Denis ÉTHIER

ÉTHIER, Denis

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Glengarry--Prescott--Russell (Ontario)
Birth Date
March 25, 1926
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Éthier
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=6958d11c-f0f8-46e1-8a03-7574d2103ce3&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
businessman, merchant

Parliamentary Career

October 30, 1972 - May 9, 1974
LIB
  Glengarry--Prescott--Russell (Ontario)
July 8, 1974 - March 26, 1979
LIB
  Glengarry--Prescott--Russell (Ontario)
  • Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole (October 12, 1976 - March 26, 1979)
May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
LIB
  Glengarry--Prescott--Russell (Ontario)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
LIB
  Glengarry--Prescott--Russell (Ontario)
  • Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole (April 14, 1980 - July 8, 1982)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment (October 1, 1982 - June 29, 1984)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment (June 30, 1984 - July 9, 1984)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 754)


June 29, 1984

Mr. Denis Ethier (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment):

Mr. Speaker, there is a general understanding that we introduce no speakers but I want to say, as pointed out by the President of the Privy Council (Mr. Pinard), that it is impossible for the Minister to be here. To show that the work goes on even when our Ministers must be in other countries, we are introducing this Bill in good faith for the Mingan Band. With your kind permission, I will just say a few words of introduction.

The purpose of the Bill I am presenting today, for consideration and approval by the House, is to set aside land for the Mingan Achipelago National Park, which will be the thirtieth in a network of national parks extending from coast to coast. There are national parks in each province and in both territories. We are proud of this system, which is the best in the world, and it gives me great pleasure to present this Bill and to ask the House to join me in setting aside one of the most beautiful spots in this country for the enjoyment of all Canadians.

National parks were created so that Canadians would always have access to places that reflect the natural splendor and serenity of this vast country of ours. These parks have been set aside for the benefit, education and enjoyment of Canadians. Each national park protects representative exam-

June 29, 1984

pies of fauna, flora and also natural areas of outstanding scenic interest. They contain the natural heritage of all Canadians.

The national parks system covers thirty-nine natural regions across Canada. At the present time, only two of the eleven regions in Quebec are part of the system. There are a number of regions missing, one of these being the eastern part of the St. Lawrence lowlands which includes the Mingan Archipelago.

The Mingan Archipelago consists of twenty-five islands spread out over a distance of approximately fifty miles along the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, from lie aux Perroquets in the west, to lie Sainte Genevieve in the east. The proposal to reserve the Archipelago for a national park would be a worthy prelude to the festivities planned for the national parks centennial in 1985.

Fossil deposits, flower-pot formations, rare plants and colonies of sea birds in the Archipelago have for many years attracted the attention of naturalists, conservationists and tourists. By reserving the territory of the Archipelago for a national park, it will be possible to safeguard these natural resources. There will also be a positive impact on the economy of the North Shore, where the unemployment rate is over 20 per cent. Expenditures earmarked for salaries of Parks Canada employees and for park operations will act as an immediate stimulus to the regional economy. Within ten years or so, the Archipelago will be able to receive about 30,000 visitors annually, compared to a total of 12,000 last year, and the local population will benefit from what is spent by park visitors. Finally, payment of grants in lieu of taxes for the lands acquired in order to create a national park will further enhance the economic benefits.

Why would Parks Canada want to reserve the lands of the Mingan Archipelago for a national park, instead of just creating a park? The Mingan Archipelago lies within a territory that is the subject of land claims by the Attikamek-Montag-nais Council. The Mingan Band has already agreed in principle to this Bill. Establishing a park reserve guarantees that creation of the national park cannot be definitive until native land claims have been settled. Any right, title or interest of native peoples included in a claim will be recognized within the limits of the national park. Visitors will therefore be able to visit the Archipelago, and go hiking and camping and on guided tours, depending on the fragility of the environment.

The Mingan Archipelago will be the thirtieth national park and a new and very substantial asset to a national parks system that already has an international reputation. In concluding, I again wish to thank the Opposition parties for agreeing to limit debate to one speaker per Party.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MINGAN ARCHIPELAGO NATIONAL PARK ACT
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May 28, 1984

Mr. Ethier:

It would not remedy the existing problems. In fact, such actions might create major problems within the legitimate farming sector. Data indicate that the vast majority of individuals restricted by the provision have very low gross farm sales, typically less than $5,000 annually, and high average off-farm income. Furthermore, a large percentage of those who would be affected by the provision habitually report farming losses year after year.

The U.S. experience, as well as available data for Canada, suggests that removal or extension of the limits would make farming even more attractive to individuals whose main interest in farming was primarily the speculative and tax write-off possibilities available. In fact, a large portion of the agricultural sector in the U.S. has argued vociferously for tightening up of liberal loss write-off provisions already in existence there.

It has been argued by many agricultural economists in the U.S. that the existing situation has forced up the price of agricultural land, thus making expansion and entry difficult and has reduced product prices. It is also argued that rates of return in farming have been lowered by the influx of speculative capital to the point where legitimate farmers find it difficult to make a living.

In summary, there is need for the restricted farm loss provision. Farmers receive generous incentives, most particularly the ability to use the cash accounting method for tax purposes. It is important to restrict these provisions to fulltime farmers and to prevent non-farmers from gaining unintended access to these incentives. Such access is undesirable as it adversely affects the economic conditions facing the genuine farmer.

The Government is very concerned to see that the restricted farm loss provision does not apply to genuine farmers. This provision is being reviewed to seek ways to prevent such genuine farmers from ever being affected by the restricted farm loss rules. At the same time, the Government is anxious to ensure that the generous tax incentives available to the agricultural community are properly targeted at those for whom they were intended.

May 28, 1984

Income Tax Act

I do not think that passage of this Bill is in the best interests of the taxpayers of the country. It is not in the best interests of the farming community of the country and I cannot support the Bill in its simple form.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
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May 28, 1984

Mr. Denis Ethier (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment):

Mr. Speaker, I find it very strange that the Hon. Member who just spoke talks of the fear we might talk out this Bill. What they have been doing up until five o'clock was trying to talk out the Bill we have before the House. I find it even more amusing to see how the Hon. Member for Fraser Valley West (Mr. Wenman) wanted to rush his Bill through without even giving us a chance to take part in the debate. I find it amusing because on so many occasions the same

May 28, 1984

Member, as well as other Members of his Party, have accused the Government of rushing legislation through when it is sometimes before the House for days, weeks and months. Today they want the Bill through without any debate. I find it very, very strange.

I am sure the Hon. Member for Fraser Valley West has very good intentions to present a Bill to find ways and means to pay less tax on income. This is quite typical of Members opposite. It is a wonder that they have not included in the motion all sections of the Income Tax Act which deal with collecting taxes. However, they cannot have it both ways. You cannot talk of reducing deficits and not collecting taxes and lowering the Government's revenues.

Individuals engaged in farming activity are placed in one of three categories under the Income Tax Act for the purposes of determining the extent to which farming losses may be deducted from other sources of income. Full-time farmers for whom farming may reasonably be expected to provide the bulk of income, or the centre of work routine, are unrestricted in their eligibility to deduct losses fully. At the other extreme is the person who engages in minimal farming or peripheral activity and who has no reasonable expectation of a profit. Any farming losses sustained by such individuals are not deductible. This is because the activity is a personal endeavour and is a hobby and not a business. This hobby criterion applies to all activities and not only to farming.

Individuals in the third category do not look to farming or to farming and some subordinate source of income for their livelihood, but carry on a farming business as a sideline. Such secondary farmers are restricted under Section 31 of the Income Tax Act which imposes a $5,000 annual limit on the deduction of farm losses against other income.

However, all farmers including those farmers who have a restricted farm loss, can carry losses back for three years and forward for ten years so that these losses can be deducted from farm income earned over this period. These more generous carry-over provisions were introduced in the April, 1983 Budget. Previously, farm losses could be carried back only one year and forward only five years. Hence, the restricted farm losses of such farmers are not lost if in fact the farming operation is profitable over this period.

The purpose of Section 31 is to set up a flexible boundary between the person who carries on farming activities for personal enjoyment and the genuine farmer. This boundary is essential to restrict access to the very generous incentive provisions available to farmers, particularly the ability to use cash accounting methods. Repealing Section 31 would make it administratively more difficult for Revenue Canada to distinguish between genuine farmers and those engaging in farming as a leisure activity.

Section 31 has been a controversial provision of the Act and has attracted a great deal of criticism. Arguments have been made that there is a feeling in the agricultural community that the restricted farm loss rules are discriminatory since they do

Income Tax Act

not exist for other forms of business. Most typically, it is argued that Section 31 limits access to farming since it restricts the extent to which losses sustained in the early stages may be written off against other income and hence impedes the transition from part-time to full-time farming. It is also commonly argued that Section 31 imposes a hardship on bona fide farmers who temporarily take off-farm work during periods of poor farming conditions and who occasionally find themselves restricted by the provision.

Because of the controversy surrounding Section 31, the ramifications of the existence of the provision have been subject to extensive analysis in the Department of Finance. Although the arguments put forth are of concern, extensive research indicates that it is by no means obvious that reapeal of the Section or an increase in the annual limit would remedy existing problems.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
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March 20, 1984

Mr. Denis Ethier (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment):

Mr. Speaker, having regard to the charge concerning the absence of the Minister at that conference, I wish to tell the Hon. Member that when the Minister is here he will reply to that, I am sure.

In answer to the Hon. Member's question with respect to forest renewal, the framework for forest renewal approved by the federal cabinet in 1982 spoke of increasing the federal contribution to forest renewal in Canada to $130 million annually by 1987, through a new generation of five-year federal-provincial forestry agreements. It was understood, however, that the $130 million figure represented a notional amount for which funding for each agreement would be sought on a case by case basis through submissions to cabinet. Although only notional amounts, some Provinces, including British Columbia, took it for granted that the figures mentioned in the framework paper had been approved. Such is not the case.

March 20, 1984

Adjournment Debate

The Minister intends to put before his Cabinet colleagues federal-provincial agreements which would implement the forest renewal policy. Indeed, officials of the Canadian Forestry Service began negotiating such a deal with officials of the B.C. Ministry of Forests close to a year ago. As of January, 1984, it became obvious that it would not be possible to conclude any new agreement with B.C. which would allow us to launch a major forest renewal program before March 31. Since both the current intensive forest management agreement and the general development agreement expire on that date, the Minister agreed with provincial officials that an extension of the current agreement was the best course of action for now, thus avoiding a costly interruption of the federal-provincial co-operative forest management programs in British Columbia.

Earlier today the Minister tabled before Cabinet a proposal to obtain the $5.5 million required to carry the current agreement for one more year. A decision is expected momentarily and I do not foresee any difficulty in obtaining approval. This extension does not in any way preclude our reaching an agreement with British Columbia which would involve substantial levels of funding over a five-year period.

The proposal I just mentioned would see both Governments spend $11 million jointly this year, mainly on reforestation and silvicultural prescriptions as well as research and development. This would lay the groundwork for further initiatives to be

undertaken with the Province and industry of British Columbia, within the framework of a new forest renewal agreement that could be implemented as of 1985-86.

I take this opportunity to remind the Hon. Member that this Government has steadily increased its financial support to forestry in B.C. over the past years. Through the ongoing research and development work of the Pacific Forest Research Centre, the current intensive forest management agreement, the Ul/JC-Forest Sector Program and Co-operative Overseas Market Development Program, unique to B.C., we have brought federal expenditures in B.C. from $10 million in 1979-80 to $35 million in 1983-84, totalling over $112 million over the last five years. A few examples of this are, increased funding to the Faculty of Forestry at UBC, the upgrading of the Pacific Forest Research Centre in Victoria, and a current innovative study to develop an economic timber supply model for B.C.

Let me conclude by assuring Members of the House that this Government will maintain its commitment to the forest sector, in B.C. as well as in the rest of the country, as expressed in our policy on forest renewal.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   FORESTRY-NEGOTIATION OF FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL AGREEMENTS. (B) EXPENDITURE OF FUNDS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
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March 16, 1984

Mr. Denis Ethier (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment):

Mr. Speaker, in his very interesting and thought-provoking speech, the Hon. Member for Spadina (Mr. Heap) has identified some of the concerns about refugee status determination with which the Department of Employment and Immigration deals on a day-to-day basis. In a moment I would like to put some of those problems in perspective for him and for other Members of the House.

First let me say that the issues referred to by the Hon. Member are not new to the Minister or to his departmental staff. Indeed, there is a continuing review of policy in this area and it is no coincidence that this process has developed a refugee program which is so highly regarded internationally. However, there are no easy, quick-fix solutions to what has become over the last few years one of the most bedevilling of immigration problems. I am sure that all interested parties, including the Members opposite, want a workable, humanitarian policy that will provide help to those who are truly in need. That means we have to put in place a program that separates those who might abuse the system from individuals who truly need access to a fair refugee determination system.

There is no denying that our system of refugee determination, while admired by officials at the United Nations and in other countries, encounters some problems. A major, very perplexing problem is that it has become increasingly difficult to identify true refugees quickly while enabling the removal of those whose claims are without merit and who seek, for their own reasons, to take advantage of the system. But the trick is to find answers that are not simplistic, that will not worsen the current situation and put an even heavier burden on the resources that we are able to commit to the worthwhile endeavour of aiding bona fide refugees.

The Geneva Convention on Refugee Status defines a refugee as a person who, by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, is (a) outside the

March 16, 1984

country of his nationality and is unable or, by reason of such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or, (b) not having a country of nationality, is outside the country of his former habitual residence and is unable or, by reason of fear, is unwilling to return to that country.

Because Canada is not located next to a country from which it was anticipated large numbers of refugees would arrive, decision makers, including Members of the joint parliamentary committee and the Cabinet, decided that this country's principal role in refugee programs would be the resettling of refugees already in countries of first asylum. In this way, Canada plays an essential role in helping countries of first refuge to be more generous in their attitude toward people fleeing their homelands for legitimate reasons. Bearing this in mind, the refugee determination process established in Canada was expected to deal only with small numbers of people. This initial assumption has proven to be somewhat ill-founded.

The determination system written into the Immigration Act of 1976 gave the right to anyone facing removal from Canada to make a claim for refugee status. That applies not only to persons trying to enter the country but also to those who have been in Canada for any period of time as a visitor or immigrant. The 1976 amendments also provided for establishment of the Refugee Status Advisory Committee, which has the authority to examine refugee claims and recommend to the Minister whether they are legitimate or unfounded. The Minister was given decision-making powers over the validity of claims and there could be a second evaluation of rejected claims by the Immigration Appeal Board.

The process does not stop there. Refugee claimants have the right to appeal to the courts to contest the legality of the review process by which their claims were heard. They have appeal rights under Section 28 of the Federal Court Act, and decisions by the Federal Court can be taken to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the meantime, until their status if finally determined, claimants are able to stay in Canada. Canada does not remove or deport individuals awaiting determination of a refugee claim.

What has happened, in fact, is that most claims for refugee status have not been accepted by the Minister as valid, but few have departed from the country within reasonable time limits. And it has proved impossible administratively to move even obviously unfounded cases through the system very quickly. Advocacy groups which have argued that the review process is not sufficiently fair, have encouraged claimants to exhaust all the permissible legal avenues. This has exacerbated the already lengthy refugee determination backlogs.

As delays in the process lengthened, there were systematic attempts at abuse of the refugee determination system. People who were temporarily residing in Canada soon noticed that a way of remaining here and working was to claim refugee status. It was apparent that even the weakest claims took almost as much time to settle as the most complex. Toward the end of 1980, there was an influx of about 2,000 claimants from India whose primary purpose for coming to Canada was

Immigration Act

economic; to find a job in Canada with the hope of remaining. Nearly all the claims were unfounded, but they clogged the review system. This made the delays even more protracted as it showed others how to manipulate the system by claiming refugee status and thereby avoiding early removal from Canada.

Other countries have faced this dilemma, with increasing numbers of people claiming refugee status at a time of economic distress in their countries of origin. In fact, these individuals were attempting to change their country of residence for purely economic reasons. Recipient countries, like Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, reacted by tightening their refugee restrictions at a time when Canada was liberalizing hers.

The dramatic rise in the number of people coming to Canada in the last 18 months and claiming refugee status has placed a heavy burden on resources of those who must determine whether that claim is legitimate. Worse, it torments those whom the system is designed to help. It exposes genuine refugees to hardship because of the delay in reaching a decision on their claim and impairs immigration controls because of the inability to remove the unsuccessful claimants from Canada. Bona fide refugees can no longer be identified quickly and effectively.

The refugee determination committee can no longer keep pace with the volume of claims being received. For example, in the 30-month period between April, 1981 and October, 1983, the number of cases in the claims-appeals system increased to 9,100 from 2,500, not including another 1,500 cases awaiting entry into the system because of inadequate staff resources to do the initial documentation. While the acceptance rate of claims has risen to 38 per cent from 20 per cent since 1981, fewer than 3,000 rejected claims have been brought to conclusion. At the same time, organized attempts to enter the system have proliferated.

At the Refugee Status Advisory Committee level, efforts have been made to make the system as fair and open as possible. The capacity of the committee was increased through appointment of new Private Members and greater administrative back-up. An oral interview project was begun in June, 1983 to help identify bona fide refugees more quickly. Yet, despite the changes, the committee's backlog had increased to 2,400 cases from 1,600 cases by the end of last year. Some cases have been expedited, but the backlog continues to mount.

Similar problems have been encountered by the Immigration Appeal Board. Only cases of evident merit go before the board for a full hearing. An average period of one year elapses before a full hearing occurs. At the Federal Court, the average delay is now six months for a hearing. Between last August, 15 and September, 26 at the Federal Court of Appeal of Toronto, 94 per cent of the cases heard were immigration cases.

The result is that with three and four years' delays in processing being now routine, we have what amounts to an immigration movement of substantial proportions that has not been managed or regulated by the Government.

March 16, 1984

Immigration Act

What must be concluded, therefore, is that the Bill does not go far enough. The Hon. Member for Spadina proposes oral hearings as an extra feature of the refugee determination process. But what is he trying to achieve? Is the current system unfair? No. Are refugees being sent away? No. Mr. Speaker, the problem is delay, and my hon. friend's Bill will do nothing to deal with that.

I therefore must oppose his proposal.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   IMMIGRATION ACT
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