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View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, since I have not yet had the chance to do so, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for the trust they placed in me and the honour they bestowed upon me by electing me to represent them. I would like to assure them that I am here for them, to meet their expectations and contribute to their well-being. I will fight for the issues affecting the riding tooth and nail.
I would like to thank my family, my husband, my four grown children, whose homes stretch from Val-d'Or to Edmonton, my grandson and the other grandchild who will be born in March, as well as my friends who support me in this new chapter of my life.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the exceptional work of the volunteers who supported me during the election campaign.
The motion we are debating today is very important. In a 2018 report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer indicated that the budget provides an incomplete account of the changes to the government's $186.7-billion infrastructure spending plan. The Parliamentary Budget Officer requested the new plan, but it does not exist, and that is a problem.
We really need to shed some light on this and find out what is really happening. I completely agree that the House should adopt this motion and call on the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the government's investing in Canada plan, including, but not limited to, verifying whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises.
I look forward to reading the Auditor General's report a year from now. We already know that there has been a delay in spending. Of the $14.4 billion set out in phase 1 of the new infrastructure plan, only half has been allocated to projects for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years.
In his report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that the manna promised by the Liberals is slow to leave the coffers and get to the work sites. The Liberal government promised to invest $186.7 billion in infrastructure over 12 years, but about one-quarter of the amounts allocated for 2016 to 2019 were carried over to future years.
Quebec wants its share, and the municipalities are waiting to develop their projects, despite their many pressing infrastructure needs. In my region, for example, in Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, we need more roads, more rail lines, infrastructure, telecommunications and airport improvements, just to name a few. Improving both freight and passenger rail travel will be crucial. Shipping freight by truck is ruining our roads.
We also need to make the transportation of dangerous goods safer, especially oil. During the campaign, I met the mayors of Val-d'Or, Senneterre, Chapais, Chibougamau, Lebel-sur-Quévillon and Matagami. They all mentioned the importance of rail transportation, which has been ignored by the federal government for the past 25 years.
We have another problem back home: housing. The large-scale mining sector in the riding is causing a housing shortage. The vacancy rate is becoming quite low, which is causing housing prices to go up. Property owners are taking advantage of the situation to raise the rent. Some students have even decided to study elsewhere because it is too hard to find housing and it is too expensive. The regions are emptying out. The solution would be to build new housing, but for that we need the necessary infrastructure. Municipalities would need to build and improve the water and sewer system to support such development. That takes money.
What is more, telecommunications are a boon on an economic, cultural and social level. Access to the Internet is essential. For example, a nurse died before the holidays in the Matagami area. He was heading to work in northern Quebec when he got into a car accident. He had to walk and was found frozen to death. If his cell phone had gotten a signal, he would still be alive today.
According to the Auditor General's report, there is also a problem of transparency with some of the economic data. The lack of exact figures skews the calculation of the impact on GDP and employment.
Large-scale infrastructure programs are used to stimulate the economy and create jobs.
If the numbers provided reflect reality only partially or not at all, it is difficult to assess the impact.
Mining companies that fly their skilled workers back and forth every day during the winter and at night are not happy about putting fathers and mothers at risk. I would sure like Nav Canada to ask the Crees of Quebec who use the Abitibi and Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean airports if they are okay with Nav Canada cutting a service that is essential to their safety.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer condemned the lack of information relating to transparency and good governance, but he went even further by pointing out that delays in planned infrastructure spending can have important implications for the budgetary balance and the strength of the economy.
Quebec wants its fair share, and municipalities are waiting to get their projects off the ground. Interestingly, Quebec is one of the provinces that gets the least per capita funding, with an average of just $143 per person. The national average is $703 per person. That is unacceptable. What is behind this injustice?
With so many different infrastructure transfers, each with its own rules and conditions, Quebec is powerless to allocate funding based on its own priorities.
That is why the Bloc has been asking for years that the specific transfer be replaced with a lump sum transfer. As we often say, there must be a lump sum transfer, a single transfer with no federal conditions so Quebec can allocate it based on its own priorities. The provinces know their priorities better than the federal government. That makes sense. How can Canada claim to know and prioritize the specific needs of 1,400 Quebec municipalities?
I am the Bloc Québécois critic for indigenous affairs. I would like to mention that it is important that we work with all first nations and listen to them, nation to nation.
In closing, I will say that I support the motion we are debating today and that I will be voting in favour of it. We must determine whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises.
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