Mr. Lyle Kristiansen (Kootenay West-Revelstoke):
Mr. Speaker, in addressing the borrowing authority matter before us there are a number of comments I want
to make concerning four specific areas of government activity or the lack of government activity. I want to preface those with a few general comments about the economic direction, or lack of it, which this government has imposed on Parliament and the people of Canada.
The government is very fond of referring to these times as recessionary times. It is my opinion and that of many others across Canada that this has not been a recession like the others. In fact it is open to some question as to whether the term recession has been appropriate at all.
What we have been experiencing for the last number of years, particularly since 1988, is more like a major structural implosion which has been exacerbated by the fall-out of the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States and some of its implications, and looking ahead to the psychology taking root because of the impending North American free trade agreement.
These and other actions have caused a major "restructuring" which has destroyed much of our manufacturing industry base, particularly in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, but also in areas of the lower mainland of British Columbia, those areas that were in the lead in terms of a Canadian manufacturing industry and a resource-based processing industry.
To term that kind of basic restructuring, which has seen not just large-scale lay-offs but large-scale terminations and the creation of rust belts in Quebec and Ontario and other manufacturing and industrial areas, a recession is false. Many of those jobs will not come back.
We recognize that the world is changing and that the global marketplace has different dynamics than it had at one time. However those have been added to by the very kinds of actions that this government in Canada has taken.
Moving from that very general statement, when we look at the so-called economic planning of this government since it was first elected in 1984, and its constant hyping and high-frequency alarms about debt and deficits, some of them justified, that have been constantly forthcoming from the government, particularly from its finance ministers, what have we found?
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The over-all debt picture of Canada has been getting worse and worse despite the efforts of this government. While it says with some braggadocio that the percentage of debt as related to the GDP is somehow better or our annual deficit positions are better its projections have constantly been way out. It has been deficit and debt reduction on the never-never plan.
We see almost exactly the same annual deficits now that we saw when this government was first elected in 1984, even with the rather profligate spending versus revenue generation policies of the Trudeau government that preceded it. It has been totally out of whack but it keeps saying things are looking up.
When one is flat on one's back even the bottom rung of the ladder looks high. That is about the only way that one can put any optimism into the economic scenario and the debt and deficit scenario that surrounds all of us, not only the federal government but those provincial governments who have been further encumbered by the cutbacks and the offloading that this federal government has participated in.
I am not going to suggest that it has done that with glee for it has certainly gone to great pains to disclaim its share of the responsibility for the difficulties that many provinces are having.
I would suggest that one of the irresponsible results of that action has been the drastic increase in our foreign debt, which is much more harmful to our long-term planning in this country than the domestic debt. The debts and deficits we had prior to this government taking office in 1984 were largely domestic.
Almost every economist would agree that we are in a much more serious situation as a result of a far higher percentage of our national and provincial debts being owed on the foreign market rather than within Canada's borders.
I said when I began that I specifically wanted to refer to four particular items that both my region and my industry, the forest industry, views with some alarm.
First of all, I want to go back to 1983 and then to 1984 and examine what at that point was the thrust of the former federal government and this federal government with regard to the forest industry, intensive silviculture
and paving the way for what we hoped would be a healthier and more dynamic forestry sector. After all it is the major contributor to our balance of payments situation on the plus side and has its roots in every part of Canada in some 300 communities.
I think Mr. Roberts was the minister in the Trudeau government in 1983 when we had the first federal-provincial agreement on funding of intensive forestry and silviculture between the forestry provinces and the federal government.
In the case of British Columbia that worked out to $55 million a year from the federal government, for that one year, and $55 million from the province of British Columbia. It was a good start but it was short term and the government changed.
It was one of the best things this government had done, even though on an annual basis there was a slightly smaller commitment. It dropped from $55 million a year to $50 million a year in the case of British Columbia.
With extensive negotiations they established three-year and five-year forestry agreements between the federal government and the provinces that allowed for some long-term planning and some good co-ordination. It was far more cost effective, there was far more bang for the buck, and it did far more for the forest industry across this country in restocking some of the areas that had been left lying dormant for far too long and beginning to use some of the new technologies in terms of intensive silviculture and practices such as thinning, pruning, fertilization, and many other areas that had long been missing from what had been one of our most vital industries. Starting in 1983 for the first time but especially after this government took office in 1984, we saw some rational planning and significant commitment to that sector in a way that counted. All of us with emotional and financial roots in that industry were very happy to see that take place.
My party and I certainly recognize that forestry falls essentially within provincial jurisdiction, but federal governments for decades have derived large revenues from that industry. Many of us, including the government, I suspect, but certainly the Minister of Forestry when that ministry was established during the years of this government felt that it was long past the time that
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some of those revenues the federal government had been receiving for decades ought to be ploughed back into that sector. I give him full credit for the part he and his colleagues played in that.
Having that in mind, I was particularly saddened just the other day to hear the federal government, using the excuse of provincial jurisdiction, say that it was getting out. A great deal still has to be done, particularly at a time when we finally have some provincial governments trying to resolve with a great deal of difficulty some of the very emotional and hard nut cases of conflict over resource versus environment and other types of priorities for our forest lands.
The federal government is withdrawing from an area which everybody on both sides of those controversies and anybody connected with forestry agrees is a vital priority. One way we can try to get some of the heat of these arguments subdued is by renewing our commitment to a healthy and vital industry in which we can expect those resources to renew themselves with our assistance. Therefore, I regret that very much and hope the next government of whatever stripe will review that decision and renew what has been our commitment for the last few years to the health of that industry.
Related to that is another item which I raised briefly this morning. It has to do with the issue of tree spiking and the reluctance so far of the federal government to move in a serious way to impose penalties on those eco-terrorists. They threaten the lives of woodworkers whose job it is, whether they are in saw mills or loggers in the bush mainly on public lands and public property, to harvest our forest resource.
In saying that I recognize there are serious and in many cases valid differences of opinion as to what lands ought to be used industrially and what lands ought to be used for wildlife or other preservation or recreational opportunities. However, tree spiking is dangerous to life and is totally irresponsible. Everybody from the forest industry, the mainstream environmental organizations, government, labour and industry, agrees. For example, there is the kind of eco-terrorism Paul Watson was preaching by suggesting that some 20,000 trees in the Clayoquot Sound area had been spiked. We found
evidence as early as last November that many of them had been and he can get away with it.
One province, British Columbia, has legislation that tries to come to grips with that and has named it as a serious offence. Reports were emanating from the B.C. Forestry Alliance and the Council of Forest Industries that the former Minister of Justice in this House had a team working on drafting amendments to the Criminal Code to specify tree spiking as a serious criminal offence. I currently have a private member's motion on the Order Paper dealing with that same issue in that same way and asking for minimum two-year sentences for those who counsel, incite or engage in tree spiking.
It is important. We have to send a clear message that that kind of terrorism, whether it is the spiking of trees or putting bombs in mailboxes, whatever kind of terrorism we are dealing with will not be tolerated and that is the will of this place.
I urge Department of Justice officials and the new justice minister to so act as soon as possible. At least declare that is the intention of the government. Hopefully we can find the time to do it before this Parliament is ended, but at least declare we are moving in that direction.
I briefly want to mention, another area in the economic and fiscal statement of last December it was stated:
Funding of up to $90 million will be made available for projects to relieve critical bottlenecks and improve safety on highly travelled federal highways in national parks in British Columbia and Alberta. These highways are essential components of major east-west transportation corridors which are key to commerce, industry, tourism and personal travel in western Canada.
That is also a public safety issue. For years the city of Revelstoke, many others from that region and I have been urging the federal government to do some widening of the Trans-Canada Highway particularly in and around Glacier National Park with the amount of extra freight and long supertrucks on our highways. Tourist traffic has also increased by the fact that they cannot travel on VIA Rail anymore and this has only added to the congestion on those highways. It is a danger to public safety. I urge the government to ensure that there is not a political bias in terms of which national parks get that funding. Whether we are New Democrats or Tories or
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whatever, if we die on a crowded highway that is burdened with heavy freight traffic we are dead.
I urge the government to move in that direction and to make that program fair. We are happy to see it. Let us make it fair; let us save lives. While that is being done some of the park maintenance budgets should be increased. Then other park services would not have to be robbed to provide minimum safety and equipment to the Parks Canada highway crews whose job it is to keep what highways we do have safe for public travel.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: BORROWING AUTHORITY ACT, 1993-94 MEASURE TO ENACT