituents who must have unquestioned confidence in our government. I can say that this elected official is deeply disturbed by Ms. Fraser's findings, as is this entire government.

Now is the time for strong leadership in the country and Prime Minister Paul Martin has displayed tremendous leadership by taking decisive and immediate action in response to the Auditor General's report.

Indeed, last fall, one of his first actions as Prime Minister was to cancel the sponsorship program. He has accepted all the Auditor General's recommendations concerning the sponsorship program. Moreover, he has pledged to take the necessary steps to uncover what happened to ensure those who are responsible are held to account.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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?

The Deputy Speaker

First, I would hesitate to interrupt a member, particularly during statements by members, but clearly, as has already been indicated earlier today, we must recognize one another by portfolio or riding names, certainly not by any other.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Auditor General's Report
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CA

Reed Elley

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Reed Elley (Nanaimo—Cowichan, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons I ran for federal politics seven years ago was because I recognized that there was something seriously wrong in our democracy. Many have called it the democratic deficit, and I am not at all confident that this government has the moral fortitude to fully address this issue.

While in this House, I have witnessed far too many scandals. The billion dollar boondoggle in HRDC, the Shawinigate affair, another billion dollars or more wasted on the ill-fated gun registry, the hep C tainted blood scandal and I could go on.

Now the Auditor General has exposed perhaps the greatest scandal that this House has seen in many years. It appears that this Liberal government turned a blind eye to taxpayer money being funnelled through Liberal-friendly advertising agencies to outside groups and events. After taking their cut, they passed it on to Liberal-friendly businesses and one can only speculate where the rest of the money went from there.

The Prime Minister, who was then the minister of finance, wants us to believe that he did not know anything was going on. Canadians are not stupid. Now the Liberals have gone too far. Maybe this is the scandal that will send them packing at the next election. I can only hope so, because Canadians deserve an honest government for a change.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Government of Canada
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LIB

Raymond Simard

Liberal

Mr. Raymond Simard (Saint Boniface, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, since 1998 Canada Safeway stores have been selecting an annual charity to support as part of Safeway's “Because We Care” program. We were asked by our local Safeways to participate in this initiative by helping to provide volunteers and to help promote the fundraising activities.

This Saturday, February 14, is the “Show Your Heart” campaign where we will be on hand to support three local charities chosen by Safeway stores in my riding: Miriam Centre, a counselling centre for woman and children; Teen Stop Jeunesse, a drop in centre that offers basic needs to youth as well as adult education courses; and Jocelyne House, a local hospice for terminally ill patients.

More than 75 volunteers have agreed to support us in our efforts this coming Saturday. This confirms once again Manitoba's reputation as the volunteer capital of the world.

We thank Safeway and its employees, and we are pleased to support these charities and their organizers and volunteers who work relentlessly to improve the quality of life of citizens in our communities.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Safeway
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LIB

Marlene Catterall

Liberal

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this year the Royal Canadian Army Cadet League celebrates its 125th anniversary.

In celebration of that anniversary, last week I had the honour of attending and presenting a new Canadian flag to the 2870 Royal Canadian Dragoons Army Cadet Corps in my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean at the Connaught Rifle Range, along with Commanding Officer Captain Maureen Hayes. I also conducted an inspection of the corps.

I am delighted to note that the corps aims to develop leadership, citizenship and community involvement in young people between the ages of 12 to 18.

Just before flag day, I am especially pleased to remember the presentation of the flag and to congratulate the Royal Canadian Army Cadet League for 125 years of history.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Royal Canadian Army Cadet League
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the exciting winter warming activities in Yukon start this weekend with the Frostbite Music Festival, with fantastic talent from across Canada. This is followed shortly thereafter by the Yukon Quest, the world's longest international dog race. It goes a thousand miles from Yukon to Alaska, shortly to be followed, I hope, by a pipeline and a railroad.

We want to thank Agriculture Canada for its great work this year in helping to make this possible.

Finally, the celebrations reach a climax with the Yukon Sourdough Winter Carnival. Visit me in my traditional role as benevole at cabana a sucre.

To all members of Parliament and everyone in the gallery, they should pack their dog booties now, make their plane reservations and come to Yukon for this year's greatest winter carnival celebration.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Frostbite Music Festival
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CA

Rob Anders

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the new Prime Minister would have us forget that he was the kingpin in Jean Chrétien's game. He wants us to forget that he was responsible for over $1 billion being wasted on the gun registry. He was responsible for over $1 billion disappearing in the HRDC boondoggle. He is now responsible for over $100 million in kickbacks involving his Liberal friends in Quebec.

Are we now to believe that he had no recollection in the tainted blood scandal, no idea that his companies avoided Canadian taxes with tailor-made tax haven laws and no knowledge that Canada Steamship Lines received $161 million in corporate welfare? At best a fool, at worst a fraud. Canadians deserve better.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Member for LaSalle--Émard
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LIB

Robert Lanctôt

Liberal

Mr. Robert Lanctôt (Châteauguay, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the past decade has clearly demonstrated the major impact innovation can have on the strength of the economy.

When we think about innovation we often think about universities or research and development labs at large companies. However, innovation can occur in other places such as small businesses or colleges.

To showcase the innovations that might come out of these prolific sources, this government has mobilized partners and committed the necessary funds: some $3.6 million. Together with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, an initiative was launched to help innovations get a foothold in the market.

Participating colleges could receive as much as $600,000 over three years to work with the private sector in order to market innovations quickly.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Innovation Programs
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BQ

Gilles-A. Perron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles-A. Perron (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, in my last householder I asked my constituents in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for their opinion and comments on 10 hot topics. I was guided by the principle that, for the people to be sovereign, the elected representative must do what the people decide.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the high participation rate and I am encouraged and proud of the involvement of the people I represent. The statistics from this opinion poll are quite telling, and confirm the positions already taken by the Bloc Quebecois in this House on most issues.

I can assure the people of my riding that I will continue to represent them and strongly and faithfully defend them. I sincerely thank all those who support me in my political option.

Allow me to wish a happy birthday to my mother, who was born on Friday, February 13, 1913. Happy birthday Philomène.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Rivière-des-Mille-Îles
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LIB

Gurbax Malhi

Liberal

Hon. Gurbax Malhi (Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the current recognition and evaluation of foreign credentials is an issue that puts Canada in a unique predicament. We are a country recognized for our great resource base, multicultural population, universal respect and activities toward achieving and maintaining peace, and our highly developed infrastructure program.

It is therefore imperative that we work with the provinces and territories to see that the credentials of foreign immigrants are efficiently and fairly recognized. As a country, Canada stands to greatly benefit by the input of a world of great minds that provide a plethora of unique skills and training.

I am proud to rise today to provide my full support to see that this issue is given the support it requires. I would invite my colleagues in the House to help me communicate this message to all Canadians, as well as foreigners considering a life in Canada.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Foreign Credentials
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CA

Chuck Cadman

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, on July 16, 2000, a 15 year old car thief ran a stop sign in Surrey and t-boned an SUV, killing 11 year old Tina Burbank. Her mother, Chrissy, and her grandparents were seriously injured. Chrissy has since founded Our Angels in Heaven, a support group for parents of children lost to violent crime.

Tina's killer was sentenced to 19 months, including six in secure custody, for criminal negligence causing death. At sentencing, Chrissy received a letter from him expressing sorrow and his desire to switch places with Tina.

Last week an 18 year old was charged with dangerous driving, flight, possession of stolen property and driving while prohibited in a case involving a stolen pickup truck. Even though he is 18, he cannot be identified. Why? Because to do so would name him as Tina Burbank's killer. So much for the crocodile tears and deterrence.

Chrissy is not surprised and holds out little hope for car thieves, because in her words, “They know nothing is going to happen to them”. Sadly, she is right because under this government's new Youth Criminal Justice Act, nothing will change. In fact it will in all likelihood get worse.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Youth Criminal Justice Act
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LIB

Andrew Telegdi

Liberal

Hon. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, Canada' s small breweries have been winning international quality awards for years. Their product variety and quality is exceptional. Their industry has as much potential as the Canadian wine industry had 10 years ago.

In 1984 there were only two small brewers in Canada. Today, my riding of Kitchener--Waterloo alone is home to two small breweries: Brick Brewery and Lion Beer Factory, with 85 more located in large and small communities across the country. They have added 2,000 jobs to Canada's brewing industry.

To promote more jobs in this sector, I ask the government to embrace in this year's budget the finance committee's recommendation from last year that states, “To reduce the excise tax for Canadian small brewers by 60% to achieve parity with U.S. small brewers”.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Brewing Industry
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NDP

Wendy Lill

New Democratic Party

Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, homelessness is a national crisis in Canada, yet the attitude of the government has been to turn a blind eye.

In Dartmouth and Halifax almost 31,000, or 8% of the population, are on the brink of homelessness. A Halifax study has found many of these people are under 24 and many have disabilities.

High housing costs often mean choosing between paying the rent, buying food or getting prescriptions. Why are any of our citizens being forced to make such choices? Being homeless means thinking, “How can I get through the day?”, instead of, “How can I contribute to the society that I live in?”

These are some of our most vulnerable citizens, yet the callous attitude of the Prime Minister has been to cut the national housing program as finance minister and not appoint a secretary of state for housing.

I call on the Prime Minister to immediately put forth a national housing strategy and to devote 1% of the budget to housing.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Homeless
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February 13, 2004