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View Sébastien Lemire Profile
Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is dedicated to strengthening development in the regions of Quebec, particularly by activating Canadian federal government resources and adhering to recognized development principles to create a vigorous economic ecosystem with the Quebec national government, sector stakeholders, and the people of all regions of Quebec.
Like Quebec nationalists throughout history, the Bloc Québécois still has to fight tooth and nail to defend the development interests of Quebec's regions from the Canadian federal government, which constantly interferes in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction.
However, the Bloc Québécois can assure the House that co-operation with the Canadian federal government is possible provided that the government pledges to make investments in a specific program or file that meets the expectations of the Quebec government. Here are some examples relating to a rural riding like your own, Madam Speaker.
First of all, let us take the example of sports infrastructure. People who live in regional capitals like Rouyn-Noranda and Thetford Mines do not have access to high-quality sports facilities. Back home in Rouyn-Noranda, there was a multi-sports complex project that never came to fruition. The complex included a soccer field, a pool and other infrastructure. The federal government was not part of this project, and it fizzled out. There is also a pool project in Témiscamingue.
As one member mentioned earlier, in rural areas where the population is less concentrated, people do not have the same means and so it is not as easy for them to carry out such projects. The federal government therefore needs to establish eligibility criteria that correspond with the realities of each region. Once the objectives are established with the federal government, it is up to Quebec and the municipalities to carry out the projects.
I would now like to talk about municipal infrastructure and waste water treatment in particular. Some municipalities along the St. Lawrence River do not have the necessary infrastructure to deal with their waste water, which means that raw sewage is sometimes being dumped into the St. Lawrence River, as others have mentioned. Many Quebec municipalities dump their waste water into lakes and rivers. That is unacceptable. Municipalities must be given the means to improve their existing infrastructure.
Speaking of water, I also want to give the example of the municipality of Angliers in Témiscamingue, which does not have any drinking water abstraction infrastructure. Its residents have to drink bottled water, which is distributed by truck. That is unacceptable. That is also the reality in far too many indigenous communities, which lack the modern infrastructure required to provide clean water.
While we are on the subject of indigenous communities' infrastructure needs, let's talk about housing, a very important issue at the root of many social problems. Sadly, indigenous individuals live in some of the worst conditions in Quebec and Canada. Their homes are too small and in terrible condition. That affects their development.
That makes social housing infrastructure transfers top priority for us and for other parts of the country. The federal government must transfer funds to build social housing units and repair existing units, and it must put Quebec and municipalities in charge, no strings attached. Vacancy rates are very low right now in Quebec and pretty much everywhere else. In Rouyn-Noranda, the vacancy rate is 1%. The need for social housing in Abitibi-Témiscamingue is great. Here again, the criteria do not reflect regional realities, and we have to wait for money to get these projects going.
In addition, the shortage of affordable housing is exacerbating the problems of housing and homelessness. Housing is sometimes more expensive than in large urban centres. Inflation is an issue across Quebec. The lack of affordable housing is also exacerbating the labour shortage, since it seriously hinders our ability to attract newcomers, be they from Quebec or elsewhere, and help our businesses remain competitive and address the labour shortage. This again raises the issue of appeal.
Still on the topic of infrastructure, another issue that affects the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region as well as the Laurentides—Labelle riding is the infamous highway 117, also affectionately known as “bloody 117”. It is one of Quebec's deadliest highways because of the often dangerous conditions and the amount of heavy truck traffic. There is little room to pass other vehicles, and this sometimes leads to dangerous behaviours. This piece of infrastructure comes under the Quebec department of transport, but it is also part of the Trans-Canada Highway. In the past, the federal government has invested $11 million in repairs to various parts of that highway, including a bridge.
Could the government give that some thought?
As far as road infrastructure is concerned, the village of Moffet wants to bring the Grassy-Narrow bridge back into service. This will be a collaborative effort with the Anishinabe community of Long Point First Nation. The goal is to open up this part of eastern Témiscamingue, improve forestry development conditions for the companies and provide access to tourists or those who use the land recreationally.
Infrastructure for our farmers is another issue that is important to me, especially when it comes to slaughterhouses. There are many farmers in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Can the federal government contribute to ensuring that we can consume locally produced meat? A federal government contribution can make a difference by funding local initiatives. The reality is that our cattle and other livestock have to travel 800 kilometres to be slaughtered. It is a matter of freshness, quality of life of the animals and our ability to consume local products.
A solution may exist my colleague's riding, Timmins—James Bay, specifically in the municipality of Belle Vallée. Is it possible to have an agreement providing that our farmers can have their animals slaughtered three kilometres from the Témiscamingue border instead of having to travel over 600 kilometres? Can Quebec, Ontario and Canada sit down and come up with a solution if an initiative cannot be funded in the region? We have to find a solution to open up the region, including by lowering the cost of transporting livestock for slaughter.
We are also wondering why federal buildings that are no longer in use are not turned over to the community. They could be used for innovative projects such as early childhood centres, housing or community hubs. Government of Canada buildings in the region are not just white elephants, they are also the elephant in the room. These buildings are no longer occupied and the region needs the type of quality services that could be provided there.
The digital desert is another issue. Programs must be adapted for all regions, in particular rural regions. We do not have as large a population as Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal and therefore investments are not as profitable for companies. We must move forward with this plan. There is a cost to ensuring land use just as there is to not doing so. Modernizing the digital network is also important for local agriculture and to help attract young families, among other things.
There is a regional initiative, called GIRAT, that is very exciting. The Mobile A-T project, valued at more than $13 million, is being carried out without any federal funding, even though the federal government is responsible for telecommunications.
Let us go to public transportation. Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Toronto are not the only cities that need public transportation. It would be useful to have programs create infrastructure to help these regions develop. Drummondville, for example, is one of many regions looking to improve service with a train. Cost is obviously an issue, as is the frequency of trips.
Business opportunities become an issue. Access to quality air service is required. A lot of investments are made in airports, but infrastructure is in serious need. The frequency of flights and the impact on costs are also at play. This is all interconnected.
There are other examples. We can look at NAV CANADA, which provides on-site infrastructure to help maintain the quality of service and safety. All of the incubator projects are also useful to economic development stakeholders.
If the federal government cannot take care of its infrastructure in the regions, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and across Quebec, it should transfer that money to Quebec. This infrastructure is crucial to our development.
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