Michael Morris CASSIDY

CASSIDY, Michael Morris, B.A., M.B.A.

Personal Data

New Democratic Party
Ottawa Centre (Ontario)
Birth Date
May 10, 1937
journalist, professor (assistant) - journalism

Parliamentary Career

September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Ottawa Centre (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 442 of 442)

November 9, 1984

Mr. Cassidy:

Well, at that time he was Brian Mulroney, but I will certainly refer to him as the now Prime Minister of Canada.

The now Prime Minister said in his letter to PIPS, "We believe the situation can be quickly resolved-", and referred to the work of the D'Avignon Commission in 1979 as a valuable base on which that should be done. I am disappointed, Mr. Speaker, that that promise was not reiterated in the Throne Speech. I urge the Government and all Hon. Members, in particular those from Public Service ridings, to ensure that that parliamentary committee is set up in the life of this Parliament, hopefully by December. I remind the Government that similar promises were made by the Liberals when they were in Opposition in 1980, but the moment they came back to power they forgot about that particular promise and commitment. I would urge the Government not to be like the Liberals. Do not start forgetting your promises as soon as you get into government. This is an issue which I believe ought to be addressed and ought to be addressed very, very soon.

There are many ethno-cultural communities in my riding. I have made some strong commitments on a number of issues which relate to people from ethno-cultural communities and I am determined to ensure that we will respect those commitments, such as action for redress to the Japanese Canadians for their treatment during the war; action for redress for the terrible situation imposed on Chinese Canadians with the head tax, which effectively shut off immigration to this country over the first part of this century; and the need for affirmative action programs within the Government of Canada in order to ensure that visible minorities are no longer discriminated against in terms of employment. I look forward to the results of the Rosalie Abella Commission on that particular subject. I regret the fact that in the Throne Speech the Government did not take advantage of the opportunity it had to commit itself to the principles and recommendations of the all-Party task force of this Parliament which were contained in the document called Equality Now. It seems to me that that is an excellent blueprint with respect to action by the Government of Canada regarding that important part of my riding, and of our country, which is represented by the ethno-cultural communities.

November 9, 1984

The Address-Mr. Cassidy

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get back to some broader issues concerning what was announced in the Throne Speech and the statement made by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson) last night. As Hon. Members are aware, I am now my Party's critic for Treasury Board and Science and Technology, but I have also been appointed Chairman of our Caucus on Quebec, and, Mr. Speaker, we intend to further develop the New Democratic Party's action on issues that concern Quebecers, as well as the activities of our Caucus in the Province of Quebec.

1 am afraid that since the September 4 election, there has been a change in the Government's priorities. During the election campaign, the Government ... the Progressive Conservatives said that their priority was jobs. Now it is the deficit, and they maintain that if they can get rid of the deficit, that will attract investment and create jobs.

Since I am going to deal with issues that concern Quebec, I sincerely wonder whether these policies will really affect the situation of Quebecers. Will investment solve the unemployment problem in Quebec in the near future, considering that a majority of Quebecers voted for the Progressive Conservative Party? They elected 58 PC Members to sit on the Government benches. I believe that Quebecers did not vote simply for the theories of Ronald Reagan or Neo-Conservatives, but for a real change to solve the unemployment problem in Quebec and throughout Canada.

The facts are as follows: Unemployment in Quebec has now reached 12.8 per cent compared with 8.9 per cent in Ontario. There is a difference of 4 per cent between the two provinces. Regionally, unemployment has reached 25 per cent in Rouyn-Noranda, 21 per cent in Chicoutimi and 15 per cent in Hull and the Outaouais compared with 8 or 9 per cent in Ottawa. Unemployment is now 14 or 15 per cent in Trois-Rivieres. That is the situation. However, the Government is trying to convince us that, if the deficit begins to decrease, this will promote investment which will in turn help correct the situation.

Is the market place going to reduce the difference between the unemployment rates in Quebec and Ontario? Definitely not, in my opinion. What we need is for the government to show leadership and to give priority to employment and not to concentrate only on the deficit.

Will the private sector create jobs in Chicoutimi or Rouyn-Noranda? I do not think so.

What has happened in the past? Many industries in Quebec, such as the mining and the textile industries, have specific problems with which the Government of Canada should be dealing instead of ignoring them. However, the new Government seems to be planning to ignore these problems in the belief that the market place will solve them.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind you about the situation of the Iron Ore Company of Canada. This company had as its

president Mr. Brian Mulroney before he became Prime Minister-

Full View Permalink

November 9, 1984

Mr. Mike Cassidy (Ottawa Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your election to the Chair, and I would also like to congratulate this new Government.

I think it is quite clear that in the election the people of Canada did vote for change, and as a consequence decided to turf the Liberals out and, hopefully, to make them a historical vestige in Canada. I believe that people also voted for the kind of compassion and concern for ordinary people which New Democrats have traditionally represented and certainly intend to represent in the course of this Parliament.

I would like to thank the electorate of Ottawa Centre for their confidence in electing me. The House may be aware that my majority was a modest one of only 54 votes, and therefore I congratulate other Members of Parliament who were elected with a larger landslide than I was able to attain this time. I will attempt to catch up with them in the 1988 election.

This is a new venue for me, but it is also a return. I was in this House as an observer, as a parliamentary journalist for The Financial Times of Canada, from 1966 to 1970, before spending 13 years in provincial politics as an MPP. It is good to be back in my home city. I recognize and fully sympathize with those Members who have distant ridings, because for 13 years I have been living in one community and representing another. I know the difficulties that that represents. To those new Members who are residents of my riding I offer a particular welcome and a promise that I will inform them regularly through my householder of my work in politics.

I would like to talk about the election campaign as well as the economic statement and the Throne Speech. I believe there is a real danger of polarization between Bay Street and Main Street, and I think that that danger has already been amply demonstrated by the two policy statements which the Government has delivered this week. I do not believe that the people of Canada voted for the values of Bay Street when they voted for change on September 4. I also fear that too much, too quickly and too soon the new Government is beginning to look like the Liberal Government which it replaced, rather than

bring in real change which will benefit the ordinary people in my riding and across Canada.

I have a number of priorities I would like to speak on which relate to the people of my riding as well as to many people across Canada. One of those priorities is the question of housing. More than half of the people living in Ottawa Centre are tenants. We have a vacancy rate of 0.2 per cent. One apartment in 500 is actually vacant, as some new Members may have discovered when seeking accommodation after being elected to Parliament. Rents as high as $500 or $600 for a one-bedroom apartment. For family accommodation as well as apartments they are far beyond the affordability of large numbers of people who live in Ottawa Centre, despite the fact that Ottawans are perhaps fortunate in having a higher level of employment and somewhat higher incomes than people in many other parts of Canada.

In my area, homes which rented for $100 a month in 1966 have been renovated. Then are now renting for up to $1,000 or more a month, 18 years later. That is symptomatic of what has happened to the housing situation in Ottawa. The question is, what do families on modest incomes do?

Over many years as an MPP I fought for the rights of tenants. I was among the first people in the Ontario Legislature to seek and successfully gain rent review to protect tenants in the Province of Ontario. But that protection is not good enough if housing is not being provided for people on modest incomes. That is why I regretted so much the cutbacks on co-operative and non-profit housing allocations which were taking place under the Liberals, and why I equally regret that in the Throne Speech and the economic statement there was no thrust at all to have a job-creating investment in new housing directed to people on modest and moderate incomes.

It is to our shame in Ottawa that last winter we had to open emergency shelters because there were hundreds of adult men and women who were homeless. They had no place to live and no place to sleep. There is no form of social alienation in our society which is more intense than that of a person who does not have a roof over his head. In our province, people cannot even qualify for welfare unless they have a home address. There are now sizeable numbers of people in Ottawa who do not qualify for that minimum level of assistance because they have not got a home of their own.

The market system, in which the Minister of Finance and the Conservative Government have put so much trust, is not succeeding in providing housing for people who are poor and people who are on moderate incomes. There are a million Canadians who face an affordability crisis in housing, many of whom are here in Ottawa and in my riding of Ottawa Centre. If the market system is not going to work, people in that situation are either condemned to inadequate accommodation-to paying 30 per cent or 50 per cent of their income in rent-or to having no accommodation whatsoever. I fear that is what the Government is doing because of its lack of housing provisions in the Throne Speech.

The Throne Speech and the economic statement indicated that the Government intends to make cut-backs in the Public

November 9, 1984

Service. My riding is a Public Service riding, and I certainly intend to be a voice on behalf of those people who are public employees and who do essential jobs for Canadians through the Public Service. So far, it has been indicated that 1,500 cut-backs will begin in March, and 2,400 positions will be cut back over the next two or three years. That is disturbing and disquieting. Those numbers are less than we had feared, and for that small mercy I suppose we should be thankful. However, 1 want to insist that training schemes and relocation schemes be put into place so that no one in the Public Service is forced to lose his or her job as a consequence of the economies which are imposed by this Government. If there were adequate training and adequate advance identification of those workers, that would not occur. It certainly occurred when the Ministry of State for Economic Development was shut down a few months ago under the old Government. I want to ensure that the secretaries, the clerks and the little people who work in the Government get the same treatment as the high-priced bureaucrats in senior jobs received when that Ministry of State was closed down. I hope that the new Government will give that priority.

I also hope to see priority given to the question of political rights for public employees. Over the last several years people working for the Government of Canada have had to put up with an awful lot. A Liberal Government was elected which said that it was opposed to wage and price controls, but it brought in those controls. In the last two years, the Liberals brought in the six and five program. The Liberal Government did it a second time. If people working in the service of Canada wanted to get involved politically to defend their own interests, or if they wanted to get involved politically and had some interest which was completely unrelated to the fact that they worked for the federal Government, they were impeded because of federal law which gives no political rights to people who work for the Government of Canada, apart from the fact that they can vote. As well, under certain limited circumstances those people can present themselves for nomination. This was a major issue in my campaign and I am pledged to work for political rights for people who work in the Public Service of Canada. I want to see that the vast bulk of those workers do not face the disciplinary threats that they faced over the course of this year when the federal election was impending.

Since 1966, the Public Service Employment Act has had restrictions, but they have not effectively been in force because they had to be initiated by a candidate for Parliament, and that did not occur. However, this year the restrictions and warnings were intense. Cases have been lodged and people have been threatened with dismissal for attending political conventions, even despite the fact that no election was taking place. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that that kind of treatment runs in the face of what we have been trying to achieve in this country, which is to broaden people's political rights rather than to narrow them.

The Address-Mr. Cassidy

I want to remind the Government that when the Conservatives were campaigning this summer, before they became a government, they made it very clear that they believe that most people in the Public Service of Canada should have political rights along the lines for which I would argue and which I would support. In fact, in the correspondence with both the Professional Institute of the Public Service and also with the Public Service Alliance, Brian Mulroney, as Leader of the Conservative forces in the campaign, indicated that the matter should be addressed by an all-Party parliamentary committee in consultation with Public Service organizations, and I am quoting now-

Full View Permalink

November 9, 1984

Mr. Cassidy:

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. I would say that-

Perhaps I can reply in English to that particular question. The Hon. Member raises a good question, one which I believe should be studied by a parliamentary task force, particularly if it were to be established very quickly. I happen to believe that most of the restrictions which exist now can and should be removed. That was the position of the D'Avignon Committee, and it is also the practice in Great Britain where senior civil servants do not have freedom to act in a political way. They have to remain neutral, but people who hit the typewriters and drive the trucks and run the weather stations and do all the other jobs that most of the 250,000 people in our Public Service perform would in fact have political freedoms which are essentially the same or almost the same as those of anyone else. I say almost the same in this respect. The principle that is you work for General Motors you do not criticize Chevies if you want to stay in the firm probably applies here, too. If you happen to work for Transport Canada, then I think it is legitimate to expect that a person would not speak out about the policies of his or her immediate employing department. I think that that probably is something that can be developed through guidelines or in other ways, but it certainly would not

November 9, 1984

The Address-Mr. Cooper

prevent someone from Transport Canada from being quite actively involved in concerns about, let us say, ureaformalde-hyde insulation or concerns about peace or the Cruise missile or some other issue not related directly to his or her department.

I do not think that people in this Parliament are going to be inhibited or restricted by the fact that some people working for government are active politically or are, from time to time, when sitting at a bar, going to a meeting, or in some other way, speaking out on some issue not directly related to their employment. I think this place can rise above that. I do not think that is particularly a problem.

In the case of a Customs worker or someone else who is making quasi-judicial decisions, there may be a certain limited group around whom one has to have a certain intermediate level of restrictions. That is a possibility. But I would say that somewhere around 90 per cent or 95 per cent of the people working for the Government of Canada should have the freedom of expression and of political activity, a freedom which should not have been taken away from them many years ago.

Full View Permalink

November 8, 1984

Mr. Mike Cassidy (Ottawa Centre):

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to express the concern of my constituents and my Party and also of 300,000 members of the Public Service about rumours and leaks according to which 15,000 Public Service jobs are to disappear tonight, as part of Mr. Wilson's statement. These rumours seem to be part of a deliberate campaign aimed at getting the public to anticipate changes that will cost jobs instead of creating them.

People voted for change in my riding of Ottawa Centre and across Canada, but in my opinion very few voted to make the Public Service a scapegoat in order to appease the business

community. There are real challenges for the Public Service to be met, but under the Liberal Government the Public Service was overmanaged, and its morale suffered from repeated six and five freezes and other such steps. I would not like to see the same thing continued under the new Government.

To give an example, the new Government has let 200 contract employees in Canada Employment and Immigration go, despite the fact that unemployment is at record levels and that jobs counsellors in CEIC cannot do the job adequately now because there are too few of them.

As Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) promised during the election campaign that, while the Government supported a need for restraint in government spending, "we are not in favour of this goal being achieved on the backs of public servants". I call upon the Government to live up to this commitment and not make public employees sacrificial victims in its budgetary policy.

Full View Permalink