That, in the opinion of the House, the government demonstrated in its Speech from the Throne and its Budget that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec, as there were no commitments to allocate $2.2 billion to Quebec for harmonizing the QST and GST, to provide the forestry industry with an assistance plan equivalent to that given to the automobile industry, to offer stimulus measures to the aeronautics industry, to meet Quebeckers’ expectations regarding the environment, and to enhance programs to assist the less fortunate in Quebec.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for for seconding the Bloc Québécois motion.
I am extremely happy to take part in the debate on the Bloc Québécois motion because I not only believe, but am also convinced that by introducing and defending our motion, we are doing the work Quebeckers wanted us to do when they sent a majority of Bloc Québécois members to this place to defend the interests and values of the Quebec nation six times since 1993.
I will read the motion again because it contains at least five contentious issues between Quebec and the Canadian nation. These are only examples. There are other such issues. I will take a moment to mention some of them before speaking to the contentious issues contained in the motion. The motion says:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government demonstrated in its Speech from the Throne and its Budget that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec, as there were no commitments to allocate $2.2 billion to Quebec for harmonizing the QST and GST, to provide the forestry industry with an assistance plan equivalent to that given to the automobile industry, to offer stimulus measures to the aeronautics industry, to meet Quebeckers’ expectations regarding the environment, and to enhance programs to assist the less fortunate in Quebec.
We are debating a motion containing five contentious issues. As I said, these are only examples. We could have included other issues, but as we know, our rules of procedure do not allow for excessively long motions.
I will give two more examples of issues that could have been included in today's motion. We are still waiting for the $800 million in transfers for post-secondary education despite the government's renewed promise to correct the fiscal imbalance.
I recall that Paul Martin, when he was finance minister in the Liberal government in 1994-95, slashed transfers to the provinces, and Quebec in particular. One of those transfers, for post-secondary education and social programs, has never been indexed since 1994-95. If that money had been indexed, it would represent $800 million more for Quebec at a time when, as we know, Quebec like many others in Canada is having difficulty balancing its budget. As I was saying, this could have been another contentious issue to raise.
Another contentious issue which could have been included in the motion is last year’s decision by the to unilaterally cap equalization, which has deprived Quebec of $1 billion. I was listening to a minister of state boast to veterans that there had been no cuts to equalization. I am sorry, but the cut happened last year, and it represented $1 billion lost for Quebec.
In total, all of the contentious issues we have counted, which have also been counted by the Government of Quebec and the Parti Québécois, come to around $8 billion. The Government of Canada owes $8 billion to the Government of Quebec. This is money that should have been in the budget and in the throne speech. It has simply been swept away, in an offhand manner, as if Quebec did not exist. That too, I would say, is the conclusion of this motion. It is as if, in the throne speech and in the budget tabled two weeks ago, Quebec did not exist and the needs and aspirations of the Quebec nation did not exist.
We thought it timely to raise today, with this motion, this harsh reality that, despite this House’s sham recognition of the existence of the Quebec nation, there has in fact been nothing concrete to truly take the measure of what this meant for the Canadian nation.
I shall review each of these contentious issues. As there is little time, I will be unable to go into detail, although my colleagues, as the day moves along, will have the opportunity to proceed a little further in this regard, in their respective spheres of expertise. However I think it important to begin the day, for those listening to us at home or in the office, with an overview of these issues.
Let us start with the harmonization of the sales tax. As we know, in the early 1990s the Conservative government of the time, that of Brian Mulroney, changed the tax on manufacturers to a tax on goods and services. This was a subject of tremendous debate.
It was in fact a debate in which I participated, for at the time I was in the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. The debate was settled in the early 1990s. Mr. Bourassa, the Quebec premier at the time, decided to harmonize the Quebec sales tax with the GST.
The federal government subsequently invited all the provinces to harmonize their sales tax with the GST, and three Atlantic provinces did so. The federal Liberal government transferred nearly $1 billion to these three provinces as compensation for the harmonization of their tax.
The Government of Quebec also asked to be compensated for this harmonization, which was not a point of debate at the time that the Quebec government harmonized its sales tax with the GST. The federal finance minister at that time, Paul Martin, refused, making up the following excuse or criterion: to be compensated, a province had to lose over 5% of its tax base as a result of harmonization.
When the Conservatives took power, the finance minister announced that he would compensate all provinces that harmonized their sales tax with the GST. They discarded the pseudo-condition that Paul Martin had invented to avoid compensating Quebec. It was announced that in the future, all provinces would be compensated based on criteria in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. Harmonization compensation would be $4.3 billion for Ontario, and $1.6 billion for British Columbia.
If the same criteria were applied to Quebec, it should have received $2.2 billion in compensation. However, since the finance minister announced that he would compensate Ontario and British Columbia, and that he was prepared to compensate any other province that would harmonize its sales tax with the GST, Quebec has not seen a single penny of this compensation, even though the consensus in this province is that it should be compensated. This shows a lack of good faith towards Quebec. This compensation has been the subject of several motions in the Quebec National Assembly, the latest one as recently as March 31, 2009.
I will not read the entire motion because we do not have the time, but I must point out that all parties in the National Assembly agree with the demands of the Bloc Québécois for Quebec. The motion states:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the National Assembly ask the Federal Government to treat Québec justly and equitably, by granting compensation that is comparable to that offered to Ontario for the harmonization of its sales tax with the GST, which would represent an amount of 2.6 billion dollars for Québec.
At the time, Quebec was asking for $2.6 billion. The current finance minister in Quebec has adjusted that amount to $2.2 billion. The Quebec nation is clearly reasonable.
This unanimous motion from the National Assembly should have been presented to the House by all members from Quebec, whether they are Liberals, Conservatives or New Democrats. But the only party that informed the House of this unanimous motion from the National Assembly was the Bloc Québécois.
This explains why, election after election, Quebeckers choose to send a majority of Bloc members to the House of Commons. It is the only party that brings the consensus in Quebec and the unanimous positions of the National Assembly, without compromise, to the House. The other parties do not do that.
It is appalling to see the Quebec members saying nothing about issues as important as compensation for harmonizing the Quebec sales tax with the GST. Fortunately, we are here and we will speak for the Quebec nation.
The second issue is the government’s recovery plan, which completely ignores Quebec's economic and industrial needs. The cherry on top is how the forestry industry is being treated. They have allocated $170 million over two years for the forestry industry in all of Canada, which gives Quebec a few tens of millions of dollars, while a third of the jobs lost have unfortunately been in that province.
The forestry industry in Canada as a whole received $178 million over two years, while the auto industry received nearly $10 billion in aid, aid we have never disputed.
What we are disputing is the fact that aid to other manufacturing industries, like the forestry and aerospace industries, has not been comparable to aid to the auto industry. I will come back to this.
We do not have to invent a new formula; we have one already. The industry, the unions, the government of Quebec, the National Assembly of Quebec—in short, everyone involved in this industry in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada is calling for it: loan guarantees. The government told us that loan guarantees were contrary to the softwood lumber agreement with the United States. Strangely, it was Government of Canada lawyers at the London tribunal who argued the exact opposite. So it is quite unbelievable that the Conservative ministers, particularly those from Quebec, are not even capable of defending, in the House, the only coherent position the government should have: that these loan guarantees are entirely in accordance with the softwood lumber agreement with the United States.
This is exactly like Paul Martin’s 5% in the GST harmonization debate. These are excuses. The truth is that the Conservative government does not have the political will to help the forestry industry, to help the regions of Quebec, to help forestry workers who are in trouble, and that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the Bloc Québécois, but it is also unacceptable to everyone who cares about Quebec and its needs.
We proposed a number of measures that should have been included in the budget and the Speech from the Throne. Those measures would have helped the forestry industry. I mentioned loan guarantees, but we also proposed, for example, that forestry products be used for energy to replace our dependence on oil. Reducing oil dependency is obviously a concept the Conservatives do not like very much. People say it all the time, and sadly, it seems to be true: the number one lobbyist for the Canadian oil cartel is the Conservative caucus.
These solutions would provide for sustainable economic development in our regions in Quebec and meet the needs of the forestry industry. As I said, a third of the jobs lost in the forestry industry were in the regions of Quebec. And so we are once again calling for this aid.
We want help as well for all workers, not only those in the forestry sector, although, in their case, the situation is becoming desperate. We have put forward a whole series of amendments, as everyone knows. My colleague from introduced, among other things, a very comprehensive bill on employment insurance. It proposed an eligibility threshold of 360 hours, increased benefits, an increase in insurable earnings to $42,500 and benefit calculation based on the 12 best weeks. The solutions are out there. The people of Quebec all agree with them. Unfortunately, here we run into blatant rejection that is more than just indifference, it is disdain.
Once again, the money that would have helped and should help workers in difficulty would also help our regions. Very rarely will someone unemployed put their EI benefits in a tax haven, as do the banks. He will spend it at the corner store, at the grocery store and on various services in the community. The government could have and should help not only the workers but also the communities affected come to terms with the forestry crisis. Reform of EI must be not only in social terms but in economic terms as well.
What sort of vague reforms or vague cosmetic reforms were we entitled to last year? Weeks of benefits were extended under Bill , for example. Benefits were extended for workers known as tenured employees and those who have not had to draw on EI benefits on various occasions during their active life. All workers in seasonal industries were discriminated against. Unfortunately, the forestry industry is a seasonal industry, and so its workers were discriminated against. And a date was set—January 2009.
Oddly enough, a look at the background of layoffs across Canada reveals that layoffs occurred in Quebec in 2007 and 2008, and in southern Ontario and western Canada in 2009. So the government created a made to measure program. We have no problem with it responding to the needs of workers in Ontario and western Canada. We support it, because we are progressive, but what we do not understand is that, of all the Conservative government's reforms over the past year, none is useful for people unemployed in Quebec.
Worse yet, we have been questioning the government now for a number of weeks on pilot projects to remedy the injustices in the Lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé and the North Shore.
The has said that no decision has been taken in this regard. April 10 is the deadline. The people in these regions are living in insecurity caused not only by the fallout of the economic crisis, but also by the Conservative government, which is unable to give a clear response.
We have spoken a lot of the forestry and aerospace industries. In Quebec, and especially in the greater Montreal area, the aerospace industry may be compared to the automobile industry in southern Ontario. It is a highly structural sector, with a lot of subcontractors. The hours are difficult in aerospace. We can rightly expect the government to support these industries. We have suggested a number of avenues, including that, which could easily be taken, of refundable tax credits for research and development. They would help the forestry industry too.
As I have said many times, Tembec invests close to $80 million annually in research and development. Yet this company has not turned a profit for a number of years now. The company therefore cannot take advantage of the tax credit because it is non-refundable. Companies need cash and they need it now. Companies working in the aviation sector are in the same situation. The aerospace industry has gotten some help, but not the aviation sector.
The patted himself on the back several times when announcing the elimination of tariffs on equipment and goods needed to modernize and improve productivity in the manufacturing industry.
As is the case with the other solutions put forward by the Conservatives, the problem lies in the fact that these measures help those companies that turn a profit, that have cash and that are capable of buying or investing. For those companies that have no cash, these measures are of no help. It is just like the other Conservative solution—lowering taxes on business profits, which helps oil companies and big banks. It is useless to companies that do not make a profit, since they do not pay taxes.
The Bloc Québécois has proposed some solutions that would allow the manufacturing industry as well as the aerospace and forestry sectors to pull through this crisis and be ready for the economic recovery. But many companies will shut down along the way. So, when the economy has recovered, they will not be there to take advantage of open markets because of this government's indifference to and contempt for Quebec's needs.
The fourth issue we have concerns the environment, towards which this government has the same attitude. The international community is adopting criteria that mirror Quebec's actions. The Kyoto accord uses 1990 as its reference year. Greenhouse gases are to be reduced in comparison to this benchmark year. Quebec wants targeted reductions with absolute targets, but that is not what the government is doing.
We also wanted a territorial approach and the establishment of a carbon exchange, which already exists in Montreal but would need a better environment to develop economically and financially.
This is what the international community is asking for, and Quebec is perfectly comfortable with those objectives. And what is the government proposing? It is proposing to use 2005 as the base year, instead of 1990, which means that all the efforts that Quebec's manufacturing industry made between 1990 and 2005 would not be taken into account as carbon credits for a future carbon exchange. And yet, this industry has made considerable efforts and succeeded in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. The situation is the same for the targets. Not only are the targets not absolute since they are intensity targets, but Canada is the only country that reduced its targets from 20% to 17% after the Copenhagen conference.
In conclusion, I would say that the Conservative government has completely ignored the whole question of program enhancements, as far as the guaranteed income supplement, social housing and employment insurance are concerned.
The Quebec nation will have to recognize that Canadian federalism does not benefit Quebec. Quebec sovereignty is the only way for the Quebec nation to face the challenges of the future and this is what the Bloc Québécois and its allies in Quebec society are working toward.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak against, and let me emphasize against, this very ill-informed Bloc motion. I know the hon. member across is surprised that we would be voting against this, but we need to at some point in this debate point out all the incorrect facts that we just heard in the last 20-minute presentation. I shall proceed to do that.
Canada's economic action plan is good for all Canadians, especially in Quebec. Before continuing, let me thank my Conservative colleagues from Quebec, who actually speak on behalf of Quebeckers, many of whom will be speaking later today, for all of the guidance that they provided in advance of budget 2010. I especially note that the , along with the member for , held a very productive prebudget consultation round table in the beautiful city of Quebec this past December.
As we know, our Conservative government has launched an ambitious budget focused on job creation and growth to support Canada's economic recovery. We are completing year two of our economic action plan to create and protect jobs now. We are also taking new targeted measures to fuel new jobs into the future.
As budget 2010 makes very clear, our economic action plan is doing precisely what it was meant to, providing unprecedented short-term stimulus to respond to a global economic downturn while making sure Canada will emerge stronger than ever, well positioned to lead in the global economy over the long term.
Quebeckers and indeed all Canadians should be proud of what this country has accomplished through Canada's economic action plan. As Quebec Premier Jean Charest noted recently, “It is true that Canada's economy has done better than the vast majority of countries in the world”.
Many other countries were trying to manage recessionary spending on top of chronic deficits while Canada went into the global economic storm with a solid record of debt reduction and sound fiscal planning. What is more, we will come out of it with the strongest growth and the lowest debt burden in all of the G7 countries.
Some countries are now pondering tax increases. In Canada, we actually reduced taxes to support Canadians and businesses for Quebeckers. Indeed, year two of Canada's economic action plan will provide tremendous personal income tax relief in 2010-11. For Quebeckers alone, this will total $619 million back in the pockets of Quebec workers and families, funds to help Quebeckers manage through their difficult economic conditions.
Quebec will also benefit from new resources being provided to encourage innovation and commercialization, including: $32 million per year for the federal research granting councils to support advanced research and improve commercialization; $8 million per year to support the indirect cost of federally sponsored research at post-secondary institutions; $15 million per year, which actually doubles the budget of the college and community innovation program, a program that fosters research collaborations between businesses and college researchers; and the creation of a new Canada post-doctoral fellowship program to help attract the best young researchers to all of Canada.
Quebec further benefits from the $135 million provided over two years to sustain the National Research Council's regional innovation clusters. This includes support for the aluminum transformation cluster located in Saguenay, Quebec.
Surely all hon. members from all parts of Canada will agree this is all incredibly positive news. In fact, three top Quebec academics, Denis Brière, president of Université Laval, Heather Monroe-Blum, principal of McGill University, and Luc Vinet, president of Université de Montréal, cheered budget 2010's new investments, remarking:
This budget has also given universities a clear signal to get on with the job of laying the foundations for a sustainable economic recovery. We welcome that signal and the support that goes with it in a period of tough choices.
The high praise continues:
...the budget promises new funds for basic research through the granting councils and renewed support for research infrastructure. Continued operating and capital support for basic research will help universities and research hospitals support and retain our top scholars and students, and draw talent from other jurisdictions. Some focused investments are also anticipated for talent development. ... These, too, are very positive initiatives. For that vote of confidence in higher education and advanced research, we are indeed grateful to the government and to Canada’s taxpayers.
“Canada's taxpayers” is worth repeating. All provinces and territories, including Quebec, will also be helped by Canada's economic action plan through other methods. These include over $4 billion to help unemployed Canadians find new and better jobs, including up to five extra weeks of regular employment insurance benefits, and greater access to regular EI benefits for long-tenured workers. They will also be helped by a temporary extension of work-sharing agreements to a maximum of 78 weeks. Employment insurance premiums will be frozen at a rate of $1.73 per $100 of insurable earnings for 2010, $1.5 billion to provide up to an extra five weeks of employment insurance benefits, $1 billion to enhanced employment insurance training programs and $500 million for the strategic training and transition fund.
The plan is also helping Quebec firms create jobs, modernize their operations and better compete globally. One of the ways this is happening is through the elimination of tariffs on manufacturing inputs and machinery and equipment. Quebec will benefit from this measure, as it is the destination of approximately 20% of the $5 billion in total imports that is liberalized by this measure.
In fact, the tariff reduction measures in budget 2010 will position Canada as the first country among its G7 partners and G20 partners to be able to boast that it is a tariff-free zone for manufacturing. This means that Canadian manufacturers will be able to import goods for further production in Canada without the burden of tariffs and the costs of complying with certain customs rules. This will give Canadian manufacturers a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by lowering production costs, increasing competitiveness and enhancing innovation and productivity.
Forestry companies in Quebec will welcome the next generation renewable power initiative. This important initiative will invest $100 million over the next four years to support the development, commercialization and implementation of advanced clean energy technologies in the forestry sector. Indeed, this initiative has already been warmly received.
Avrim Lazar, president and chief executive officer of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said:
From the forestry industry perspective, the priorities are right, which is clean energy and a speedy re-entry of jobs into the recovery.
Jim Lopez, the chief executive officer of Tembec, a well-known Quebec paper company, said:
...federal action is critical to spur investment because companies have seen their balance sheets and creditworthiness hammered by the recession.
Businesses in Quebec could also benefit from the nearly $500 million to be invested by the Canadian Space Agency over the next five years to develop RADARSAT Constellation. This is the next generation of advanced radar remote sensing satellites.
Claude Lajeunesse, the president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, applauded that announcement and said:
...the additional funding provided to the Canadian Space Agency to complete the Radarsat Constellation Mission is good news for the Space industry. “This measure will stimulate the Space sector and keep value-added jobs in Canada...”.
Communities and businesses in Quebec will additionally benefit from the $14.6 million per year in ongoing funding for the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions Agency, or CEDQ. This funding will increase the vitality of communities and help small and medium-sized business and communities to enhance their competitiveness.
The 67 community futures organizations in Quebec will benefit from the $11 million per year in ongoing resources provided in budget 2010 for the community futures program. This program is delivered by CEDQ in Quebec.
In budget 2010, we are also supporting the inspirational work of Pierre Lavoie and his initiative, le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, in promoting healthy living and physical activity with school children across Canada.
Cattle processing facilities in Quebec will benefit from the $75 million funding allocated in budget 2010 to support investments that help improve their operations. This will contribute to ensuring that Canadian cattle producers in all regions of Canada have continued access to competitive operations.
Year two of Canada's economic action plan will also continue to provide historic investments in infrastructure in Quebec. Examples of specific projects include: projects at the Port of Trois-Rivières, including site development to improve storage at the port and security upgrades at new borders at the port; expansion of the Monique-Corriveau Library in the city of Quebec; and refurbishments of an indoor pool and cultural centre in Beauceville.
Montreal area commuters will benefit from the $50.5 million in new funding over the next two years for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated. This funding will ensure that the corporation can make the capital expenditures required to maintain the safety of its bridges, among the busiest in Canada.
Remote communities will benefit from an investment of $18 million over the next two years to support the capital and operational requirements of the Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc. which operates a passenger rail service through western Labrador and northeastern Quebec.
Communities and businesses in Quebec will benefit from the $28 million provided to support the operations of ferry services in Atlantic Canada, including the route between Îles de la Madeleine, Quebec and Souris, Prince Edward Island.
In addition to all these measures, Quebec will continue to receive support through major federal transfers in 2010-11. In fact, budget 2010 confirmed our Conservative government's strong support for provinces like Quebec.
While the Liberals starved provinces and municipalities of much needed support, while the Liberals denied the fiscal imbalance existed, while the Bloc could not and cannot get anything done here in this House of Commons, our Conservative government took action and finally restored the fiscal balance for all provinces, including Quebec.
For Quebec, this totals $19.3 billion in transfer support for 2010-11. That is an increase of $281 million from last year and almost $6.8 billion since 2005-06 under the previous Liberal government.
This long-term, growing support helps ensure that Quebec has the resources required to provide essential public services and contributes to other key components of Canada's social safety net. This includes nearly $8.6 billion through equalization, an increase of close to $3.8 billion or a 78% increase since the former Liberal government; $6.1 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $294 million from last year, for a total of $25.4 billion for all of the provinces and territories; and $2.6 billion through the Canada social transfer, which will provide provinces and territories with a total of $11.2 billion. For Quebec, this payment represents an increase of $441 million since the former Liberal government, which is an increase of 20.5%.
This vital support that the Liberal government slashed helps ensure Quebec has the resources needed to provide essential public services, including health care, post-secondary education and other social services.
No wonder the Quebec premier, Jean Charest, welcomed the budget as good news and said:
The federal government has given reassurances...that equalization payments would not be affected. In that respect, we are satisfied with the response they gave....
That is very important for us. Quebec is receiving more money in equalization transfers...than we did in the previous year.
Premier Charest was not the only one in Quebec heralding budget 2010 as good news. This is what Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, said:
Overall, this budget meets the expectations of the Montréal business community. Given that we are beginning the final phase of the federal government’s recovery plan, we have to ensure that major urban centres such as Montréal come out strengthened by the infrastructure investment that will be made in the next year.
The budget has a certain number of measures that should...have an impact on long-term productivity and competitiveness in Canada. We are particularly satisfied with the additional $40 million devoted to innovation and commercialization efforts of PMEs. Plus the elimination of tariffs on imported equipment for the manufacturing sector is good news because it will strengthen that sector’s competitiveness.
Like all other industrialized countries, Canada incurred a deficit to implement its stimulus package. Once the economic recovery is solidly entrenched our government will move forward on a plan to reduce the deficit and move back toward budgetary balance. Our deficit reduction plan has three key points.
First, we will wind down our stimulus spending as planned and on schedule. Second, we will restrain growth in government spending in specific areas. Third, we will undertake a comprehensive review of government spending on overhead as well administration.
We will not balance the budget at the expense of pensioners. We will not balance the budget by cutting transfer payments for health care and education or by raising taxes on hard-working Canadians.
Our plan will cut the deficit in half in two years and by two-thirds in three years. Shortly after that, the budget will be brought back fully to balance.
As Canadians continue to revel in the pride of our record-breaking Olympic performance and our country's economic performance, budget 2010 offers another reason for us to feel proud.
Great Canadian athletes, like Quebec's own Alexandre Bilodeau, Patrice Bergeron and Joannie Rochette, showed the world their strength and competitive spirit at the Olympics. They are Canada's inspiration as millions of Canadians step up to the world's economic podium and prove that we are open for business as we build today a Canada in which our children and grandchildren will surpass us.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada to speak to this Bloc Québécois motion.
I lived over half my life in Quebec and I was a professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal for six years. I therefore think I have a pretty good understanding of the Quebec situation.
The Liberals generally agree with the Bloc regarding most of the specific points raised in the motion. I will elaborate on that in a moment. However, we do see one problem with this motion, since we cannot accept 10 specific words. Those 10 words are: “—federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec—”.
The Liberal Party strongly disagrees with this statement. If the Bloc had said that the kind of federalism practised by the Conservative government does not fulfill the goals of Quebeckers, we would have agreed. We would have said the same thing about other provinces, that is, that the kind of federalism practised by the Conservative government does not fulfill the needs and goals of the people of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba or any Canadians. However, they did not limit the scope of their statement and for that reason, the Liberal Party will vote against the motion.
We agree that the government is not investing enough in the forestry sector, the aerospace industry and the environment, and that the government is not doing enough for Canada's poorest people. However, it is not federalism that is failing; it is the Conservative government that is disappointing Quebec. The Liberals know how to make Confederation work.
Mr. Speaker, I forgot to tell you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
As I was saying, the Liberals know how to make Confederation work. A federal government with strong Quebec representation, one that really understands the needs and concerns of Quebeckers, can truly address the problems related to poverty, the environment, and Quebec's forestry and aerospace industries.
This government has failed in those areas simply because the Conservative Party does not share the same values as Quebeckers. The Conservatives' vision for Canada is not what Quebeckers want, nor is it what the people of Ontario want.
Allow me to elaborate on the Bloc Québécois' specific proposals. First, with regard to harmonizing the GST, the Liberal Party totally agrees that the federal and provincial governments must negotiate in good faith to resolve the dispute on compensation for Quebec. The problem is that this Conservative government did not negotiate in good faith with the Government of Quebec on this.
As far as the forestry industry is concerned, I am well versed in the Liberal government's situation because I was Minister of Natural Resources in 2005 when we introduced our strategy for a competitive forestry industry. We allocated $1.5 billion over five years to help that industry.
Unfortunately, as soon as the Conservatives came to power, they cancelled this program altogether. In the past, we had a program that proposed credit and loan guarantees for the industry and financial incentives to help forestry companies buy new equipment.
We also supported non-polluting energy from forestry waste. We presented a detailed and ambitious plan for the forestry industry, which was very warmly received by the sector at the time. The Conservatives cancelled that program. We are still in favour of the initiatives that were proposed in 2005.
As far as aerospace and the manufacturing sector in general are concerned, it is clear that leaders in these industries do not support the budget. They said there was not much in the budget to help their industries.
For example, Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, said that the budget provides “marginal benefit”. Claude Lajeunesse, president of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, said he was disappointed in the budget. It is important to quote what these leaders had to say because people in general are afraid to criticize this government. This government retaliates against those who speak out against it. If two courageous men, who represent their respective industries, honestly say this is a bad budget that does not help the manufacturing or aerospace industries, then we have to take them seriously. It is also true that the government did not even spend the $160 million dollars allocated to the Canadian Space Agency. The money was available, but the government did not spend it. That money could have been used to enhance the economic development of the aerospace industry.
Let us now turn to the environment and the consequences of the federal government's failure to act. Quebec has set ambitious goals for itself. It has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to below the 1990 level and, more recently, it adopted ambitious new vehicle emissions standards.
As for the Liberals, they are proposing an historic investment in clean energy and energy performance jobs. It is clear that this government has done hardly anything for the environment. We agree with the Bloc Québécois on that.
Finally, regarding poverty and the less fortunate, the Conservatives simply have no strategy to reduce poverty among children. In 2006, the Conservatives dismantled the Liberal early learning and child care services program. The Liberal Party had introduced the national child benefit supplement in 1997, and the working income tax benefit in 2005. It had also increased funding for the guaranteed income supplement by $2.7 billion. The Liberal Party helps improve opportunities for all Canadians by focusing on education and investing in a national child care plan.
In summary, we more or less agree on all the specific points raised by the Bloc Québécois in its motion, namely harmonization, the forestry industry, the aerospace industry, the environment and poverty. On all these points, we more or less agree with the Bloc Québécois. The only problem we Liberals have with this motion is that the Liberal Party will never agree with the Bloc Québécois statement that federalism does not meet Quebec's aspirations and needs.
That is the only reason we will be voting against the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to set the record straight regarding the motion we have before us, that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec.
Something is not right here, because it is not federalism that is preventing Quebec from achieving its objectives, it is the Conservative government. Obviously the Bloc’s goal is to show Quebeckers that its primary objective is sovereignty and that federalism is against the interests of Quebec. It is not federalism that is in issue today, it is the Conservative government, which has failed to respond to the needs of many Canadians, including many Quebeckers.
Our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois tried to create an equation: a Conservative government equals federalism. But let us look rather at the major concerns of the people of Quebec: forestry, the manufacturing sector, the environment, the aerospace industry and poverty, for example.
In terms of forestry, since the Conservatives have been in power, Canada has lost tens of thousands of jobs in the forestry industry, a large number of which were in Quebec.
In 2005, as my colleague said, the Liberal government, in partnership with forestry stakeholders, announced a solid plan for the forestry sector, the Forest Industry Competitiveness Strategy, and allocated $1.5 billion to it over five years. When the Conservatives formed the government in 2006, they cancelled the plan. Workers in Quebec’s forestry sector are still paying for that decision today.
The Liberal Party is in favour of credit and loan guarantees to help the forestry sector in Quebec transform itself and come through this crisis. It is in favour of financial incentives to help forestry companies purchase new equipment, and it is in favour of support for non-polluting energy derived from forest waste.
Let us talk about the manufacturing sector and job creation. Many Canadians work in the manufacturing sector and Quebec had a strong manufacturing industry. It represents an important segment of our economy that is still suffering. This economic sector has been hard hit in the last decade, particularly in Quebec.
Instead of showing leadership and investing in green technologies, the Conservative government prefers to ignore the manufacturing sector. With the declining number of hours worked in that sector, people are having to job-share, to become self-employed or to accept part-time work, and this means that the quality of work and the quality of life are declining in too many communities. The result is an uncertain and precarious future for families.
We believe the government should focus on creating well-paid, high-quality, long-term jobs. Federalism is not what is preventing anyone from participating in Quebec’s economic recovery; the Conservative government is doing that.
The aerospace industry is a jewel in the crown of the economy of Quebec and Canada. It represents our creative and innovative character. Montreal boasts the second largest aerospace sector in the world. It contributes more than 30,000 jobs and generates revenue of $12 billion. But Quebec’s aerospace sector had to lay off workers several times in 2009.
This government has done little for the manufacturing sector. As the hon. member mentioned, Jason Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said that the 2010 budget was of little benefit to manufacturers.
As for Claude Lajeunesse, president of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, he was disappointed in the budget, which includes neither a long term space plan, nor investments in aerospace innovations. In fact, over the past two years, $160 million approved for spending by the Canadian Space Agency were not touched by the Conservative government. These funds could have been used to strengthen the economic development of the aerospace sector.
It is not federalism that prevents Quebec's aerospace industry to continue to thrive. It is, once again, this Conservative government, which does not understand anything, or which is too blind to realize that this economic sector needs support to remain a leader in what has become a very competitive economy.
Quebeckers are very sensitive to environmental issues and they have made wise choices in order to protect our environment.
Once again, the Conservatives are showing their inability to understand this major sector in our economy and in our lives.
The Conservative government has had three ministers, three different plans to deal with the climate change issue, but to this day no progress has been made. Quebeckers were very disappointed in the attitude of the Conservative Party at the Copenhagen conference. Quebec Premier Jean Charest took exception to the fact that the of Canada criticized Quebec's initiatives during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Mr. Charest even indicated in Copenhagen that his government might ignore any agreement signed by the Conservative Prime Minister if the targets set are too timid.
Because of the Conservative government's inaction, Quebec has set ambitious targets, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and, more recently, established new stringent vehicle emission standards.
The Liberal Party supports a verifiable and binding quota and greenhouse gas emissions trading system. Such a system would be fair for all regions. It would include all industry sectors and its binding quotas would lead to absolute reductions.
In addition to a comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction plan, the Liberals are proposing a historic investment in clean energies and in jobs that support energy efficiency. We have also set an ambitious target, which is to quadruple the production of renewable energy in Canada by the year 2017.
Again, what stands in the way of contributing to Quebec's economic recovery is not federalism, but rather the fact that the Conservative government offered only gimmicks in its latest budget. Only $25 million is allocated to clear energy, despite the fact that the government spent hardly any of the green infrastructure fund last year.
Finally, it cancelled the ecoENERGY program for renewable power production.
With respect to poverty, the Conservative government has once again failed to do anything to help the least fortunate in society. The richest 20% of Canadians have a net worth of $3.4 billion, while the poor carry a net debt load of $6.3 billion.
Since March 2008, food bank use has increased by 10%. One in nine Canadian children still lives in poverty. In our first nations, one in four children grows up in poverty.
The Conservatives simply have no strategy to reduce poverty among children. In 2006, they dismantled the Liberal early learning and child care services program.
The Liberal Party introduced the national child benefit supplement in 1997 and the working income tax benefit in 2005, and increased funding for the guaranteed income supplement by $2.7 billion. The Liberal Party continues to help improve opportunities for all Canadians by focusing on education and investing in a national child care plan.
Again, it is not federalism that hinders the fight against poverty, but rather this cold and blind government which refuses to adequately meet the needs of the less fortunate.
To conclude, it is this heartless Conservative government without any vision that is causing unacceptable harm to the people of Quebec, thereby tugging at the heartstrings of our friends from the Bloc Québécois. Let us not confuse federalism and Conservative government. This would play in the hands of our colleagues over here.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak about the important issue of the federal government's treatment of Quebec in recent years.
I would like to start by saying that we have carefully studied the motion. We initially contacted the Bloc to discuss a possible change in the wording. I wish to apologize to our extraordinary translators as I will be stumbling back and forth between the two versions of the motion. The French version states:
Que, de l’avis de la Chambre, le gouvernement a fait la démonstration dans son discours du Trône et dans son budget que le fédéralisme ne répond pas aux aspirations et aux besoins du Québec en ne s’engageant pas [...]
I would have automatically translated the French terms aspirations et besoins by “hopes and needs”. Thus, we were very surprised to see that they were rendered by fairly different terms, “goals and requirements”. It was as though the reader would be required to espouse the ultimate goal of the Parti québécois, Quebec's sovereignty. The English does not render the sense of the French term “besoins” but instead chooses to use the term “requirements”, in the sense of something that has to be done.
We are all aware of past differences in translation in Canada. A Quebec government, in referring to equality or independence, once drafted a list of what Quebec wanted, which was unfortunately translated by “Quebec demands”.
We know what happened; it caused quite a controversy. Having taught translation for a number of years, I can tell you that this example is used in first year translation courses to show the importance of word choice.
We contacted the Bloc to determine if it would be possible to change the translation. The Bloc refused outright, which was an indication that this was about playing a political game rather than pointing out that Quebec had not been given its fair share. With the Bloc, it is all about strategy and tactics.
It is often said that the Conservative government and the are always looking for an angle. When the Bloc refused such a simple request, we began to worry.
Never giving up hope, however, the leader of the New Democratic Party, the member for , contacted the leader of the Bloc Québécois to propose an amendment. He told the leader of the Bloc that, if his real aim was to blame the government for its behaviour with regard to Quebec and not to say that the problems set out here are the product of federalism pure and simple, he agreed with him. I am not proposing an amendment at the moment, but will do so later.
He suggested the following minor change. After the word “federalism”, the words “as practised by the Conservatives, among others” would be added. The words, “among others”, refer to the bits of hypocrisy heard today from the Liberals. I give you the example of the Liberal finance critic, who rose earlier to express long and loud his disagreement with the Conservatives' refusal to give Quebec $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing its sales tax and the GST.
When I appeared on Larocque Lapierre with the member for , I had the opportunity to point out that it was the Liberals who first refused to compensate Quebec for harmonization.
Quebec was the first province to harmonize its sales tax with the federal government's. When the Maritimes, just by chance on the eve of a federal election, were compensated hugely, Bernard Landry rightly hit the roof saying there was a problem. He wondered why these provinces had been compensated but not Quebec. That was when he established Quebec's share.
The Liberals wanted nothing to do with it. No doubt about it. Nothing.
The hon. member for , the Liberal finance critic, rose earlier in the House to criticize the fact that the federal government is not compensating Quebec for harmonization, while, for years and years, the Liberals refused to do so.
We said that, with this change and the wording proposed, the text would allow for the inclusion of such behaviour. We were talking about federalism as practised by the Conservatives, among others.
With this amendment, it would have been very easy to agree with the Bloc's proposal, because this is divisive federalism. Federalism of exclusion, as practised by the Conservatives today and the Liberals before them, is at the source of the problem.
The NDP advocates federalism of inclusion, which recognizes differences, since, in fact, only one province—Quebec—has a francophone majority. This is why it has a bill on the table focusing on better protection of the French fact in order, for example, to broaden the concept of the right to a collective agreement in French and to communication with the employer in French in workplaces under federal jurisdiction.
If, for example, someone works for a cellphone company, that person comes under federal jurisdiction. This means that, as things stand, this individual's linguistic labour rights are not protected. We want to extend this protection. The Bloc Quebecois has supported our child care legislation. There is a very explicit clause regarding Quebec's exclusion. The Bloc supported this bill. Therefore, it is possible, if there is a will to do so, to build a country that takes this difference into consideration and that nourishes it, instead of constantly ostracizing people and making them feel excluded.
When the Bloc rejected this amicable change proposed by the NDP leader, we realized what was happening. We realized that, as usual, the Bloc was choosing to withdraw and stick to its ideology, because it was all too pleased to be able to play the same game as the Liberals. I will always remember the member for who, two years ago, introduced a motion in the House in which, at the beginning, she was referring to women's rights. Let us not forget that it is this same Liberal Party which, last year, voted with the Conservatives to deprive women of their right to equal pay for work of equal value.
So, the member made a short speech on the rights of women and, at the end of her motion, she lashed out at the other opposition parties. To no one's surprise, people voted against her motion. So what did she do? She took the original text and she deleted the end. She then included it in an infamous ten percenter, these despicable mailouts that are distributed in a dishonest fashion by people like her. The member sent this mailout, in which she said: “You see, the other parties voted against women's rights.”
We see the same pattern with the Conservatives. I remember a situation involving the Bloc. It was a matter of principle. I did not share the Bloc's view. I thought that the legislation was sending a clear message that we were firmly opposed to the whole issue of child abduction. For legal and ideological reasons, Bloc members voted against the bill. I fully respect their point of view, even though I do not share it.
The Conservatives attacked them with ten percenters, which is what we call those little pamphlets that are sent out. The word “pamphlet” is used deliberately. They almost accused the Bloc members of being pedophiles and child abusers. This is unacceptable. I was the first to criticize the Conservatives and defend the Bloc even if I did not agree with the way the Bloc was voting in this case.
However, we are now seeing the Bloc at its worst, not willing to work with anyone to try and get results. We do not have to look far, Mr. Speaker. In La Presse today, Vincent Brousseau-Pouliot wrote about how Quebec and Ontario are both losing out in the federal economic recovery plan. That was in today's La Presse. It answers the question of whether or not Quebec is receiving its fair share of the infrastructure spending that is part of federal government's economic recovery plan.
The answer is that Quebec is being underfunded by 2% relative to its population. There is a gap of two percentage points, since we received 21.2% of the funding although we represent 23.2% of the population. We are losing out on what represents approximately 10% of our total expenditures because 2% of 20% is 10%. So, two percentage points out of 20% is equal to 10%.
That is the problem with the Bloc. Instead of making an honest and clear effort to get favourable results for Quebec, the Bloc members are like children in an elementary school play with their wooden swords and hats made from folded newspaper, trying to say that they are real warriors. It is pure fantasy, nothing but make-believe.
When we hear the Liberals say things like what came out of the mouth of the member for , we are at a loss for words and realize that the New Democratic Party and its leader are the only real alternative to the years of squabbling in Canada, just as often the fault of the Conservatives as the Liberals.
His statement is one for the record. The member for questioned him about one of his remarks regarding expenses. It will be in the transcripts, also known as Hansard, and will be easy to check. The Liberal addressed the Conservative and said the following: “I can hear some federalists opposite voicing their objections even though they are supposed to be with us against the Bloc.” I am quoting verbatim the member for , who just spoke. That is mind-boggling.
Therefore, by definition, no matter what the Bloc Québécois says, the Liberal Party of Canada will oppose it because the Liberals are federalists and Bloc Québécois members are sovereignists. It was quite something. It is not something that can be made up and it will be in black and white. Furthermore, even if they try to change the words, at least the audio recording will be available so that people can verify that what I just said is true.
I cannot believe the point we have reached. But the Bloc will continue to claim that it represents Quebec's interests while forgetting that a good number of its positions are not good for Quebec.
The environment is one of the subjects brought up by the Bloc in the House today. I am in a position to talk about this issue because I was the Quebec environment minister when the federal member for , who was the leader of the Liberal Party until recently, was my federal counterpart.
I can say, and that is in the record as well, that it was not fun. Members will recall that Eddie Goldenberg, the former chief of staff to Jean Chrétien, admitted that the Liberals had signed the Kyoto protocol “to galvanize public opinion”.
Signing the Kyoto protocol was a public relations stunt for the Liberals. That is why Canada had the worst record of all the signatories to the Kyoto protocol when the Liberals were in power. There has been no change under the Conservatives. However, the largest increase in greenhouse gases of all the countries that signed the Kyoto protocol was recorded under the Liberal watch. That is understandable. Mr. Goldenberg admitted that there was no plan to meet the Kyoto objectives, no real intention of respecting them. That is always the way with the Liberals: theatrics, diversions, a tendency to tell people what they think they want to hear in order to be elected. That is the record of the Liberal Party of Canada.
NDP proposes to be more constructive. Interested people can go to our website and read the Sherbrooke declaration adopted by our party, which offers a new vision of our great country, a vision where Quebec would be allowed to manage its own affairs within Canada.
People should take interest in that declaration.
But let us go back to today's motion and see whether the Bloc members are sincere. On the environment front, there is no greater mistake than oil sands development as it stands. If we do not internalize the environmental costs of the oil sands, we are importing an artificially high number of American dollars. Environmental costs must be taken into account, whatever the item produced. Thus, market prices must reflect the internalization of these costs.
Since they have been there, they have developed Keystone, Southern Lights, Alberta Clipper, Keystone II and another pipeline for exports to China. According to an independent analysis, Keystone alone represents the export of 18,000 jobs. That also represents the bulk export of a Canadian resource, just as we used to export untreated logs to the United States were value was added before the finished product, furniture, would be exported to Canada. It was a brilliant strategy. Canada has always acted that way and continues to do so.
The Bloc cannot fight for Canada's future energy security since it does not believe in Canada. As regards the environment, Bloc members believe that sovereignty is the solution, as if pollution stops at the border. Actually, there is a movie on this subject that has just started to run. Quebec was one of the first jurisdictions to ban the use of some pesticides for cosmetic purposes. Ontario followed suit. We wanted to extend this to all of Canada, but the Bloc voted against our proposal, saying that pollution is a provincial matter, as if they could stop pollution by putting a fence around Quebec. After six years, the Bloc has still not taken a stand against the Rabaska project. All of the environmentalists in Quebec have called upon the Bloc to stand against this project, but it still refuses to do so.
The Parti Québécois was in favour of reconstructing the Gentilly-2 nuclear power station, but it has now revised its position. We expected the Bloc to follow suit. However, this is out of the question. According to the leader of the Bloc Québécois, nuclear matters are a provincial concern. So the Bloc will not join ranks with progressive Canadians who are fighting against nuclear power because it is not sustainable and not a solution for the future. The Bloc refuses to take a stand against the reconstruction of the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant. This is what it means to have an ideology that prevents you from contributing to progress.
Today, the NDP got all the answers it needed. We could have worked with the Bloc had it been willing to amend its motion to say that the goal is constructive criticism for the future. Conservatives are being blamed, which does not preclude possible criticism of the Liberals, mainly for their stand on harmonization, but the Bloc would not listen.
In order for this to remain in the public domain, I wish to move an amendment.
I move, seconded by the hon. member for , that the motion be amended by adding, after the word “federalism”, the following: “as practised mainly by the Conservatives”.
Madam Speaker, first, I would like to tell the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Now that the Don Quixote of the NDP has spoken, let us get back to important matters. Our motion contains a number of elements, some of which I would like to speak to.
It says that the budget does not meet Quebec's needs or rather those of the Quebec government. I have been a part of that government before, and I know that the current situation of Quebec's finance minister must be unbearable, especially when a large chunk of his revenue comes from a sort of black box over which he has no control.
On December 24, 2008, the equalization formula was unilaterally capped, although it was a contract. At that time, the Government of Canada was coming out of an election campaign, and the Quebec government was in the midst of one. On December 24, a formula was unilaterally sent out whereby the contract had been amended. All that happened on December 24, proving that Santa Claus can sometimes be a real jerk.
In the fall of 2008, we said, just as the opposition did, that there would be a $1 billion loss. Ms. Jérôme-Forget, who was one of my colleagues at the National Assembly and the finance minister, said she was not told that $1 billion was being cut. She was on the campaign trail and, as a result, had limited information from her department.
What did she have to do? She had to admit that there had been a $1 billion loss for the Quebec government. That may have been what turned her off and ended her political career. The finance minister realized that Hydro-Québec, wholly owned by the Quebec government, and that Hydro One, wholly owned by the Ontario government, were not being treated equally. However, both companies produce, transport and distribute electricity. But because Hydro One transports and distributes under the guise of a corporation and pays dividends to its shareholder—the Ontario government— it does not fall into the same category. They say that Hydro One does not produce electricity. Where does it get it from? Surely not the sky. So, Ontario does indeed produce electricity.
The mere fact that Hydro One pays dividends as a company and Hydro-Québec pays them as a natural resources Crown corporation deprives the Government of Quebec of $250 million in income. This explains why we were recently told that the Government of Quebec was thinking of increasing hydro rates. But we realized that adding one dollar to the hydro rate meant approximately $0.50 less in equalization, while Hydro Ontario could do the same thing without any equalization penalties. This is a double standard. On January 21, 2009, 419 days ago, Ms. Jérôme-Forget said that she wanted the federal government to treat Quebec fairly and equitably and to rectify the accounting process for Hydro-Québec's revenues. On January 21, 2009, a letter was sent to the Minister of Finance. We have not received an answer since then.
My colleague, the hon. member for , talked a lot about harmonization.
The National Assembly adopted a motion. The first equalization issue was the Government of Quebec. The second issue was the GST/QST harmonization. The motion was passed unanimously by the National Assembly.
At the time, it was $2.6 billion. What is Quebec's Minister of Finance doing now? He is looking at that and telling himself that $2.2 billion would maybe do the job. Meanwhile, $2.2 billion over 18 years, at 5% interest, would amount to $5.3 billion today if we had received the $2.2 billion in 1992. That is exactly, or close to, what British Columbia and Ontario will be getting because they harmonized their taxes last year. It is approximately the same amount, $2 billion, if we consider the $1 billion paid to the Maritimes 13 years ago. The Maritimes received $1 billion 13 years ago. That amount, invested at 5%, would be the equivalent of what Quebec is asking for today. If I were Quebec's Minister of Finance, I would not be claiming just $2.2 billion. I would be claiming $2.2 billion plus interest because this is the Government of Canada's debt to the Government of Quebec.
This is not for lack of negotiators. There have been five premiers and eight ministers of Finance in Quebec since then. The federal government has just always been stubborn.
A motion was unanimously passed in the National Assembly on March 31, 2009, but they could not care less.
The third point I would like to raise is the Canadian securities commission. There was another unanimous motion. Three issues, three unanimous motions in our legislature, the National Assembly of Quebec. One unanimous motion on January 15, 2009, called for the National Assembly to reiterate its firm opposition to the proposed Canada-wide securities commission.
What is the Government of Canada doing? It is talking about $150 million this year for a securities commission for which the bill has yet to be tabled in the House, and $11 million for transition costs. That is $161 million to create another structure on top of the Commission des valeurs du Québec, the Autorité des marchés financiers, and securities commissions across Quebec and Canada.
When the budget speech was given, I said that the government wanted to spend $8 million to create a commission to examine the commissions, to make sure there were not too many of them. Now they want to create a Canada-wide securities commission on top of the other securities commissions. We are talking about an expenditure of $161 million.
And yet we have jurisdiction. Why do they want this? Constitutional competence lies with the provinces and, what is more, the people are competent. What does a securities commission do? It regulates a business, the securities business. That means there are investors. Quebec investors, privately or collectively, apply in French to the Autorité des marchés financiers in Montreal. With this sort of change, where will they apply, and in what language? Who will respond to them? I assume it will probably be a call centre outside Canada, to cut costs. Who will respond to the investors, the issuers, the small, medium, large and very large companies that do business with the Autorité des marchés financiers? I have worked in this area, where business was done on almost a daily basis with the Autorité des marchés financiers. Who will do it? The third parties people use now, the law firms, notaries, accountants, the people being educated in the universities, where will they go to work? And in what language? Why?
The Autorité des marchés financiers works. Yes, there have been problems, but we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. That much is clear.
That is why we are moving this motion. We have given a number of examples. My colleague from will speak for the rest of the 20 minutes we have been allotted.
Madam Speaker, it is sometimes difficult to find the right word to describe a behaviour. The dictionary provides guidance in that regard. When we use a word, it is recognized by the dictionary.
I am pleased to speak to the Bloc Québécois motion. My colleagues from and were able to set the debate in context. I would point out, broadly, that this motion stresses how little room the budget gives in relation to a federalist approach to things, how little room it allows for Quebec. It does the same thing in relation to the other regions of Canada, more specifically where the social safety net is concerned.
These are the issues addressed in the motion. Quebec is owed $2.2 billion for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST. As well, no support is being offered for the forestry industry in Quebec equivalent to what is being done in Ontario for the auto industry. We all agree with the support provided for auto industry workers, but where the rub lies is that there is discrimination in the choices made, and that should not be the case.
The aerospace industry in Quebec is also completely ignored in the economic choices made by Canada. I will not talk about environmental issues, because other colleagues have already done that. I am going to focus on the needs of the disadvantaged, who have been completely ignored by the Conservative government and the government that preceded it.
My colleague from talked about contempt and indifference. In fact, what we are seeing is contempt and indifference toward the most disadvantaged people in our society.
I will give an example. After hearing the Speech from the Throne, we also see that the budget contains nothing for veterans, even though it had been announced that they would receive a monthly pension instead of a lump sum. The budget also contains no provision for the community sector and for seniors.
But the Speech from the Throne announces the creation of days to celebrate having nothing: a holiday from the Prime Minister for veterans; a day to celebrate community organizations, which have suffered unprecedented cuts in the last three years; and a day for seniors, who have had $3.2 billion taken from them. The most disadvantaged, and the ones who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, are ignored.
The last two governments hoped to eliminate this debt by attrition. In the budget, the government will recover $228 million because these people die. While the government knows to whom it owes this money, it relies on the fact that these people do not know their rights and keeps the money that belongs to them.
I will talk about the economic crimes committed against seniors and the unemployed.
We have to tell it like it is. We talk about white collar criminals who help themselves to the money their clients have entrusted to them. The present situation is similar. The government helps itself to the money that belongs to seniors and the unemployed. In the last 14 years, the government has siphoned $57 billion from a fund put in place for workers who have lost their jobs. Some say that what is done is done, that the money was used for other things, and that we should forget about it. I say that we should not forget about it and trivialize such repressive measures foisted on the unemployed. What is worse, the Conservative government is preparing to siphon another $19 billion over the next five years. Only employers and workers pay into the employment insurance fund. What the government has done is absolutely revolting, yet every party that has been in power seems to have considered this practice perfectly normal.
I call here for two minutes' reflection. When you give your money to an individual to administer, through investment, insurance or business management and when you need it for your own purposes and the people who administer it tell you they have used it for other purposes, what do you do? You take them to court, because this is misappropriation. Well obviously seniors and the unemployed cannot take the government to court, but the action remains just as reprehensible and unacceptable. Why do we accept the unacceptable? Because the behaviour has become commonplace. It has become commonplace to steal from society's have-nots to fatten the haves, the banks, the oil barons, those who divert money to tax havens, for example. There are tax credits, there are even subsidies for these people paid out of the money collected from ordinary citizens, even from workers who pay money into the EI fund and cannot get it out afterwards. How is it we make it commonplace to steal from the poor to give to the rich? I am choosing my words carefully, because that is just what is going on here.
Of course, some people would remind me that the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, which said that, once it is in the consolidated fund, it becomes a sort of tax. Here again there is a lot of money. We have reached a crossroad where the situation has to be remedied. Steps must be taken. The Bloc has proposed measures to make EI once again available to those entitled to it, including setting eligibility at 360 hours and increasing the benefits to 60% of income. There are measures as well to permanently increase benefit duration to 50 weeks and to remove the stupid measure under which individuals applying for EI benefits are immediately suspected of committing fraud. They must be assumed to be acting in good faith. These are the measures that must be passed here, under Bill and Bill , among others.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure today to make this statement alongside a woman with whom I have been privileged to sit. The member for taught entrepreneurship at a technical school in British Columbia. It is women like my colleague who build stronger provinces within a stronger Canada.
I am pleased to comment on another frivolous Bloc Québécois motion. After years in Ottawa, every motion that the Bloc brings forward is sillier than the last. This one is no exception in either form or content.
We saw it earlier: to the Bloc, anyone who does not think like them is a fool or an idiot, which is unfortunate. According to the Bloc Bible, there are a lot of fools and idiots in Quebec.
I will start with the people from the forestry sector, who wonder if the Canadian government is doing what Quebec needs to get through these tough economic times. Are any of the members here willing to stand up for Quebec and do what is necessary when it is time to approve budgets and take concrete measures?
We make judgments based on results, but when we talk about ourselves, we are a little biased. Therefore, let us hear from others, including the Forest Products Association of Canada:
From a forest industry perspective, the government has its priorities right: investing in green jobs of tomorrow, stimulating the economy through clean energy technologies, and inviting investment by changing the accelerated capital cost allowance, will give Canada the edge it needs to move into the new bio-economy.
People are talking about the bio-economy and biofertilizers. Just two weeks ago, I was in Varennes to announce an investment of almost $80 million in a local business producing ethanol from corn. It is a technological leader. These people are working hard in cooperation with Quebec institutions, and they are developing a new generation of biofuel made from vegetable fibre, called cellulosic ethanol.
I wish them luck and want them to know that our government supports them and will continue to support efforts in that field.
Forestry producers are saying that the Government of Canada's budget 2010 has some good measures. The Government of Quebec says it is negotiating to harmonize taxes, but most of all, it is pleased to be receiving more transfers than ever before: Canada is transferring $19.3 billion to Quebec for health, education, social transfers and equalization.
We live in a federation that believes in equality and is distributing Canada's wealth, from which Quebec is benefiting. When the time comes to vote, I will rise in this House and support these measures.
That is what the forestry industry is saying. My Bloc Québécois colleagues seem to be saying that agricultural producers are also idiots or fools because they said the federal government had made a good decision in granting $25 million to plants that slaughter livestock over 30 months of age, for urgent action was needed.
What is our government doing? It is implementing measures to help beef producers, farmers and cattle cull producers in every region of the country. Furthermore, the Fédération des producteurs de bovins du Québec is satisfied with budget 2010 and wants the members from Quebec to vote for it. The Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec also supports the budget.
The people of my riding and the many dairy farmers in my riding can count on budget 2010 and on the hon. member for to support this measure, which will provide assistance to plants that slaughter livestock over 30 months of age.
As we know, the Bloc sees things only through the prism of its separatist ideology here in Ottawa. Personally, I feel pretty good here in the House of Commons. I can express myself in my mother tongue, French, and I work for the people of my riding, which includes several municipalities. People need drinking water, a waste water treatment system and roads to get to work or school, and seniors need roads to get around.
The Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités covers more than 85% of Quebec, or nearly 1,000 municipalities. We know that the president of the FQM, Bernard Généreux, was re-elected on March 11. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him. Mr. Généreux, who is also the mayor of Saint Prime in the RCM of Domaine-du-Roi, said:
The investment of several billion dollars has already allowed the municipalities to play a vital role in tackling the economic crisis by creating thousands of jobs [in Quebec] while responding to real needs in terms of infrastructure standards.
This statement is supported by two vice-presidents from other regions in Quebec. I am referring to Serge Fortin, who is the reeve of Témiscouata and, closer to Lévis—Bellechasse/Les Etchemins, we have Reeve Richard Lehoux, who is the mayor of Saint Elzéar, a magnificent municipality in the hon. member for Beauce's riding, which is often referred to as the little Switzerland of Quebec. The reeve of Nouvelle-Beauce says that year two of the Canadian government's economic action plan allows them to continue to invest in infrastructure. Which hon. members from Quebec will rise in the House to support these measures?
I have other names here. We are talking about municipalities, but we are also talking about a city that includes many Quebeckers. It is called the City of Montreal, Quebec's metropolis. What are people from the City of Montreal saying? They say that the federal government is also maintaining funding for affordable housing [we have never seen so much money allocated to affordable housing], full reimbursement of the goods and services tax (GST) for cities and is thereby in sync with the priorities of our administration”. The different levels of government are working to provide services to the people on the ground.
It is the same thing for the Union des municipalités du Québec, which commended the announcement of an additional $14.6 million a year for Canada Economic Development to support the long-term economic development of the regions of Quebec. All these people, all these representatives cover 85% of Quebec, the City of Montreal, the forestry industry, the agricultural sector, and I have more quotes here. We have made a strategic investment in what is needed to develop our knowledge industry in our colleges and universities.
Michel Belley, an excellent professor of science and financial sciences who is also chairman of the board and president of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, told us, “Given the current financial situation in Canada, we appreciate that Canada continues to invest in university research and innovation in order to create jobs and build the economy of tomorrow”.
Does the Bloc think that people like this are foolish and crazy? I think that these are very smart people who are helping to move Quebec forward so that it can continue to develop and so that it can emerge from this economic crisis.
I have said it once, and I will say it again: this budget will have a positive impact on Quebec. For example, there are the jobs that have been created since July 2009. On Monday, I was at a smelting plant in Sainte-Claire de Bellechasse. We know that manufacturing companies are facing tough competition from Chinese companies, for example, which have lower production costs. These businesses are working on cutting their production costs. Who can they count on this year? They can count on the Canadian government, which is extending the work sharing program. We must support our manufacturing sector, because this industry is creating wealth.
We are also thinking about our families with the home renovation tax credit established last year, which stimulated the construction industry. This year, there are tax breaks, such as the first time homebuyers tax credit and the home renovation tax credit. These concrete measures show that we are working. The results speak for themselves, and it is clear that this budget is good for Quebec.
As a member from Quebec, it makes complete sense for me to support this budget. It makes even less sense for me to vote against it. There are perhaps some reasons for that. If I take time to think about the reasons for voting against the budget, I have a hard time understanding them.
The Bloc said that with respect to harmonization, it does not look at what is done, but what remains to be done. The Canadian government will not negotiate with an opposition party. That is clear. It will negotiate with the Government of Quebec. It is clear that our government is willing to negotiate. However, that is no reason to deprive Quebec of $19.3 billion in transfers.
I would like to continue with another example, specifically the environment. It is an area of great concern to Quebeckers and Canadians. In the last budget, $400 million were allocated for developing the entire biomass sector. This is about producing energy from biomass. Projects are currently starting up in all the regions of Quebec.
The job of elected representatives is to make sure that our organizations, our forestry co-operatives, our institutions that, for example, have oil-fired heating systems, can benefit from subsidies provided by the Canadian federal government to make the transition from systems using non-renewable hydrocarbons to biomass, which is a renewable source and is creating jobs for us.
Biomass is one thing, but there is also the development of value-added wood products. We know that Quebec is a leader in what we call sawn timber and in the techniques of productively recovering every small log. These funds are available through Natural Resources Canada and are provided to Quebec companies.
These are two contradictory views. They are truly irreconcilable. I have a quote here from Michel Gauthier who said in 1996, well before the hon. member for Hochelaga arrived in this House: “The Bloc was supposedly a transient party that should no longer exist by now. We decided to stay. So we must write, we must produce materials.“
They must produce motions, a bit like the one before the House today, frivolous and ridiculous motions that, as I said, are not helping Quebec move forward. Meanwhile, Quebec stays on the opposition benches. Fortunately, there are Conservative members from Quebec, such as the hon. member for Richmond, who are committed to securing Quebec's success in the face of these difficult economic times.
We are in the second year of our economic action plan. We had promising results in the first year. We are continuing in the same direction.
I can say that I am very proud to be sitting next to my colleagues, like the hon. member for Richmond and my other colleagues, in order to continue helping Quebec move forward within the Canadian confederation.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
My colleagues in the Bloc and I have repeatedly demonstrated in the House that the forestry sector in Quebec is currently experiencing one of the most difficult periods in its history.
I think this situation is now understood and accepted by everyone. A person would have to be acting in bad faith to say otherwise, but that is precisely where the problem lies. In spite of the fact that this government is aware of the problems the forestry industry is going through, it has consciously decided to abandon the workers in that industry.
While the Conservatives persist in refusing to invest in the forestry industry, they are throwing billions of dollars at the auto industry, and they keep handing out tax presents to their friends the banks and oil companies.
We have no choice but to conclude that there is no longer any place for Quebec in Canada. All of Quebec is calling for investment in that industry, the industry that developed our regions and thus forged the Quebec we know today. It is that industry that helped to put bread and butter on our great-grandparents’ tables and that still does so today for over 80,000 Quebeckers.
To us, in Quebec, the forestry industry represents the survival of nearly 230 towns and villages that depend largely on that industry. In addition, 160 of those towns and villages depend entirely on that industry. The shutdowns and job losses that are happening today have a significant social and economic impact on those communities. People are leaving their families. The schools are closing and the communities are breaking down. In a nutshell, the forestry industry is central to the occupation of the land in Quebec and to the history of its people.
I understand that people in Ontario want to preserve the auto industry that has contributed so much to developing and defining their economy over the last century. I would also point out that we are not opposed to the aid that has been given to the auto industry; quite the opposite. But just as the nation of Canada wants to protect its auto industry, it is legitimate for the Quebec people to do the same for its forestry industry. The National Assembly of Quebec would have taken action long ago if Quebec were master of its destiny. Unfortunately, because we are still at the mercy of the Canadian federation, our industry is dying a little more every day.
As long as Quebec taxpayers are paying taxes in Canada, this government must take Quebec into account. Of course, looking at the long term, we need to modernize the forestry industry—we are not against that either—to ensure its prosperity.
However, before it can prosper, the forestry industry first has to survive the current crisis. On that issue, Bernard Généreux, president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, said:
We can no longer afford to speculate. If something is not done, we could see a real downward spiral. Layoffs and plant closures will only increase. And politicians will have to suffer the consequences of their decisions.
This statement is unequivocal. Action is needed right now, before it is too late. As members of Parliament from the Quebec nation, it is our duty to act. So today I am asking all government members from Quebec, who are happy to be the Prime Minister's puppets, to finally show some backbone, stand up for the people of Quebec and, with us, call on their government to respect the Quebec nation and invest as much money in the forestry industry as was given to the auto industry. That is what we call equality.
Now I would like to explain what we mean by “modernize the forestry industry”.
Major structural adjustments are needed, and these cannot be achieved without financial assistance from the government. These changes must lay the groundwork for recovery and a revival within this industry. The adjustments I am talking about will come through research and development in order to foster innovation, which will allow the industry to return to prosperity, efficiency and sustainability for the benefit of all communities in Quebec.
The companies that transform the resource must find ways to optimize their production lines in order to become more flexible, so they can respond quickly to market fluctuations. We must also continue conducting industrial research in order to develop new market niches for our industry and capitalize on the green shift, which appears to be the key to economic success. We must become a leader in terms of technological innovation in order to be able to produce and export high value-added products and find increasingly efficient ways to reuse forestry waste. In that regard, biorefining could rapidly generate a great deal of supplementary income for companies that exploit those resources.
However, the current economic crisis and the resulting cash shortage are forcing businesses to cut back on their activities. That is why research, which is lucrative in the long term, but requires immediate expenditures, is an expense that can be quickly eliminated in times of economic crisis.
It is clear that the only way that forestry companies can hope to prosper in the future is through innovation and the development of new products and markets. The current economic crisis should not be a pretense for mortgaging the long-term prosperity of our economy, our towns and our nation in Quebec.
This is why the Bloc Québécois is proposing an enhanced scientific research and experimental development tax credit. It would create opportunity out of crisis and would allow companies to develop new markets and new products so that they will emerge from this crisis stronger.
The Bloc Québécois is proposing that the research tax credit be refundable. We absolutely must continue to invest in research and development. The Bloc Québécois is also proposing that the refund occur on a quarterly basis so that companies would receive the cash needed to continue on with the activities that gave them the credit in the first place.
The Conservatives can make themselves feel better by knowing that they are not the only ones in this House to have left this industry out in the cold. By supporting the previous Conservative budgets, or by using strategies that ensured that the budgets would pass, the Liberals have become accomplices in the 's “all for Ontario” government. They once again showed their insensitivity towards Quebec's forestry industry.
I will conclude by asking the people of the forestry industry to continue to rally together. We need to continue to pull together and show our determination, as Quebeckers, to save an industry that has done so much to define us a people. Rest assured that my colleagues and I, unlike the Conservative members from Quebec, will never give up and will continue to proudly represent the people and the nation of Quebec here in this House.
Madam Speaker, first, I would like to wish a happy birthday to Jean-Phillipe Soucy, my parliamentary assistant, who works with me on the Hill.
When the voters in my constituency elected me, they entrusted me with the duty to represent them with dignity in the House and to tirelessly defend their interests.
I rise today to denounce the empty Conservative measures that not only fail to show respect for the interests of Quebec and of the citizens of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, but also often go contrary to those interests.
Last December 31, the Prime Minister told us, through his press secretary, that he was padlocking the doors of Parliament. I was outraged, but the public was also scandalized to see the regard in which the Conservatives held democracy and continue to hold it.
If the Conservatives had used that time, as the Bloc, our leader, our finance critic and all our members did, to meet members of the public, decision-makers and organizations and to listen to their needs, prorogation would not have resulted in a Speech from the Throne and a budget that completely fail to address the aspirations of Quebec. This proves once more that federalism is not viable for Quebec.
But do they know that, by abandoning Quebec, the Conservatives are also abandoning the families, the workers, the industries and the regions of our province?
In my constituency, a number of organizations and individuals will suffer as a result of the actions of the Conservatives. As an example, the CFDCs are still waiting for a decision on the renewal of their five-year agreement with CED Canada, which is due to expire next March 31. Despite the announcements of an increased budget for CED, we have no details that allow us to see if real investment in the CFDCs will be confirmed.
In the depths of this period of economic instability, the situation is a concern to senior managers who cannot make their plans for next year. It leaves highly trained and qualified employees insecure, not knowing whether the organization will still have the means to pay them.
The regions served by the CFDCs are the most disadvantaged. If the funding is not continued, the entire economy of the region will suffer. In his speech, my colleague, the hon. member for spoke at length about the importance of implementing measures for disadvantaged regions.
With relatively modest resources, the CFDCs are able to support a number of local initiatives. The government and its ministers know this very well because they have in their hands the annual reports from these organizations.
The agreement between the CFDCs and CED Canada must therefore be renewed and its budgets indexed so that these organizations can help to create jobs and to stimulate economic recovery in our regions.
Moreover, if this envelope is not renewed quickly, we will be depriving all those who need the financial support of the CFDCs.
The Canadian Textiles Program, CANtex, is also coming to an end next March 31. This program allows textile companies to develop value added products. In our area, through the Centre des technologies textiles at the Saint-Hyacinthe Cegep, this program allows for the development of innovative textiles that are used in the aerospace industry, among others. These are promising jobs with a future, in specialized, high technology areas.
Especially in this period of somewhat fragile fledgling economic recovery, many businesses and jobs are depending on the renewal of this agreement for a five-year period. What is the government waiting for?
There is also nothing for the most disadvantaged among us, the elderly. In spite of the beautiful promises made by the minister and member for during the last election campaign to bring back the program to assist elderly workers—he even came with great pomp and ceremony on the occasion of our byelection to announce that this program would be renewed in the near future—yet nothing has been done.
Last spring I was honoured to table my very first motion in the House. In it I asked that the guaranteed income supplement that is given to the most disadvantaged seniors be increased.
In addition to not having indexed old age pensions during the past two years, the government has severely penalized the recipients of the guaranteed income supplement. The direct consequence of the indexing of the Quebec Pension Plan was a decrease in GIC benefits. Here again, we see the Conservative government pilfering what elderly persons are entitled to. We must not forget that those who receive the guaranteed income supplement are the most vulnerable among us.
My colleague from has also done admirable work on this file and I want to take this opportunity to thank her. Our seniors built Quebec as we know it today, and our young people will build the Quebec of tomorrow, but it is our responsibility to create an equitable transition.
Once again, the nation of Quebec will have to pay for the Conservative government's injustices. It has invested massively in the automotive industry in Ontario but gave only crumbs to Quebec and the forest industry; it wants to establish a single securities commission; it refuses to harmonize the sales tax for Quebec.
In the final analysis, the government will have saved money by stealing from seniors who saw their guaranteed income supplement benefits reduced when their Quebec pension plan premiums were indexed, as opposed to their pensions; by announcing that it will continue to pilfer from the employment insurance fund in the years to come; and by not improving access to employment insurance for claimants.
And yet, the Bloc Québécois had proposed some very concrete solutions. The government could have saved money in the following ways: by eliminating tax havens and by increasing tax revenues in this way; by introducing an additional 1% tax on individuals with incomes of more than $150,000; by the fair taxation of large oil companies; by imposing a tax on the mind-boggling bonuses paid to executives; by limiting the exorbitant expenditures in maintenance contracts; and by appointing fewer senators.
But the Conservatives are not very concerned about any of this, preferring to help Alberta by granting tax cuts to the large oil companies, and preferring to assist the automotive industry, mostly concentrated in Ontario, rather than helping industries in crisis overall.
Through their lack of openness, the Conservatives have once again demonstrated that their help is for the rich. It is important to say that through these measures, the government is once again transferring the tax burden to the nation of Quebec.
And I will conclude with this: the government has completely ignored those who are the most affected by this crisis, that is to say the most disadvantaged members of our society.
I want my colleagues to know that we at the Bloc Québécois will continue to advocate for the most disadvantaged among us. Quebec's interests will be well taken care of when we are masters in our own house and when Quebec at long last becomes a sovereign nation.
Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today in this House to speak to the motion by my colleague from the Bloc and explain why I will be voting against it. My colleague from the Bloc has quite correctly noted that the Conservative government has not responded to the needs of Quebec. I will come back to this again in a few moments. But where my colleague from the Bloc is mistaken is in attributing the cause of this failure to federalism, when in reality the cause is this Conservative government.
Let us examine the issues in question, starting with the harmonized tax. The Conservative government ought to have known perfectly well last year, when it was negotiating an agreement on the harmonized tax with the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia—an agreement which included financial compensation for those two provinces to help them make the transition—that Quebec would demand a similar agreement, having itself made the transition to a harmonized tax many years before.
Yet, instead of including Quebec in this process, this Conservative government clearly treated Quebec as a special case which would not be treated the same way as the other provinces. Here is a first example of this Conservative government’s lack of respect for a province, in this case, Quebec.
I am sure that it is quite clear that the problem has nothing to do with federalism. After all, the Conservative government found a way to come to an arrangement with Ontario and British Columbia. The real problem is this Conservative government which is treating Quebec disrespectfully in this matter. That is the true cause of the problem.
Let us take another issue, the forestry industry. Last year, when the forestry industry was in the worst of the economic crisis and imploring the Conservative government to grant it loan guarantees and facilitate its access to credit, this Conservative government turned a deaf ear to those appeals. My party heard those appeals very clearly, and also supported the demands of the forestry industry. In fact, the Liberal government of Paul Martin clearly recognized the need to address problems in the forestry industry in 2005, and included in its budget $1.5 billion over five years to allow the achievement of a number of objectives linked to a true national strategy for that industry.
My party understood four years ago the need to make certain changes in the forestry industry to make it more competitive. Here we have more evidence that federalism can work very well if the government takes time to listen to the provinces and territories and acts accordingly.
Federalism is a partnership based on respect and the desire to make this country work well. Federalism does not work when it is based on confrontation, as is presently the case between this Conservative government and Quebec.
Let us take another example, the environment. Here the differences are profound. We all know very well that the Conservative government has been dragging its feet for four years on the environment. After four years and three environment ministers, this government’s record on the measures that need to be taken is far from brilliant. Criticized not only by Quebec but also by other provinces—not to mention the condemnation by the international community—the Conservative government continues to drag its feet. Not only is it doing very little, but it takes the opportunity to lecture Quebec when Quebec decides to embark upon an important environmental initiative.
Is this a problem with federalism? Of course not. The problem is with this Conservative government that does not listen and has no respect.
That brings me to the needs of our rural areas. We are all familiar with them. There is, of course, the forestry sector, to which I have referred, but there are other major industries such as agriculture and, in certain areas, fishing. Access to high speed Internet or to waves for cellphones is an issue just about everywhere. As well, a large number of communities are concerned about the need to diversify their region's economy, so as to avoid being dependent on a single industry.
Wherever I go in Quebec, the message is clear: people want us to help them stay in their regions. They do not want to be forced to leave to live elsewhere. Did the Conservative government get the message? Based on the importance that it is giving to Canada Economic Development, we must conclude that it did not. Instead, this government is relying on a laissez-faire attitude, which consists in helping people a bit every now and then but, other than that, let them fend for themselves. The government has no strategy, no vision and no long-term plan. It is using a piecemeal approach when the time comes to make nice political announcements. They love these announcements.
Let us talk about poverty. What does this government do to deal with social housing needs? What does it do about homelessness, which is a serious issue in my riding? We must put a lot of pressure on the Conservative government simply to get it to renew existing programs for which funds have already been earmarked. Is this leadership? Of course not. Are we to blame federalism, as our Bloc Quebecois colleagues always do? Of course not. The issue has nothing to do with federalism, but it has everything to do with this Conservative government, which does not understand Quebec and which wants to impose its will on the province, rather than work constructively with it.
Let us talk about culture. During the 2008 campaign, the Conservative government showed very clearly that it failed to understand the importance of culture for Quebec, and that cost them dearly. This total lack of understanding is typical of the ruling Conservative Party. It is not typical of my party, the Liberal Party, which recognizes very clearly the importance of culture for the Quebec identity. My party has committed to doubling the funding for the Canada Council for the Arts when it will be back in power. My party has committed to securing the future of CBC/Radio-Canada through stable and predictable funding. My party recognizes the importance of culture for Quebec and all of our country. My party recognizes the importance of promoting our culture abroad.
The Conservative government refuses to support loan guarantees for Quebec's forest industry. The government has no intention of taking any action on climate change, after four years in power. I have to admit I sat incredulous as the announced that the decision not to fund the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences was final because enough science had been done.
It is not federalism that is failing Quebec. It is the Conservative government that is failing Quebec. Liberals know how to make the federation work. A federal Liberal government would work closely with the Government of Quebec to address the challenges facing the province.
The reason why Quebec does not click with the Conservative government is because Quebeckers do not share the Conservatives' values. That is the problem. No matter how often the Bloc Québécois repeats it, after hearing the same tune for nearly 20 years, many Quebeckers are getting tired of it. The reality is that the Bloc Québécois's message concerning federalism is really getting old, especially coming from a party that does nothing but criticize and can do nothing more.
I would like to say to my colleague from Joliette, for whom I have great respect, that he is right when he says that Quebec is not well served. However, he is mistaken as to the cause. The cause is straight in front of us, him and me, and it is called the Conservative government.
Madam Speaker, to begin with, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
It is with great disappointment for Quebec that I address this House today. After the reading of the Speech from the Throne and the budget, I am not surprised to see that this government has, once again, abandoned the Quebec nation. Once again, we must face the facts: federalism does not benefit Quebec.
The Reform Conservatives do not even bother anymore to try to meet Quebec's demands. Quebeckers are, once again, well aware of the fact that freedom and independence are the only solutions and that Quebec does not belong in a federation that does just ignores it.
Ten minutes is a very short time to list all the measures that cannot be found in the budget. There is nothing for the most vulnerable classes of society. There is nothing for the transfer of amounts to which Quebec is fully entitled. There is nothing either for the environment, women, culture, nor for the forestry and aerospace industries in Quebec.
The main characteristics of this budget are the gifts, the nice surprises and the goodies for western oil companies and Ontario's automobile industry. In other words, we are trying to rob Quebec to pay Ontario and western Canada. It is as though the federal government had organized a big party only for Ontario and a few western provinces. Quebec, in particular, is simply tossed aside.
As you know, British Columbia has received 1.6 billion dollars to harmonize its sales tax with the GST. As for Ontario, it has received 4.3 billion dollars, almost three times as much.
At the other end, neither the Speech from the Throne nor the budget mention any compensation for harmonizing Quebec's sales tax with the GST and this has been the case since 1997. Along with the Government of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois has been demanding for a while that the federal government give Quebec the 2.2 billion dollars that are rightfully his. In fact, 2.2 billion dollars is slightly above the amount offered to British Columbia, but half as high as that offered to Ontario. Another gift for Ontario and western Canada; and nothing at all for Quebec.
A few weeks before the recession, the Minister of Finance et the Prime Minister were highly optimistic when they said that Canada would not experience an economic crisis. However, reality has quickly caught up with them and they were forced to face the facts.
The forestry sector in Quebec has been particularly affected by this crisis. In my constituency of Compton—Stanstead alone, a number of sawmills have gone out of business. Among other mills, I might mention Labranche and Paul Vallée. These two major employers in St-Isidore-de-Clifton have had to close their doors. The economy of that small town has been significantly affected.
For several years, the Bloc Québécois has constantly proposed appropriate and specific measures to assist the forestry industry. In May 2009, for example, we were proud to put forward a series of concrete proposals that the federal government could easily have embraced. I could specifically mention the creation of a credit facility for the forest industry, a one-stop shop that would have provided loans and loan guarantees to companies in the sector. I could also mention the bill granting tax credits to young graduates settling in a resource region. But naturally, these measures were dismissed out of hand by these Conservative Reformers who prefer to put industries in a pecking order where only those who can offer them the most political capital are treated with generosity.
I would remind the House, for instance, that the Ontario automotive industry received $9.7 billion during the economic crisis. The oil industry in Alberta was granted major tax cuts with no conditions whatsoever. By comparison, the Quebec forestry industry received peanuts, only $170 million. That is about 60 times less than Ontario received for its automobile companies. Sixty times less, it is absurd. It means 11,329 people laid off in Quebec. Is this what open federalism is all about?
As deputy critic, I feel compelled to point out the budget's shortcomings in agriculture and agri-food.
In 2007, that industry generated $18.9 billion in added value for Quebec, a total of 6% of Quebec's GDP. That same year, almost 175,000 jobs were created as the result of agricultural production and the processing of agricultural products.
In the regions of Quebec, agriculture is a vital part of the economy. Abandoning it would be a disaster for our rural areas. For the umpteenth time, the government is showing that it does not care.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture declared that it was “disappointed at the lack of new money and initiatives announced for the agri-food sector in the federal budget“. According to the Union des producteurs agricoles, the real needs of producers across Canada are in the order of $1 billion annually, yet a mere $500 million over five years are allocated to the sector. That boils down to $100 million instead of $1 billion a year. With the exception of this timid, miserly initiative and a sprinkling of photo-ops here and there, agriculture once again is the victim of the Conservatives' draconian measures. But, of course, the Ontario automotive industry and big oil, they do just fine.
The list is impressive and I could keep going for hours. We need only think of the billions of dollars associated with the changes to the equalization formula and the transfer payments that were unilaterally cut in the past. We can also think about the more than $400 million that has still not been refunded to Hydro-Québec by the federal government after the ice storm disaster in 1998.
And I am not talking about the needs of seniors, who are once again completely shut out by the Reform Conservatives. In addition to announcing a review of the pension system in the spring, they are simply ignoring the need to improve employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, in spite of the fact that there has been a unanimous motion of the National Assembly calling for this. Once again, these fine Reform Conservatives are turning a blind eye to a measure on which there is consensus in Quebec. This government obviously prefers to preserve the banks and tax havens rather than respond to the crying needs of seniors. The same is true for the homeless and social housing. The prefers to act as if those problems did not exist; his conscience is clearer that way.
The Conservative government is still refusing to pay Quebeckers the money that is owing to them. There is nothing in the Speech from the Throne or the budget that persuades us otherwise.
The evidence is unequivocal. In a recent survey, a large majority of Quebeckers said they were dissatisfied with the last federal budget. This is hardly surprising. In fact, there is only one thing in the budget for Quebec: business as usual.
In the same survey, two thirds of Quebeckers said that prorogation was unjustified. Imagine, to bring forth this budget, the economic bright lights in the government had to close down Parliament for two months, two months during which the Conservative reformers promised anyone who would listen that they would be coming back with new ideas, with a plan, with concrete actions to benefit the people of Quebec. The people who are still hoping for something from this government were disappointed to learn that there was nothing.
To conclude, I cannot help but think about victims of crime and their families. These Conservative reformers keep hammering at the message that they care about victims. In fact, they are too busy trying to fill our prisons with underage children to think about supporting the families of victims.
All the Conservatives have for victims is $6.6 million over two years. That is $3.3 million that Quebeckers and the residents of the provinces of Canada will have to fight over every year.
The government also says that it wants to facilitate access to special benefits for workers who have lost a family member. They are already entitled to those benefits. So again, there is nothing new, and nothing concrete. There are only false promises and old stuff.
The budget and the throne speech very definitely confirm that the Quebec nation will always be the loser as long as it is part of the Canadian federation. Only sovereignty for Quebec can get us out of this stagnation. I therefore invite everyone in this House to vote for the Bloc Québécois motion.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to this important motion from the Bloc Québécois, tabled this morning by the member for
We note that the Speech from the Throne and the budget do not meet the needs of Quebec. We heard several speeches today both from members of the Bloc Québécois and members of the other opposition parties, outlining the deficiencies of the throne speech and budget.
When the members of the party in power cite a few quotes on a few points that may have seemed positive to some, it is always the same thing: one can never say that a budget is entirely bad, just as one can never say that a budget is entirely good. However, the Conservative Party has puts its blinders on and is pretending that everything is just fine. But that is far from the case.
Some have been forgotten in the throne speech and budget who desperately needed attention. When we rise in the House, it is not to talk about things we have pulled out of thin air. We consult people and we meet with them, and they are probably the same people that our colleagues from the Conservative Party meet with, but they do not necessarily hear the same things as we do concerning the demands made by certain groups.
Like my colleague from who sits with me on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, I think that we could have expected much more sweeping measures in the last budget to come to the assistance of the agricultural sector.
Even before tabling the previous budget, the minister had announced with great pomp and ceremony the setting up of a real program, AgriFlex. As its name implies, this was a program designed to be flexible in order to meet the needs of Quebec and the provinces. But the government had set a little trap.
When we read the budget and saw exactly what the AgriFlex program announced by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food contained, we realized that they had left out income support. And there is the rub. In the final analysis it appears they set up a program that is strictly window dressing. It was not at all what the agricultural sector had asked for.
So we always have to be careful. It is not because the government says it will do something that it will introduce a measure that truly meets the needs of people in a real and concrete way.
The government quoted someone as saying that this or that was great or wonderful. I, too, found some statements about agriculture. These ones demonstrate that neither the Speech from the Throne nor the budget respond to Quebec's agriculture needs.
In a press release most likely sent out the day after the budget, Quebec's farmers' union, the Union des producteurs agricoles, said:
Time will tell if the new budget contained anything useful for the agriculture sector. During Minister Flaherty's pre-budget consultations, the UPA had spoken with him about specific requests, which the federal budget has not currently addressed. Quebec's agriculture sector is disappointed.
They are cautious, and they have every reason to be. One only has to think about the AgriFlex program that I mentioned earlier to remember that you cannot count your chickens before they hatch.
This press release spoke specifically about private woodlots, which my colleague from spoke of. The UPA stated:
The same goes for the lack of a registered silvicultural savings and investment plan for the 425,00 woodlot owners in Canada. There are 130,000 in Quebec and 35,000 of them are forestry producers. There is nothing in the budget about this. The automobile industry got help and the oil industry as well, but the hundreds of thousands of forestry producers who have endured years of crisis are still waiting...
The UPA is also disappointed that there was no follow-up to the request for funding it put forth in partnership with the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to go ahead with development plans for various sectors of Quebec's agricultural production.
Pierre Lemieux, senior vice-president of UPA, was quoted in the press release, not the . I do not think that the latter would have had such sensible things to say about agriculture.
We cannot say that the government has satisfied all the requests, which were totally reasonable in this period of economic recovery, to help a sector that creates thousands and thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars both in Quebec and in Canada.
The UPA fears cuts. The UPA has grave concerns about the intentions of the federal who is looking to reduce program spending by $1.3 billion in order to balance the budget within the next five years. “It would be sad to see the agricultural sector take another hit”, warns the union, which also pointed to the structured nature and the importance of agricultural investment, especially for regional economies.
A number of requests were made by the Union des producteurs agricoles and the various agricultural sectors in Quebec when the government launched its prebudget consultations. We do not rely on the government's prebudget consultations alone. We hit the ground to meet with people and talk to them about their concerns.
I had the honour of welcoming the hon. member for in my riding. We talked to people not only from the agricultural sector, but also from the community, business and municipal sectors. This is the same approach I used throughout Quebec with my colleague, the finance critic, in order to understand precisely what people wanted. Three recommendations from the agricultural sector had already been made to the federal government, and the government has not acted on them.
As I was saying earlier, there was a request for an AgriFlex program worthy of the name to allow Quebec to use money allocated to the AgriFlex program to finance its own income security programs.
A second recommendation had to do with improving the AgriRecovery program to have it cover losses on a specific basis in the short, medium and long terms and to allow the recovery of businesses affected by crises like the golden nematode crisis in Saint-Amable. My colleague from that riding and I have worked hard on that issue in order to get the government to listen to reason. The government completely abandoned potato farmers who were dealing with golden nematode a few years ago.
Finally, there was a recommendation on assistance for the meat sector. In the budget, monies were allocated to help slaughterhouses. That is not new money. The money will be taken from existing programs.
If we just look at what is written in the budget, we might think that there is good news. We have to give credit where credit is due. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is the matter of AgriFlex. We must read between the lines and know the exact details of this program to ensure that American producers and Quebec producers are placed on a level playing field. Quebec producers have to respect Canadian rules regarding specified risk materials. However, American producers do not, giving them the advantage. There is a difference of almost $32 per head, which means that, for one year, $24 million are needed to deal with this problem in Canada. An amount of money was allocated in the budget. We have to see whether the criteria will enable our slaughterhouses—especially the Levinoff-Colbex facility in Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover, which is very close to my riding—to access the program and help them to survive. It is a question of survival.
I will continue by sharing the reactions to the budget of others in the agriculture sector. Here is one from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. This time, the Conservatives cannot accuse the evil sovereignists of speaking against the budget. The title is quite eloquent and telling: “Not much new for Canadian Agriculture in Federal Budget”. That is the title. I will read from the press release. “Dubbed a ‘Jobs and Growth Budget,’ we had hoped the budget would show increased investment in the agri-food sector--a sector which was recognized in the Speech from the Throne as an industry that is the foundation for Canada’s prosperity and supports thousands of communities, both rural and urban, and provides one out of every eight jobs in 2008—”
Laurent Pellerin, CFA president, said: “We had hoped to see some initiatives that would encourage and assist new entrants to provide the needed growth and increased stability within the sector.”
These types of comments are an indication that the budget does not have unanimous approval of the agriculture sector. The CFA was also surprised.