Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.
Before getting to the subject at hand, I will take advantage of the fact that I have a little more time than I had the last time I spoke to also highlight the contribution of those close to me in this great political adventure. First, I thank the many volunteers who worked countless hours during the election campaign. Everyone here knows how absolutely crucial they are; we are all very aware of that.
I would also like to mention my trusted collaborator, who has become a friend along the way, which often happens, I think. I am talking about Gisèle, who takes care of everything in the riding with help from the wonderful Andrée-Anne and Marie-Christine. The people of Drummond will be well served.
I also want to highlight an invaluable presence in the lives of politicians: that of our spouses. To be fair, we cannot help but force a certain lifestyle upon them. It takes a great deal of understanding and support on their part to agree to get involved in the turmoil of politics, and sometimes even to pretend to like it. My beautiful wife, Caroline, did not choose to be in politics, but I thank her for accompanying me with great openness and growing enthusiasm.
As is the reality for thousands of families in Quebec these days, Caroline and I have a blended family, with a total of four children: Christophe, Alexandrine, Lily-Rose and Tom. With two boys and two girls, we have gender parity. I said “blended family”, which implies a shared parenting arrangement with another parent. I feel compelled to point out how lucky I am to have an ex-spouse who understands the dedication required to be in politics and who takes on more than her share of the responsibilities towards our children, Lily-Rose and Tom, so they do not suffer too much from the repercussions of my new life. I therefore want to thank Marilou and acknowledge the value of the harmonious relationship we have created as parents who are separated. Clearly, this places me in a minority context in my private life, too. I can confirm that things are going well and I am feeling optimistic about this Parliament.
I want to wrap up my tributes with a few words about a pair of exceptional young people who have been surprisingly impassioned in recent months. I am talking about my parents, Henriette Jolin and Louis Champoux. One should never reveal a lady's age, so I will just say that their combined ages, including months, add up to 159 years. They were so passionate and energetic during the election campaign that I would not be surprised to see them running for office next time around.
I sincerely hope they will not be running against me, and with good reason. My great-grandfather, Émile Fortin, was the MP for Lévis in the 30th Parliament. His son, my great-uncle Louis Fortin, represented Montmagny-L'Islet from 1958 to 1962. He actually took over from Jean Lesage, who left Ottawa for Quebec City. The only generation with no elected officials in my family was my father's, and I am afraid he might suddenly be inclined to remedy that situation.
All of these people, my family and friends for whom I care deeply, have played vital roles along the way. I would not be here without them.
The Speech from the Throne gave us hope that some progress would be made on the issues that matter to Quebeckers. However, there is still a lot of work to do. We need to make sure the government walks the talk, as the saying goes.
In this Speech from the Throne, there was nothing about culture, nothing about language, and nothing about support for the media, in spite of promises made in the 2019 budget. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say, but we are going to make sure that these things do not stay out of mind, and we are going to work hard.
The Bloc Québécois put out many proposals in the months leading up to the election, and, of course, we continued to promote them on the campaign trail. Those proposals can be found in our platform. To no one's surprise, many of them resonated with our voters, and others also appeared in the throne speech, albeit in bits and pieces. I see this as an open door to discussion and even, in some cases, a good opportunity to work together.
Take the tax on web giants. The government has signalled its intention to act swiftly and impose a tax on GAFA, the Googles, Apples, Facebooks and Amazons of the world. That is good, but it is not enough. The proceeds should be considered not as a simple tax, but as a royalty to be distributed to content creators, artists and media outlets. Furthermore, we want 40% of the proceeds to go to francophone content creators and media outlets, not just for Quebec, but for Canada's francophone community as a whole. Francophone culture is at stake. This is no less than a matter of cultural survival.
It is also time to show that we will not wait for the OECD decisions or the whim of the Americans to demand that our creators receive decent compensation for their content. We need to step up and charge web giants GST to put an end to unfair competition.
Print media is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Newspapers are shutting down across the country because web giants are snapping up their advertising revenue once again. There was a 48% drop in advertising revenue between 2003 and 2016, and the situation has not improved over the last three years. The number of subscribers continues to fall.
Once again, the government is proposing an incomplete plan, but there may be room for improvement. I want to say that we will work together with the community, and with our colleagues in the House who are also concerned about this issue. We will ensure that a plan is developed and implemented to meet the needs of the media industry and its people.
However, this print media crisis has hit hard, and we must be very careful, because a similar crisis is brewing for electronic media. Once again, we need to protect our media against the all-powerful GAFA. Our media are active members of our democracy, and even though they may not always make us look good, we must protect their independence and financial health by regulating all media sources fairly, regardless of where they come from.
Almost all my colleagues were quick to contact me to talk about problems with fibre optics and cellular coverage when it was announced that I would be my party's communications critic. I became very popular. I even recommend that all those looking for their soulmate put “communications critic” in their profile on dating sites. It works.
The federal government provided a program and money, but Quebec already had an effective and efficient program. It would have been much simpler to transfer the money to the Government of Quebec, which would have managed it based on priorities.
Regional Internet is not just a tale. It is the reality for many people, many small businesses and the majority of farmers, who cannot use milking machines, as do many dairy farms. That would allow them to manage their agricultural businesses much more efficiently.
Elected officials in absolutely charming small towns such as Saint-Pie-de-Guire and Sainte-Brigitte-des-Saults, or in many other places in the most beautiful of ridings, Drummond, which I recently spoke to you about, would love to attract SMEs or self-employed workers, but Internet access is so unreliable and cellular coverage is so inadequate that they cannot even consider it.
It is important to understand, to realize, that access to high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury and then to act accordingly. It is a service that is essential to regional economic development. If we want to attract businesses and create meaningful jobs in the regions, we need to accelerate the process, otherwise we will not succeed and our regions will continue to suffer.
Let me be clear. I am not throwing stones at big business. Companies work within the market parameters imposed on them. It is up to us, however, to ensure that those parameters are adjusted and adapted so that individuals and families are at the heart of our decisions and actions.
I would like to give a quick example. The municipality of Amherst, Quebec, still has to use a pager service to reach first responders in case of an emergency.
I have appealed to the government about this. The minister listened and showed that he cared about this issue. I even spoke with business people who are currently leaving the municipality. Everyone is open. All stakeholders are open to moving this file forward to enable the people of Amherst to get a more modern and effective system. All that is missing is a little goodwill and the necessary funding. This cannot wait. We cannot leave people in a municipality without access to emergency services. That is unacceptable.
In light of what I just said, it is clear that Quebec's specificity complicates the government's task in files as complex as culture and communications. That is why the Bloc Québécois will propose the creation of a Quebec CRTC, which would be better able to protect the francophone culture, language and media. Such an organization would also significantly ease the burden on the existing authority and would allow our two distinct cultures to flourish much more freely.