Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your re-election the fourth time around. I would also like to thank all my constituents in for their continued trust and confidence in re-electing me with an even greater margin. I promise them that I will continue the representation that puts our community first.
I rise to address the House regarding last week's underwhelming Speech from the Throne. Everyone in the House, and indeed the millions of Canadians we represent are aware that times are tough. On the doorsteps and on the streets in my riding of , there is a deep sense of concern about our economy that I have never seen before. There is a great unease about the future of people's jobs, people's savings and the ability to pay for post-secondary education for their children, or to build a comfortable nest egg for their retirement.
In this period of such global instability, Canadians want to know that they have a government that prepares for a rainy day. They want to know that they can count on the federal government to guide them through the tough times.
Unfortunately, with the performance that we have seen by the over the past few years, we now find our nation in a bigger hole than need have been. This situation is a direct result of the government's short-sighted fiscal policies.
The Conservative government inherited a $13 billion surplus from the previous Liberal administration. In three shorts years it increased federal spending by a shocking 25%, over $40 billion per year, making it the highest spending government in Canadian history. It eliminated the $3 billion contingency reserve that the Liberal government had put in place for an economic downturn such as the current one. It got rid of $12 billion in revenue by cutting the wrong tax, a move which every economist in the country, except the , warned against doing. This last point is something I would like to emphasize, because this is money that could have helped Canadians in need. It is money that could have created jobs. It is money that could have been invested in the struggling B.C. forestry industry or other sectors. It is money that could have been used to address seniors' pensions.
Now, in spite of promises on the campaign trail not to go into deficit, that is precisely what the government is planning on doing.
The simple question of this whole throne speech is the following: if responsible Canadians do not have the luxury of spending more than they are taking in, why should the government be exercising this kind of irresponsible course of action?
The throne speech stated that the government “will review all program spending carefully to make sure that spending is as effective as possible and aligned with Canadians' priorities”.
Belt tightening is an easy thing to talk about now, but where was the government over the past couple of years when every fiscal expert in the country warned against its carefree spending? The answer to this is that the Conservatives just did not listen.
How can the government justify a deficit in the coming year when it is also raising spending by $10 billion?
What is worse is that as recently as this past Monday, the told Canadians that this week's financial update would “not include any major moves meant to stimulate the economy”, which makes me ask, what is it going to take for the Conservatives to wake up to the reality that surrounds them?
As mentioned last week, the Liberals will not bring down the government on the Speech from the Throne, not only because it would be irresponsible but also because the throne speech lacks any kind of detailed plan for action, making it as empty as the broken promises the Conservative government has made for the past three years.
Canadians want an idea of what the government is going to do for the economy. What they do not want are big promises about a tough economic situation that has largely been caused by bad government decisions.
Before I conclude, I want to point out one glaring omission within the Speech from the Throne. There is little mention of our senior citizens, many of whom are going to be hit the hardest by this financial crunch. Over a third of the nation’s elderly live in poverty on basic old age pensions and public supplements. There are a number of steps that the government could take immediately to ease the economic anxiety for seniors, including giving them more flexibility when they need to convert RRSPs into RRIFs.
It is shocking that seniors are being left to go it alone because of a government that is so desperately trying to cover up its past mistakes. My neighbours, my constituents in , and I will be watching with great interest the ’s fiscal update, which he has already warned would not have an additional fiscal stimulus package.
If the government is unprepared to act and is going to wait months to offer a tangible plan to deal with our current economic crisis, then it is going to face the judgment of the voters. Canadians are demanding action, something that last week’s throne speech unfortunately failed to offer.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the constituents of Yukon for again putting their faith in me and electing me to this Parliament for the fourth time. It is a great honour and I am very humbled by it.
However, at the doorsteps of this election campaign, for the first time in any in which I have run, there was a new ribbon running through the comments I was getting and that was one of great concern. People were very worried about their future, their homes and their pensions, to the extent that some people were actually very scared about what might come and the uncertainty.
Then, in this crisis that is facing Canada, we have a throne speech that basically has no prescriptions to deal with it. In fact, I would ask Canadians listening out there, who I know told their politicians and canvassers throughout the campaign that they were worried and scared, if any of them feel any comfort after reading that throne speech? I would be happy to hear from any Canadian who felt comfort after reading the throne speech, Canadians who saw their RRSPs fading away, who get their monthly pension statements, people who are so vulnerable because their working lives are finished. They cannot increase their savings, and as their pensions fade away, there is no hope except here in this House and what we could do for them.
They are worried about their homes with a possible recession. They are worried about unemployment, whether they can keep their mortgages, and whether they will be able to support their families. I would ask anyone to sincerely tell me what was in that throne speech that would give comfort to those people.
I predict the new spirit of conciliation will last about two weeks in this Parliament, for one reason because we may be acting honourably but we certainly should not give up our principles to fight when the needy are detracted from or not supported, or there is an inappropriate justice strategy. However, in the spirit of conciliation, I would like to speak about some things in the throne speech that I appreciate and support.
One of the items was the democracy promotion agency. I am not sure where that came from. It seems an antithesis of a government that had apparently decreased efforts in that area, certainly decreased our foreign presence, but all of a sudden we have this idea, which if it is what I believe it is, I am very supportive of and have wanted for a long time, which is that Canada has the expertise to intervene in world affairs, to develop democracy around the world, of course with our aid and military where necessary but also with our democratic skills.
We among all nations have such strong diasporas from around the world, and have the abilities and understanding to know that it is not necessarily our way or the highway. We have a great understanding of what can work around the world, what people might want, and how we could help promote democracy in unstable situations. If that were to come to fruition, I would certainly highly commend the government on that initiative.
I am also in support of increasing the incentives for energy-saving home retrofits. This is a program that was brought in by the Liberals. When the Conservatives came in, they cut it drastically, reduced it, and made it much harder to apply for. Now they seem to have reversed that and once again are increasing our excellent program. I am very happy for that.
Another one of our programs where there was much uncertainty was the homelessness partnering program. We started that a number of years ago and that was very successful in my riding. There was a huge uptake and very apropos to the needy. It was very successful. In the last Parliament, I and others lobbied that this had to continue because the funding was very close to expiring. Fortunately, the government has listened and has continued that program.
I was also happy to see the mention of a northern economic development agency. Members can rest assured that we will be in the north, watching very carefully to ensure that that promise is maintained and fulfilled, unlike a number of promises that have been broken by the Conservatives.
The 's promise of three icebreakers was broken and reduced to one. The ice strength and supply ships are gone. The planes promised for the north have been cancelled.
I am happy to see the government has listened to all the other parties that wanted a cap and trade system. Once again, we will be watching for the implementation of that.
I am also happy to see the cutting of red tape for NGOs. I have had a number of complaints from NGOs that the government in power has made it increasingly difficult for them to get their funding through huge bureaucratic processes. We have to remember that a lot of these NGOs primarily employ maybe one or two people. They are mostly run by volunteers. They have huge complicated tasks of helping people and have sufficient problems in just existing. It does not do any of us any good for their time to be spent on unnecessarily bureaucratic application processes and reports. I am glad the government will move to deal with that problem, part of which it has created.
Another area I am very happy to see is the area for which the member for , I and others have lobbied for a number of years, and that is increased provisions for the competition agency so it can be more effective in ensuring consumers of Canada get better treatment.
I was not happy with a number of things. The Conservatives did not bring back a petroleum monitoring agency. Canadians are very concerned about gas prices and home heating fuel, especially in the north. We had initiated an office to watch and control this very carefully so consumers could have information on what was happening and companies could be watched. The government closed that office and it did not bring it back in the throne speech.
A number of things related to the north, which had been talked about in previous times, all of a sudden seem to have vanished. Because of lack of details, a problematic mention of a regulation change was the only real reference to the north. I hope there is still a commitment to Arctic science, especially after we made the huge commitment, one of the best ones in the world, to the International Polar Year. I hope the government will follow up and continue the suggestion of a continuing Arctic science.
I was very disappointed not to see any mention related to potential credit card increases in these desperate times. Apparently all the retail associations in Canada are up in arms that the merchants may be charged higher rates and individuals, if they miss a payment, may be charged higher rates, as if credit card rates are not high enough. Why would the government not take a strong stand against this in such a time of economic crisis?
I also hope the government will rescind its notice of a couple of years ago that allows certain dumping in the Arctic. I have a private member's bill to stop that if the government does not.
I was also disappointed not to see anything specific about a search and rescue plane fleet. I hope it was in the military announcement. It has to be renewed to protect Canadians. I have been lobbying for a number of years to put some planes north of 60 for the first time.
There were seven items in the throne speech where it talked about the provinces and the federal government, but it did not say territories, which included work on the economy, common securities regulator, foreign credentials and international standards, education, international trade barriers, cap and trade and opting out of federal programs. Certainly northerners, like anyone else, want to be involved in those discussions. I was very perturbed to see those omissions in the throne speech.
Finally, we have come through a time when we had a rising tide and our efforts were to ensure that the rising tide affected all ships. Even the poor were included. Now we have changed the whole scenario and we have a tide going down. When the tide is going down, who is going to be the first to hit the bottom, to have the danger of crashing on the bottom? It is those least able to afford it.
When the tide was flush, the government cut the most vulnerable, the aboriginal people, people who could not defend their rights, women and literacy. What is going to happen when there are fewer resources? The tide is going down and those people are going to crash first. All Canadians should be very concerned about that.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
First, as this is my first opportunity to speak in the House since the last election, I would like to thank the constituents of for returning me with a renewed vote of confidence as their member of Parliament. It is truly my privilege and honour to serve them for a third time and I will work hard to keep their trust, in this Parliament.
The Speech from the Throne sets out the government's objectives for this Parliament, with the primary emphasis on the global financial situation. Without a doubt, the developed world's economy has to be the primary focus of Parliament and our government at this time.
Canadians elected us because we tackled the problems facing families and businesses in these times of economic uncertainty. The Speech from the Throne describes the crucial measures we are taking to keep our economy moving and to support the hopes and dreams of our families and communities.
The Speech from the Throne laid out five key elements of our government's approach to addressing the global financial situation: to ensure sound budgeting by further scrutinizing spending; secure jobs for our communities by encouraging skilled trades and support workers facing transition; reform the global financial system in co-operation with our allies and trading partners; make government more effective by reducing red tape, simplifying the procurement process and improving the management of federal institutions; and expand investment and trade by seeking out new foreign trade agreements and removing barriers to internal trade investment and labour mobility.
While I do not have the time to address all five of these in detail, I want to elaborate on a few of them and highlight what the government has already done to protect the financial security of Canadians.
To start, it is important to note that Canada leads the G8 in economic performance. The reason Canada is leading the G8 is because of our government's commitment to lower taxes, a balanced budget and our aggressive paydown of the national debt. We have paid down $37 billion of the national debt in just the last two years. While other nations have been engaged in deficit spending, Canada has been spending within its means and delivering nearly $200 billion in tax relief to Canadians, including nearly a 30% cut in the GST. This prudent approach to our nation's finances has allowed all Canadians to benefit, even during these uncertain economic times. Not only are taxes lower, but unemployment is at historic lows, as are interest rates, and inflation is under control.
Canada remains a great place in the world to invest.
It is clear that some sectors of the economy are facing real challenges right now. The automobile, forestry and aerospace industries have been particularly hard hit. Our government recognizes that and is making strategic investments in these industries to help them adapt to future needs.
My province of British Columbia hosts a huge forestry sector. As the B.C. MP, I have been very pleased by the actions our government has taken to support the industry in the last few years.
Since coming to office, our government reached an agreement with the United States over the softwood lumber trade. That ensured B.C. foresters and lumber mill workers stable, predictable access to the U.S. market for at least seven years.
In response to the pine beetle epidemic ravaging the forests of B.C.'s interior, our government delivered $200 million in aid to support workers in communities in transition in B.C.'s interior. We have also delivered assistance and support to workers transitioning to the skilled trades. Already our government has invested $100 million a year in apprenticeship incentive grants to encourage more young Canadians to pursue skilled trades careers.
As well, we have provided a total of $200 million a year in tax credits, that is up to $2,000 per placement, to encourage employers to hire apprentices.
We have also committed $3 billion over six years for new labour market agreements with the provinces to assist those who do not currently qualify for training under the employment insurance program.
We must help workers get the training they need to build the new economy and ensure the prosperity of all Canadians. Our government saw what British Columbia needed, and it took and is taking measures to meet those needs. For example, in the throne speech, the government focused on the importance of enhancing trade opportunities.
Whether it is the just concluded free trade agreement with Colombia or the negotiations toward a free trade agreement with Europe or Korea, the government is determined to ensure that Canadian companies have access to markets right around the world.
Again, as a British Columbia MP, I am pleased because Canada's increased focus on markets in Asia, including Korea, China and India, is of particular benefit to my province. West coast ports will benefit from the increased trade with Asian and Pacific Rim nations. Our government has recognized the potential created by increased trade across the Pacific and has invested over $1 billion in the Asia Pacific Gateway initiative to grow and modernize our west coast ports. It has been estimated that the expansion of our west coast ports will lead to nearly 50,000 new jobs within a decade.
Of course, our government is investing in more than just port infrastructure. Our Building Canada fund will invest $33 billion in new infrastructure, such as highways, bridges and public transit, over the next seven years. This new infrastructure is critically needed in the rapidly expanding communities of the lower Fraser Valley, including the communities of my riding. The fact is that traffic congestion and resulting pollution has become a major problem in the Lower Mainland.
Outdated infrastructure is leading to gridlock and even increased traffic accidents and deaths. Until now, our transportation infrastructure has not kept up with the incredible growth our region is experiencing. The Building Canada fund will help to reduce congestion, increase safety and, ultimately, protect our environment.
British Columbians are also concerned about crime.
Property crime rates in our communities are among the highest in the country, and, like other Canadian communities, B.C. communities find the increase in violent youth crime particularly worrisome.
As we stated in the throne speech, Canadians have to feel safe at home and in their communities, which means that we have to crack down on violent crime, including gun crime.
Our government continues to take action focused on eliminating the smuggling of guns by increasing penalties for gun crimes. Our focus will be on the criminal misuse of firearms, not on criminalizing the millions of law-abiding Canadians who own firearms.
Our reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act will ensure that sentences better reflect the seriousness of the crime.
As co-chairman of our party's task force on safer streets and healthy communities some years past, I could not help but be struck by the universal comment from Canadians that the existing youth criminal justice legislation does not provide a sufficient deterrent to those youth who would consider serious violent offences.
The most common comment I heard was that our youth know they will get nothing more than a slap on the wrist. For some young people, the current Youth Criminal Justice Act does achieve its desired objectives. Some first-time minor offenders receive the stern and serious rebuke of the law, learn from it and do not go on to a life of crime. However, for other young offenders, the current lenient sentences for serious violent and repeat offences do not keep these young people from an adult criminal career.
We cannot simply stand, mouths agape, before this tragedy. We have to intervene to prevent potential repeat offenders from embarking on a life of crime.
We have to protect society from violent crimes and property crimes committed by young offenders.
We will continue to make the safety and security of Canadians our highest priority. We will continue to move forward with our tackling crime agenda.
As members know, British Columbians are always on the cutting edge when it comes to democratic reform. In modern times, we have often been the first province in our Confederation to consider reforms such as citizens' assemblies, recall, fixed election dates and the election of senators.
In the throne speech, our government has committed to pursuing the popular selection of senators and limiting the length of term of senators to eight years. We are proposing to reform this ineffective and unaccountable 19th century institution and make it more accountable and more effective as we move rapidly into the 21st century.
Our government has also committed to act to ensure the principle of representation by population in our lower House, the House of Commons.
British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, the three provinces with the fastest growth in recent years, will gain seats in this House to properly reflect their populations.
For far too long, some regions of the country have been under-represented in Parliament. The Lower Mainland, part of which I represent, is one of those regions. I would really like it to have more representation in this House.
I am confident that all members will want to support the legislation our government brings forward to ensure greater fairness in the seat distribution and uphold the principle of representation by population.
Speaking of fairness among the provinces there is another issue that our government will be addressing in this Parliament, as mentioned in the throne speech. We are committed to working with the provinces to further remove remaining barriers to interprovincial trade, investment and labour mobility. Working cooperatively with the premiers, we were able to make progress on the enforcement of the agreement on internal trade.
The agreement will be amended by this coming January to reach the goal of full labour mobility for all Canadians. This will result in the mutual recognition of occupational credentials between all the provinces and territories. Of course, when we speak of credentials, our government must also continue with its important initiative to recognize foreign credentials.
Our economy depends on having the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. We recognize that more needs to be done to ensure that immigrants are able to use all the skills and knowledge they have acquired.
We launched the foreign credentials referral office in May 2007 in co-operation with the provinces and territories. The office helps those trained overseas who want to work in Canada to have their credentials assessed and recognized in Canada more quickly.
The ability of all workers, including foreign trained workers, to have their credentials recognized everywhere in Canada will lead to a stronger, more efficient economic union. In fact, strengthening our economic union is more important now than ever, given the current global economic uncertainty.
We do not have to look far to see the positive impact that labour mobility can have on a national economy. Our major trading partner, the United States, eliminated most barriers to trade and labour mobility many decades ago and has long experienced economic growth that has outstripped ours as a result.
Reducing barriers to internal trade is not the only way our government can give the economy a boost. As a former small businessman, I know that red tape also costs our economy and results in lost productivity. Time spent filling out forms, reporting to government to obtain various licences means time not spent serving customers, producing products and creating value for shareholders.
Our government is intent on streamlining the way it does business and is committed to reducing the administrative and paper burden on Canadian businesses. Our current goal is a 20% reduction in the paper burden, but we have already taken other actions to save businesses time and money.
For example, we have already eased the tax compliance burden on businesses by reducing record-keeping requirements for automobile expense deductions and taxable benefits. We have also launched the new BizPal service in many municipalities across Canada, including in Surrey and White Rock in my community. BizPal allows businesses to quickly obtain all the forms and licences they need to comply with the requirements of every level of government with an efficient visit to a single website.
The throne speech also outlined another way our government will give the economy a boost through the creation of a national securities regulator. In a time of global economic uncertainty, investors are looking for stability and security.
Foreign investment in Canada means jobs for Canadians and growth in the economy. While Canada is already an attractive investment destination, greater certainty is provided to potential international investors by a single national standard for securities regulation rather than numerous different provincial standards.
We will work with the provinces to put in place a common securities regulator. I note that financial institutions in Canada already benefit from the existence of a national financial institutions regulator. A common securities regulator will allow Canada to respond swiftly and efficiently to any developments in the financial sector and to speak with a common voice.
Some of the advantages of a common securities regulator would be reduced compliance costs for companies offering securities and improved enforcement. Canada's lack of a national securities regulator has been identified as an area for reform this year by both the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Our government recognizes that lasting prosperity for Canadians comes through entrepreneurship and sheer hard work. Government does not create jobs, but government can help to create and support an economic environment in which those jobs will be created by the private sector.
Another way we are helping to support job creation in the private sector is by extending the benefits of maternity leave available to other workers, to self-employed business owners through the employment insurance program.
Facilitating child rearing for the self-employed allows entrepreneurs greater flexibility in pursuing their dreams. No longer will the self-employed have to consider giving up their business ventures in order to raise a family. Instead, they may keep their businesses going for the benefit of their families and the other workers they employ. I have already heard from many small business owners in my community who are very enthusiastic about our plan.
As well, the throne speech recommits our government to legislation that would provide better oversight of food, drugs and consumer products. The legislation would strengthen the power to recall products and increase penalties for violators. Our 2008 budget provided nearly $.5 billion over five years for the food and consumer safety action plan and to support the legislation we will be bringing forward.
We have all seen news items in recent years regarding unsafe food, health or consumer products, including toys. As the father of a two-year-old, I can assure everyone that I am personally concerned about the food my daughter eats, the medicine she may take and the toys she may play with. Reports of melamine in imported food products or lead in paint in children's toys worry parents like myself.
Our legislation would ensure that federal inspectors have the power to enforce standards that parents can have the confidence in. Protecting and promoting the health and safety of Canadians, their families and communities is of paramount importance to our government.
The secure and efficient flow of goods, services and people is also essential to a trading nation like Canada. As members will know, my riding of South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale contains the busiest border crossings in western Canada.
The trade corridor linking Vancouver to Seattle and the west coast of the United States goes through my riding. The throne speech commitment to continued expansion of gateways and border corridors is essential to Canada's economic growth and cultural prosperity. It is particularly important to ridings like mine.
I am pleased to report that our government has already delivered on major investments in modernizing our land border infrastructure to accommodate the growth in west coast trade and tourism. This is particularly important for my region in preparing for the upcoming 2010 Olympic Games.
Our government is also delivering for other regions of the country, including a long overdue expansion of the critical border crossing at the Windsor-Detroit border.
While upgrading our gateway and corridor related infrastructure is essential to extending our trade and our economy, I am pleased that taxpayers will benefit from over $13 billion of planned and committed private sector investment in this infrastructure over the next three years.
As I conclude, I want to return to the main theme contained in the Speech from the Throne: the economy. We recognize that we live in uncertain economic times and stickhandling our way forward is a major challenge for our government. As I already mentioned, our prudent approach to fiscal policy since forming government has left Canada in an enviable position compared to other developed nations during this challenging time.
Even so, the slowing global economy and its impact on Canada creates challenges for our revenue stream. That is why our government will be further scrutinizing all areas of government spending in an effort to keep our national finances on track. I am confident that additional savings can be found without unduly impacting the essential services and responsibilities Canadians count on the federal government to provide.
I encourage all members to work together to support this government's agenda as outlined in the throne speech.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is an honour to rise in the House of Commons and present my response to the Speech from the Throne.
I would like to begin by thanking the constituents of Churchill. Having been born and raised in Thompson, Manitoba, I am truly honoured to represent my home region of Churchill.
The Churchill riding is one of the largest in Canada. It has tremendous diversity. From Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay, from the Saskatchewan border to the Ontario border, the riding stretches from a community that is a drive of one and a half hours from Winnipeg to communities across the east and north of Manitoba that do not have all-weather road access.
There is also immense diversity in terms of people. Our riding is made up of first nations and Métis people, as well as Canadians from all across Canada and Canadians from all over the world. There are over 30 first nations in the Churchill riding. They include Cree, Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Dene.
Over the past few years, I have travelled throughout northern Manitoba, and I have had the opportunity to visit and work with many people from regions all around my riding. Travelling and visiting the communities in my region is a priority for me.
My commitment overall is to be a strong voice for northern Manitoba and to bring forward our issues and our concerns to Parliament.
At a time when there is significant focus on the economy, it is important to recognize the experiences of people in northern Manitoba when it comes to the economy. In northern Manitoba, communities that depend on the forestry industry were and continue to be affected as a result of the softwood lumber deal. Mining communities as well as future development across the north have been impacted by the economic downturn. There are also communities that have very high rates of unemployment and have seen the destruction of traditional economic activities.
Along with our concern for the economic well-being of Canadians, we also need to look at their fundamental needs that are not being met. Let me turn to the issues for my riding of Churchill.
In terms of health, we need to look at the shortage of doctors and nurses all across northern Manitoba and across the northern and rural regions of Canada. We need a strong national strategy that assists the provinces in providing the health care that all Canadians deserve. We need to recognize the health needs of first nations where there are high rates of conditions and illness, such as diabetes and tuberculosis that reflect the third world conditions many first peoples encounter. This is unacceptable.
In terms of education, we need to see significant funding increases. As a former instructor for the University College of the North, we need to support institutions such as that one. We need to see an increase in post-secondary funding for first nations students. We talk about education being key; let us step up and make sure there is adequate support for it.
We need to look at primary education on first nations and the increase in spending required for aboriginal education, which is far below the provincial average. We need to look at the building of schools, such as in St. Theresa Point where there is a need for a new elementary school, in Nelson House where improvements need to be made to the high school, in Gods Lake Narrows where we need a new high school, and in Gods River where we need a new school, period.
In terms of transportation, we need to look at the needs of communities that have no roads and where all weather roads are melting at a very alarming rate as a result of the impacts of climate change. We need to look at building airports in communities that have no airports. The recent crash in northern Manitoba speaks to the need for improved transportation security. As someone who survived a plane crash, I see the need for the federal government to step up and make sure there is transportation security and sustainable ways of transportation for people in northern Canada.
We also need to see support from the federal government in terms of the bay line and the port of Churchill, important economic centres for our region. We also need to have a very good discussion in terms of the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board, an institution that supports the economy in northern Canada and benefits Canadians all across the country.
In terms of infrastructure, we need to look at more funding for affordable housing. The lack of affordable housing limits the diversification of many communities across my region. There are shameful housing conditions across first nations communities that need to be dealt with on an urgent basis. We also see the need for seniors housing.
We need to support child care. I come from one of the youngest regions in Canada. We need to make sure that there is funding for child care in terms of capital as well as programming in order to support young families in my region.
On the environment, for us northerners we have a close exposure to the impacts of climate change and the destruction of our environment. We see the ice lasting less and we see the change in wildlife patterns all across our region. Northerners are concerned about the preservation of our environment. We need to see action.
I would also like to bring forward the issues facing youth. In the throne speech we heard tough words on gangs and cracking down on youth crime. How about looking at the opportunities of young people and supporting our young people? As I said, I come from one of the youngest regions of Canada. The median age is 26.4 years. We have communities without recreation centres, without programming, without drop-in centres. We need to look at the positive contributions of young people. The Lance Runners Society, the Island Lake Regional Youth Council, and Tori Yetman are excellent examples of the initiatives being taken in our region. We need to look at building and supporting healthy initiatives and programs for our young people.
When we talk about the status of women, we need to address the inequality between women and men being faced in my region and across Canada. As the former chair of the Thompson Crisis Centre, we need to act and support the efforts being done in the area of domestic violence. We also need to support the important work being done in terms of the Stolen Sisters campaign and the need to eliminate violence against aboriginal women.
When it comes to these areas, people in northern Manitoba ask, where is the federal government? We need economic development, development that benefits communities all across our regions. We need to look into partnering in economic development agreements and supporting initiatives that are currently taking place.
However, there is a lack of vision for building a better Canada for all Canadians. There is a failure to deal with the needs and issues that Canadians face. I would like to see Parliament work together toward a vision for Canada that reflects the needs of Canadians all across this country. We need a vision that aims to realize social and economic justice for all.
We also need Canadians to be involved. First, there is a need to have a more civil Parliament, something which is essential. Canadians are not interested in lowbrow aggressive attacks and are looking toward important work getting done on their behalf. It is difficult to engage Canadians when all they see is negativity and a failure to address their important needs. We saw it in this election where there was one of the lowest turnouts ever and incredible amounts of cynicism.
Second, we need to make our electoral system and our political institutions inclusive and have them truly reflect who we are as a country. For example, the voter ID regulations disenfranchised many people across Canada.
Many of us ask why there are not more young people involved. Let us look at our institutions. Last week I was able to enter the Senate and listen to the throne speech as an MP. Despite the fact that I can be democratically elected to represent Canadians in the House of Commons, I would not, and neither would anybody under the age of the 30, be allowed to become a senator under the proposed reforms.
At the age of 18 one can vote, one can run for office, one can fight and die for one's country, but one cannot become a senator. This is blatant discrimination. The current version of Senate reform is the equivalent of operating on a fossil. This is not 1867; it is 2008. The Senate is an outdated institution that discriminates on the basis of age and should be abolished.
We need more young members in our Parliament. There are very few members under the age of 40. The lack of young female members in this House must also be noted.
I come here with a message for Parliament from the people of Churchill. Why, in the year 2008, in a country like Canada with so much wealth, can we not achieve social and economic justice for all? To quote the words of a great Manitoban, the founder of a political movement that I am proud to be part of, what we desire for ourselves, we wish for all.
I thank my constituents. Euxaristo Ekosi Meegwetch Masi-Cho.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate on the government's Speech from the Throne. I know that the number of members who can speak on this matter is limited and severely curtailed by the rules of the House, so I really am delighted to respond.
I am delighted for two reasons. The first one is, frankly, because I am still here and for that I want to thank the people of who have given me the opportunity to be their champion in the House of Commons for a second term. I am deeply grateful for that.
Second, I am delighted to participate in this debate because it is central to setting this Parliament's agenda for dealing with the unprecedented downturn in the Canadian economy. Families in my riding, like Canadians right across the country, are profoundly worried about their jobs, about their pensions and about their savings. They are counting on the federal government to take bold and strategic steps, and they are looking to their members of Parliament to have courage in the face of adversity. Yet, the throne speech, which sets the agenda for this entire session of Parliament, fails to match the urgency or the depth required to protect working families in this economy.
Let me clear, our number one job is to protect Canadians during this economic crisis. I have heard members speak about the need to stimulate the economy. I have heard others rightly point out that we do not just need to stimulate the economy, but we need to stabilize it. The difference of course is more than mere semantics.
However, the bottom line is that the economy and the market are not some supernatural phenomenon. Neither were they created by divine law. They were man-made constructs and as such they are relationships that are governed by the rules that we created. These rules create a framework for determining winners and losers, and that makes it incumbent upon all of us to recognize that the economy is a moral question.
As Tommy Douglas used to say, the economy is made for man, not man for the economy. Yet we have built economic structures that serve powerful global forces acting in their own interest, presenting profit as the chief spur to economic progress, free competition as the guiding norm of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right. The sky was the limit and there seemed to be no concomitant social obligations. We were all led to believe that governments are the problem and that markets are the solution.
If the current economic crisis has proven nothing else, it is that markets cannot do it alone. Yes, markets can bring prosperity, but governments not only have a role to play, they have a responsibility to act. For far too long now our economy has failed to serve the needs and the aspirations of Canadians. In fact, workers in our country have now paid four times for the economic crisis that we are in.
First, they have lost their jobs. Since 2006, Canada has lost over 151,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector alone. Unemployment is projected to rise to 7% by next year and our industrial heartland is decaying around us.
Second, workers have paid with their pensions. Workplace pensions and private pensions have all taken a huge hit as a result of the market collapse and those close to retirement are spending tomorrow's savings to make it through today.
Third, workers no longer have adequate access to protection through employment insurance. Nationally only 38% of unemployed workers receive government benefits, down from 75% in the early nineties. Workers paid for this insurance coverage and yet they cannot count on it when they need it most.
Of course, they are now paying for this economic crisis a fourth time as their tax dollars are going to bail out corporations like the banks. It is time to say enough is enough.
It is time to right the balance and work to stabilize the economy in such a way that it will serve Canadians. It is time to be bold and it is time to be strategic. It is time to roll up our sleeves and work together to build an economy that serves the needs and aspirations of our people.
As the very first step, we have to abandon the Conservative government's policies of throwing money away on unconditional corporate tax cuts. Unconditional tax cuts will not provide the stimulus that our economy requires. Quite the opposite. Tax cuts only benefit those corporations that are profitable enough to pay taxes. If a company is in danger of collapse, it does not pay taxes and blanket tax cuts do nothing to help it to survive.
Moreover, we should not be providing tax breaks to companies that outsource or ship jobs overseas. In my hometown of Hamilton people will remember what happened at the John Deere plant just down the road in Welland. John Deere gladly pocketed the tax breaks and then closed its profitable plant and shipped the jobs down to Mexico.
Unconditional corporate tax cuts are not the answer to revitalizing the Canadian economy, yet these corporate tax cuts will cost the government $7.3 billion in 2009-10 alone. That money would be so much better spent on investing in the inherent productivity that resides in the talent, creativity and energy of Canadians. We need to invest in the real economy.
Let us look again at the four ways, that I mentioned earlier, in which Canada's workers have paid for this economic crisis and let us look for solutions for each.
First and foremost, we need to develop an economic stimulus package to create jobs. In the short term, that means strategic investments in infrastructure. Let us commit to an ambitious plan to partner with communities to repair our crumbling cities, invest in public transit and build affordable housing. I know that the city of Hamilton, for example, is ready to start construction now on a new sewer and water plant. The planning is done. The engineering is done. With the federal government's support, construction could begin immediately. It is good for workers, good for suppliers, and good for the city of Hamilton.
I know that municipalities in other parts of the country have similar jobs that are virtually shovel ready. Projects related to energy retrofitting homes and buildings, expanding our renewable energy capacity, and improving our communications technology backbone also offer economic stimuli. Of course, we need to support the manufacturing and auto sectors, not by writing blank cheques to perpetuate the status quo, but by providing the kind of financial assistance that will transform the industries and keep jobs in Canada.
Second, we need to protect the pensions of hard-working Canadians. This has to be done in consultation with labour, with business and the provinces, so that we can explore programs like a pension insurance program. In the last Parliament, I introduced Bill , which would have given workers' pensions super priority in cases of commercial bankruptcies. Legislation such as this is still a critical part of the solution in safeguarding Canadians' pensions.
For those Canadians who are over the age of 71, let us at least consider a moratorium on mandatory RRIF withdrawals. I think all Canadian retirees were profoundly disappointed that pensions were not even mentioned in last week's Speech from the Throne.
Similarly, the throne speech was silent on reform to Canada's system of employment insurance. As a result of the rule changes that recent governments have made to the system, unemployed people must now all but exhaust their savings before EI is even available to them. Let us fix EI. It is a critical tool for poverty prevention and the money that unemployed Canadians receive will flow directly back into the local economy, thereby helping to create badly needed jobs and keeping small businesses afloat.
There was a time when EI was a vital part of retraining and skills development assistance. That is no longer the case. In fact, we have no national training strategy at all. Tackling the skills shortage must be part of the solution if we do not want to further compound the length and depth of this economic downturn.
Finally, let us talk about the contribution Canadians have already made to ailing sectors of our economy such as financial institutions. To date, they have contributed $75 billion just to secure our banks. They need to be assured that there will be strong oversight that tracks where that money is going. Whenever sectoral assistance is provided, taxpayers need a full and transparent accounting, and where appropriate, an equity stake in return.
These are just four areas for concrete action, and yes, they do represent bold steps, but hard-working Canadians deserve no less. They already know that New Democrats are committed to making the economy work for them, and despite the fact that the throne speech failed to stand up for working families and the middle class, it is not too late to protect their jobs, their pensions and their savings.
In just a couple of days the will table his economic update. Perhaps that will give Canadians a few more specifics, but if it too remains tepid in its approach to protecting working families in these tough economic times, then we in the NDP will roll up our sleeves and work with our partners in labour, in civil society, and in our own communities to give Canadians the leadership they deserve.
We commit to being constructive and we hope the government will do the same, because as Tommy used to say, it is not too late to build a better world.
Mr. Speaker, as this is my first occasion to address the 40th Parliament, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the voters of Northumberland—Quinte West for returning me to this august place. It is a tremendous honour and privilege to serve them. It is in that interest that I want to remind everyone that the government made commitments in the last election and that we will keep those commitments.
Some of those commitments were in the Speech from the Throne, to which I will speak. The points I will talking about this afternoon include support for transfers, support for Ontario infrastructure, small and medium-sized business and how we will cut red tape, support for industry and transitional help for workers. We need a common securities regulator and, in particular and of special interest to Northumberland—Quinte West, support for our farming community.
One of the hallmarks of our federation has been the balance we have created between the so-called have and have-not provinces. As a member of Parliament for Ontario, I am acutely aware that Ontarians have for many years been a significant contributor to attaining that balance. I have heard from the Premier of Ontario, my local member of provincial Parliament as well as constituents who want and quite frankly need to know what our government is doing in regard to Ontario.
It is about fiscal fairness after all, is it not? It should not be about paternalistic arrangements between the federal and provincial governments, but more a partnership. What our government has strove for, and I believe has achieved, is precisely just that balance. It will change from time to time, but it should always be about fairness. What is good for one partner in confederation should be good for all, and that is the standard we constantly strive to attain.
Fiscal fairness is about ensuring Ontario has the funds and support it needs to meet its responsibility under the constitution, which includes vital programs such as health care, child care, post-secondary education and social programs. We know the federal government plays an important role in supporting Ontario and delivering for Ontarians. We also know that Ontario is and will continue to be a leader among the provinces and that it must be treated equitably by the federal government. Ontario should never have to suffer second-class services because of unfair treatment from Ottawa.
We have been in office for a little over two and a half years. We are the longest continuous minority government, and what have we done?
Budget 2007 established a per capita based formula for the Canada health and social transfers. This is the money the federal government gives to support health and social services in the provinces. Per capita based funding is important to Ontario, as Ontario is Canada’s most populous province and thus changes will significantly approve the ability of Ontario to deliver for Ontarians.
On this plan, no province that receives equalization funding will have a higher fiscal capacity than the province that does not receive the funding. These changes were agreed to by all first ministers, including the Premier of Ontario, and they will come into effect when the current agreement expires in 2014-15.
The question then becomes: How can we help Ontario in the time left in the old agreement? To help transition to this new arrangement, we have implemented an automatic 6% annual escalator in health care transfer funding. The health transfer for 2007-08 to Ontario is $8.5 billion. By 2013-14, this transfer will rise to $11 billion. That is a 30% increase in health funding in just five years.
We have also increased funding for social programs in Ontario through the social transfer, which has been strengthened to $3.7 billion. This amount will grow annually by 3% per year until a new agreement comes into effect. Part of the social transfer, some $411 million, is dedicated to child care spaces and post-secondary education.
However, there is more. The Conservative government also sees that it has an important role in supporting Ontario's municipalities and supporting infrastructure renewal. That is why we have recently signed an agreement with Ontario called “Building Canada”. This is a $6.26 billion agreement to be paid out over the next several years and is dedicated to improvements to infrastructure. The federal government knows that our communities need predictable funding for infrastructure.
At this point, I would like to mention my first meeting with the Northumberland county council in 2006, shortly after that federal election.
When I met with the county councillors, the meeting primarily concerned agriculture. All of the candidates involved in that election attended the meeting. We all renewed our commitment to agriculture. However, during that meeting, several of the councillors, and indeed the warden, indicated to their newly-elected member that they needed some long-term sustainable funding, something that when they were constructing their budgets, they could count on from the federal government. While they appreciated different programs, they needed some long-term sustainable funding.
I heard what they said. Our government heard what they said. I am happy to say that as part of the building Canada agreement, we have made the gas tax refund to our communities permanent. For the county of Northumberland, that means approximately $2.5 million per year from now on, so when it is doing its budgets, it can count on that amount of money. For the municipality or the city of Quinte West, that is a little over $2.6 million. It is significant money because it is using that not only to pave streets and fix bridges, but to bring fresh potable water to communities, to renew infrastructure that had been deteriorating.
This means for our municipalities, both large and small, access to $2.9 billion a year for local roads and other projects.
They also failed to mention some other long-term funding programs that we brought in, and one in particular is the 100% GST rebate to the municipalities. To some that might not seem a lot when we talk about staplers or stationery, but when a small or medium-sized municipality needs to buy a dump trunk or a road grader, that is a significant return.
In addition, we have also agreed to support Ontario with over $3 billion for infrastructure programs, which includes funding for connectivity.
I need not tell the House or I need not tell any Canadian how important connectivity is. In the Speech from the Throne our indicated that connectivity was very important for this government.
I have to take my hat off to the member for in his leadership in eastern Ontario in this area. We have been working with the eastern Ontario wardens caucus. We believe that with its help we will be able to continue to work together. I believe we will be able to secure funding for connectivity for eastern Ontario, let alone all of Canada, as the Prime Minister has indicated.
Therefore, we can see that the government has a proven record to address the issues of fiscal fairness. We have a long-term plan to address this, which the Premier of Ontario supports. It is principles-based and it supports important services, from health care, to social programs, to daycare spaces, to post-secondary education and to infrastructure needs.
While we are talking about infrastructure, I was approached shortly after my election by numerous municipal mayors and councillors. They spoke to me in particular about the former Canada-Ontario infrastructure program and the fact that when this program was brought in, there were significant cost overruns because everybody was doing the same thing at the same time.
There were increases in construction costs. In addition, there were some regulatory changes to freshwater in Ontario. That drove up the cost of these projects and there were overruns. This was a one-third shared costing. The municipalities and the provinces agreed to share in the cost overruns, but the previous government did not.
When the Conservatives took office, the mayors reiterated their desire that the federal government come forward with its one-third of the cost overruns. I am happy to say that this government was able to provide $50 million of that for the province of Ontario. In Northumberland—Quinte West announcements have been made, totalling some $3 million to help with those cost overruns.
Also while we are talking about infrastructure, it is important that I remind the residents of Northumberland—Quinte West as well as the greater Quinte area of the tremendous investments that we have been making in the infrastructure at CFB Trenton. We will recall our commitment in 2005-06 to refurbish and rebuild the Canadian Armed Forces which for many years had been neglected.
Part of that refurbishment was the purchase of strategic and tactical lift aircraft. What does that mean for CFB Trenton, which is Canada's air force hub? It meant the necessity of completely renovating and creating new places to store the new aircraft. If anyone drives by CFB Trenton 8 Wing, it is a hub of activity. Hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years will be invested in CFB Trenton. That whole base will be transformed, thus creating hundreds of good paying jobs right across Northumberland—Quinte West and the greater Quinte region.
In addition, the government promised and made an announcement that JTF2 would be relocated to CFB Trenton. This will require significant infrastructure changes also. Again, hundreds of new jobs will be coming into the community.
What does that mean? The spinoffs are tremendous. It means we have to create housing for these hundreds of new families. They are going to purchase new cars and the spinoffs are numerous.
We also promised in the Speech from the Throne to cut red tape for small and medium-sized businesses. Our government will cut the red tape faced by private and not-for-profit sectors when doing business with the government. Our government is committed to reforming and streamlining the way it does business and we will pursue innovative reforms to the administration of programs and services. Reducing the administrative and paper burden on Canadian businesses improves Canada's competitiveness and supports small business.
Our government has committed to reduce the paper burden on companies by 20% so all parties can spend less time and money on paperwork. Our government also will deliver on its promise for formalize a process for measuring, reporting on and decreasing the paper burden over the long term.
In May of 2008 our government announced it was on track to meet this commitment through streamlined regulations, the elimination of duplicate or overlapping obligations and fewer filing requirements. For example, we have already eased the tax compliance burden on businesses by reducing record keeping requirements for automobile expense deductions and taxable benefits. With the resumption of Parliament, we will continue to act.
In June 2008 the government introduced the Canada not-for-profit corporations act, which promises to significantly modernize Canada's not-for-profit legislation for the first time since 1917. It would promote accountability, transparency and good corporate governance for the non-profit sector.
I will now talk about helping workers to re-enter the labour force. The government has committed to funding various measures to help displaced workers in Ontario to re-enter the labour force. One of them includes the labour market development agreement under EI, which is part II of the Employment Insurance Act. It would allow Ontario to assume an expanded role in the design and delivery of labour market development programs.
The labour market agreement provides $1.2 billion over the next several years to Ontario. The agreement stipulates that Ontario will provide programs to labour market participation by assisting individuals to prepare for entry to or return to employment or to otherwise obtain or keep employment or maintain skills for employment. This means more resources for unemployed individuals not eligible for certain employment insurance programs, especially those with lower level skills or who are working in low skill jobs.
With respect to the community development trust, the Province of Ontario will receive just under $360 million to improve productivity and competitiveness, support technology development and assist communities and workers affected by changes in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing.
The $9.2 billion Building Canada announcement made recently will result in the creation of a significant number of infrastructure related jobs.
To further reduce the cost pressures on Canadian business, our government will take measures to encourage companies to invest in new machinery and equipment. The Canadian manufacturing sector, particularly the automotive and aerospace industries, has been under increasing strain as we know. Our government will provide further support for these industries. One example is the accelerated capital cost allowance which permits companies to write down very quickly investments in equipment, buildings, computers, to increase productivity and make them and our country more competitive worldwide.
Through Advantage Canada, our economic plan and recent budgets, we have made significant progress toward creating a business environment aimed at promoting long-term investment, innovation and job creation across all sectors of the Canadian economy.
We recognize the strategic importance of the Canadian manufacturing sector and the challenging financial conditions and global competitiveness it faces.
Our government has already cut taxes to lower costs for business to help them compete and create jobs. By 2012-13, the Government of Canada will have provided more than $9 billion in tax relief to the manufacturing sector.
We are committed to further strengthening financial oversight in Canada. Our government will work with the provinces for a common securities regulator.
Our government's new integrated approach toward farm support provides producers with comprehensive income protection against various hazards ranging from income variability under AgriStability and AgriInvest, to natural hazards under AgriInsurance and disasters under AgriRecovery, as well as easier access to credit through cash advances under the advance payments program.
This government is committed to agriculture. We have a suite of programs. This commitment is significant. Since our government took office some few short years ago, over $4.5 billion has been invested in our agricultural community and we intend to maintain that support to our agricultural community.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague from .
It is truly an honour to speak in this House for the first time. I will start by sincerely thanking the voters of the riding of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who showed their trust in me by choosing me as their representative on October 14. I owe this privilege to them, and I am committed to getting started on the job they elected me to do: representing their interests in Parliament, and being there to listen to their concerns.
I must also say that our campaign would not have been so successful without the hard work of my election committee. I warmly thank each and every one of the members of this team who were dedicated and enthusiastic.
My thanks would not be complete if I did not mention my family. Their support, love and assistance were vital to me during this election campaign, and I thank them very much for being there for me.
Today, in this, my first speech I would like to address some issues that were very much in the forefront during my campaign, yet unfortunately do not seem to have been given the importance they deserve in the Speech from the Throne. I therefore wish to speak for the most part about agriculture, forestry and the funding of not-for-profit organizations. These are vital issues for the people in my riding and for the regions of Quebec in general.
First of all, the agri-food industry is responsible for nearly 20% of all the jobs in the lower St. Lawrence region, and agriculture makes up the bulk of that industry. This in large part explains why my concerns focus on development of the agricultural sector. It is also why I, as a member of Parliament, will be calling for the government to pay particular attention to this issue.
What is more, as a dairy farmer myself, I am well placed to speak about the agricultural reality and the difficulties agricultural producers are facing at this time. There are really a great many challenges: we have to adapt to a demand for more diversified products, to international competition, to stricter environmental requirements. With respect to the latter, even though the farmers of the lower St. Lawrence region have long been environmentally aware and involved, there is always a need for more investment in order to keep abreast of current standards. So what the agricultural sector needs, and what is totally missing from the throne speech, is solid agricultural policies such as adequate federal financial support that will offer all the flexibility Quebec farmers have been demanding for years, and allow them to continue their chosen way of life and to continue to feed the community.
I find that that the Conservative government has a great deal of difficulty understanding that Quebec agriculture is unlike agriculture in the rest of Canada. Quebec has opted for a more people-oriented agriculture, one that is less focused on exports. The Conservative government also does not seem to understand the crucial importance of maintaining supply management for Quebec agriculture. Rather than offering a genuine guarantee that it will defend supply management in international negotiations without making compromises, the government has simply stated that it will defend it. Thus, we are very skeptical about how willing this government really is to protect farmers, especially since some statements by Conservative ministers suggest that they are hoping to reach an agreement at the WTO even if it is to the detriment of supply management.
Thus, agriculture will remain one of the core priorities for me as well as for the Bloc Québécois. We will be vigilant and will not allow the Conservative government's indifference to override the needs of the citizens of Quebec regions.
There is the same disappointment in the forestry sector. There is no substantive assistance program to deal with the crisis. In the throne speech, the government says it wants to continue helping the forestry sector with measures that promote innovation and the sale of goods abroad. In other words, the government is opting for the status quo. It is proposing very modest measures, which had already been announced in the last budget and did not really help the forestry sector get through the crisis.
In my riding, where private producers are in the majority, expectations were much higher. After two troubled years, the forestry producers find themselves in a difficult situation where production costs continue to rise and profits are non-existent.
The very survival of many woodlot-based family businesses is in jeopardy. Business owners and producers in the forestry sector need to be supported in their efforts. Assistance for research and innovation is also needed for the forestry industry, particularly, for secondary and tertiary processing.
It is also important to promote the creation of small businesses through research and development. The government could have used some of the Bloc Québécois' proposals, such as granting loan guarantees to help companies modernize, making the research and development tax credit a refundable credit for existing and new businesses, and enforcing regulations requiring all federal agencies to use forest products in federal building projects. These measures could be very beneficial for the forestry sector, but the Conservative government does not seem to be interested in them.
As a final point, I would like to discuss a third issue my constituents are very concerned about, namely, the funding of not-for-profit organizations of an economic nature. Naturally, I cannot help but mention the cuts announced this year by the former Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, cuts that are already having a serious impact on organizations and research centres in my riding. This shows the Conservative government's completely irresponsible attitude, considering the importance of federal funding in the operational activities of many such organizations. The government should reverse its decision and ensure that the approved funding is maintained and renewed.
Many organizations and centres in the lower St. Lawrence region benefit from this financial support, including the Centre de recherche sur les biotechnologies marines and the Technopole maritime du Québec, which in turn greatly benefit the region and have made Rimouski a leader in the marine sector. The current should reinstate the financial support and, at the very least, give these organizations an alternative to ensure their long-term survival. It is unthinkable that such organizations could disappear for lack of funding when we know that the federal government has the money. The real problem is the government's policy direction. It is the government's lack of vision and its indifference toward regional development in Quebec.
We must not forget that not-for-profit organizations generate economic spinoffs for the region. They respond to community expectations and use people's expertise. These strengths and abilities would otherwise be lost. The government could get smart and take advantage of all the money the organizations have invested in recent years by involving them in a real economic recovery plan. In the coming months, we will see what the Conservative government does about this issue, but we are already very concerned about the insensitivity the government has shown to date. The government was not willing to negotiate, even after many people in Quebec spoke out and condemned the incomprehensible cuts the Conservative government had made.
For all these and other reasons, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the throne speech.