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View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
Mr. Speaker, by its very nature, the throne speech is a statement of principle. It contains ideas that may seem, perhaps intentionally, vague, hazy and ill-defined.
Yesterday's speech, delivered by the British monarch's representative at the Prime Minister's behest, is nonetheless very revealing. A highly detailed, specific speech full of clear, costed commitments with concrete timelines could mask its true intentions.
In contrast, if a speech is too vague, it cannot really hide just how devoid of meaning it is.
There is clearly not much there. There certainly isn't anything clear.
Yesterday I talked to the media about issues facing seniors and farmers as well as what Quebec and the provinces want. Today I will start with the most glaring omission in the speech.
I believe I speak for many Quebeckers and artists from Quebec in pointing out that there was not a single word about the arts, culture and the unprecedented crisis Quebec media are going through.
Not so long ago, the Bloc Québécois was the only party, like France, that was calling for a 3% tax to be imposed on the income of web giants. Then, one by one, every Canadian party began to adopt our position. While just a few months ago, the Liberals and the Conservatives saw this tax as a tax against the middle class, now the Liberals and even the Conservatives are more open to it.
First, I would like to point out that this alone is proof of the Bloc Québécois's relevance. Of course, we have served Quebec's artists and media, but we are also pleased to have been useful to Canada's artists and media.
This benefits everyone. The tax that web giants, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, would pay is not actually a tax. It is a royalty, which is an amount that must be paid by anyone who is using a product that does not belong to them for commercial purposes. Given the vulnerability of creators whose content is commercialized and pirated for advertising revenue, it is the government's duty to set the terms of what is, in effect, a licensing agreement.
However, the Bloc has added two criteria to this. First, any money collected in this way must be reserved for the arts, entertainment and the media. Then, 40% of it must be reserved for francophone media, entertainment and artistic creation, as is done in the music industry.
We will not budge on these criteria. The absence of culture in the Speech from the Throne sadly speaks volumes, as does the absence of language. The fact that so many Franco-Canadians and Acadians are turning to the Bloc Québécois to have their voices heard in their language in Parliament should have tipped off the government. They are right to turn to the Bloc. We will support all of our North American francophone brothers and sisters whatever the future may bring, including the creation of the country of Quebec.
As far as culture is concerned, many people lamented the fact that the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie is not being called to work on making Canada a nation that is a bit, even just a little bit, greener.
Personally, as someone who worked for over 20 years in the world of arts, entertainment and news, I do not blame him. I do not blame him for not being able to work “Canadian Heritage” into the throne speech. Of course, for us, it would be “Quebec Heritage” rather than “Canadian Heritage”.
That being said, I sincerely invite the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie to collaborate with me so we can properly advocate, together if necessary, for the issues facing Quebec's creators, artisans and media. However, he will have to forgive me if, in conversation, I hark back to the days when he used to climb towers to raise awareness of threats to the environment.
There is another aspect of this speech that is worth mentioning. No one could fail to notice that the speech referred to the regions of Canada. It referred not to the provinces, territories or Quebec, but to the regions.
Let us make one thing clear: Quebec is not a region of Canada. Quebec is the territory that the Quebec nation shares with several first nations. Today's Canada is composed of provinces, territories and Quebec.
The regions that the throne speech seems to create are the provinces, territories and Quebec. Each one is perfectly real and has its own legislature and government. It is the jurisdictions of these provinces, territories and Quebec that this speech, like all speeches written by the Liberal Party of Canada, tends to encroach on.
Canada does not hire doctors, nurses and orderlies. It is Quebec that hires doctors, nurses and orderlies. Quebec and the provinces called for a 5.2% increase in health transfers on Monday. The throne speech once again exhibited the Liberal Party's habit, which it shares with the NDP, of interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction in a centralist Canada. Ottawa has ignored the unanimous call of the Council of the Federation. The Bloc will not allow such interference and will protect Quebec's jurisdictions. If this also helps the provinces, that is good.
With a similarly united voice, Quebec and the provinces also called for environmental assessments done by Quebec and the provinces to take precedence over federal assessments. That is interesting because the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill on that very topic at the end of the last Parliament. Unsurprisingly, that bill was defeated. Of course we will introduce another bill in this session, as we promised to do. In doing so, the Bloc Québécois is voicing in this place the will of not only the National Assembly of Quebec but also of the provinces. Ottawa ignored the unanimous call of the Council of the Federation on this issue, as well.
I want to make something else perfectly clear: The Bloc Québécois was given a unique mandate.
Many Quebeckers do not identify with any federalist political party. They are not all sovereignists, but they are nationalists. They have left behind the years when they were made to feel guilty about their language, their values and, generally speaking, their differences, years during which Canada sought to erode, and even drown, a proud and legitimate nation within its own system of multiculturalism. Many of these people voted for us and told us so outright because that is the urgent need of the Quebec nation, because that is the current configuration of the National Assembly of Quebec, and because Quebec needs a voice all to itself, a voice of its own.
The Bloc Québécois accepted this mandate. We will not prevent Parliament from doing its job to prove that it does not work. We will not attempt to make Canada more dysfunctional than it already is to prove that it is. Even in an entirely functional Canada, the fact remains that a nation is better represented and served when it can exercise all of the elements of its sovereignty.
Let me be perfectly clear: although it may not be our focus this Parliament, Quebeckers know that the Bloc Québécois is a separatist party. It certainly feels good to say that out loud.
I want to get back to those three topics. The government wants to make life better for seniors, and so do we. We campaigned on this topic. We proposed that seniors should get an additional $110 a month. We believe that this extra money is necessary not only to increase the buying power of those who built the prosperous society we now live in, but also to support Quebec's regional economies and populations.
Unlike what is in the throne speech, our position on this is clear, as are many other of our positions to help seniors and retirees. We will repeat it again and again, and we will continue to explain that if the government does not satisfy this legitimate request for our seniors, they will take note and this government will soon be judged again.
Supply management is another file that has progressed. The Bloc Québécois cannot take full credit, of course, but it is clear that this file, just like the web giants file, would not have progressed as much without the Bloc. There is still work to be done, however.
Paying compensation for the first year is the right decision. Producers want confirmation that the conditions will be the same for the entire eight-year payment period. Producers want to know what the compensation will be in the wake of the free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico negotiated on bended knee by this government. Processors also want to know what is being done for them.
The Bloc Québécois also called for an initiative that is important to supply-managed producers. We want legislation to be introduced to ensure that supply management is never again used as a bargaining chip, like it was this time around to support Ontario's auto industry and the Canadian economy, to the detriment of Quebec's economy. We will introduce that legislation.
Let us now talk about oil. The word oil does not appear in the Speech from the Throne.
For those who want know what I will be talking about, it is oil.
Science is very stubborn. Human activity is causing greenhouse gas emissions that continue to grow. The climate is warming. The economic and human costs are astronomical. This is only the beginning.
Canada is one of the worst performers in the world in that respect. There is no measure to fight climate change that will offset Canada's eagerness to increase the production, export and consumption of oil and gas for purely commercial reasons.
Science is very stubborn. We are not indifferent to the plight of western Canadians. As world citizens, we believe that we need a plan, not for reducing, mitigating or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, but for moving away from this economic model. It will have to be done carefully, gradually, wisely and without pushing anyone into poverty, but we need to move away from a carbon-based economy within the next few decades.
We will support any initiative that will help carbon-dependent economies transition toward an economic model that is compatible with the environmental issues the planet is facing.
I want to address the rude or offensive messages I am receiving from certain parts of Canada. The example comes from the top, but I want to take this opportunity to speak to the people of western Canada.
I want to say for the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan mostly that the Bloc Québécois, and for that matter something like the whole of Quebec, offers to collaborate on a necessary transition toward an economy that will, in due course, not depend anymore on carbon, on oil or on gas.
Investing in such a transition with an open mind and compassion is an extended hand from us. However, we do not want to be part of any further contribution to any further climatic impact of an economic model of the past.
The throne speech that was read to us reveals a lot more by what it does not say than by what it does. There is nothing in the throne speech about culture, language or media. There is nothing about the fight against tax havens or about a solution to the problem that has been plaguing the families of public servants, who are still waiting to get their fair take-home pay. Contrary to what its name would suggest, the Phoenix pay system is a failure that is unable to rise from its own ashes.
While the speech does mention human rights, it fails to address the repression of Catalonia's democracy. I want to take a moment to quickly mention that, by nature, the right to self-determination cannot be subject to a constitution written by the majority or the conqueror with the goal of abolishing that same right. That does not make any sense. Even Canada did not do that.
However, the Prime Minister of Canada boasts about his friendship with Mr. Sanchez and extols the virtues of the Spanish regime, virtues that I have my doubts about. It is embarrassing. Instead, the Prime Minister should be ensuring that the President of Catalonia in exile, Carles Puigdemont, is able to travel freely to Quebec and Canada to meet with people, institutions and the media. I have had inspiring conversations with Mr. Puigdemont, and I can assure the House that he is a very peaceful, caring man who loves arts, culture and diversity.
The word “oil” does not appear in the Speech from the Throne, but the debate over oil is a profoundly divisive one in Canada, pitting those who see no solution but oil against those who insist on the urgency of ending oil dependency. Obviously, the only way forward involves collaboration and alternative technology.
I get that the Prime Minister wanted to please everyone at least a little. I understand why, as the head of a minority government, his approach was to offer vague promises and keep mum on some issues altogether.
The Bloc, in contrast, has such a clear agenda that people have often asked us why we were so specific when we obviously never intended to be the governing party. We did it because Quebeckers, Canadians and the elected members of the House know our values and our ideas. There will be no surprises. This is who we are. That is why 32 Quebec ridings elected us to bring these ideas forward.
We believe in healthy, courteous dialogue, so today we are committing to the kind of well-intentioned collaboration that will characterize our relationship the day it undergoes a profound transformation, the kind of collaboration that will characterize our relationship once we are two equal, friendly, sovereign nations.
I therefore move the following:
That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the words “national unity crisis, which requires” and substituting the following:
“respecting provincial jurisdiction, in particular by not authorizing any project that does not comply with provincial and Quebec laws relating to environmental protection and land use planning;
(d) underfunding of the health care system, which requires an increase in transfers;
(e) an unprecedented crisis facing media and creators, who must be supported through the imposition of royalties on web giants; and
(f) loopholes in the supply management system that must be protected by legislation”.
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