Table of Contents Previous Section Next Section
14313

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[Translation]

FEDERALISM

Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs tried to justify Ottawa's new strategy on the Quebec referendum as follows, and I quote: ``There has not been enough emphasis by the federalists on demonstrating that the federal system works well and works for Quebec. I think that is one of the problems''. The minister's perception of the facts is selective, to say the least.

My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can he seriously claim that the federal system works well and works for Quebec, when in one particular case, his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has refused to compensate Quebec for what it spent on educating young Crees, a total of $130 million?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs gave a very good explanation. If I remember correctly, there was an agreement between the federal government and the provincial government. The terms of that agreement were met, but there were some additional, unforeseen expenses that were not covered by the agreement.

That particular aspect is being discussed now, but the terms of the agreement as such were met. If there were additional expenses that were warranted, that can be discussed, but we did what is essential to good federal-provincial relations, that is, we complied with the agreement as negotiated and approved by both parties.

Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): Mr. Speaker, how can the Prime Minister keep saying that the federal system works well and works for Quebec, when Ottawa still refuses to transfer responsibility for manpower training to Quebec and in fact plans to intervene even more in this area, thus leading to further costly and inefficient duplication?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development made offers to all the provinces, including Quebec, in which he proposed to conclude temporary agreements that would include a transfer of responsibilities, but Quebec said no. Other provinces are discussing the problem with the minister, but Quebec wants all or nothing.

I think we must maintain a federal presence in these areas, because Quebec, like other provinces where the economic situation is not as good as in the richer provinces, needs the federal government to redistribute resources from those who have jobs to those who do not. And this has no connection with federal-provincial relations.

Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister says that Quebec wants all or nothing. This is an outright reproach to one of his ministers, the minister responsible for the referendum in Quebec, who when she was a minister in the Johnson government, turned down the federal government's offer on manpower training.

How can the Prime Minister keep saying, like his minister, that the federal system works well and works for Quebec, when Ottawa's withdrawal from social program funding puts the provinces, including Quebec, in the very difficult position of either having to cut services or raise taxes?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, even before the federal budget, the provincial government in Quebec City cut $500 million from its budget for health care services, and that was last fall, when the PQ came to power. Look at what Minister Rochon is doing now. I read the papers like everybody else.

I think we explained our position very well. As for the reference of the Leader of the Opposition to the position taken by the Minister of Labour, as a party leader who changed parties five times, he is certainly not in a position to tell anyone to be consistent in politics.


14314

BOVINE SOMATOTROPIN

Mr. Michel Daviault (Ahuntsic, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. The Fédération nationale des associations de consommateurs du Québec and the Canadian Council, which represent over 300 organizations, have joined forces with dairy producers and processors to demand that the federal government renew the moratorium on bovine somatotropin, which will end in nine days.

(1420)

Since the ministers of agriculture and health have been waffling for months on this important issue, I would ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to follow up on the request of consumer associations, the dairy industry and even the Standing Committee on Health to impose a strict moratorium for an indeterminate period on the use of somatotropin? It is up to him to set down the rules.

Hon. Diane Marleau (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, just because the voluntary moratorium agreed upon by manufacturers and the Department of Agriculture ends on July 1 does not mean that the sale of BST will automatically become legal.

Health Canada continues to study the issue and will approve the product only if scientists are convinced that it is safe and effective.

Mr. Michel Daviault (Ahuntsic, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister does not even recognize the work of the heath committee, which is unanimous regarding the issue. The agriculture committee has declared war and is demanding that Health Canada make its studies public and the minister is taking no action.

Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that people have the right to drink the most natural milk possible, and that by refusing to extend the moratorium, he is exposing consumers to the risk of unknowingly drinking milk tainted with hormones, without knowing the real impact that this will have on the health of humans and animals?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think that the Minister of Health explained the situation clearly. There was a voluntary moratorium and the Minister of Health did not give permission for this product to be used for the Canadian market. And we will not give permission until we have very clear advice that there is no danger.

At the moment, we are fully aware of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, and I would like to remind you that almost weekly, a member of my caucus raises the issue. We are very much aware of the problem and, contrary to what some people are implying, the product will not be authorized for use after July 1 of this year.

[English]

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, as this session comes to an end the great imperative for the Prime Minister is to re-establish the ethical standards of his government.

When the government came to power it promised to make government integrity its number one priority but 20 months later that red book promise is in tatters with ministers flouting the federal code of ethics, the ethics counsellor reduced to impotence, and the Prime Minister defending party loyalty and discipline over the principles of democracy and ethics.

Will the Prime Minister send a clear signal to Canadians today that unethical behaviour in government will not be tolerated? Will he can tainted ministers, starting with the Minister of Canadian heritage?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, after many days of arguing the case we stated that everything had been done according to the laws of Canada. The record of the government over the last 20 months has been the best we have seen in a long time. I am applying myself to making sure that all ethical and normal rules that should apply to members of Parliament and to cabinet are followed by all cabinet ministers. That has been debated.

After 20 months and on the last day before we adjourn they repeat the same question they have used for the last three weeks. We must be doing quite well if they have nothing else to talk about.

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the government also promised to put an end to the politics of patronage and backroom deals.

But over the last 20 months what have we witnessed: $26 million diverted in Nova Scotia from highway 104 to a road in the riding of the minister of public works, campaign workers lined up in Victoria for patronage plums from the justice department, and the Liberal family contact rewarded again and again with government contracts and favourable cabinet decisions. This is like a rerun of an old movie: Brian Mulroney Part II.

(1425 )

Will the Prime Minister make a new commitment today to purge political patronage from his administration by restoring funding to highway 104 and by disciplining members tainted by patronage, starting with the minister of public works?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I listened to the list of things. I will explain every element of it to the House of Commons.


14315

The Minister of Transport said many times that the change in the situation in Nova Scotia was requested by the elected provincial authorities in Nova Scotia. The member refuses to recognize that.

He made another so-called attack talking about family contacts, knowing very well who he is trying to attack, and he cannot prove anything. I will not go to his level to try to defend myself; I have a record of 32 years in public service.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice): Not one contract or not one favour has been given to anybody close to me and my family. I do not have to insist. Every member in good faith knows it.

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the government also promised freer voting in the House of Commons and a meaningful voice for backbenchers.

In the past few weeks, however, we have seen nothing from the government but a growing disregard for the democratic process: time allocation and closure, Liberal backbenchers being punished for voting the wishes of their constituents, and cabinet ministers who break conflict of interest guidelines being defended by the Prime Minister himself.

Will the Prime Minister reaffirm his red book promises of freer voting and greater MP power in the House by lifting the heavy hand of discipline from those MPs whose only crime was to respect their constituents' wishes?

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have done it since I have been prime minister.

In some opinions expressed not long ago, it seems a few years ago, this institution was considered not very acceptable in performing well. It was 9 per cent. The last time there was the same poll it was published not long ago that collectively we have managed to lift respect for this institution from 9 per cent to virtually 30 per cent.

There was an international poll which said there was more respect for the Parliament of Canada in Canada than there was in England, the United States, France, Italy, Germany and so on.

I am not afraid to reply to the person who fired his own justice critic. I have some rules in my party which people know about, but we have more democracy in our party than in any other.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice): Mr. Speaker, I have been a member of Parliament for quite some time and it is the first time in the history of this Parliament when members of Parliament of the government side presented dozens of amendments to the House of Commons, as we saw last week, and we let them vote on them.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice): Yes, we did. It is the first time there was so much freedom in the House of Commons. We have never seen that before. The vote has passed and I think members on this side of the House of Commons are going home happy, feeling they have done a good job.

* * *

[Translation]

DEFENCE INDUSTRY

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.

A study done by the defence industry research group reveals that Quebec would be particularly affected by cuts to the defence industry production program, DIPP. This study concluded that 60 per cent of DIPP's funding in Quebec would be cut, that is, $50 million, and so research and development would drop by $150 million.

(1430)

Will the minister admit that he is on the wrong track in cutting funds to DIPP, when he knows very well that, for every dollar the government puts into this program, the industry puts in three, and jobs in high tech industries like aerospace are directly related to contributions to the program?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we discussed this issue last week. As I indicated then to the member, I acknowledge that DIPP is very important, but the government has decided to reduce grants to Canadian private enterprise and to review DIPP.

We think that it has long been an important program in Canada, but this does not mean that this sort of program should not be reviewed. Perhaps the member has some ideas that could be adopted.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister should not concern himself with my ideas. I am more worried about his.

After attacking at the Quebec pharmaceutical industry, the minister is now going after the aerospace industry by cutting DIPP. Is this the sort of federalism being offered to Quebec, where Ottawa continually threatens high tech industry in Quebec, offering only unemployment and technological delay in exchange?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I know the Bloc supports high tech companies like Monsanto and Eli-Lilly.

I would remind him that Quebec is not the only province with a high tech sector, particularly in aerospace. There are companies all over Canada, such as Pratt & Whitney, which is located not only in Montreal but also in Lethbridge and Halifax, and is very concerned about international competition for grants from the government. We are very much aware of this competition and have some ideas to propose for this sector.


14316

[English]

HIGHWAYS

Mr. Randy White (Fraser Valley West, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it just does not fit, really. The Prime Minister just said that the highway 104 scandal is the responsibility of the province of Nova Scotia.

I recognize that the Minister of Public Works and Government Services refuses to answer for the misappropriation of funds-

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: As I mentioned during the last question period, whenever a question is put it is put to the government. The government may choose to answer in whatever fashion it wishes.

Mr. White (Fraser Valley West): Mr. Speaker, now I find that the hon. member for Cumberland-Colchester is telling people that the federal government has found a solution.

Before the session closes I would like to try to get the minister of public works up on his feet and be blessed with an answer. Will the Liberal government be returning the $26 million to highway 104 as suggested by the hon. member for Cumberland-Colchester?

Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I know that the hon. member for Cumberland-Colchester is very interested in this matter and I understand her concerns. We have listened to people who have made representations with respect to highways in Nova Scotia on a number of occasions.

Although the hon. member for Cumberland-Colchester is a very hard working member of Parliament, it does not change the reality that decisions for highway construction, the allocation of funds and the routing of highways is a provincial matter.

I know it is extremely difficult for the hon. member who has asked the question to understand that, but I intend to be patient and to continue to explain to him that whether it is in Manitoba, British Columbia or Nova Scotia, the decision for the construction of highways and how the funds are allocated is the primary responsibility and falls within the constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces in question.

(1435 )

Mr. Randy White (Fraser Valley West, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I wonder who is going to get the babysitting fees for the minister of public works, the minister of transport or me?

The government has refused to give documents to the Citizens for Fairness Coalition in Wentworth Valley, Nova Scotia, but I delivered them myself at a rally in the valley.

I would like the Prime Minister to answer this question. Why does the government have to be threatened with lawsuits by outraged citizens before it acts to rein in cabinet ministers who are clearly out of control? What assurances do we have that the minister of public works, in particular, will be given a wake-up call by the Prime Minister?

Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as we continue with the programs already in place to deal with highway construction in a number of provinces, no doubt citizens in every part of the country are seeking as much as they can get to build highways. That is the case in Nova Scotia.

We fully understand the concerns, especially in my case being a New Brunswicker. We recognize that highways in Atlantic Canada need a lot of funding.

Rather than railing at the rally in the valley about the 104, I look forward to the hon. member and his party telling us where they would get more money and what they would propose for highway construction in the country. Since this is not federal jurisdiction, they might want to tell us how they propose to fund highway construction in Nova Scotia and elsewhere where it is required.

* * *

[Translation]

FRENCH-LANGUAGE RESEARCH JOURNALS

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ): Mr. Speaker, after providing financial assistance to Canadian research journals for years, in January, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council announced a new policy based on the number of subscribers rather than on the quality of the publications. As a result, funding for French-language journals is being reduced by half.

My question is for the Minister of Industry. Will the minister confirm that the cuts under the new Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's policy will be borne almost exclusively by French-language journals, while English-language ones will be generally unaffected?

[English]

Hon. Jon Gerrard (Secretary of State (Science, Research and Development), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, while it is true the Social Science and Humanities Research Council will have less funds three years from now than at present, those cutbacks were less proportionately than in many other areas of the government, less proportionately than the Department of Industry.


14317

The Social Science and Humanities Research Council has worked very hard in making adjustments and to make them in the best possible way for the whole research community.

[Translation]

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the council's new criteria do not take into account the relative size of the francophone and anglophone markets in Canada. To give out grants on the sole basis of the number of subscribers amounts to a death sentence for francophone journals.

In that context, does the minister recognize that the real impact of this new policy of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which gives an outrageous advantage to anglophone journals, is tantamount to eliminating funding for French-language research journals?

[English]

Hon. Jon Gerrard (Secretary of State (Science, Research and Development), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council represents all the researchers in the social sciences and humanities in Canada, both anglophone and francophone, and has on its council both anglophone and francophone members. It treats and funds researchers equally all across the country.

* * *

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Mrs. Jan Brown (Calgary Southeast, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the American government is poised today to punish Canadian industries for the Liberal policies of cultural protectionism.

Mickey Kantor will issue his retaliation hit list today. Because the Liberals are closing our borders and choking off competition. hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Canadian business stands to suffer.

Why will the Minister of Canadian Heritage not live up to the pro-competition rhetoric of the industry minister and avoid this trade battle with the U.S. which damages Canadians business and allows CMT into the market?

(1440 )

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, our colleague does not seem to realize that Canada is one of the most open markets to cultural products in the world, for the benefit of Canadians. However, when a Canadian producer does a good job, creates employment and Canadian content he should be supported.

Mrs. Jan Brown (Calgary Southeast, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, despite the woolly answer from the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mickey Kantor will issue a hit list today, regardless of whether the CMT deal with NCN goes through during the current negotiations.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage is letting CRTC run amok. The CRTC was directly responsible for the negative options billing fiasco. It is responsible for the satellite policy debacle and now it has forced the government to sacrifice Canadian industries and jobs in a high stakes poker game within the U.S.

The CRTC's time is-

The Speaker: The question, please.

Mrs. Brown (Calgary Southeast): The government has repeatedly stated that it has raised competition but the CRTC disagrees.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

* * *

[Translation]

TRADE

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade.

On January 1, the United States took advantage of the establishment of the World Trade Organization to impose on Canada new restrictions on imports of sugar and products containing sugar, thus jeopardizing over 2,400 jobs. Also, a bill sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms is currently before the U.S. Congress and seeks to prohibit access to the American market to any business having commercial ties with Cuba.

Meanwhile, American sugar is flooding our market to the point that the revenue department felt the need to initiate an antidumping investigation. Can the minister tell us what concrete action he will take to prevent the Helms bill from being passed?

[English]

Hon. Roy MacLaren (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have been vigorous in our protests about the Helms bill. They have taken a variety of forms. We followed the traditional one of protesting to the United States state department. The Prime Minister had occasion to raise the matter during heads of government meetings. For my part, I have on a number of occasions pressed the matter with the United States trade representative.

The result of our protests and those of European countries, Japan and other major trading partners of the United States has been to encourage the administration to seek a revision of the bill in such a way as to meet our trading concerns.

[Translation]

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister has been aware of the problem for several months. In spite of his often repeated assurances, nothing has changed and the situation still represents a threat to our companies.


14318

Will the minister intervene with American officials regarding the so-called black list presumably made by the U.S. Treasury and said to include the names of Canadian companies doing business in Cuba, including sugar refineries?

[English]

Hon. Roy MacLaren (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am not sure to what the hon. member refers. In the case of the so-called black list, there have been press reports of the United States treasury issuing a ``black list'', if he wishes to call it that, against four subsidiary companies in Cuba, in which a Canadian company has an equity position.

The United States treasury has not issued such a list. Therefore I must take the member's question as hypothetical.

* * *

RAILWAYS

Mr. Roger Gallaway (Sarnia-Lambton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport.

In the 1800s railroads were given the power of expropriation as they expanded across Canada. Today, as railroads abandon lines everywhere, I would like to know why the new Canadian transportation act contains a similar or parallel power of expropriation?

Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member is interested in this matter. If he takes a close look at the proposed legislation he will find, and I am sure he agrees, that it is no longer appropriate for railroads in Canada to have the direct expropriation powers they enjoyed over many years.

(1445 )

We have suggested in the new legislation that in the event where negotiations do not lead to a satisfactory settlement, railroads will no longer have the direct power of expropriation. They will only be able to move in that direction with the consent of the government and cabinet.

I agree with the hon. member that it is a situation that should only be allowed to exist in extraordinary circumstances. Certainly the new legislation will not allow railroads to become involved in any direct expropriation on their own.

* * *

LITERACY

Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the federal government's literacy program has funded a booklet entitled: ``Making Scenes Between the Lines'', scripts written by street kids for use in our students' classrooms. In it a principal says: ``F-- you. Empty your pockets'', and the student responds: ``F-- you, I will. You can take your attitude and shove it up your f--ing a-''.

Why is the government allowing the literacy program to fund $200,000 for such a project and what in the world is this supposed to accomplish in our schools?

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not avail myself of the same reading literature that the hon. member obviously does.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

An hon. member: You should read it. You might learn something.

Mr. Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre): Calm yourself.

One reason for supporting literacy programs is to bring important opportunities to large numbers of Canadians, particularly those who have not had an opportunity for education. It brings them into the system to learn the basic functions of reading and writing. We supply those grants to a wide variety of organizations, mainly the ABC Canada organization, a group of corporate sponsors which provides that kind of funding. They make the decisions based on those peer groups.

If the hon. member wants to send me a copy of the publication, I would be glad to look at it and respond. The hon. member should recognize the ultimate and important value of helping street kids to learn to read.

Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, this is going to every school in the country, not just to street kids and government money is being spent on it.

My party believes in literacy and keeping kids off our streets, but handing out scripts like this to every high school in the country is hardly the way to do it. Learning how to spell obscenities is not literacy and the real language the government talks about can be learned by reading washroom walls, not through government programs.

Can the Prime Minister assure the House and Canadian parents whose kids are going to be getting this stuff on their desks in September that it will not happen and this project will not go ahead?

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, like other members of her party, seems to forget that the decisions on these matters as to what appears in the classroom are not made by the federal government but are decisions of the local school boards. If the school boards do not want to make access of that kind of literature to their children, it is their choice.


14319

I have already indicated that if the hon. member would be good enough to send me a copy of the publication, I will take it up with the secretary of state for literacy to determine what the sponsorship is and what the use is. We would then get a response back to the hon. member.

* * *

[Translation]

NATIONAL FILM BOARD

Mrs. Christiane Gagnon (Quebec, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The many cuts imposed by the federal government on the National Film Board since 1984 have literally disrupted their services. In Quebec, seven municipal libraries are affiliated with the NFB and carry NFB films and documentaries. However, citizens who do not reside in these municipalities must pay up to $100 per year, for example in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, to avail themselves of the services of an NFB library.

Is the minister aware that the repercussion of this NFB policy is that access to the NFB collection has become considerably more restricted for residents of remote regions?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the NFB is making budgetary adjustments, there is nothing surprising about that. In addition, we are reviewing its mandate, and during this process we will study the NFB's distribution policy. Lastly, the future lies in distribution via the information highway, and, in this area, the NFB is on the cutting edge.

(1450)

Mrs. Christiane Gagnon (Quebec, BQ): Mr. Speaker, does the minister not feel that the NFB should be strongly encouraged to come up with ways of making this collection more accessible, for example through video rental stores?

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, our colleague is a little behind the times technologically. The NFB is in the process of setting up a robotics centre in Montreal which will provide a direct link between its collection and the entire country, once the centre is linked to the information highway. It will serve all parts of the country, including out of the way areas like the one mentioned by our colleague.

* * *

[English]

HEALTH CARE

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, medicare waiting lists are now so long that an American firm is selling insurance here. This is a disgrace. Health care delayed is health care denied. Can the health minister explain why medicare waiting lists are so long?

Hon. Diane Marleau (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons for waiting lists. Sometimes they are long because emergency cases go ahead of others.

One of the good things about our country and medicare is the fact that people do not need a large wallet and there is no need to spend excessive dollars on insurance administration. The dollars we spend go directly to patient care. We are going to continue to ensure that happens. That is the best way to treat the people of Canada: based on need, not based on whether they can afford to pay.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, this plan is actually called waiting list insurance. If a person has to wait more than six weeks for surgery, the company will pay to take them to the U.S. to have it done.

Instead of handing us rationing and rhetoric will the minister admit that reasonable access is a thing of the past in Canada?

Hon. Diane Marleau (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, every country has a form of rationing of medical care. I happen to like the way ours is which is based on the degree of need. In other countries it may be based on how much money the person has, where they live or whether they have insurance. When a person goes to a hospital in Canada they are treated because they are sick, not because of the kind of insurance they have.

* * *

[Translation]

INCOME SECURITY

Mr. Denis Paradis (Brome-Missisquoi, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

On Monday in Quebec, Minister Blackburn announced a thorough reform of the income security system.

Within the context of flexible federalism and consultation with the provinces, how does the Minister of Human Resources Development, who is about to table components of the federal reform plan, intend to work together with his counterparts in Quebec?

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Brome-Missisquoi for his question.

I was very interested in the proposals from the Quebec government, especially since the approach suggested by Minister Blackburn reflects the approach taken by our own government as year ago, particularly the proactive measures for steady employment and plans for decentralizing authority, for local centres and community centres.


14320

I am prepared to co-operate with Mrs. Blackburn, and I hope she will co-operate with our government, in the best interests of all Quebecers.

* * *

MINIMUM WAGE

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour.

One of the main demands made by womens' groups, especially those that organized the bread and roses march, is for governments to raise the minimum wage.

(1455)

Since the federal minimum wage has not been increased since 1986, does the minister intend to correct this situation and announce an increase this year?

Hon. Lucienne Robillard (Minister of Labour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are looking into this right now, and we intend to make a decision very shortly.

I might add that after checking with federally regulated employers, we found that most businesses operate on the basis of the minimum wage in each province. Right now, we can assume that a very small majority of workers are paid the federal minimum wage.

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this may be a good opportunity to look at federal encroachment on provincial jurisdictions in all areas connected with manpower.

Since the average provincial minimum wage is around $5.60-even if only a small majority of people are concerned, these are always too many, and we should find out how many people are earning such a low wage-would the minister agree that a federal minimum wage of $4.00 is clearly inadequate and should be increased as soon as possible?

Hon. Lucienne Robillard (Minister of Labour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the minimum wage varies widely in this country, depending on the province. It varies from $4.75 to $7.00 in certain provinces. Most employers adjust to the minimum wage in the province where they live, and meanwhile, we are looking into adjusting the federal minimum wage accordingly.

* * *

[English]

SOMALIA

Mr. Jack Frazer (Saanich-Gulf Islands, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the defence minister promised the Somalia inquiry would be free and open. He said that anyone having pertinent testimony had the responsibility to appear. However earlier this week Justice Letourneau suggested serving soldiers might need to be protected and offered that some could testify in camera.

Does the minister accept that military witnesses may need protection? Will he ensure that soldiers can testify, perhaps even against the department and their seniors without fear of reprisal?

Mr. Fred Mifflin (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that Justice Gilles Letourneau, the chairman of the commission, was quoted in press reports as stating that some soldiers may fear reprisals or being prejudiced in their military career. He did insist however that there is no evidence to that. Perhaps he was taking precautionary steps. He is considering a promise of confidentiality of information, a pledge that the inquiry will investigate any allegation of ongoing reprisals and an offer to allow vulnerable people, if it is shown that this is the case, to give testimony in private.

It would be improper for me or the minister to comment on any other aspects of the commission until the commission has finished its work.

Mr. Jack Frazer (Saanich-Gulf Islands, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, let us look at a specific example.

Justice demands that Mark Boland testify, but he has made allegations about the conduct of military police and even now is in their custody. He may have the right to appear, but I question his freedom to do so as long as his treatment and even well-being are under the control of the very people against whom he may testify.

What will the minister do to ensure that a soldier like Mark Boland can without fear of retribution testify freely before the commission?

Mr. Fred Mifflin (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I just suggested and mentioned some of the areas that were being considered by the chairman of the commission. I believe it is the commission's responsibility to decide on this aspect of witnesses and their protection if necessary. I would like to leave it at that.

* * *

DRUG ENFORCEMENT

Hon. Audrey McLaughlin (Yukon, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice.

It is clear that current drug enforcement policies need to be reviewed in this country. The B.C. coroner last week raised the issue again, as law enforcement officials and many other people have done recently, suggesting that a radically different legislative approach needs to be taken for the possession and use of hard and soft drugs.

In Canada the last comprehensive public review was in 1970 with the Le Dain commission. Has the minister's department taken any steps to initiate a comprehensive review of Canada's drug enforcement policy?


14321

(1500 )

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at the Department of Justice we are always looking for controversial new topics to undertake. Perhaps the hon. member has given us something to do for the summer.

I should say that at the moment, as the hon. member may know, the Standing Committee on Health has Bill C-7 before it, which was introduced by the government to deal with a variety of matters in relation to non-medical drugs, their use, and prosecution and enforcement of laws in relation to their illegal use.

It may be that after that bill has been dealt with the Minister of Health may wish to speak more broadly to the question of the drug enforcement strategy. I am sure she will take into account the points made by the hon. member in formulating that suggestion.

* * *

BOSNIA

Hon. Jean J. Charest (Sherbrooke, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister and it relates to the situation in Bosnia.

As the House will be rising for the summer, the Prime Minister and the government will know Canadians are extremely concerned about what is happening to our soldiers in that part of the world. Given the fact that the House is rising, I would like to ask the government whether it would make a commitment to voluntarily brief members of the House of Commons on a regular basis, in particular members of the Standing Committee on National Defence, so we can be kept abreast of what is happening in this ongoing situation.

Hon. André Ouellet (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to indicate to members of the House who are interested in the safety of our soldiers in Visoko that a liaison officer from the Bosnian government is now in the camp in Visoko to make appropriate arrangements to restore freedom of movement to the troops, including the resupply of our soldiers there.

In regard to the suggestion just made by the hon. member, indeed we have offered periodically to brief political parties, the official opposition and the Reform Party. Certainly if the caucus of the Conservative Party could get together we would be delighted to brief them.

As the member knows, we are the servant of parliamentary committees. If the chair of the standing committee wants to have briefings, I am sure the defence department or my department will respond quickly and expeditiously.

PRESENCE IN GALLERY

The Speaker: Colleagues, I would like to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Dr. Victor Quintana, member of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

* * *

[Translation]

PRIVILEGE

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, as the member for Témiscamingue, proud to live in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, and on behalf of my colleague for Abitibi and of members from all regions of Quebec and elsewhere, I draw your attention to the remarks made by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in response to a question from my colleague for Québec.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage showed a flagrant lack of respect and a disdain for the people of remote regions like mine. In his response to my colleague for Québec, he referred to new technologies, using qualifiers. He then used the expression ``reculées'' (out of the way, backward) to describe the regions, probably in reference to all sorts of things going on in his head as his department is making decisions regarding major cultural sectors in the regions-such as the National Film Board or the Festival du cinéma international.

(1505)

As the member for Témiscamingue, I cannot accept such remarks. Through you, I ask the Minister of Cultural Heritage to apologize to all of the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and everyone living in the regions, who are not necessarily the people who live in large urban centres.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

Hon. Michel Dupuy (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.):Mr. Speaker, at issue is not the respect I have as a Quebecer for all parts of Quebec, but a knowledge of how to speak the French language. I refer you to page 1632 of the Petit Robert, where ``reculé'' is defined as ``lointain, difficile d'accès, isolé'' (distant, hard to reach, isolated). I see nothing to offend people in this.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

An hon. member: This is unacceptable.

Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): I would like to go back, Mr. Speaker, to the words that the minister just said. The minister just demonstrated that he has an extremely poor image of those Quebecers who do not live in cities when he said that he finds it utterly normal, parliamentary, respectable and acceptable to say that these people live in isolated, hard to get to and distant regions. There are no distant regions in the province of Quebec. In fact, the minister was talking about people who live in vibrant and constructive communities which contribute to our society.


14322

I would like to ask this minister, who has a very good knowledge of the French language, having used it on many different levels, to, very modestly, very simply, withdraw his unfortunate comments, and then we can put this whole incident behind us.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

The Speaker: Dear colleagues, I do not believe that this is a matter of privilege. This is a debate and, in this House, we have a lot of time for debates, therefore, I will let this issue rest here. There is no matter of privilege.

Mr. Patrick Gagnon (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: Does the hon. member wish to raise another point of order?

Mr. Gagnon (Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine): Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I will not be able to intervene; you have already settled the matter. However, talking about shrinking a country's boundaries, just look at the position of the Bloc Quebecois.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Speaker: Dear colleagues, I had hoped that you had forgotten that today is ``wonderful Wednesday''. Let us move on to Routine Proceedings.

_____________________________________________

Next Section