George BAKER

BAKER, The Hon. George, P.C.

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Website
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=f6e5da54-c9c9-4020-9356-e92606d6b6c4&Language=E&Section=ALL
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=f6e5da54-c9c9-4020-9356-e92606d6b6c4&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
assistant clerk, chief clerk, chief law clerk, chief legislative librarian, editor of hansard, radio & tv announcer & producer, title searcher

Parliamentary Career

July 8, 1974 - March 26, 1979
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment (October 10, 1975 - September 30, 1976)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue (October 1, 1976 - September 30, 1977)
May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) (August 3, 1999 - October 16, 2000)
  • Minister of Veterans Affairs (August 3, 1999 - October 16, 2000)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
November 27, 2000 - March 25, 2002
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 380)


October 5, 2000

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I did have representation concerning this matter from the hon. member and from my colleague, the hon. member for Churchill River, who is in the House today.

We are in the process of setting up a national round table, chaired by first nations veterans, to investigate exactly what happened during and after the wars. If it is found that these veterans were treated unfairly, the Government of Canada will resolve this issue.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Veterans Affairs
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October 5, 2000

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Alliance has already announced that it wants to do away with all assistance to the high unemployment areas of Canada, to end all of the regional development agencies. To Alliance members it is a case of survival of the fittest here in Canada. This is one big game of Survivor with them. The next thing they will be announcing Richard Hatch as their policy director.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Regional Development Agencies
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October 5, 2000

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct in that a certain amount of these write-offs, these grants, $4 million, $5 million had to be written off, not forgiven but written off by the public accounts the other day. We agree with them. That is why we changed the system to loans and no more grants.

In fact, over half of the grants that the hon. member is talking about were given while his bosom pals, the Tories, were in power.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Regional Development Agencies
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September 27, 2000

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the deadline for applications was six weeks ago. There were 14,000 applications received. We have two shifts working 15 hours a day to process these applications. Sixty per cent have been processed. The hon. member should be standing and praising the government for the $50 million approved for this initiative.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Veterans Affairs
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September 22, 2000

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.)

moved that Bill C-41, an act to amend the statute law in relation to veterans' benefits, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to give a major speech today. I am going to be as short as possible because there appears to be agreement, and I am pretty sure there is, among the critics of the other parties in the House that we try to deal with the bill today at this reading so that it can go on to the standing committee.

We have had excellent co-operation from the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain of the Canadian Alliance, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville of the Bloc Quebecois, the hon. member for Saint John of the Progressive Conservative Party and the hon. member for Halifax West of the NDP.

The reason we all agree that the bill should be passed as quickly as possible is that it will provide some much needed benefits to our veterans and the survivors of our veterans.

The bill also does something that should have been done many years ago. It gives the civilian groups that served overseas with our soldiers access to the same pension and disability provisions as those who are recognized under the pension act and the War Veterans Allowance Act. In other words, the bill gives the ferry command personnel, the civilian group of pilots who piloted the planes across the Atlantic during the war, access to the full benefits of the pension act and the War Veterans Allowance Act. Five hundred Canadian pilots lost their lives bringing the planes over for use in the war effort.

The bill gives the nursing aids, the nursing sisters of the first world war and the second world war, the Canadian Red Cross workers and the St. John Ambulance workers who worked right at the front access to the same pension provisions as our veterans receive today.

The bill gives welfare workers of the second world war and the Korean War access to those same benefits. It gives Canadian firefighters for service in the United Kingdom group access to the same benefits.

The bill gives a group called the Newfoundland foresters access to those same benefits. The Newfoundland foresters went overseas during the second world war before Canada was involved in the war. Newfoundland was not a part of Canada at that time. The ships left Newfoundland with about 3,000 people who had joined the Royal Navy or the Merchant Navy in Britain, people who were called upon as foresters.

The Canadian foresters who went overseas received full benefits after the war but the Newfoundlanders did not because Newfoundland was not a part of Canada at that time. It should have been in the terms of union but, unfortunately, the individual who was supposed to negotiate this in the terms of union came to Ottawa in 1948, stayed at a local hotel and the day before this was supposed to be negotiated in the terms of union, he died. So it was an omission in the terms of union between Newfoundland and Canada. This bill will correct the error that was made back in 1949.

There are other things in the bill which will be good for veterans, veterans' widows and family members of veterans who are alive today. I will give members of the House two short examples that I know they will appreciate being included in the bill.

There are about seven excellent changes. Take for example one case of a veteran's widow who has an overpayment on a health benefit. Another widow has an overpayment on the funeral benefit and the debt stands. Why is there a debt? It is because somebody made an error inadvertently in paying the money to that individual.

Normally, when there is an overpayment, for example, in employment insurance or in any of the the municipal, provincial or federal government programs, then the person who received the money is responsible for paying it back.

However, the bill states that those overpayments, which were inadvertently made and stand as debts to the crown, will be erased. Although it will not cost that much money and is only a small thing, it is huge to somebody like those two widows who actually owe money because of overpayments.

I want to refer to another section which I think was commendable for members of parliament and those people who participated in the process to put into the bill. I just want to mention them.

The Royal Canadian Legion spent a lot of time with the department drafting the bill and setting up meetings. President Bill Barclay and particularly Allan Parks participated in the drafting of the legislation. The National Council of Veterans Associations also participated. Brian Forbes was at the meeting on behalf of Cliff Chadderton.

There is perhaps no one individual in Canada today who has contributed more to the process of legislation for veterans than Cliff Chadderton. He is an incredible individual who constantly works for veterans.

Peter Ambroziak of ANAVETS, the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada, took part in the negotiations as did Mr. Lloyd Thompson of Botwood, Newfoundland. He is a Newfoundland forester but he wore the British uniform overseas so he gets the benefits. He is working on behalf of the other foresters in Newfoundland who number anywhere from 500 to 1,000 that I know of. They deserve these benefits and should have received them in the terms of union. However, as I said, the person responsible for negotiating them died the night before the terms were being negotiated.

Also Louis Lang of Montreal from Ferry Command participated. Louis spent a lot of time lobbying on behalf of Ferry Command pilots who perhaps had the greatest loss of life of any one group that took part in the second world war.

There are about seven items in the bill that will benefit Canadian veterans today. I mentioned the overpayments to the two widows and other people in a similar situation which would be forgiven.

Another point I want to mention is that in all of our income tested programs we always rely on somebody's last year's income as reported on the income tax return. Old age security, guaranteed income supplement and spousal allowance are based on the income tax return for the previous year.

Sometimes somebody might receive a benefit, say a capital gain, this year not knowing that next year the spousal allowance could be gone or the guaranteed income supplement would be reduced accordingly. That is one of the aspects of income tested programs that is very difficult to deal with when we have cases where somebody loses something because of what happened last year on the income tax return, especially with our senior citizens.

Of course disability pensions and so on are not income tested. That is the marvellous part of this bill. All these civilian groups that served overseas will have access to the full benefits. Some of them will not be income tested. A lot of our civilian groups did not understand that this would be a real benefit to the people who need home care, for example.

We have people in Canada who went overseas for four and five years and do not have access to home care because the bill is not law today. That is why we are trying to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

Getting back to what we are doing as far as someone's income is concerned, we are saying that the income tested portion of veterans payments will be based on estimated income for this year, not what is on the income tax return.

What is the benefit in that? I will give an example. Perhaps someone received a capital gain last year. Perhaps he or she were left some money or sold some property last year and the guaranteed income supplement and spousal allowance will drop. If it is a veteran's payment that is income tested it will rise accordingly, thereby cancelling the reduction that would take effect under the guaranteed income supplement or the spousal allowance.

These are some of the excellent things in the bill. They certainly set a standard that should be looked at by provincial governments and by everyone who deals with guaranteed income programs in federal and provincial jurisdictions.

I have had preliminary discussions with the member for Halifax West of the New Democratic Party. He has been very active with regard to the bill over a period of time. In fact prior to the announcement being made he was very active with regard to this subject material, as well as the member for Saint John of the Progressive Conservative Party and the member for Terrebonne—Blainville of the Bloc Quebecois. As well, within the last three or four days the member for Souris—Moose Mountain supports the bill wholeheartedly and wants it passed.

That is why I will not say anything else. I will just shut up and hope that other members of parliament will also shut up. Then we could pass the bill with as little comment as possible. We have until 11 o'clock this morning and then we will reconvene on the bill at about 12.15 p.m. until 1.30 p.m. Therefore we have until approximately 11 a.m. now and then about an hour and a half after question period.

If we could so arrange it as to get over this stage of the bill and send it to committee, we would be answering the prayers of a good many veterans. We would be responding positively to what every political party wants to do in the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Civilian War-Related Benefits Act
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