February 16, 2004

CA

Dale Johnston

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Dale Johnston

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do recognize the amount of cattle that there are in Ontario. At the heyday of our cattle producing in Alberta, we shipped a lot of feeder cattle by train to Ontario feeders, but I did preface my remarks by saying that I would be speaking specifically about my riding.

I want to answer my colleague's question directly. What do I think is necessary? I think we need to convince the Americans that any restrictions they place on us will be restrictions that they are really placing on themselves. We need to convince them that we have to look at the continental market. The 49th parallel, for the purposes of cattle, should be erased. We need the slaughterhouses in the United States.

From the time we start to put the shovel in the ground to the time we actually get the coolers running might be a year and a half. By the time we build a slaughterhouse in a year and a half, I certainly hope that the border would be open. By that time we would be shipping live animals to be killed in the United States, where they really need the beef. The price of beef has gone through the roof in the supermarkets in the United States. If the Americans could take our beef, it would put a little pressure on their retail price and give the consumers a break. The slaughterhouses need to be investigated, I think, to see whether or not they are coming up with a decent markup or are actually guilty of gouging the producers.

The primary thing we need to do is build a good rapport with the United States government and convince it that America needs our beef as much as we need that border open.

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PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was on television in a public forum a couple of weeks ago and said that if he could not deal effectively with the aboriginal crisis and the alienation of the west, he would deem his prime ministership to be a failure. But it appears to me that by leaving agriculture out, he is not off to a very good start. Maybe the member could comment on that.

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CA

Dale Johnston

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Dale Johnston

Mr. Speaker, it is actually a very good point. I know that the Prime Minister has said he feels that the western alienation is real. Unlike the previous prime minister, who did not think it really existed, this Prime Minister at least has acknowledged that the western alienation is a problem. He has said he will do something about it, but I think he got off to a very bad start by neglecting to be upfront and proactive about agriculture.

As my colleague from Peterborough said, the opening of that 49th parallel to get the cattle flowing back and forth, particularly live cattle going south, is of utmost importance.

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LIB

Joe Volpe

Liberal

Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak for the first time this session. Indeed, it is my first time speaking as a minister of the Crown. You and I have known each other for an enormously long time, Mr. Speaker.

I love to read speeches that are well thought out. Some people in my department thought that this would be a great time for the minister to make a great impression on all the government programs. They wrote this wonderful speech. Then my colleague from Mississauga South decided that he too wanted to say some positive things about the Speech from the Throne, a speech that is so detailed and so precise in the enumeration of the programs the government is outlining for all Canadians to see and judge that one would almost suggest it is budget-like.

I could not possibly say no to my colleague, Mr. Speaker, so you will have to allow me to forego the opportunity to do justice to those who have laboured so mightily in crafting the words necessary to make a member of the ministry look thoughtful.

If I may be forgiven, I will sound rather pedestrian and representative of those people who really want to see the government of the day, the Government of Canada, address the needs they see every day.

Here are some of those needs. Members will have seen them already in the Speech from the Throne because, despite the naysayers on the other side, the government has put its finger on some of the most important necessities of the day.

On the first of these necessities--if I may be allowed because they pertain to my department--we spoke rather specifically not only about the problem but about how to address it: the first is, of course, investing in the human capital of this country. It is the most important investment that any government could make, in fact, not only this government but government of any stripe.

We have heard others speak of the necessity to build a physical infrastructure, whether it is in the industrial, agricultural, farming or fishing sectors. All of those things are important. This is especially important as well for those who live in larger municipalities, when they talk about the technological innovations of the day that make it necessary for us to build a knowledge based economy. These are all nice, tangible words, but we know that all of them hide something. For all of them, in every single line and in every single sector, we need to invest in our human capital.

All of us in this room, because of our age, have people that depend on us or have depended on us. Those people are now our premier citizens, those in whom we would place all of our faith and all of our hopes: the young people. They are people who are developing an ability to learn, to build capacity, to adapt to the challenges of the day, and to move those challenges as they meet them to the benefit of our society.

The Government of Canada has to do the same. It cannot do less. We want to foster lifelong learning. We recognize that not only must we give people an opportunity to pursue greater levels of education, we must give them the opportunity to advance and develop their skills in the workplace. We must give them the opportunity to adjust to the new challenges of a changing economy.

For example, within five years 70% of all new jobs created will require post-secondary education or better. Only 6% of the new jobs to be created will require less than a high school education. We need people to be adaptable.

What does education mean? Does it mean to be able to read, to add, to fool around with a computer? No. It means that a person is able to adapt whatever skills have been learned, both on the academic side and on the manual side--dexterity--to the new jobs that develop. We need to be able to do that.

We have the means for it. We have seen it in the Speech from the Throne. The government has already made several commitments. Many people will pooh-pooh this, but those who are most likely to be recipients of it recognize the great vision and the direction that the Prime Minister has already allowed us to examine.

We will be looking at the student loan program and we will enhance it. We want more students to have access to loans that will allow them to attend community colleges and universities. We will be extending the period allowed for the repayment of such loans in order to reduce that debt load. We will be introducing and enhancing the interest relief portions of the student loan mechanism so that no one will be overburdened by the loans they take for the purpose of pursuing higher learning.

We will also make sure that we do not limit this opportunity only to a select few but that we recognize that society is becoming much more than what it has been in the past in terms of its economic abilities, and that expenses have increased. We will be including a larger swathe of our population, a larger group of middle income families, in order to release them from the burden that has been placed on them.

In addition to that, we recognized long ago that those who are often left out are of course those young men and women who come from families that are more disadvantaged. They are the ones who do not have the opportunities to access these loans and programs that the Government of Canada put in place in the past. We will be offering students in the first year of a community college or university program an opportunity to access additional funds.

I do not want to scoop the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance when they present the budget, but I am so excited about what I know they will be doing that I cannot hide the smile on my face. I am sure you have noticed it, Mr. Speaker. Those students will be delighted that finally a government has the courage to put money beside a commitment to engage those people from the classes in our society that have not demonstrated the greatest ability to finance their children's education.

That is something we have ignored for too long. Therefore we have decided that we should take a look at those families that do not have the sophistication and understanding of the economic instruments of investments that would allow them to make early investments into their children's education from the moment their children are born.

We have in the past, and this is a compliment to our administration, put in place a registered education savings plan, but we did not recognized that a lot of families do not have the economic means or the investment sophistication to do this. Therefore we will be putting in place a learning bond where the Government of Canada will come up with the opportunities for them to make those first down payments and provide them with the opportunity to begin to understand how these instruments can be best utilized for their own children.

This is not just idle talk. My colleagues opposite would say we cannot handle this because it is too specific for us. It is a vision that has substance. It is an idea that has a mechanism. It is a plan that has steps along the way.

Those kinds of steps lead me, as well, to what I said a few moments ago about skills development. We have an opportunity to build a culture of learning for those people who leave the educational parameters of a classroom. For example, we have learning institutions from labour groups, management groups and sector councils. We have labour trusts that are engaged in providing skills for their members as they are required to meet the demands of the marketplace as they see it. They are best equipped to make that connection with both business and with the requirements of their employees, their members. We need to engage in plans with them to ensure that the outcomes of their exercises are productive for all Canadians.

I myself studied this issue and had the opportunity to observe current practices. We have seen that it is possible to create a partnership between the government and these groups for the well-being of Canadians.

I thank you for giving me at least these few minutes to start elaborating on the government's plan. I hope that the Chair will give me more time in the future.

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LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague on his appointment as minister. To be perfectly honest, I cannot recite the exact title yet, but he is in effect our minister of lifelong learning. I congratulate him on that and on the way he dealt with it in his speech. We have needed such a department for many years. I hope, not that he will take over the whole federal government in the area of lifelong learning, but that he will develop within his new department an expertise in these matters which reaches out to the other federal departments.

I have two specific things that I hope the minister will take under advisement. He mentioned student loans and the problems they create. I would point out that right now less than 15% of the students in our medical schools come from homes with what we call lower middle class incomes or lower; 85% come from upper middle class or higher. Would the member take under advisement the matter of residency? Is residency for a medical student training or work?

Second, would he consider working through cabinet so that he and his successors become Canada's permanent representative to the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada in order to have consistency in the federal government's dealings with the provinces in these matters?

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LIB

Joe Volpe

Liberal

Hon. Joseph Volpe

Mr. Speaker, first, with regard to the second part of the question, I am very interested, as minister, to take part in this council of ministers of education.

Of course, there are jurisdictional problems, but my department has already indicated the interest of the current minister and of those who will come after me in becoming members of this council.

Indeed, it is important to have a truly Canadian concept that goes beyond classroom education, which is under provincial jurisdiction.

Therefore, my answer is yes, I am open to that.

With respect to the first part of the member's question, I am pleased to say that I met with students from the medical profession just a few moments ago. They expressed to me the same kinds of concerns that the hon. member for Peterborough has indicated.

Consistent with what I said earlier, we have already taken into consideration some of the costs that are borne by students that have not in the past been considered as part of the legitimate or eligible cost for deductions either for their parents or the students themselves, and we are heading in that direction.

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PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate the minister on his appointment. He came into this place in 1988, as did you, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure he will do a good job. He is more than qualified, being a former educator. And we have had our sparring matches in this place.

I met with some medical students who were on the Hill today lobbying members of Parliament concerning their level of indebtedness as students. They are saying that the answer is not in being able to borrow more money, although that is a problem. The students are basically saying that yes, student indebtedness is a problem but they are suggesting that under the present conditions of the student loan program some of them actually cannot borrow enough money to keep going.

I see that my time is up. Could I seek unanimous consent to finish my question?

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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent for the member to finish his question, which means lengthening the time for questions and comments?

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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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LIB

Joe Volpe

Liberal

Hon. Joseph Volpe

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague. He and I share some history.

Yes, we have sparred on many occasions but on this occasion we will not. We will agree. He is right, the debt load for many students, especially those in the professional faculties, is onerous at the very least and most difficult, and it is something we have to address.

I do not want to scoop the finance minister, but we have indicated in the Speech from the Throne that mechanisms will be put in place to allow for the inclusion of eligible expenses and we will include more eligible expenses for a larger swath of the middle class to be a part of this. We want to encourage more students to pursue higher learning. We will be able to give more details when the budget comes forward.

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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to and elaborate on one aspect of the throne speech. It has to do with our commitment under strengthening Canada's social foundations, that we will under our universal programs provide our seniors with income assistance and care when needed.

On December 10 I had a press conference. I announced a number of initiatives which I felt were important with regard to seniors. The motivation for the changes that I was proposing was that the seniors are the fastest growing and most vulnerable segment of our society. They are Canadians who have the least opportunities to address matters such as seniors poverty and the least tools available to them to correct a situation which may be of some difficulty to them.

I had an opportunity to host a town hall meeting on January 13 where 200 constituents came out to speak about seniors poverty and related issues. I will hold another forum on February 25. We expect that up to 400 people will come to talk about this issue because it received such an overwhelming, positive response when we first talked about it.

I would like to outline just for the information of members and Canadians some ideas that my constituents came up with. I will also briefly review the 17 motions which I tabled in the House on February 2.

We do not have a poverty line in Canada. Therefore I submitted a motion to establish provincial, territorial and regional poverty lines. This is important because we do not know the level of poverty that we are prepared to tolerate. The low income cut-off used by Statistics Canada is not an appropriate measure of poverty in Canada.

I also have a motion to implement a guaranteed annual income for seniors. It is important that we establish the level of poverty that we are prepared to tolerate and ensure that through instruments such as the guaranteed income supplement or other equivalent type programs, all seniors, regardless of how they got there, are at least raised to the level of poverty that we are prepared to tolerate.

I also proposed that we eliminate mandatory retirement at age 65. Mandatory retirement is an archaic concept. People are living much longer and quite frankly, what would we say to Canadians who for whatever reason may not have provided adequately for their own retirement, that they would have to leave a job when they in fact needed the job? We would put them out of a good paying job and all of a sudden they would be pumping gas or working at McDonald's. It would be a terrible waste of skills. We should work collaboratively with all jurisdictions to eliminate mandatory retirement.

I want to increase the caregiver tax credit to the equivalent value of the government subsidy per patient in nursing homes. Very slowly, the caring for our loved ones, whether they be the chronically ill, the aged, the disabled, et cetera, has been transferred to families. The caregivers have to withdraw from the paid labour force. We do not subsidize that activity enough. That tax benefit should have the same value as the government subsidy provided to nursing homes for chronic or continuous care for people who need it.

I want to extend employment insurance benefits to caregivers who withdraw from the paid labour force, much as we have done with regard to those who take maternity or parental leave under EI.

There is something in the Income Tax Act called the refundable medical expense supplement. It is a very modest amount. It is supposed to take care of those extraordinary medical expenses which Canadians sometimes incur. Certainly seniors are no exception. The amount is very, very low. I want to increase it, in fact double the current amount.

I want to amend the Canada pension plan so that those who withdraw from the labour force, who seek to care for a loved one, a senior, et cetera, would not lose the opportunity to continue to earn CPP benefits, even though they do not have earned income during that period. Not only are they giving up a pay cheque but they are also giving up the opportunity to improve their own pensions over a working career which is unfair. It is inequitable and it should be corrected.

There are three subsequent motions to do with home care, pharmacare and affordable housing. We could talk all day on those issues. To a great extent other jurisdictions are involved, but we have to ensure that our seniors have adequate and equitable access to pharmacare, to home care and to affordable housing.

We have heard a lot in the media recently about elder abuse. There were articles written in the Toronto Star some time ago. It was a beautiful series. There were documentary programs on elder abuse recently. They cry out for changes in the regulation of the nursing home industry. We have to start working collaboratively with other levels of government to ensure that the regulations of the nursing home industry fairly reflect the kind of quality care people expect to get when they pay upward of $2,200 to $2,500 a month for a loved one in a facility.

I also have proposed that we amend the Criminal Code for those who are convicted of either defrauding or abusing seniors. When someone takes advantage of a senior because of the senior's vulnerability, I consider that to be an aggravating factor warranting stiffer sentences under the Criminal Code.

I have also proposed the creation of a new officer of Parliament equivalent to the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer, being the physician general of Canada. I am afraid that Health Canada has lost its closeness to the people. Too many issues have distracted Health Canada. It is on different sides of the fence. It has conflicting issues. We need an independent medical officer, a physician general of Canada to guide and advise seniors on appropriate care. It is very important.

I also want to establish the cabinet position of secretary of state for seniors. It is extremely important that we have a voice for seniors at the decision making table. It is time that seniors were represented at the decision making table.

Also, the second last motion was to develop a Canada-wide public education campaign to inform and educate Canadians about the issue of ageism. Ageism is discrimination on the basis of age. That kind of discrimination exists in many of our institutions already.

Finally, I want to propose to the House that under the whole umbrella of helping seniors, we should be establishing and adopting a bill of rights for seniors. It would not be a law that would conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; rather it would be guidelines, a lens that we could look through, just as we do with gender analysis in some legislation.

The kind of thing that should be included would be that seniors should not be denied medical assistance. For instance, it has been reported that some doctors will not take on a patient if the person is over 60 years of age. That is a violation of the Canada Health Act, but it happens. Under the seniors bill of rights, no senior should be denied medical service from a medical doctor anywhere.

I have raised all these points for the information of members. I hope members will seek ways in which we can advance these issues. It is very clear that this involves all levels of government. It means that we as parliamentarians have to do whatever we can to collaboratively work with all levels of government to make sure that seniors are a top priority at all levels of government.

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BQ

Jean-Yves Roy

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia—Matane, BQ)

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, who will convincingly point out, I am sure, the shortcomings of the Speech from the Throne recently delivered by the government.

One sentence in the throne speech struck me, because I do not quite get it. On page 14, the issue of regional development is raised. We are told the regions should be affected by economic development just like the rest of the country and that we should ensure they can reap the benefits of the 21st century economy.

The throne speech mentions our farms as well as our forest, miningand fishing industries. I am particularly interested in the fishing industry since I am the fishing critic for my party, so I will get back to this issue later on.

On page 14, the throne speech states:

This will be achieved primarily through the efforts of Canadians themselves.

And quite ironically, it adds:

But government has an essential enabling role.

If the government is content with its role as a stimulus, it is obvious that we will not get very far. As for us, in our region, I can tell you that we have been studied in many ways for many years. We have been stimulated in every way possible and today we still find ourselves in a very difficult economic situation.

We find ourselves in an extremely difficult economic situation, especially because we used to make a living from fishing. Ever since this government was elected, in 1993, we have faced a moratorium on groundfishing.

We have had a moratorium, in fact, and it has been a total economic catastrophe in the lower St. Lawrence and Gaspé, but not only in my riding. It has been an economic catastrophe in all the Atlantic provinces, especially Newfoundland, as well as the Gaspé.

Thus, in 1993, we found ourselves facing a moratorium. We were promised that all possible steps would be taken to re-establish the stocks. Unfortunately last year, after 10 years of governance by the current government, we found ourselves faced with a new moratorium on groundfishing, particularly for the cod fishery.

Ten years later, we have realized that not only have we made no progress, but we are still in the same situation. Once again, the same regions are affected. The East has been affected and struck hard by the fisheries and groundfishing crisis.

In 1993, the government proposed a program intended to boost our economies, intended to get our economies to develop, intended to create economic diversification so that people could live, and so that people in the rest of the country would have access to these services.

Unfortunately, since 1993, we have seen that, on the one hand, there was a program, but, on the other hand, the government began to slash all the other programs.

If we just think of the cuts in employment insurance that used to provide a great many seasonal workers with a decent income. Today, not even 35% of the women, for example, who worked in the business, in the fish plants, can receive employment insurance. We can see that it is a major factor in impoverishing regions like ours.

We can also talk about the forestry sector. It is the same thing. We can also talk about tourism. The changes to the employment insurance program and the criteria for young people once they leave school seem a bit ruthless.

One very concrete example comes to mind, particularly with regard to tourism. Young people are being trained in the tourism industry in our region. They work for one season, but since it is still seasonal work, naturally, they do not have access to employment insurance, because they have to accumulate at least 910 hours before they can access EI benefits.

The result of the government's attitude is that young people are encouraged to leave the regions for the major urban centres in order to earn a decent living. Obviously, these young people will not stay in the regions without a decent income. Unfortunately, we are the ones training them. They are our young people and we are unable to keep them, because we do not have the appropriate means or measures to do so.

There is another extremely important element. In the throne speech—and this affects my region in particular—the government said, “We will develop new and environmental technologies”.

What is the federal government doing currently to develop wind power? This program will receive $260 million over fifteen years. This is nothing compared to what went into the tar sands or Hibernia, for example. The government invested $60 billion over the years in oil and gas production.

A $260 million program over fifteen years is announced. I consider this pathetic. We hope to use this kind of program to develop wind power in regions like ours. The Bloc Quebecois had asked for more money. If much more substantial investments were made, up to 24,000 jobs could be created. There would be regional economic spinoffs, and benefits for manufacturing plants in Montreal and elsewhere, with a minimum of 24,000 jobs created.

Let us be conservative and say that if we simply double production incentives per kilowatt-hour, this would create 10,000 jobs, if the government bothered. When we say double, we simply mean doubling the $260 million invested over fifteen years. So, we should invest twice as much so to enable wind power to become an established industry.

This is a program that has been launched by Hydro Québec and the former Quebec government that could produce some interesting results. We know that in our region, and particularly in the Maritimes, winds are strong and could be used to produce that type of energy.

If we want to protect our environment and help our economy to diversify and draw on more than natural resources, we will have to invest more in new energies, particularly in wind energy, and that does not seem to be the way the government is going.

I could also mention the case of Bennett Environmental, which right now is a threat to all the resources in Chaleur Bay. But I will come back to that later.

I have talked about employment insurance and about the fact that the current government has abandoned the provinces. This is true both for air and for rail transportation. The current government has abandoned all transportation services. Regions like ours feel the effects of this every day. This is a major element that is totally absent from the throne speech.

There is another important element that affects us in a very specific way. We are talking about the softwood lumber crisis that has not yet been resolved and that is affecting us significantly. We could also talk about mad cow disease that, in my opinion, was very poorly managed by the current government. This government has launched a program to address a crisis that, at the outset, affected mainly western beef producers, while agriculture in Quebec and in the other provinces was extremely different.

In conclusion, I obviously cannot agree with what has been submitted in the throne speech. To me this is a lot of rhetoric. There does not seem to be a future for my region with the current government.

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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise after the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane, who put the debate in its proper context.

We are dealing with a government and a party whose vision of the regions is not compatible with the one that Quebeckers want to develop. The trademark of this throne speech is that it does not recognize that Quebeckers form a nation that is neither worse nor better than the Canadian nation, but that is different and that needs its own aspirations and challenges.

If this is not recognized, it follows that, by denying this reality, all the policies and proposals found in the throne speech become obstacles to Quebec's development.

As I just mentioned, the idea is not to say that Quebeckers form a nation that is more or less interesting than the Canadian nation. Ours is exactly the same situation as that of the Canadian nation in relation to the American or, rather, the US nation. Canadians truly value their differences; they feel that they have their own challenges and they do not think they are superior or inferior to Americans.

It is exactly the same thing for Quebeckers. However, since we are in the Canadian federation, we unfortunately have neither the political and fiscal tools, nor the authority to be part of the decision making process at the international level to express our concerns and propose our solutions.

The major thrust of the whole throne speech presented to us by the new Prime Minister is a negation of Quebec's distinctiveness. This speech perpetuates the Trudeau and Chrétien approach. It is a departure from the federalism as conceived, for example, by Robert Bourassa or by Claude Ryan, who left us a few days ago.

As we know, the hon. member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, who is the Minister of Health and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, was once Mr. Ryan's chief of staff. When he was interviewed, he said that under the new Prime Minister Ottawa would adopt the middle ground position that Mr. Ryan epitomized. We keep searching and looking in the throne speech, but we cannot find anything that remotely looks like Claude Ryan's vision of Canadian federalism, that is a federalism respectful of the Quebec nation and of its distinctiveness. In this sense, we should not be duped.

Whether in Quebec or in Ottawa, the debate among federalists is over. Trudeau has won. Canadians have the legitimate right to build their nation as they want to. However, if in doing so they not only ignore the distinct character of Quebec but also hamper its development, the Bloc Quebecois, as a political party but also as the champion of Quebec's interest, will have no other choice but to rise and say it is unacceptable.

According to the hegemonic vision of federalists, Canada is made up of one nation, the Canadian nation, governed by one central government in Ottawa. Provinces are large regional boards that make a number of decisions based on the resources they are given, very little at a time. For instance, they get to choose the wall colours, but it is not up to them to decide if the building itself will be built or not. Such is the vision of the government, of the Liberal Party of Canada, which, as I mentioned earlier, seems to be shared by a lot of Canadians.

I have no trouble with Canada doing some nation building and promoting one central state run out of Ottawa. However, if, by doing so, they ignore the distinct character of Quebec and impede its development, as I said before, sovereignty will be the only option left to the Quebec people, the Quebec nation.

It is interesting to see how things have changed throughout the years. For example, in 1995, and even in 1980, in the last referendums in Quebec, there were three schools of thoughts. There was the sovereign movement of which the Bloc Quebec was part. There was a more nationalist movement, whose members thought federalism was a more interesting option that the sovereignty of Quebec. As I said earlier, Mr. Bourassa seemed to support that option, just like Mr. Allaire and Mario Dumont, who is now the leader of the ADQ.

There was also this third trend that was represented here, in Ottawa, by Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Chrétien. We must recognize that this trend has now prevailed among federalists. We see this when reading the Speech from the Throne presented by the new Prime Minister.

Consequently, the option open to Quebeckers is to agree to conform to the Canadian model, that is to refuse to meet our challenges in Quebec, or to choose the road to Quebec's sovereignty.

I believe it has been demonstrated once again through the Speech from the Throne that the only option open to the Quebec people and the Quebec nation is Quebec's sovereignty.

I will give a number of examples. One of the very important challenges for Quebec is its population challenge, that is the demographic challenge.

In Quebec, as in many Western countries, the population is aging and there is a demographic decline. In some regions, we can talk about this decline, even though, generally speaking, the population is growing in Quebec. This would lead us to have a population policy that would be integrated with mainly three aspects, that is a family policy that would encourage young families, an integration and immigration policy and also a policy for the elderly.

What is the government offering to in place of this integrated policy? It is offering a new choice of compassionate benefits. I find the principle quite interesting. Indeed, when natural caregivers have to help a family member who is experiencing health problems, it is a definite advantage for them to be able to withdraw from the labour market. However, the way the program has been devised by the Liberals is extremely bureaucratic and even inhumane. This person is required to present a medical certificate to confirm that the person he or she wants to take care of is likely to die in the next 26 weeks.

I am sure that we have all seen one of those cartoons depicting a doctor visiting a patient and saying “I have good news and bad news. The good news is your wife is entitled to compassionate benefits, and the bad news—” We get the drift.

This is not at all the way this program should have been introduced. This might not have been the first priority for Quebeckers, who would have preferred to see parental leave, currently financed through the EI fund. This is a bad parental leave program.

Quebec has long been asking, whether it is under the Parti Quebecois or the Quebec Liberal Party, to be given back the part of the employment insurance fund that is used for parental leave, so that we can have a true parental leave that is integrated to a family policy. But the federal government says no. Instead, it comes up with something called “compassionate benefit” that does not meet the needs of caregivers. In my opinion, this is a good example of the denial of Quebec's right to make its own choices.

Here is another example. We set up a daycare program at a cost of $5 per day for users, but that cost has now increased to $7, because of the fiscal imbalance, because the federal government is not transferring enough of our tax money to Quebec, thus penalizing Quebec families.

We devised a system that is recognized not only in the rest of Canada, but in the whole western world. Here is an example. Quebec families are losing between $200 million and $300 million in tax deductions because the federal government does not recognize them.

So, the federal government saved money on the backs of Quebec families. This example has to do with the family policy. I could provide others that relate to immigration.

There is the fact that 50% of the immigration flow is controlled by the federal government, which uses its own standards. Unfortunately, this morning again, we saw that immigration is used by the federal government and the Liberal Party as if it were an election issue. There is a headline in today's edition of the daily La Presse which reads “Access to citizenship: Expedited process a few months before a general election”.

And the government makes no bones about it. The Liberals want to deliver Canadian citizenship certificates to get potential voters. Why not do it on a year round basis and allow these people to participate in our social and political life at all times, and not just a few weeks or months before an election?

I could go on and also talk about the status of regions, but I will end on this note. The only thing that the government is proposing is to create conflicts in the regions by trying to fund municipalities, particularly large ones, directly, at the expense of the needs of all the regions.

Because of all this, the Bloc Quebecois will have no choice but to condemn this throne speech and continue to work even harder to promote Quebec's sovereignty.

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LIB

Bill Graham

Liberal

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, having listened to the words of the hon. member for Joliette, I am wondering what planet he is from. Has the hon. member not seen the Prime Minister meeting with his provincial counterparts and showing a new openness to working together? Has he not heard the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs say we are prepared to work more closely together?

I can assure the hon. member that the attitude he has described is not my attitude. I myself met with Ms. Gagnon-Tremblay in Sherbrooke a week ago. We discussed how we could work together in areas of interest to Quebec, such as the international arena or the Francophonie.

Would it not be better to stop these pointless quarrels of the past, which do no good for the people of Quebec or its opportunities for economic development ? Ought we not to return to a willingness to hold discussions with a view to working together in order to build a stronger Canada, a Canada from which all of its population will benefit?

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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Madam Speaker, we have heard all that before. We are not fooled at all by the words of the new Prime Minister or the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. In fact, I really like them, just as I do the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

That being said, it is a matter of structures. Concerning the ability to correct the fiscal unbalance, there was nothing in the Speech from the Throne that would recognize that this is a problem and that the government was going to try to solve it. Instead, what does it announce? That the discussions on health care with the premiers will be held next July, probably after the election.

On the equalization issues, the government introduced Bill C-18. This bill would extend for a year the current equalization formula, which does Quebec out of $500 million this year. We expect losses of $1.5 billion next year.

We must base our judgment on facts and not on the speech. The facts show—as does the Speech from the Throne— that there is no change on the policy options level. The government will respond at a snail's pace to the demands of the provinces and of Quebec. This will be to the detriment of Quebec's public finances, to the detriment of the needs of the Quebec people and, above all, to the detriment of democracy. Indeed, Quebec's national assembly, which does not have the means to implement its political choices, will be unable to respond to the needs democratically expressed by the Quebec people.

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LIB

Jerry Pickard

Liberal

Hon. Jerry Pickard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Border Transit), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport.

It is a pleasure to speak today in response to the Speech from the Throne. I believe that, as my colleague has just said, our government is here to set a new vision to move together. Working together is extremely important. I am very proud to be part of the Prime Minister's team which is looking to work together with Canadians, with provinces and with municipalities to change the system.

Globalization, advanced technology and the changing geopolitical environment offers many opportunities for Canadians. However, with the ongoing threat of terrorism, along with increasingly sophisticated criminal activity, there is a need to strengthen our border management.

As mentioned in the throne speech, there is no role more fundamental for government than the protection of its citizens. That is why the government has established the new Canada Border Services Agency as part of the new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Innovative approaches to border management are required to protect and support Canadians. We have to support our security systems, our health system, our social and economic well-being, and that is what the new Canada Border Services Agency is about.

The creation of the Canada Border Services Agency brings together all major players involved in the facilitation and control of movement of goods and people under one roof. The CBSA will build on smart border initiatives, and the important progress that has been made so far is good for Canadians.

The CBSA is comprised of the customs program from the former Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; the intelligence, enforcement and overseas interdiction functions from Citizenship and Immigration Canada; and the food, plant and animal inspection at the border functions from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The CBSA operates at over 1,300 service locations, including air, sea and land ports of entry to Canada, some 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at every entry point in Canada. Its role is multi-faceted, securing our borders against external threats while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel that is vital to the Canadian economy. Its success depends on strong partnerships, both in Canada and abroad, to ensure that it has the information it needs to do the job that needs to be done.

What does the CBSA do? First and foremost, it protects the integrity of Canada's borders. The officers of CBSA play an important role in working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to identify organized fraud and to conduct intelligence reporting related to illegal immigration, organized crimes, war crimes and security concerns.

These officers maintain a steady flow of key intelligence information which allows the agency to continually enhance the integrity of the immigration program, our borders and the security of our nation. They also work to respond to the ongoing threat of terrorism and increasingly sophisticated criminal activity.

The CBSA is working to push the borders out to identify threats to Canada overseas before people reach our borders. For example, there are immigration integrity officers who operate in key locations overseas to combat illegal immigration, people smuggling and trafficking.

Their hard work to intervene caused 6,000 individuals attempting to enter Canada illegally by air last year to be stopped before they reached Canada's borders.

The CBSA also prevents the entry of illegal and dangerous goods, such as drugs and weapons, as well as commodities, such as animals, plants and food products that introduce foreign diseases or exotic pests to Canadian agriculture and the public.

Last year over a half a billion dollars in narcotics and over 57,000 prohibited food, plant and animal products were kept off the streets of Canada by the agency.

What else are we doing to protect the border? We are investing in state of the art technology. One major example is the vehicle and cargo inspection system, or VACIS. These truck-mounted machines use a gamma ray scanning system, similar to an X-ray, to detect contraband, weapons and potentially dangerous goods inside containers. VACIS is in place at 11 locations across Canada to help officers intervene in security matters.

However, security is not the government's only priority. The CBSA also works to facilitate trade. Anyone in business knows that the way we manage our borders is critical to the success of our economy. Given that over 80% of our trade is with the United States, infrastructure and inspection facilities at border points must be modern and efficient to maximize the movement of legitimate travellers and trade.

Being from the riding of Chatham—Kent Essex, I am keenly aware of the volume of people and goods arriving at the border for I live very close to the busiest border in Canada. Every year more than 7 million travellers and 1.7 million commercial vehicles cross the Ambassador Bridge, making it the busiest crossing in Canada. In fact, the Ambassador Bridge alone accounts for 25% of the $400 billion trade between Canada and the United States.

There is no question that the border must be secure but it must also be efficient. One way of doing this is through initiatives such as Nexus and FAST. These binational programs allow us to pre-approve low risk individuals and goods. This in turn allows Canadian and American authorities to concentrate their efforts on potentially high risk people.

Nexus and FAST are currently offered at a dozen border crossings across Canada. As we reduce the risks of dangerous people or commodities entering Canada, we increase investors' confidence in the security of our borders.

We have the unprecedented ability to carry out this mission by bringing all key players involved into a single portfolio. Because we are better integrated than ever before, the CBSA will be able to work a smarter border.

Increased inter-operability will enable the government to capitalize on our respective strengths and abilities to move forward with various organizations.

Equally important to taxpayers, this synergy will reduce red tape and duplication. The resulting increased efficiencies will benefit government, business and individual Canadians.

The benefits extend beyond our own borders. Just as criminals and terrorists are globally connected, we are now also better connected so that we can communicate effectively with our domestic and international partners to respond to global threats of crime and terrorism.

In addition, we have improved liaisons with our major trading partners and their border related agencies, such as the U.S. department of homeland security.

As a result, the CBSA will be a much stronger presence on the world stage, speaking for Canada with a unified voice, whether addressing issues of food security, terrorism or trade.

Canada is positioned for greater progress and we are preparing to meet all of the challenges of the future.

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LIB

Jim Karygiannis

Liberal

Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, in the Speech from the Throne, the government sent a clear signal that it was according a high priority to safeguarding our natural environment. The speech highlighted a leading role for green technologies and energy efficient transportation and housing. Green technologies will play a significant role in meeting our environmental challenges.

Climate change is a case in point. The government has indicated that it will respect its commitment to the Kyoto protocol in a way that produces long term and enduring results while maintaining a strong and growing economy.

Green energy is clearly a part of the solution to the climate change, and our efforts in recent years have demonstrated our determination to introduce more efficient alternative sources of energy into our economy.

The transportation sector is a prime example. Transportation is a key enabler of the Canadian economy. In fact every year Canada's transportation system moves more than $1 trillion worth of goods. Unfortunately, the transportation sector is also a major contributor of greenhouse gases, accounting for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

In addressing climate change, the Government of Canada has introduced measures worth some $250 million to increase the production and use of alternative fuels, fuel cells, ethanol and biodiesel, to increase vehicle fuel efficiency, to improve passenger transportation and to increase the efficiency of freight transportation.

With respect to new vehicle fuel efficiency, we are aiming for a 25% improvement. This target is important. If adopted and implemented in a timely way, it could produce a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 5.2 megatonnes by the year 2010. This represents about a quarter of the emissions reductions from all the transport related measures that have been identified today in the government's climate change plan.

Any effort to effect change on a national level must be supported by all four pillars of Canadian society: government, industry, academia, and most important, community. That is why Transport Canada is calling upon transportation sector stakeholders from various backgrounds to develop the technology, processes and services that can help make Canada a world leader in transportation systems.

The department's approach to innovation and skills is rooted in the government's key objective to foster healthy communities, a clean environment and a strong economy for all Canadians.

Strong emphasis in outreach and partnerships, skill developments and research and development will be a key to success in this area. In the long term this approach will help us achieve results not only for Canadians but also for other states in our international community.

I believe that citizens working through each of the four pillars of Canadian society can help us meet our goals with respect to wise environmental stewardship and can make an important contribution to our collective global future.

For this reason, Transport Canada is actively pursuing partnerships with experts in universities and centres of transportation excellence, capitalizing on the unique strength of individuals and organizations across the country. Transport Canada is committed to acting as a catalyst to promote skills development, education and training in the transportation logistics operations and research and development.

This type of partnership is also important in achieving excellence in research and development. For instance, Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre is cooperating with Overland Custom Coach, Battery Engineering and Test Services, Siemens Canada Limited and Natural Resources Canada in the development of a functioning prototype of an energy efficient, low-floor electric transit bus. This bus can be adapted to use one of the three electric and/or hybrid drive configurations, depending upon the needs of the potential clients.

The Government of Canada is also taking the approach of trying to negotiate a voluntary agreement with the automobile industry. The industry has been called upon the accelerate the introduction into the marketplace of many new technologies that can reduce emissions, technologies that affect vehicles and engine design and the use of different fuels. Many of these technologies are already available, but right now they are being used to improve vehicle performance rather than fuel economy.

Unfortunately, of course, it is the consumers who buy the vehicles and decide whether they will purchase a heavier, less fuel efficient model or a lighter, more fuel efficient one. Consumers have a responsibility to inform themselves about their choices.

The federal government is ready to help. Through the annual EnerGuide on vehicle fuel consumption, the government publishes the data collected by Transport Canada from vehicle manufacturers showing the fuel economy of every make and model. New programs are under development to increase information to consumers about vehicle emissions and a new national awareness campaign, called the “One Tonne Challenge”, will encourage every Canadian to reduce emissions. As well, Transport Canada is evaluating a fleet of fuel efficient advanced technology vehicles from around the world, some of which are now available in Canada.

Needless to say, last week we saw the Smart car at the Toronto car show. These vehicles are powered by fuel cells, batteries, low carbon fuels or advanced gasoline and diesel engines. They include gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles and vehicles using advanced power trains and lightweight materials. At the same time they provide the safety, emissions, reliability and performance consumers expect in today's automobiles.

Transport Canada is assessing how these advanced technology vehicles comply with existing regulatory requirements related to safety and emissions. Our goal is to encourage the development of advanced technology vehicles while maintaining the high standard of safety expected by Canadians.

The department also plans to assess the potential of advanced technology vehicles in the marketplace. We will identify barriers to the introduction and use of these vehicles and suggest remedies. We will raise awareness of the vehicles through events such as presentations, student competitions, public exhibitions, demonstrations, test rides and evaluations.

Transport Canada is exploring how it can help the transportation sector tap into the centres of excellence program and other federal sources of funding focused on innovation and skills development.

Through its urban transportation showcase program, Transport Canada is helping fund some innovative ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from urban transportation.

We need to work more closely with the automobile industry and other stakeholders, including environmental groups, to determine how to bring about a more sustainable transportation system for passengers. At the same time, I personally would like to see the Government of Canada provide some real incentives for people to buy environmentally friendly vehicles and get the gas guzzlers off the roads.

We need to answer questions like, how can we get someone to drive a smaller, more fuel efficient car? How do we tell someone who is driving a hybrid that it is the best thing there is? I keep asking people why they need six or eight cylinder vehicles or why they need SUVs. Why do we not promote smaller cars? If we are to achieve a major improvement in vehicle fuel economy, all of us may have to take additional action.

I have indicated that I would like to initiate a dialogue with those most involved in this issue to explore how we can move forward constructively. I want to hear people's views as to how we can better bring technology to bear, both to reduce fuel consumption and to enable the production of better models in Canada that will strengthen our auto industry. We need a process that brings views together and advances the goals of consensus and concerted action.

In this area I am very passionate and I am looking forward to working closely with stakeholders to improve the efficiency of vehicles on Canada's roads and to help meet Canada's Kyoto targets.

There is another area that I am very passionate about, and that is Canada. I have travelled to many other countries. I have seen how Canada has accepted people from all nations. I have seen the opportunities for Canadians to help other nations develop. This is the best country in the world, and I believe it is because of the diversity of our population. This diversity gives us natural ambassadors, people who can go back to their homelands and help us sell our technologies around the world.

Our multicultural tapestry gives us the tools to help the rest of the world achieve a better tomorrow and a healthier 21st century. Together all stakeholders can move forward to ensure that we meet our Kyoto targets and beyond.

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LIB

Bill Graham

Liberal

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question concerning his last comment about Canadians being natural ambassadors. The member has been extraordinarily active in encouraging his constituents to return to the Horn of Africa to work with other governments and to try to help bring peace to troubled regions. Would he like to elaborate a little more on that?

I know he has had a great deal of experience with a very diverse multicultural constituency. I think this idea about how we can engage Canadians and how we can make Canada's presence felt more abroad is something to which we have to give more reflection. I know the member has been very active in that respect and it would be helpful if he could help the House understand a little more about some of the work he has done in that area.

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LIB

Jim Karygiannis

Liberal

Hon. Jim Karygiannis

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I had conversations a few years ago when I was halfway around the world. I had an opportunity to call him from Lahore, Pakistan and relate to him the things I had seen at Khyber Pass in Afghanistan. I talked about providing Canadians with the opportunity to go back to their homelands, to go back to where they came from and provide sustainable development. It was about building nations, building democracies.

I am very proud that the Prime Minister a few days ago created the Canada corps. As we go through and examine what Canada corps is all about and under which ministry it should be, we will empower Canadians, the vast diversity of people who have come from every corner of the world. We are the only House that has a website which celebrates where we come from. At www.parl.gc.ca people can see the nations from all over the world that are represented in this House.

Why can we not also engage our communities? Why can we not reach out to the multicultural tapestry of this country and help people to go back to where they came from? Why can we not lend them for six months? Through HRDC, through external affairs, through CIDA why can we not support them in their programs?

Canadians are already doing good work abroad. Why can we not make it a government policy? Why can we not work with everyone concerned to provide the tools to Canadians who have been here for one or two generations to go back and help build their countries, develop their nations? Countries that are failing or that are about to fail can be helped in the Canadian way. We have something that is unique.

I look forward to working with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the minister for CIDA and members of all parties in the House, because in this there is no party line.

Some would say I am foolish to talk of this but look at Canada. Look at the face of Toronto where 57% of the people have come to Canada in the last 50 years and have made this country their home. They could have gone anywhere in the world but they chose Canada and it is time that we provided through them the means to build a better country and a sound world.

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February 16, 2004