Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill today.
Before speaking specifically about the bill, I want to give the House a brief historical overview. I have been in politics for over 20 years, particularly since my move to the Gaspé in the early 1980s. If any place in Canada has suffered as a result of federal interference in regional development, it is the Gaspé.
I remember that just before the 1995 referendum, the commissions on the future of Quebec were created. I submitted a brief to this commission, the title of which was “Federalism—The Gaspé Peninsula: The laboratory for the failure of federalism in regional development”.
In order to raise its profile, the federal government tried, over several years, a number of different types of interventions in regional development. Because it lacked the basics needed to do this, it had to regularly change its approach.
We remember the former Department of Regional Economic Expansion. Initially, agreements were reached between Quebec government and the federal government in order to decide how investments would be made. However, the thirst for power and visibility led the federal government to withdraw from this kind of agreement and ultimately turn to direct interventions.
First, it was through the Federal Office of Regional Development - Quebec, as it was called back then, which was really an extension of the Department of Industry created by the Conservative government for one main reason. In short, the structure of the Department of Industry was almost entirely controlled by the economic establishment in Ontario. Consequently, it was impossible to obtain the necessary share of investments.
At that time, rather than withdrawing from regional development and giving Quebec its rightful share, the Conservatives decided, for visibility or maybe also out of a desire for greater efficiency, to create the Office of Federal Economic Development. It is somewhat similar to performing bypass surgery after a stroke so that blood can flow. Consequently, we wanted out of the Department of Industry and for the money to reach the regions of Quebec.
This judgment on what I have been seeing for the past 20 years is not aimed at those working in the system, in the bodies providing community development assistance or in the regional offices of Canada Economic Development . We know that the latter are doing the best they can within the rules they have. Our judgment on Bill C-9 has to do with the fact that the federal government instead of withdrawing from areas over which it has no responsibility is doing the opposite. It is continuing to want to take over more and more.
The amendment to the present legislation will enable the minister responsible to become a kind of senior minister, but in a sector that is not a federal responsibility. We should be concerned today with whether there is any overall advantage to Quebec in this bill.
Last week I learned something quite significant that I wish to share with the House. The federation of Independent business surveyed its entrepreneur members and came up with statistics for Canada and for Quebec. The survey was on whether it would be better to have tax credits or federal action by Canada Economic Development.
In the case of Canada, about 50% would prefer tax credits. Still more significantly, the figure for Quebec was 60%. People in Quebec's small and medium businesses are not sovereignists particularly nor people likely to be sitting on our side of the House. They are industrialists, business people, the community, owners of small and medium businesses, and they are they ones saying, 60% of them, that they would rather have tax credits than the intervention of Canada Economic Development.
This has nothing to do with the efficiency or lack of it of individual departmental employees, who are doing the best they can under the circumstances. For a structure like this one within the Canadian system to be effective, it would have to be decided that regional economic development is a federal responsibility, and then the federal government would have to make the necessary funds available to those employees.
Small scale programs are being put forward in every region. The government is trying to make the most of these so as to have as many economic benefits as possible. However, when we look at the payroll that is actually paid out and made available to companies compared to the department's fixed operating costs, it is clear there is room for improvement and a new vision completely different from that introduced by the minister in Bill C-9, an act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.
Even more insidious is that the current act, as written and in force, states that the agency must promote economic development in the regions of Quebec where inadequate employment and slow economic growth are prevalent.
Yet this clause promoting the agency's intervention in areas having specific problems has been omitted from the new agency's object. This is absurd. We have discussed the principle that there is no need for the federal government to involve itself in this sector. However, if it does choose to do so, this clause removes the government's responsibility to intervene in those regions most needing help. This creates a messy situation.
There are now two departments involved, the Department of Industry, which has all the means available to it, and the Department of Regional Development, which has no means available and which has lost its reason for being, that it exists to help those regions most in need.
Moreover, the clause inherent in the agency's object has been removed, and the new act gives direct authority to the minister to establish as a designated area, for an indeterminate period, any region in Quebec where exceptional circumstances provide opportunities for improvements in employment.
In fact, it might be pertinent to be able to do so, but we must ensure that it is structured correctly; it is not just a question of political partisanship leading the way, which may lead to something other than desirable outcomes in terms of economic development.
This new act is a clear step backward for the regions of Quebec currently struggling with problems of economic growth or insufficient employment, because their recognition as a designated area would become conditional on the goodwill of the minister rather than being based on objective criteria as it is now.
I have an aside to make here. Recently we have been discussing RCMP staffing in the regions. There was a decision that will, today, I hope, be overturned following the presentation by the mayors to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. That decision was to withdraw personnel from all over the regions.
This kind of behaviour by the federal government, coming from within the Department of Justice, will now be justified and legitimized by the amendment to the act. It is as if there was finally some backing up. Previously, there was a commitment to intervene in the regions where the need was greatest. Now, the minister will be able to decide which regions these are, and, in the end, it will become a much more partisan decision that it was before. Therefore, this bill presents no added value.
In fact, by handing over the general guidelines for intervention to the political level, Bill C-9 hides another flaw, that of taking another step toward the achievement of the Liberal government's objective of investing as much as possible in Quebec's fields of jurisdiction, which will lead to increased confrontation with the Government of Quebec.
For a number of years, the Government of Quebec has had regional development structures in place, including the CLDs or Centres locaux de développement, which are now governed by the regional county municipalities. The current Liberal government in Quebec is a federalist government , which has to live with both structures. All over Quebec, right now, there are two structures. I do not believe this is the best way to achieve objectives.
Something much more practical and consistent with Quebec's structure could have been done by delegating the necessary resources to Quebec. It would essentially have involved coming back to something similar to what the Department of Regional Economic Expansion used to do. Expenditures to be made in Quebec were made under agreements between Quebec City and Ottawa. This ensured consistency between Quebec's policies and the federal government's involvement. That has changed.
There are currently enough areas of federal responsibility, including international trade, to move forward and have the federal government look after those areas within its jurisdiction without enacting legislation that will basically move Quebec backward instead of forward.
We know that, to justify introducing this bill, the federal government is referring to similar legislation passed previously with respect to the Maritimes and western Canada. But there is a fundamental difference where these regions are concerned. In the Maritimes and western Canada, the legislation was requested by the provinces, which did not have their own department or ministry responsible for regional development.
It is different in Quebec, where this is a major department with a past record which speaks volumes, and which is getting interesting results. The Government in Quebec has put a great deal of effort into putting in place the appropriate regional development structures. Decentralization activities have already been carried out. The current federalist Liberal government even conducted an operation to make elected representatives more accountable.
Now, a second structure would be added next to the existing one, when that is not necessarily desirable. It is not relevant to take the example of the Maritimes or western Canada to justify establishing such a department in Quebec. It is unacceptable for the federal government to try and meddle in this area of provincial responsibility.
According to Canada Economic Development officials themselves, Bill C-9 does not bring anything to the agency, from an administrative point of view or in terms of new money. Therefore, it is nothing but a new structure to promote nation building by the Liberal government which, following the 1995 referendum, decided to invest in Quebec's jurisdictions and to aggressively increase its visibility in that province by taking advantage of its huge surpluses and its spending power.
What could the Liberal government have done to meet the real needs of the regions? Instead of constantly getting involved in Quebec's jurisdictions and duplicating services in a totally unproductive fashion, the federal government should—but currently refuses to do so—withdraw from regional development. However, if it absolutely wants to continue to get involved, it should at least make sure that it will improve the services that come under its own responsibilities.
The first thing that it should do is to adjust federal programs to the regions' realities. The number of battles that must be fought to ensure that federal programs finally become flexible enough to apply to Quebec is simply unbelievable. Moreover, this necessitates energy that should not have to be expended like this.
The best example in this regard is the mad cow issue. If the necessary flexibility had been there, things could have been different a long time ago for Quebec, even by merely recognizing that, in our province, we had a traceability system that should have exempted us from the ban that resulted from the discovery of the mad cow disease. Indeed, in Quebec we were already able to identify sick animals and to determine their origin. Therefore, the impact of the problem could have been confined and we could have avoided turning this into a world issue that adversely affected all producers in Quebec and Canada.
The federal government administration should also be less concentrated. The staff reductions of recent years were made in the regions, in the areas where the links were the weakest. This way the powers and the personnel that is left is now concentrated in Ottawa. The result of this is that the government's vision of what regional development should be is somewhat disconnected from the reality. Also, when the government began to enjoy surpluses, it created a number of jobs, but it is Ottawa that benefited.
We would like for the programs—if they are maintained—to be more regionally based and for there to be truer decentralization of powers in order to ensure that decisions apply to each of our regions of the country.
The federal government must also bring capital spending back to an acceptable level and substantially increase the regional development budget of Quebec, which is three times lower than in the Maritimes. Accordingly, the money available could be paid to Quebec and the amounts paid have to be much higher.
Our fellow citizens have noticed that the federal government has a $9 billion surplus. Meanwhile, they also notice that it is very difficult to get the money necessary to stimulate research and development in our regions and to ensure that our small businesses have access to programs to help them be competitive in the new global reality.
Accelerating and simplifying operational modes is needed to make companies competitive and to have products in the appropriate niche markets so that we can assume our responsibilities and maintain and develop employment rather than have a defensive policy like the one we have now. People in the textile sector are being told, “We will give just $25 million, nothing more. Deal with the influx of products from China, India and Pakistan and fend for yourself because we cannot help you any more than we already are right now”.
When people hear that, and then on the other hand, see the Minister of Finance announce a $9 billion surplus, they think that it is basically as if someone had decided to pay off their mortgage in five years and starve their family just to pay it off as soon as possible. Here too there are signs that the federal government has not assumed its responsibilities with regard to regional development.
The fact that there has been no indepth reform of the employment insurance plan is the most obvious sign of its lack of sensitivity. The Bloc Québécois arrived here in 1993. At that time the Liberals promised a real reform of the employment insurance plan. Mr. Chrétien made that promise during the Liberal leadership campaign when he said that there would be positive reforms for the unemployed. There is even a letter confirming it. As soon as he came to power, he did just the opposite: he tightened the screws, restricted eligibility and deprived the regions of a regional development tool, a tool to stabilize economic activities that is no longer there.
Without having compensation programs to jump start the regional economy, at the same time they closed down a source of reinvestment in the region that was very helpful and made it possible to maintain the social covenant between the resource regions of Quebec and Canada and central Canada. In the past, industrialization occurred mostly in urban centres, and resource regions had employment insurance to compensate for the fact that they lived off seasonal employment.
The federal government's lack of sensitivity in this respect cost it dearly during the past four elections and yet it still has not heard the message that it should carry out a real reform of the employment insurance plan. It is easy to understand why people are concerned when they are told that a new agency will be created under the authority of the Minister for Regional Development, who will no longer necessarily have to reinvest in the regions that need it the most but will be able to choose the regions that he will develop. That way the agency will reach conclusions that will not be in the best interest of Quebec's economic development.
When this bill is referred to committee, if it is passed by the majority in this House, it will have to be changed entirely to at least ensure that the current situations do not deteriorate. We must bring back the fact that the vocation may be limited and ensure that it will apply to Quebec regions that need particular assistance, as was provided in the current act. We must ensure that there is no partisanship, in order to promote the development of economic activities in our regions.
We are now living an economic reality that is totally different from what it was 10 years ago. The whole manufacturing sector is facing an extraordinary challenge. We see this particularly in my region, for example, Montmagny, where we have experienced major closures. Currently, many businesses have difficulty remaining competitive with other countries of the world. It looks like the federal government does not adapt quickly enough to these new realities. It is always behind.
The bill before us will not ensure that the government's action will allow businesses to continue to compete, to move forward and to maintain their jobs. It is important that parliamentarians in this House are aware that we must decide whether or not the federal government is to continue to intervene in the way that it has in the past, with the results that we know. The auditor general herself raised major issues on the effectiveness of the current department.
The fact that the government brings us today this type of bill does not appear to me as the best way to intervene in order to help regional economic development in Quebec. This is why the Bloc Québécois, at this stage, will vote against the bill. Indeed, it goes entirely against Quebec's development objectives. It is not the proper tool to promote harmonious development in Quebec or to face new world competition.
Mr. Speaker, although the NDP supports Bill C-9 in principle, there is a missed opportunity with the bill. I believe my colleague from the Bloc spoke very eloquently around some of the challenges the bill does not address.
We need very strong policies that support regional development and we need a federal government that sets a framework to allow communities to determine their destiny. One thing we know about effective community economic development is that it builds long term community capacity and fosters the integration of not only economic but social and environmental activities.
The intention of community economic development is individual and community self-reliance through collaborative action, capacity building and returning control of business enterprises, capital, labour and other resources to communities. This fact often gets lost in the discussion of economic development. We will notice that many references to economic development omit communities. The social and environmental activity is so critical and it should be included in that discussion.
There are some basic tools around community economic development that the bill does not address, and the discussion is not taking place in the larger capacity. Community economic development talks about capacity building and making more with less in communities. It talks about making money circulate within communities before it leaves communities. It talks about import replacement, which means making things within our communities instead of bringing them in from outside. It talks about making brand new products within our communities.
We need targeted long term policies that promote and support domestic economies. We need to talk about financing. We need meaningful funds for job creation so when we are hit with things like softwood lumber, we can look to community economic development within our communities. We need effective community development corporations so decisions are made in the communities which will bring about that kind of job creation that we know is so critical. We need to support downtown development authorities. We need loan funds for a full range of entrepreneurs.
We also need to effectively promote buy local strategies, which includes government procurement. Therefore, when we have federal government agencies in local communities, they need to have a development strategy on buying local. We need tax incentives that support buying local. We need meaningful skills and business training that supports community economic development. The bill does not address any of that. I would hope at the committee level we have that kind of discussion on building our local economy.
Part of this discussion should be about environmental responsibilities in terms of green businesses. This can include tax incentives, government retrofit, attraction and retention of business strategies and energy conservation. We also need targeted subsidies and funding so we can get what we measure, and that is supporting local business.
Research and development funds are not easily accessible for local communities either. We need community supported agriculture. My community in Nanaimo--Cowichan is a good example. We need to talk about local strategies that not only support agri-business and agri-tourism, but support buying local as well. We need to reclaim our communities and grow them without sacrificing liveability.
Community economic development also needs to include a small business policy. I will talk about British Columbia for a moment. In British Columbia nearly half of all jobs in 2003 were generated by small business. Yet we do not have an effective strategy in community economic development that looks at growing small business.
It is a myth about foreign trade. Currently only 20% of our GDP is foreign trade. Yet we have this focus on foreign trade that ignores 80% of our GDP. In 2002 Statistics Canada said that 80% of Canadian exports were accounted for by 4% of Canadian companies. Where is the support for our small local businesses when those kinds of statistics do not bear the kind of subsidies that are out there? We need an industrial policy that adequately addresses the needs of small business, which not only talks about small business retention, but includes small business expansion and development of new small businesses.
Another thing that is not adequately addressed in our economic development policy are the issues around rural communities. The definition of a rural community is community of less than 50,000 people. Many of our small rural communities have populations of 1,000, 5,000 to 10,000. Policies that cover rural communities of 50,000 do not address the needs of small communities of 1,000.
This is where community economic development is even more critical so people have a choice about remaining within their communities rather than having to move to big urban centres. Studies have indicated that rural communities are critical for the survival of the larger urban centres.
In conclusion, although we support the bill in principle, I would urge the committee to have the comprehensive discussion that is required around meaningful community economic development which will allow our small communities to remain viable and liveable.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to explain why we are opposing Bill C-9, an act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. I will also speak to the reality of socio-economic development in the regions of Quebec.
Why are we opposing Bill C-9? This bill establishes a department for regional development. For Quebeckers, this is a new form of duplication and federal infringement which does not meet the needs of local communities. As a matter of fact, the government's bill would place the development of the regions of Quebec under the discretion of the federal minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.
This bill clearly identifies all the regions of Quebec as areas in which the federal government is responsible for development. Yet, Quebec already has a regional development department responsible for planning, organizing and coordinating development activities through CREs, the Conseils régionaux des élus, which replaced CRDs, CLDs, CFDCs and many other local programs and agencies. RCMs are also playing an increasingly important role in terms of local and community economic development. Therefore, we have a number of players. We have a large development structure which meets the needs of our communities. Why fix what is not broken?
Under the Constitution, Quebec is responsible for most areas pertaining to the development of regions. The fact that there are three levels of government with different development goals has made it difficult, in recent years, to have a common vision for regional development and consistent local development practices. As you know, these three levels are the federal, the provincial and the municipal governments.
Many years have passed—I, for one, have been involved in local development for several years—and many consultation meetings were held before all the stakeholders and agencies in one region could know and understand each other and their respective goals, whether at the federal, provincial or even municipal level.
The decentralization of powers to citizens, a new local development strategy implemented about 20 years ago, has been very successful. Over time, every organization faced with the same socio-economic issues in our areas have managed to develop a shared vision for action in their communities. It was not easy at first. We had the CFDCs, which had their own local development policies and practices and which were under federal direction. We had the LDBs which were under provincial direction. Finally, the RCMs arrived, with their direction often coming from municipal institutions. There were months of consensus building before all these people built a shared vision for the development of their territories.
It has now been realized. The tools are there. What we now lack is money to support the various local community initiatives. Bill C-9 is disrupting this cohesion, this consensus built along the way among stakeholders and organizations. This bill introduces new rules that are not wanted in Quebec.
What we want is for the federal government to respect Quebec's jurisdiction and expertise and to adapt its federal programs to the reality of the regions. The federal government should adapt its policies to the reality of Quebec regions, and not the other way around, as is currently the case.
Allow me to give a few examples. Federal programs are often aimed at large cities, and thus exclude regional participation. The strategic infrastructure fund is a good example since its objective is to fund projects of such magnitude that small rural municipalities are excluded.
In this regard, the Quebec government adopted in December 2001 a national rural policy to support the development of the Quebec rural communities.
Instead of creating yet another new institution, the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, and investing in new institutions, should the federal government not simply transfer money to Quebec, and invest for example in these rural development funds that support initiatives called rural pacts? These projects lack funds. The federal government could simply transfer money to these institutions because they do have a lot of projects. The socio-economic development structures already exist. The addition of new structures is not a solution.
Moreover, if the federal government wants to support regional development, often referred to as local development, it could start by supporting the introduction of a new infrastructure program for municipalities and providing them with better financial support. Our small rural municipalities are having a very hard time renovating their water and sewage systems and their infrastructure. We really need a good infrastructure policy. This would help to promote regional and municipal development.
Furthermore, it could also overhaul employment insurance, because the regions have paid heavily as a result of decisions made by the Liberal government. This government's EI policies have excluded a significant portion of rural populations and led to an exodus of young people to major urban centres as a result of cuts to EI and the inaction of the federal government with regard to its EI policies.
A good EI policy, adapted to seasonal workers, could be part of a federal intervention and would doubtless be more successful than Bill C-9, which simply duplicates Quebec's regional policy.
Cuts to EI have swelled the exodus of young people, as I mentioned, in addition to causing recruitment problems for companies providing seasonal employment. As for these EI cuts, when people ended up with 15 weeks of EI benefits in one summer or one winter, they had to go on welfare. Instead of turning to welfare, some people are moving to the major urban centres, which creates a void in rural areas. This contradicts a regional development policy. I suggest that the federal government begin addressing these issues before developing a so-called regional development policy.
Since Ottawa is suddenly interested in the fate of the regions, it needs to know that EI reform is a concrete way to help them climb out of the poverty into which it plunged them.
As for the $428 million allocated to the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, that money should be transferred to Quebec, because the Quebec government already has a regional development policy. The creation of a federal department would only perpetuate this duplication. The regions need assistance, not quarrels between Quebec and Canada.
In short, this new legislation is a clear step backward for the regions of Quebec dealing with troubled economic growth, declining population and devitalization. This bill, which does not include any new funding, is therefore just one more exercise in nation building by a federal government that, after the 1995 referendum, decided to invest in areas under Quebec jurisdiction and raise its profile in Quebec by using its massive surpluses and its spending power to do so.
The Liberal government must resolve the fiscal imbalance if it truly wants to meet the real needs of the regions of Quebec.
Mr. Speaker, I also thank my Conservative colleague for having drawn the attention of the House to the insufficient number of Liberal members at this moment. We will be able to continue with Bill C-9.
As I was saying before the interruption, only Quebec can create this integrated government structure that is referred to in the bill on regional development.
You see what the scenario is now. Two half governments are involved here. Neither Quebec nor Ottawa have the resources to ensure regional development now. So we have two half governments that are involved in half development programs and only achieving--we have to be honest here--half results. This does not work very well at the regional level.
The way this bill is worded, this would involve two government levels and it would once again infringe upon Quebec's jurisdiction. But above all, in the regions of Quebec, one level of government would have the effect of cancelling out what the other government is doing. The forces would cancel each other out instead of complementing each other
I come from the national capital area. I am talking about Quebec City's, of course. Believe it or not, in that area, which is not that far from major centres—it is a major urban centre—we have the same distressing problem as in remote areas. Even though there is a minister supposedly responsible for the Quebec City area, federal money does not even reach it.
Imagine people in the Gaspé or the Laurentians, such as my colleagues here,or in other Quebec regions. Federal money does not come back. When it does, it is always with strings attached and all kind of conditions to make sure the regions are dependant on the federal government. Bill C-9 would continue in the same vein, namely exploit the weakness and vulnerability of the regions.
If Ottawa finally decides to show interest in Quebec's regions, it should start by looking after its own responsibilities. That is were it should start. We in the Bloc believe that instead of introducing a new bill, the federal government should do a number of very basic things.
First, it should respect Quebec's jurisdictions. The government seems to have trouble understanding that, but it might do so by starting by respecting local consultation bodies. We are well equipped in this regard in Quebec. They already exist. Why not give them better tools and make sure Canada Economic Development works properly? There is already an agency that should do that. It does not take one more limo. It is not needed in Quebec.
First, federal programs should be tailored to the needs of the regions. My colleagues mentioned earlier the need to re-establish funding for new infrastructure programs. There is also federal capital spending. That would be a good start, a good indication of the government's good faith.
It should not forget either to support employment insurance reform. When we talk about a reform we are not talking only about lowering or raising EI contributions. We are talking about reform. The regions are particularity hard hit by unemployment, which is very high.
Some realities are not the same from one region to the next, but all the regions of Quebec suffer the same great pain. In the Gaspé, seasonal workers are penalized by employment insurance rules. In other regions the problems are different. Life is not the same in Montreal as in Vancouver or Toronto.
The small regions need support. That support does not come from creating a department, on the contrary, it will come from taking the current structures and freeing up the money that is not getting through to Quebec's regions.
Moreover, the last thing we need is more fighting between Quebec City and Ottawa over structural issues, including a new department that would only increase bureaucracy. In the Bloc Québécois we are very sensitive to the reality of the regions. We listen to the dialogue; we listen to the people telling us that things are not going well.
It is not enough to wave a magic wand, to appear and say here is a bill and—abracadabra—a new department comes in to save the regions from the poor conditions in which they have been imprisoned. They have not been imprisoning themselves in these conditions.
They are going through terrible situations in terms of employment, resources and access. There are as we speak some regions of Quebec that do not even have high speed Internet access. Since telecommunications are in the federal domain, why is it that in 2004 there are regions of Quebec that are not yet connected?
We need some practical action much more than a bill to create a department. It does not take a rocket scientist to think of that. It is just a matter of finding the resources that already exist.
It must be understood that creating a new department will increase the weight of the bureaucracy. Moreover, there will be risks of duplication. It is true that the bill is based on similar initiatives in Canada's western provinces. Western Economic Diversification, or WD, operates quite successfully in the west. I have lived in Manitoba, and I am proud to say so, and I have seen it operating well.
At this time, however, we see that the provincial agencies have had their own legislation since 1988. They are well governed provincially.
The federal government must be reminded of its obligation to respect Quebec's jurisdiction, since Quebec must become and remain the architect of regional development.
Mr. Speaker, my riding, La Pointe-de-l'Île, has a nice name. This riding is on the most easterly point of the Island of Montreal—yes, it is an island—along the river. You should come and see it. It is quite beautiful and the people there are very proud of this new name because it sets them apart.
The riding has a chamber of commerce and the La Pointe-de-l'Île school board. The name is a contraction of Longue-Pointe, describing the geography of this part of the riding, and the tip of the island, which makes La Pointe-de-l'Île.
I have no choice but to rise to speak to Bill C-9, which sets out to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and to establish a department to run that agency.
For many years—I am from the greater Montreal area—politically speaking, I have taken an interest in what has been happening in this sad saga in the relationship between the federal government and Quebec—Quebec is named specifically in this bill—in terms of this issue of regional development.
I must confess I miss the days of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. During that time an agreement was negotiated whereby Quebec got money from the federal government and it was Quebec that decided how to use it.
A lot has changed since then. My colleagues have said so and I will say it in another way. Not only is an agency being established supposedly for the economic development of Canada for the regions of Quebec, but the mandate specifically states that the minister must work on developing an integrated policy.
There is something absolutely absurd in saying that the regional development of Canada for Quebec has to be diversified or should be diversified within an integrated policy of Canada. Only Quebec can integrate diversification of its various regions. Why the determination to prevent Quebec from developing itself and to deny it the means to do so, all the while boasting about the merits of federalism? Indeed, my Quebec colleagues are truly very patient.
Around the time when I was elected to this place and appointed critic for human resources development, the Federal Office of Regional Development (Quebec), or FORD-Q, set up by the Conservatives was replaced by a new department called Canada Economic Development. The hon. members heard right; only in government appropriations did the word “Quebec” appear.
On the department's letterhead and in all our contacts with the department's head—I think that a secretary of state was in charge of CED at the time—“for Quebec Regions” was in brackets. It was established around the time we came to this House in 1993, before the near victory in the 1995 referendum.
That is pretty incredible: to name a department responsible for regional development Canada Economic Development. Over the years, it became necessary to add a reference to Quebec in the department's name and, as a result, the letterhead will once again have to be changed, like a whole lot of other things. I wonder how much it costs each time. The new name will be Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. I am sure that, if etymologists or literature experts were asked to study the meaning of this expression, they would find it twisted, to say the least.
This goes to show that the federal government is unable to recognize that, without the fiscal imbalance, Quebec would have sufficient resources. Quebec is not only perfectly able to develop its own economy, but it is also in an infinitely better position to do so with no one else to interfere. We have to realize that, with the mandate given to the minister under the bill, this agency will take the definition of two development strategies even further.
I have heard members opposite say that they have worked with local communities. The local communities need money. That is why they have to work with the federal representative. Are the projects suited to their region, as compared to Quebec as a whole, though? No one can tell us.
One thing is for certain: there are two infrastructures, two administrations, two groups of people working separately on Quebec's regional development, one trying to integrate its work with what is being done within Quebec and the other trying to integrate it with what is going on across Canada. No enterprise can succeed with two different development strategies.
This reminds me a bit of what is being done in terms of international development. Countries all want visibility in that area, some more than others. Canada is particularly hungry for visibility. It wants its image, its logo, its flag on a huge number of projects that will never lead to development regardless of the money invested in them. That is not how development was brought about in the areas where it was successfully carried out. God knows development is needed in the regions.
Unfortunately, regions also fall victim to the government's hunger for visibility. Of course, with Quebec taking its future into its own hands, our colleagues opposite felt the urge to show how essential they are and to increase their visibility, by brandishing their little flags at every opportunity they have.
It is indeed unfortunate because the young people who are leaving the regions as well as those who remain in the regions where fewer services are provided both need development. What they do not need is quarrels and duplication in development strategies which can only ensure one thing: no regional development whatsoever.