Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Regina—Lewvan.
I am pleased to rise today to speak to the throne speech. I would first like to thank the people in my riding for placing their trust in me in the last election for the third time in my political career. I am very happy about it. I would also like to thank my family and the volunteers and staff who supported me during the election campaign. It was by far the best campaign we have run and we were able to get to where we are through our hard work.
I want to use the time I have to speak to the throne speech to talk about my riding, which boasts a wide range of occupations, professions and educational backgrounds. What unites the people of my riding is an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to have a representative for the region who understands the importance of supporting and promoting organizations and businesses. They are the economic pillars of our community. I am talking about agriculture, manufacturing companies, community organizations, tourism and many other sectors.
The outreach work that I did with the people in my riding over the past four years did not go unnoticed, which explains the outcome of the most recent election. Recently, I was very proud to learn that my leader had decided to offer me a position in the shadow cabinet as critic for rural economic development for the regions of Quebec. As an entrepreneur myself, I am very proud to take on that role entrusted to me by my leader.
I must note that the majority of voters do not necessarily share the Liberal government's rose-coloured view of the country's economic development over the past four years.
Moreover, the Rivière-du-Loup area regularly ranks as one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the country. Voters remembered when the Liberals sought to go after SMEs by changing the tax rules on the pretext that these companies were tax loopholes. That did not make people very happy.
The Prime Minister still has his job, but with this minority government the future of his party is becoming more and more uncertain. We can see that his support has dropped across the country. Last week, we expected the Speech from the Throne to tell us whether the government would finally take the economy in the regions seriously. On the surface, that does not seem to be the case. I did not have to scroll through the entire speech because a search of the term “rural economic development” produced just one hit in an excerpt that I will read now.
Wherever they live—in small rural communities or in big cities; in the foothills of the Rockies or the fishing villages along our coastlines; in the Far North or along the Canada-US border—all Canadians want to make Canada a better place for themselves, their children, and their communities.
What exactly does that mean? In my opinion, it means absolutely nothing. It is poetry. It is art. There is nothing tangible in this speech to make us believe that the government is taking rural economic development and our communities seriously. What does the government plan to do to improve quality of life in rural communities?
That is what a throne speech should be for. A throne speech should list our priorities. When we cannot find the words “rural” or “economic development” used to any meaningful purpose, that tells us what this government's priorities are for the coming years. The government is supposed to list its priorities, not lull us to sleep with a piece of poetry.
Will the government abolish the infrastructure bank, which takes money that was promised for infrastructure projects across the country and diverts it to fund megaprojects in cities and urban centres, or in some cases even in China, including pipelines?
For example—and I have plenty of examples I can give to the government free of charge—will the government reinstate the community infrastructure program that Canada Economic Development used to offer in the Conservative era to finance projects in rural areas? This program, which was known as CIP 150, was one of the best programs that has ever been offered by the federal government.
We know that the federal government cannot have a direct relationship with the municipalities of Quebec. However, community organizations and economic development organizations used to be able to get projects approved under this program. My colleagues must remember. It was an absolutely fantastic program.
There is absolutely nothing like it in the current government's plans. There is nothing about this. There is nothing for our forestry, agricultural or manufacturing sectors. There is nothing about a single income tax return or a better alignment of immigration with the labour market.
There is also nothing about the state of our ports. We know that in my region in particular and throughout Quebec, many ports are grappling with significant problems caused by dredging. Volunteers are exhausted. Action must be taken on this file. I will be talking to the minister about this. We must grab the bull by the horns and solve this problem once and for all.
That is not to mention the dumping of sewage into the river. We raised that issue during the election campaign. We gifted that file to the government, which could have taken charge. It could have set up an infrastructure program, instead of sending money to China, and financed our programs to ensure that sewage is no longer dumped into the St. Lawrence River. That is just ridiculous.
People living in Quebec's regions are Canadians just like the people of Montreal or Toronto. They pay their taxes like everyone else. The government has a duty to not forget about them as it has these past four years.
Also missing from the throne speech is a succession-planning strategy for SMEs. Just over a year ago, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business reported that 72% of small business owners plan to exit their businesses, and the reason given by the vast majority of them was retirement. We are talking about a potential transfer of $1.5 trillion of business assets, which is a massive amount.
I am a business owner and my daughter wants to take over my business. We must be able to help these young people who want to take over businesses of a certain value. We must help them be able to do so. Statistics show that 46% of business owners want to hand over their business to a family member. However, the government currently penalizes business transfers, especially in the agriculture sector. We have been talking about this for many years. It is less profitable to transfer a business to a family member than to sell it to a stranger.
This week, the Institut de la statistique du Québec confirmed that populations continue to decline in the Lower St. Lawrence, on the North Shore and in the Gaspé.
Does this government want to help family businesses, many of which have been around for generations, remain on our soil, or would it rather these businesses close shop or be sold to Chinese interests?
The Liberal and NDP urban elites do not appear to be taking this matter seriously.
I am disappointed not only in this government, but also in the Bloc Québécois for rushing to get behind the Liberals and support the throne speech immediately after it was delivered. I think the Bloc Québécois should have objected to the Liberals' decision to include the NDP promise to create a federal pharmacare plan in the throne speech, rather than support it. That is clearly an intrusion into an area of provincial jurisdiction. The Bloc always seems quick to accept this vision of a centralizing federalism as long as Quebec has the right to opt out with compensation. Basically, the federal government is trying to buy some peace, and the Bloc fell right into the trap.
We will obviously not be supporting this throne speech. I do not see anything in it for the regions or for economic development. Quebec is different and is proud to be different.