February 16, 2004

LIB

Ralph Goodale

Liberal

Hon. Ralph Goodale

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Earlier today in question period in providing an answer to the opposition, I made reference to three specific reports that were filed a number of years ago verbally with the Department of Finance.

I have had the opportunity this afternoon to review the record, to just check on that arithmetic. I have also re-examined the report of the Auditor General and in fact my reference should have been to five reports, not three.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Technically, that is not a point of order, but we will just let it sit.

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CA

Rahim Jaffer

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I must say you look great in the chair. You really fit it well.

My hon. colleague spoke eloquently about how great and diverse Canada is and I think everyone in the House would agree. There is one thing I would like him to focus on. The Speech from the Throne did not address the issue of immigration. The member talked specifically about the idea of supporting Canadians who are the backbone of this country no matter where they come from. One of the basic issues that we have been talking about across the floor is the idea of accreditation of many of the recent immigrants who have come here and actually giving them the chance to work in their professional designations.

Unfortunately we see too many people driving taxis and working as janitors and not in the areas where they should be working, such as engineering or medical doctors. This is a problem the government has been sitting on for 10 years and has done nothing about it. If he speaks so passionately about immigrants, why does the government not do more to support them?

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LIB

Jim Karygiannis

Liberal

Hon. Jim Karygiannis

Madam Speaker, when it comes to immigration I do not think there is a more passionate individual in the House than the member who just spoke. I want to thank my colleague across the way for bringing that to my attention.

For many years we have been struggling in order to move this file forward. However, I think my hon. colleague across the way also should reach out to the provincial governments and the governing bodies and say that they must recognize the credentials.

By training I am a professional engineer, and it is the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario that recognizes our credentials. It is something that the federal government has to work with. The immigration minister brought this to the table about a year and a half ago. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is working on it. We are moving forward passionately and positively.

I hope that my hon. colleague across the way will talk to our provincial counterparts so that they can come forward with us.

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CA

Cheryl Gallant

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's East.

On behalf of the people of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, it is an honour and a privilege to stand here in my place and reply to the government's Speech from the Throne. I thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me and I am pleased to return their trust.

On behalf of those same trusting individuals, it is with sadness, disappointment and now disgust that I find it necessary to focus on just one aspect of the Speech from the Throne, that is, the lack of ethical behaviour on behalf of this government and, more important, the lack of ethical behaviour on the part of the Prime Minister, which is becoming the continuing legacy of the Liberal Party.

What is truly disappointing on behalf of thoughtful Canadians is how the Prime Minister has personally let each and every one of us down.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a real Ottawa Valley get-together at St. Mary's Church in the hills of Wilno. In typical Ottawa Valley fashion, the community had come together to help a well known local personality, Barney McCaffrey, whose home burned down on New Year's Eve. Barney had no electricity, no phone and no insurance. The hall was packed as Barney's friends and neighbours helped to raise funds to rebuild his home.

Between the softwood lumber dispute and the crisis surrounding BSE, life has become very lean in rural Canada. People in my riding may not have all the trappings of rich Liberal ad men to be able to afford fancy lunches at expensive restaurants where the tab for one lunch is more than some people in my riding receive as income for an entire month. This is real Canada. These are the people who have been let down by this Prime Minister. I can see it in their faces. There were high expectations for this Prime Minister, but they are all gone now.

The Ottawa Valley knows the Martin family better than most Canadians. Paul Martin Senior lived in Pembroke. Two of the Prime Minister's aunts still reside in the community, and my condolences to the Prime Minister on the recent passing of his Aunt Lucille.

If the Prime Minister ever had a shred of compassion like what we have in the hearts of other Ottawa Valley folks, that is all gone. The Prime Minister is not his father's son. No amount of Liberal spin will change the fact for the people in my riding who knew Paul Martin Senior that this Prime Minister has never had the welfare of Canadians in mind. Actions speak louder than words. We have to walk the walk and talk the talk, but all Canadians have heard is idle talk.

Canadians have now started to realize what kind of person the Prime Minister is. He broke his promise to scrap the GST and it has been downhill ever since he broke that very first promise. The Prime Minister wants to take credit for eliminating the current account deficit, but Canada still has a huge debt. We are more in debt today than when the current crew took office. When it comes to taking responsibility for spending, he claims ignorance. The Prime Minister cannot have it both ways.

The Prime Minister deserves a Genie award for his acting. Canadians are insulted by his phony rants of concern. Canadians know that any outrage has more to do with the fact that greed allowed the Prime Minister's party to get caught than with the fact that skimming was actually going on. In fact, it was Chrétien, Mr. Integrity in the eyes of this Prime Minister, who publicly stated that if a few million got skimmed, so what. That was his signal. That fat signal was what the Liberal Party was waiting for: get out the expensive cigars and the champagne and book those fancy restaurants.

It was not until the official opposition drew attention to the fact that the Prime Minister's personal companies, like Canada Steamship Lines, were receiving tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers' money that the Prime Minister passed the company off to his boys, far enough to claim that he was out of it, but close enough to ensure that taxpayers' money flowed to increase the private wealth of family members.

If that was not bad enough, as finance minister the Prime Minister made sure that his international tax shelter remained in place. This was happening even as the Prime Minister bragged that other tax shelters were being closed. This was done so that Canada Steamship Lines, the personal company of the Prime Minister, could benefit to the tune of $100 million in tax avoidance, that we know of at this point, and this does not include the benefits that the Prime Minister's family realized by flying any flag but the flag of Canada in order to avoid our labour and environmental laws on his fleet of ships.

How blind is the so-called blind trust when the Liberal lap dog, better known as the unethics commissioner, met with the Prime Minister 13 times over expensive taxpayer funded lunches. To discuss what? Only the Prime Minister knows.

Where was the media in all of this scandal? The Liberals spent $793 million in taxpayers' funds in the last five years by buying media silence in the form of advertising contracts. That is a lot of money. Obviously it did buy a great deal of silence.

The silence in the Speech from the Throne about the ethics of this government is even more deafening. Remember our old friend, former CBC reporter Jason Moscowitz? Jason was starting to ask too many embarrassing questions about Grand-Mère and the Shawinigan scandal. Where is he now? Bought off as a spin flunky for the Business Development Bank at some obscene salary. It would be informative to tally up the numbers of all the ex-journalists who are now on the taxpayers' payroll.

Canadians are outraged at the sheer enormity of the greed on behalf of the Liberal Party. We can hear the seething anger in their voices as people think about the waste the government keeps on incurring.

First we had the actual incompetence of government ministers for such things as the HRDC billion dollar scandal, the billions spent on the gun registry, and the billions being poured into agencies like the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Under the guise of research, many of these institutes are just a front for anti-family Liberal propaganda. The Institute of Gender and Health is an example of how it wastes millions of dollars producing anti-family pamphlets, much of it intended for third world countries with no benefit to Canadians. That is not medical research. This is money that the government calls basic research and it is misleading; in fact, Canadian researchers are leaving the country because the dollars for research just are not here. They are being siphoned off into non-accountable foundations.

In the area of science and technology, the government claims to have spent $13 billion since 1997, but unfortunately we have no proof that this occurred. The use of foundations by the federal government to deliver public programs like research and development is this government's way of transferring public money beyond the reach of effective parliamentary scrutiny.

Fortunately for Canadians, the Auditor General has audited the government's practice of flowing money through foundations, with the audit finding, in the words of the Auditor General, and I quote: “significant gaps and weaknesses in the design of the delegated arrangements; limits on what the Auditor General can look at...; the 'parking' of billions of dollars of the public's money in foundations, years before it is [supposed] to flow;” and little recourse for taxpayers when things go wrong. So much for dealing with the democratic deficit.

Canada is like the Titanic and the iceberg we have hit is Liberal Party corruption. Canadians can only see a tip of the iceberg; it is what lies below the surface that really concerns people. It can be likened to democracy. As the Titanic was once considered unsinkable, democracy is felt to be a Canadian tradition. Each of the bulkheads in the Titanic can be likened to each Canadian institution. We had the bulkhead of the Senate fill up with water a long time ago, as they did with freedom of the press and an independent judiciary, and then there was the bulkhead called the RCMP with the APEC scandal.

The only bulkhead left standing to keep the ship afloat is the official opposition. Canadians deserve better and it is time to repair the good ship democracy before the government sinks our nation.

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PC

Norman E. Doyle

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words in the debate.

Since coming to Parliament in 1997, I have endeavoured, as have all members, to raise issues on the floor of the House about my riding and my province, and to raise these issues in the media as well. We have made a little bit of progress, but there are a number of issues and a number of matters that I have to keep hammering away at in the hope that we might be able to make a little bit of progress on some of these issues.

The issue first and foremost in St. John's East, and indeed across the whole country, is health care. There was much ado about a recent meeting of the Prime Minister with the premiers, a meeting at which the new Prime Minister confirmed a $2 billion additional payment to the provinces for health care.

I want to point out that the money is really no indication of a new fit of generosity on the part of the government. The $2 billion in question is only a small part of the many billions of dollars cut out of health care transfers to the provinces over the last number of years.

I never cease to be amazed that health care is the primary concern of all Canadians but somehow Ottawa does not seem to get the message. Today I saw a news report out of Nova Scotia where a number of medical professionals were talking about the number of months one has to wait to see certain cancer doctors in the province of Nova Scotia. They were pointing out that it is about a 10 month waiting period.

These waiting periods are very much the same right across the country. The federal Liberals balanced the budget, but it came at a tremendous cost to the provinces. It is easy to fix the problem if all one does is pass the problem on to another level of government. This is what has been going on over the years.

Years ago Ottawa paid roughly about 50% of a province's total health care budget and today it is less than 20%. It is down to about 15% or 16%. That is one of the reasons that we have such a lineup for services and that is why it is impossible to recruit and retain nurses, doctors and other medical people in Canada. Health care in the country needs more money.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It being 6:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members

Question.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members

Yea.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members

Nay.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, February 12, the recorded division is deferred until Tuesday, February 17, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

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LIB

Charles Caccia

Liberal

Hon. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate you in your new role.

I am making this intervention following a question that I put to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on February 5. I asked if he would reject Monsanto's application to release genetically modified wheat in Canada, given the growing opposition by farmers and groups because of a potential loss of premium markets?

The minister's reply did not really answer my question on the economic impact of releasing genetically modified wheat. It seems to me that this matter needs to be pursued and that Monsanto's application should be rejected for the following reasons.

First, according to scientific studies, GM crops cross easily with non-genetically modified crops of the same species growing nearby.

In 2000, non-genetically modified rapeseed imported by Advanta into Europe from Canada was found to have been contaminated by genetically modified rape grown over four kilometres away. As a result, the organic growers of Saskatchewan can no longer export their supposedly genetically modified-free canola to Europe because it has been contaminated by genetically modified canola grown nearby.

Evidently, segregating GM free wheat from genetically modified wheat is not possible. Therefore, why do we want to tamper with a premium export? Cross-contamination is inevitable and, therefore, the European Union will likely ban the import of all Canadian wheat if genetically modified wheat is released in Canada.

Second, the Canadian Wheat Board does not favour genetically modified wheat because it does not want to lose exports worth approximately $4 billion. Apparently, 82% of Wheat Board customers do not want the genetically modified wheat.

Third, health and scientific authorities have identified possible health risks associated with the genetically modified food.

We are told these possible health risks might be exacerbated with the introduction of genetically modified wheat into the food supply, since wheat is so widely consumed globally, often in a minimally processed form. Therefore, as a minimum, all GM food should be labelled so that consumers can make a choice and avoid food produced with genetically modified ingredients if they so wish.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food can tell us whether the decision to allow Monsanto's application will be reconsidered?

The prudent course of action would be to turn down the application, protect the economic well-being of Canadian farmers, take care of the long term interests of the Canadian Wheat Board, and ensure a healthy and viable ecosystem.

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LIB

Mark Eyking

Liberal

Hon. Mark Eyking (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food), Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Davenport for bringing this concern to the House today. He not only brings concerns on food safety to the House, he also brings concerns on the environment, and we appreciate that.

All members will know, given our painful experience with BSE, it is important that we take a science based approach to these issues. Canada has established one of the most sophisticated and thorough models in the world for the stewardship of crops derived from biotechnology. Our stewardship model is guided by a simple principle: to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the Canadian public, our food supply and, of course, our environment.

The Government of Canada agrees that the introduction of new crops should be undertaken in a responsible manner that will satisfy the requirements of consumers and result in net benefits to farmers.

The Government of Canada has a rigorous science based regulatory approval process. It enables Canadians and our customers abroad to have confidence in the safety and quality of our Canadian products.

Some of our buyers are currently asking for certification that our shipments do not contain GM wheat. At present, if GM wheat were grown commercially in Canada, and given the nature of our grain production and our bulk handling system, we could not guarantee zero presence of GM wheat in non-GM grain shipments. If GM wheat were introduced today, our access to markets demanding non-GM products would likely be affected.

An application for an environmental and livestock food safety approval for GM wheat has been submitted to CFIA. A separate application was submitted to Health Canada for human consumption approval. These reviews are ongoing and thorough.

Our government has a co-ordinated regulatory approval process for general cultivation, livestock feed use and human food use of plants with traits such as GM crops. If GM wheat fails to meet the requirements in any one area, it will not be approved.

GM wheat must also be registered prior to commercialization, based on evaluation of agronomic, disease resistance and quality merits. Only once a product is approved and registered, can it be grown commercially. It is then up to the industry stakeholders to decide whether or not to commercialize a product and under what conditions. Indeed, there have been cases where a product is approved and registered and the industry stakeholders have weighed all considerations and decided not to introduce a product.

The government is also concerned about the potential impacts on innovative agricultural products. To that end we have opened up a dialogue with stakeholders on the need for an appropriate approach to manage the introduction of new agricultural products of innovation.

Our goal is to work with industry stakeholders to identify ways to work together to develop appropriate, commercialized strategies for approved products. Our government and the industry are working hard to have a common objective to ensure that any new product of innovation that is introduced in America brings benefit to Canadians and the agricultural sector as a whole.

As a farmer, I am well aware of the importance of consumer confidence in our food. I am also aware of the competitive nature of food production and the demands that our world has on feeding the hungry. We must work to strike a balance and try to accommodate all.

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LIB

Charles Caccia

Liberal

Hon. Charles Caccia

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his comprehensive reply, but it is not exhaustive enough nor satisfactory enough, particularly his concluding remarks in which he seems to indicate that the policy his department is pursuing is one of balancing consumer confidence with the interests of stakeholders. I think that is a recipe for disaster.

The government has to give leadership and protect the consumer, therefore signal the industry as to what is acceptable and what is not.

In my opening intervention I indicated a number of reasons why the Monsanto application should be shelved, not only on environmental consideration, but on economic considerations, and they are considerable. Also the position taken by the Canadian Wheat Board and the reluctance on the part of western farmers in adopting this type of genetically modified wheat should be taken into account.

I would urge the parliamentary secretary to reconsider his reply.

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February 16, 2004