Howard Douglas MCCURDY

MCCURDY, Howard Douglas, C.M., O.Ont., B.A., B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.

Personal Data

New Democratic Party
Windsor--Lake St. Clair (Ontario)
Birth Date
December 10, 1932
author, biochemist, professor

Parliamentary Career

September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Windsor--Walkerville (Ontario)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Windsor--Lake St. Clair (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 3 of 322)

June 2, 1993

Mr. Howard McCurdy (Windsor-St. Clair):

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak on the last supply day in debate on the government's estimates. Quite frankly this is the dying gasp of a tired government. For eight years or nearly nine the government has pursued a neo-conservative agenda which has been expressed in a variety of ways and has caused a great deal of harm to our country. It has created great doubts about the future of the nation, caused a great deal of unemployment and caused a great deal of misery. Increasingly there are indications of civil strife as expressed by the demonstration that took place on the Hill last Saturday.

There is a preoccupation, not an unreasonable preoccupation, with the deficit. However, one thing all of us here and across the nation ought to recognize is that the deficit is a specific result of an over-all thrust, an ideological thrust imposed upon this nation. It has been the borrowing of a neo-conservative perspective best represented by George Bush, Margaret Thatcher and the Prime Minister which says that government is best that does the least, most particularly that government is best that does the least for the vast majority of people in favour of allowing transnational corporations to go


where they want, to invest where they want, to build factories where they want and to move jobs where they choose.

Not since the Depression have the corporations had such power and freedom as what is evolving now under the umbrella not only of the free trade agreement but also under the prospect of NAFTA which will make it worse. As one of my colleagues indicated earlier, the American domination of GATT makes it as much a contributor to the over-all international application of neo-conservatism that is causing so much harm and so much damage.

The deficit is just a part of the result of this over-all agenda. One of the things that is not clear is when this agenda began to be applied. In fact that agenda began to be applied in the 1970s when the Liberals rejected what many would have considered a sincere effort of tax reform advocated by Mr. MacEachen. It instead moved to change tax policy to provide a lesser burden on corporations. The result has been a much smaller proportion of tax revenues paid by corporations and a much larger proportion paid on the basis of personal income tax and other sources.

It also introduced changes in the tax system which benefited not just corporations but those who are wealthy and rich and who have a good deal more influence than ordinary Canadians. The result of this, quite frankly as was found by Statistics Canada, was a considerable budget shortfall. Deficits began to mount as expenditures began to mount in the face of the depression of the early 1980s.

It should be recognized that during the recession of the early 1980s there was another contributing factor. That was a high interest rate policy that began to contribute as significantly as a revenue shortfall.

The combination of this was the accumulation of a debt of approximately $200 billion as a result of Liberal policies favouring corporations and the rich at the expense of ordinary Canadians.

An inflation fighting increase in interest rates, a pattern which has continued to this day, is based on the notion that the appropriate way to fight inflation is to

generate unemployment by means of high interest rates. As we recall interest rates mounted to 22 per cent.

Then came the Conservative government that continued this pattern of favouritism toward the large corporations and the wealthy. Then we also had Mr. Crow, confronted with burgeoning unemployment and inflation as well, choosing once again that characteristic approach of trying to fight inflation on the backs of the unemployed.

There is one thing that has to be recognized and it was demonstrated by Statistics Canada in its study. From 1975 until now, the burgeoning debt and continuing deficits were a result specifically of favouritism toward those corporations and the wealthy. That went to the extent that 44 per cent of the present debt is attributable to the shortfall in revenue resulting from that favourable treatment for those best off in our society.

As well, it should be noted that 50 per cent of the accumulated debt is a result of interest rates on the debt. It was as a direct result of the high interest rate policy of the Liberals as well as that of the Conservatives. It was the high interest rate policy that raised the value of the dollar and cut back on exports. It was the high interest rate that generated, according to a WEFA study, some

400,000 unemployed all by itself.

We talk about the deficit which has become an excuse for this government not to undertake initiatives that would have created jobs and a new knowledge based economy that this country must achieve if it is to compete internationally. However, that is only part of the equation. The other part of the equation is the unemployment it generated. This is unemployment in addition to that generated by high interest rates alone. It has to be emphasized that unemployment was deliberately incurred by the Bank of Canada under Mr. Crow specifically to keep inflation under control at the expense of the most powerless in our society.

We then had the other part of the corporate agenda which is the free trade agreement. As a result of the free trade agreement, according to numerous studies, it generated something in the order of 350,000 unemployed by itself.

It must be clear that if we have unemployment and closed factories that-

June 2, 1993

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order in midstream here. It is somewhat distracting to have a member carrying on a conversation with one of the pages at his feet. Is it okay for me to proceed?

As a result of the free trade agreement, some 350,000 additional unemployed were generated as a direct result of a government that saw the free trade agreement as an appropriate initiative within the context of a neo-conservative agenda. However, the over-all result is obvious. If we have unemployment then we have people who are not paying taxes. If we have closed factories then we have businesses that are not paying taxes. Furthermore, if we have a situation of unemployment then government has to pay out a good deal in terms of social support systems of various sorts to those who have become unemployed and that is a burden.

In fact, for every unemployed individual, $17,000 in costs are incurred. If we look at the level of unemployment right now $27 billion is taken out of the coffers of the government.

What is clear is that we are confronted with a situation in which the government is attacking social programs and we have various Conservative candidates contesting with one another to see who can propose the sharpest cuts in medicare, in unemployment insurance and in our social programs which have benefited Canadians.

This neo-conservative agenda, which did not achieve so much success before the Depression, continues to repeat the mistakes of the Depression.

The last time corporations and international financiers had so much power was just before the Depression. That era was also the last period during which we did not have the kinds of social programs that we have now to support those who have suffered as a result of the excesses of international financiers and corporations who then, as now, have the freedom to go where they choose for the lowest wages, weakest social programs, poorest health and environmental standards are poorest and where the tax burden is the least for those corporations. It wants to complete the story.

The consequences are inevitable. We see it around the world. It is that this approach contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. If this continues-the transna-


tional corporations being able to go where they want for the least cost, least burden and least responsibility-then who will buy their products? Who will protect them against the masses of unemployed, powerless, excluded and alienated?

The deficit on the one hand is a result of a policy of favouritism that ignores the responsibilities of nations. It is supported by trade arrangements that seem to say that governments have no responsibility and that corporations will not address their responsibilities. The deficit fundamentally is a problem of revenues and it is a problem of unemployment. It is a problem of an arrangement that makes it impossible for the government, that ought to serve people, to act in ways which will serve people.

If there is to be an answer to it then it is not to be found in a continuation of the policies of this government and it cannot be found in the policies proposed by the Liberals. The Liberals are part of the problem. It was the Liberals who began the deficit and the neo-conservative agenda continued by this government.

There must be a change and that change is to be found in a renewal of the social democratic approach which recognizes that if we are going to have prosperity then it has to be on the basis in this new global economic world of empowering people. It has to be based on investment in our nation. It has to be based on the kinds of measures that the New Democratic Party has specifically proposed in order to put people back to work.

Here is what we will find if all of our program is implemented. The deficit will cease to be a problem for exactly the reasons that we outlined earlier. People will go back to work. Revenues will be once again generated. The cost to government of unemployment will be eliminated. To speak of that, it has to involve an abrogation of the free trade agreement. It has to involve a setting aside of NAFTA. It must involve changes in monetary policy. It must involve a decrease in interest rates because each decrease in interest rates generates jobs and at the same time it also cuts back on the deficit.

Today, according to the government's own papers, the deficit contributes directly to the level of interest rates. The deficit is the cost of paying the interest rates on the debt.

June 2, 1993


The Liberals would not abrogate the free trade agreement. God knows what they would do with NAFTA. We would abrogate and we would introduce initiatives to create jobs.

The result is that the deficit over the period of a New Democratic government will be all but eliminated. The deficit will be eliminated and then we can begin to work on the cutting back of the debt.

What does this program involve? First of all it involves an infrastructure program that will prepare our nation with the grounds and the means of transportation, the electronic highway, and the scientific and educational infrastructure that we need. It will create 130,000 jobs immediately and prepare the way for subsequent economic development.

We propose a national investment fund which would encourage small and medium sized businesses, new businesses, to get off the ground. We project that would create 200,000 new jobs.

We propose a national child care program. It is part of our initiative from day care to doctorates to provide training and education for Canadian workers. That would create 70,000 jobs.

We would establish a national council on education to make our educational programs throughout the nation more in accord with our economic goals and to ensure equity and real accomplishment by students in the work place. In order to fund training in industry we would have a grant levy system to pay for it.

We would increase research and development, double IRAP funding, increase funding for the granting councils and find better methods than are presently used now to encourage industry to do research and development in house.

We would undertake initiatives to ensure that our natural resources are processed here to produce jobs in Canada rather than elsewhere.

By doing this the problem of the deficit would be addressed in the only way it can be addressed. That is by putting people back to work. We would create a country in which the government once more has the capacity and will to ensure that we have a sense of community in which we understand as Canadians that government is the means by which we express our responsibility to another. We propose to give people not a hand out but a hand up. That is how the deficit would be addressed, not

on the backs of the unemployed but by creating employment.

Subtopic:   MAIN ESTIMATES 1993-94-VOTE 1
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June 1, 1993

Mr. Howard McCurdy (Windsor-St. Clair):

Madam Speaker, yesterday the Government of Ontario tabled an environmental bill of rights that met with the approval of business and environmental groups alike.

June 1, 1993

For the first time for Ontarians a healthy environment is considered a right in law. No longer will Ontarians be stopped at the court-house doors when we tiy to halt the slow destruction of the water we drink, the air we breathe or the land that sustains us.

The Ontario New Democrats have opened the doors of government. Now we have a say in the decisions that shape the world we pass on to our children. Thanks to the environmental bill of rights Ontario employees will have the right to blow the whistle on employers who abuse the world we live in. While the federal Tories dither with a green plan that is more PR than plan, the Ontario government is empowering the people.

All Canadians want the same sort of environmental rights their cousins in Ontario are going to have. How long are they going to have to wait?

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May 31, 1993

Mr. McCurdy:

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether I can give the speech in a few seconds that I would give to a graduating class.

I can say however that what I would tell most students really has very little to do with my role as critic for post-secondary education or any of those other things. It would be to tell them, as I told them as a professor: Do what you are going to love doing best for the rest of your life. Understand that excellence in anything is best achieved if you love what you are doing. Success in anything is best achieved if measured in terms of doing something that you would enjoy doing.

On the other hand, I think it is important for young people to have the information available to them that allows them to make appropriate choices within the breadth of interest they may have. Some things have become increasingly clear. As a result of the absence of decent counselling and the absence of a system for providing advice to young people to make appropriate choices, too many of them are making inappropriate choices. Too many young people are choosing vocations for which there is no real market. It does not mean that they cannot do something in which they are interested. It is that they had better be very careful about choosing that part of what they are interested in doing that is more likely to be a marketable skill.

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May 31, 1993

Mr. McCurdy:

Of course the Challenge program delivers a number of subprograms. SEED is particularly directed toward summer employment for university students. It is a summer experience program. In fact it was funded at $88 million and has been raised by $5 million this year. However this is after a long period of time in which there have been continual cutbacks in the amount of money spent for student summer jobs.

When this government came into office $240 million a year was being spent for all of the Challenge-type programs. It was not called Challenge then; it was youth summer employment. In fact in real dollar terms from 1984-85 until now the amount of constant dollars that have been available for summer student employment has almost halved.

In fact the $5 million increase we had this year certainly cannot be deemed to be in proportion to the vast increase, that is, the 6.7 per cent increase in the number of youth unemployed. That generally corresponds to the figures on an annual basis or during this summer.

This government has shortchanged by a considerable amount its contribution to youth summer employment. That is a tragedy in a time of high unemployment.

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May 31, 1993

Mr. Howard McCurdy (Windsor-St. Clair):

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to have an opportunity to address this issue as a result of the motion the Liberals have introduced to the House today which reads:

That this House regrets the continued inability of the government

to address the tragedy of unemployment -

-and so on.

Quite frankly regrets is a very mild word to use in the context of so much tragedy in this country resulting from unemployment and poverty, as noted by the UN report over the weekend. This country finds itself in not a regrettable situation but a tragic situation. It is a situation that visits itself upon youth more tragically than others.

Not too long ago, in 1985, the United Nations sponsored International Youth Year. It did so on the premise, as I have said before in this Chamber, that if something was not done about the then mounting rate of unemployment among youth, there was a serious danger of widespread civil disobedience and civil strife occasioned by masses of alienated and increasingly powerless youth. It was the design of the United Nations during that year that the various governments around the world would take appropriate initiatives and examine the problem of youth unemployment and what could be done about it.

As one of the members on the government side indicated, in Canada at about that time the youth unemployment rate was a little over 18 per cent. I find it interesting that the government is criticizing the Liberals over the fact that their unemployment rates were so much higher than the unemployment rates among youth occasioned by this government when in fact the unemployment rate among youth is again mounting toward 18 per cent, being presently at 17.6 per cent.

What we are talking about today as it concerns youth is really the failure of the efforts that year to gain from this government and perhaps other governments appropriate initiatives focused on the particular problems of youth. After all, those youth who do not get jobs now while they are still under 25, indeed under 30, may be those who in the future will never get jobs. That is the critical issue.

May 31, 1993

Mr. Speaker, you have probably read about the discussion about generation x, which may be an overblown concept. However it is perfectly clear that a great many of those young people who in 1984, 1985 and 1986 were seen to be the future and are alienated, powerless and rebellious people because they did not have jobs are the people that even now are a problem in terms of their ability to be profitably employed in decently paying jobs because they were robbed of their opportunity back in those days. Again we face the prospect that the 17.6 per cent of young people who are unemployed today may in the future still remain unemployable, and that would be a tragedy for us all.

We cannot afford the present situation in which 60 per cent of the increase in unemployment over the last couple of years has been based on youth while at the same time we are aware that there will be a diminishing complement of youth in the future to support an aging population. Therefore it is not something that just concerns youth alone. It concerns the way in which we will be able to maintain our standard of living and ensure that those who are retired and aged will be able to enjoy a proper retirement.

I talk about International Youth Year because it was the year in which the New Democratic Party had a youth task force that went across this country looking at the problems that existed among young people in Canada. We came up with a number of recommendations. I notice that a great deal of reference has been made to a task force report from the Liberal Party.

One of the things that has come out in the exchange that took place just a little while ago in the parliamentary committee on employment and immigration was that we heard a great deal from this government about what it has done for young people. The minister spoke about the slay-in-school initiative, which is a good program, that essentially consists of public relations, to encourage young people to stay in school.

We talked about the summer employment program for youth and its related programs. That is good. We are talking about a total of about $205 million. As this government will hasten to say, most of the money that is being provided to young people comes out of programs that are not specifically targeted for youth such as the Canadian Jobs Strategy.

One of the things that must be said in connection with evaluating what the government has done and in criticiz-


ing, if that is appropriate, what the government has not done is one sentence among a number of sentences prepared, curiously enough, by the Library researchers supporting that committee. They went about trying to find out what this government was doing for young people. This sentence is: "Details regarding the effectiveness of youth-related initiatives delivered in the previous fiscal year are absent".

Back in 1985 the Prime Minister, the then minister of youth, and the Minister of Employment and Immigration all promised that they would develop a coherent and specific program to address the problems of young people. We are left with something in the order of a $200 million budget in the hands of the minister of youth. The minister of youth is supposed to be an advocate for young people. At the very least the minister of youth should have a handle on that number of young people who are served by programs that deliver to the needs of young people.

Year after year we have asked for the data, the specific figures on how many young people are being served under programs of employment and immigration or anywhere else so that we would have some handle on what this government is doing. That way we could judge its adequacy or inadequacy in reasonable terms.

The minister of youth not only has made no effort to find out what those numbers are but he has done nothing to improve the program to any degree at all. How can the minister of youth serve as an advocate if he does not know what is being done?

We have a problem. It is that in the whole vast area in which the government claims it is doing so much for youth we cannot get any specific figures. However we do know that the Canadian Jobs Strategy was cut by $200 million. If we can assume that 40 per cent of that program is directed toward youth then clearly youth have not been well served as their unemployment rate rises to nearly 18 per cent. In the meantime the amount of money being contributed to training and other programs for youth is being cut.

This is a tragic time for young people. We know that the costs of unemployment are high. They are high not only when unemployment exists among youth but when it exists among their parents. When poverty becomes too extensive and too deep for too many then we have automatically shut out many young people from any prospect of success in the future.

May 31, 1993


The crime rate among young people has risen 404 per cent in the last five years. That is one gauge of the tragedy that we can see in the number of youth on the streets of our cities. We see it not only in crime but in mounting manifestations of youth frustration such as occurred on this very Parliament Hill.

As in Germany, unemployment among youth leads to scapegoating and conflict within the nation. I warned this government four years ago that we would find that kind of conflict within our society.

Are we ever going to be served properly? Are we ever going to come to grips with the fact that there are priorities that must be established? Obviously the most fundamental of all priorities must be to ensure that our young people will not be lost to us forever.

I notice that the Liberal motion calls for the initiation of a national apprenticeship program and a national youth service as major steps toward solving the problem of unemployment among youth. We had some idea to what extent that program has been worked out by the Liberals after the question was posed: How was the national apprenticeship program supposed to be implemented, will it involve co-operation with the provinces and in what fields will it be targeted?

We got a vague answer that said that apprenticeships should range among a whole host of new skills beyond plumbing, carpentry and that sort of thing. That may be true but we would expect that if they were going to make a proposal there should be some detail associated with it.

The Liberal recommendations include not only a national apprenticeship program but the adoption of a tax-based system to encourage work place training. In our task force report back in 1985 we also called for a national apprenticeship program in co-operation with industry, with the provinces and with labour.

It is true that we only have one-sixth the number of apprentices in this country as they do in Germany. It also must be clear that there is a very different educational system in Germany and the notion that we should simply borrow from Germany is something that we rejected in our report five years ago.

There needs to be a Canadian solution. That Canadian solution should certainly be tax-based, and indeed a grant levy system. We were specific, not vague. There should be a grant levy system in support of work place training. We say that a more elaborate development of initiatives already taken by the federal government subvented by a funding source would be extremely useful.

A national youth service is a major step. I looked at the Liberal agenda for youth and at the 10 recommendations and surprise surprise, there is nothing about a national youth service. That is one of more curious things about this.

What I find is the Liberals saying: "The federal government should establish a Canadian environmental youth force in which young people could participate in environmental rehabilitation and education projects around and across Canada". I and my party have no objection to an element of national youth service that would include the environment. However that sounds an awful lot like those old job creation programs the Liberals had before they lost their last government in which youth were seen cutting grass and picking up stuff from ditches rather than getting a decent background and work experience of the kind that would be necessary in the future. I hope that is not what they are talking about.

Let me say this, the mention in this motion of a national youth service is another straight steal from the full employment program of the New Democratic Party in which a national youth service is proposed which would provide a wide spectrum of job experience for young people. It would include not only summer work experience but also something else we recommended back in 1985. That is an expansion in co-operation between the educational institutions and the provinces of work experience in co-operative initiatives at the high school level.

In addition to such proposals as a national youth service, back when we had our youth task force we suggested a number of significant things. I mentioned the federal stay-in-school program earlier. It is not a bad program. It is decent in its public relations, through

May 31, 1993

television and radio and various other vehicles, encouraging young people to stay in school.

More significant than that in our examination is the situation of youth in which we talked to young people without exception. They said they wanted more counselling in the schools. We found that there is about one counsellor per 1,000 students in the schools. Encouraging young people to stay in school is not a series of 20-second bits on television. Sometimes personal problems are involved. Sometimes it involves close one-on-one discussions with those adults who have the experience and knowledge to help them stay in school.

I would suggest there be a more intensive effort in that direction. Perhaps some funding could be provided in co-operation with the provinces to ensure that not only do we have good teaching but we have good counselling in the school system as well. That might be a more significant thing than PR in maintaining attendance at school because it is a problem.

It is true that recent figures indicate there has been a drop in the drop-out rate. We must always doubt new statistics but if that is true, it is salutary. However, we still need to do much more.

We also said in our task force report that illiteracy should be addressed. Whatever the drop-out rate or whatever anything of the sort is, we do have a serious situation: 28 per cent of our high school graduates cannot read adequately; 44 per cent cannot add, divide and subtract adequately; 30 per cent of the general population is illiterate.

It is certainly obvious that we must have something more than a voluntary approach to illiteracy. It must be a targeted program to achieve zero illiteracy within 10 years. That cannot be done on an ad hoc or voluntary basis, however useful that might be. It must be a part of a national training program addressed not just to youth but to the population in general.

We are not just concerned about ensuring that apprenticeship and training programs are there. We are also concerned about who the clientele is for such programs, who will be selected, who will be inclined to take advantage of such programs which involve experience on the job primarily.


One of the things one realizes immediately is that there is a bias inherent in all that we do. It favours a predominance of higher income people in the post-secondary institutions, particularly universities, and favours low income people in apprenticeship and training. We must find some way to eliminate that bias.

There has been a great deal of talk about accessibility to universities. We must do something about the student loans program. Certainly we must counter the negative steps taken by the government in terms of eliminating interest relief and cutting back on the loan allocations for students. We must find a system of supporting people in training and in school that ensures they are all able to subsist in an equal way so that there is no bias in access or choice.

I will now turn to one of the things the Liberal program did not offer.

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