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Results: 1 - 15 of 93
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Madam Speaker, I will give an introduction to set the record straight because I have heard a lot of things this evening, things that are bordering on a lie. I am not sure whether it is a failure to understand or whether it is deliberate, but I am going to set the record straight.
First, I do not know if the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is an unbridled sovereignist or if he is just pandering. He says he wants to defend Quebec's autonomy but that the federal government should put conditions on the health care system. The purpose of Bill C‑237 is not complicated. It is about ensuring that Quebec manages its own health system, without conditions imposed by the federal government.
Second, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby came up with all sorts of unbelievable things. Talk about the bogeyman. I am not sure if he is emulating the Conservative Party or if he really had nothing to say about the bill, but he thinks that the Bloc Québécois wants to privatize Quebec's health care system. That is not it at all. Where did he get that idea? I will explain the bill to him.
This bill is in no way an attempt to withdraw from the universal system. The bill is very simple and states that we want to withdraw from the national objectives of the Canadian health care system because we believe that Quebec is capable of administering and managing its own health care system. We do not need the federal government to tell us what to do, under the pretext that it administers a lot of health care systems in Canada.
The only health care systems that the federal government manages are those of the correctional institutions and National Defence. Aside from that, it is in no position to lecture Quebec. Hospitals in Quebec fly the Quebec flag. Quebec manages its own health care system. The federal government does not manage physicians and knows nothing about that. It is in no position to tell us what to do, what is good or what is not good.
Then, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby tells us that the Bloc Québécois wants to withdraw so that we can privatize the system. Come on. The federal government did not create the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec. The federal government did not implement the Quebec Act Respecting Prescription Drug Insurance. The Government of Quebec did all of that.
I will not stand by while the member for New Westminster—Burnaby spouts that foolishness this evening. He just made claims about something he simply does not understand.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
It is indeed a matter for debate, Madam Speaker. Foolishness refers not to the individual but to their arguments. That said, I suppose that, when someone has nothing to say, they can talk about tax havens and point out that they are nowhere to be found in this bill, which focuses on domestic objectives. If the member would like me to go over and explain the bill to him, I would be pleased to do so. However, he should not be saying that the Bloc Québécois wants to privatize the health care system with Bill C‑237. We have heard all sorts of things tonight, but I hope that will stay in the annals of the House of Commons because that is far from being the case. I will get back to my speech because I had prepared one, but when you hear something like that it is hard not to correct the record.
Bill C‑237 addresses a situation that has created friction and tension between the federal and the provincial governments ever since the Constitution Act of 1867 was passed. It is nothing new.
I am talking about respect for the division of powers between the two levels of government. Basically, according to the pact that was made at the time, in 1867, between the two levels of government, each respective area of jurisdiction should be equal and sovereign. This arrangement served to ensure that the priorities of the majority Canadian nation were not imposed on the minority Quebec nation. We are a long way from that today, in 2022.
For issues that directly affect people and the way they organize their society, jurisdiction was directly delegated to the provinces. These include things like health care, social programs, education and culture. For issues that are somewhat removed from the people or the internal organization of their society, the respective areas of jurisdiction were centralized directly under the federal government. This means things like monetary policy, international trade, border defence, and so on.
These terms are protected by the ironclad Constitution and the inviolable division of powers. Quebeckers accepted that agreement, but as I have said before and will say again, members of the federation are supposed to work together, not impose conditions, which is what we are seeing now. The government is using that to make political gains that undermine jurisdiction. It is taking over our child care system and trying to impose conditions on us. We cannot be sure it will transfer that to us. Next is health care. I bet that before too long there will be big federally funded parks all over the place. The government is going to take away all our power over social programs. That is this federal government's current agenda.
That is why we need to take a very close look at the relationship between both levels of government now, 155 years after the original agreement, the Canadian Constitution, came into effect. Inevitably, we will find that, for the past three generations, the federal government has been violating an agreement that goes back to the birth of the federation. I will explain this in a simple two-step process.
First, the federal government uses its taxing power to raise taxes higher than is required to fulfill its own constitutional responsibilities. In doing so, it also prevents Quebec and the provinces from using this tax room. This is called fiscal imbalance.
Second, the federal government uses its surplus profits, which it controls, to spend and create programs in areas under Quebec and provincial jurisdiction. In addition to controlling this money, which is normally intended for different areas and jurisdictions, it goes so far as to impose conditions on the transfer of funds. In concrete terms, this means that the federal government, the Canadian government, uses this practice to decide how Quebec society and the other provinces are set up. It also forces the government of Quebec and the provinces to implement the priorities of Canadians rather than the priorities of Quebeckers in areas under their own jurisdiction.
As I said, it is supposed to be a collaboration, not simply imposing conditions. In this case, Canada's vision and will are being imposed to the detriment of Quebec's will and vision. Quebec never agreed to become Ottawa's subcontractor. Nowadays, it is clear that Ottawa is interfering in areas of jurisdiction. It pays off politically, by the way.
There is unbridled interference going on in areas such as housing, education, family policy, day care services, the environment and taxation. Interference has become the federal government's hallmark.
The federal government has a strong tendency to use its power to spend money and surreptitiously exploit shared jurisdictions. The Bloc Québécois has had enough, which is why it decided to introduce Bill C‑237.
If passed, this bill will give Quebec and the provinces a way to counter this interference, which violates the constitutional agreement on which the country was founded. The original agreement is no longer being respected. Can we get this straightened out? We have no choice. We are being taken for fools. We have no autonomy anymore. We send our money to the federal government, but then it says it will not transfer the money unless we comply with its conditions.
In practical terms, Bill C‑237 makes two amendments. I urge my colleagues to listen carefully, because they have been saying all kinds of things about this bill. First, the bill will amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act between the government and the provinces. This will affect all of the provinces, not just Quebec. It will give all provinces the option of withdrawing from a federal program.
Furthermore, in the spirit of compromise, the government will provide matching funds to the province or Quebec, but only if the objectives of the program in question are comparable to those of the federal program. The program in the province or in Quebec does not have to be identical or even similar. It must be comparable. The funds are to be given unconditionally, without criteria and without any other form of interference.
I see that my time is up. I therefore invite the members to give Quebec and each province the freedom to make their own choices, by themselves and for themselves.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Madam Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague's speech.
If there is one thing the Conservatives are very good at, it is creating a diversion. They think that eliminating the carbon tax or the carbon tax increase will solve the whole inflation problem.
The 70% figure quoted by the experts applies to inflation all over the world. To be precise, this means that the increase in inflation is not just due to the carbon tax, but is linked to the pandemic and current economic conditions, including the repercussions of the war in Ukraine.
The Bloc Québécois has proposed concrete solutions, such as targeting certain industries and helping low-income people, including seniors. I have a solution of my own to offer, because we also know that the Conservative Party is the champion of budget efficiency. It cost about $23 billion to buy Trans Mountain.
Would my colleague be willing to sell the pipeline to help people who are genuinely in need?
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Saint‑Hyacinthe—Bagot on his speech.
My question for him is the following. Back in December 2017, the Prime Minister announced the creation of an interim board of directors to make recommendations on the creation of a national council for reconciliation. The following year, in June 2018, another interim board of directors presented the minister with its final report, which contained precisely 20 recommendations.
We see that there are a lot of consultations and recommendations, but not a lot of action. My colleague talked about that. I would like him to tell us more about what he would advise the government to do in order to more effectively address the problems that the first nations are facing.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague on her great work and on her speech.
As members know, Quebec is the envy of many nations for its very strong social safety net. Obviously, the Bloc Québécois will certainly support any program that improves the lives of people with disabilities.
My colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville already talked about the vagueness of the timelines. No one knows how long the consultation period will last. It is too slow.
Another grey area has to do with how these future regulations will be applied. It is not clear whether Ottawa will pay the benefits directly to Quebec and the provinces or whether the federal government will pay the benefits directly to individuals eligible for this new benefit program.
I wonder if my colleague has any suggestions for the government regarding the best and most effective way to deliver such a program.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the strength, talent and perseverance of Rimouski-born weightlifting champion Maude Charron. Maude won an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo in 2021 and was named international athlete of the year at the Sports Québec gala held in June. A few weeks ago, she added to her impressive record when she dominated the 64-kilogram weight class at the Commonwealth Games. Not only did she win gold, but she also set not one, not two, but three records at the games.
Beyond being a medallist and record holder, Maude is also a fantastic ambassador. She is inspiring a whole new generation to take up a sport and, above all, to believe they can make their dreams come true while training in their home region.
Her exceptional performance and authentic personality have made Maude the pride of not just the Lower St. Lawrence, but the entire nation as well. I encourage her to continue sharing her inspiring passion.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech given by my colleague, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth.
She told us that lives are at stake. I completely agree with her, and the Bloc Québécois is definitely in favour of Bill C‑28. If lives are at stake, then my question is obvious: Why did they wait so long to introduce legislation?
In R. v. Brown, which went to the Supreme Court, there was already a decision at the trial level. The government could have been proactive and provided a framework for such situations. I will quote the Supreme Court, as follows:
Parliament had before it a record that highlighted the strong correlation between alcohol and drug use and violent offences, in particular against women, and brought to the fore of Parliament’s attention the equality, dignity, and security rights of all victims of intoxicated violence.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I would like her to explain something. On March 2, the Bloc Québécois moved a motion that my colleague supported. The motion sought to maintain Quebec's political weight and not have it lose a seat. The Bloc Québécois then presented Bill C‑246, which was along the same lines as the motion that my colleague supported, but she voted against it.
Today, the government is trying to salvage the situation with Bill C‑14. This bill seeks to preserve the number of seats, but not the political weight, because other seats could be added for other provinces outside Quebec.
I would like my colleague to explain why she voted for the Bloc Québécois motion and then voted against the Bloc Québécois bill.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, after two years without being able to travel, people are furious about passport wait times, and rightly so. The federal government has allowed the backlog to get out of control, and it has a duty to fix its own mistake.
On Tuesday, the Bloc Québécois demanded that passport offices open on weekends and that there be no extra fee for people travelling within 48 hours.
Tomorrow is Saturday. Will people be able to go to any passport office and leave with their passport in hand, without paying any extra fees? If not, what is the government waiting for to act?
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague from Brampton North. She made almost no reference to the motion we are currently debating, the request by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to conduct consultations away from Parliament Hill.
I am trying to understand my colleague's viewpoint. This Conservative Party motion does not really reflect what it wants for the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Why does the Conservative Party believe that the heritage committee can travel but the foreign affairs committee cannot?
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to commend my colleague from Etobicoke North, whose motion we are studying today and who chairs the new Standing Committee on Science and Research. I am the vice-chair of that committee, so I have had the opportunity to work with her over the past few months, and I can say that, while we may not always agree, our interactions have always been very cordial, which is a credit to her.
To come back to the matter at hand, I first want to say that I will be voting in favour of the motion. The Bloc Québécois has long made the living conditions of seniors one of its primary concerns. We deeply believe that every senior deserves a dignified retirement free from financial worry. This is one of our top priorities, and I am proud to say that our actions are a testament to this. I would like to mention a few of the things we have done.
Last year, the Bloc Québécois got a motion passed calling on the House to increase old age security. It bears mentioning that that happened without Liberal support.
On June 2, the Bloc Québécois finalized a petition calling on the government to increase OAS by $110 per month for people 65 and up. I presented a similar petition calling for an OAS raise in the last Parliament. Following a huge campaign involving seniors' groups in my riding and Quebeckers in general, we gathered over 20,000 signatures. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to that success.
During the 43rd Parliament, my Bloc colleague, the member for Manicouagan, introduced a bill to protect pension funds and group insurance by giving them higher priority in the creditors' list when companies go bankrupt. The bill had the support of all four political parties, but it died on the Order Paper when the election was called. Not to be deterred, we reintroduced it in this Parliament.
I could go on and on, but I will get to the heart of my argument. The important thing to remember is that the Bloc Québécois has been on the front lines of every battle to improve the living conditions of seniors, and we will continue to carry the burden on behalf of those who are too often under-represented in the public debate.
We are therefore not opposed to the federal government undertaking studies on the financial situation of seniors and finding ways to improve it, as suggested in the motion. It is entirely pertinent and legitimate to try to come up with new tools that could be used to help seniors make the most of their financial assets and achieve the best possible standard of living.
However, it is essential that these studies, if undertaken, not be used as an excuse for delaying the urgent action that is desperately needed, given the current situation. Particularly in the last year, seniors' quality of life has deteriorated rapidly throughout Quebec and Canada. The runaway inflation we are experiencing, which shows no sign of abating, has caused prices to skyrocket on things like housing, gas and food, and this trend will eventually extend to all goods and services.
Retired workers in particular are more vulnerable and at risk because they have left the workforce and have no way to increase their income. It is no coincidence that many food banks have reported more retirees using their services. In-depth studies might be useful and constructive, but we already have access to a number of measures that could be implemented immediately and provide guaranteed results, without having to reinvent the wheel.
As the Bloc Québécois has said many times, the top priority is a significant increase to OAS for all seniors 65 and older. It could not be clearer. The government recently increased OAS by 10%, but only for seniors 75 and older. Why is the government ignoring the thousands of seniors aged 65 to 74?
Despite what the Liberals may think, it is false to claim that financial insecurity only hits at age 75. FADOQ, the largest group of people aged 50 and over in the country, shares that view and was offended by this age-based discrimination, which set a dangerous precedent by creating two categories of seniors.
Another measure that would be worth implementing immediately is related to the annual indexation of OAS and GIS. At present, these two benefits are indexed based on the previous year's consumer price index. That means the indexation rate for 2022 is based on the consumer price index for 2021. This corresponds to a 2.7% indexation rate.
In January 2022, however, inflation reached 5.1% in Canada, and it has only continued to increase. Unfortunately for those whose only sources of income are OAS and GIS, they must pay this year's prices for gas, groceries and medications, not last year's.
The result of this shift is that seniors' purchasing power is undermined because the cost of the goods and services they use is going up faster than their pensions. We therefore have to consider whether there is another indexing method that could be applied to OAS and GIS, one that would not erode seniors' purchasing power.
The answer is yes. Many pension advocacy groups suggest basing the indexation of pensions on trends in wages, because they increase faster than the consumer price index. Another calculation method that was developed by the United Kingdom involves increasing benefits yearly to match price increases, wage growth or 2.5%, whichever is highest.
There is no doubt that a study on aging and the financial health of seniors should consider this issue and possibly explore other mechanisms in order to determine which one would best preserve seniors' purchasing power year after year.
Finally, another issue that requires immediate attention is how to retain experienced workers. Since 2014, the active population in Quebec has been shrinking every day as workers retire and are not replaced by the smaller new cohort. Population aging is well under way and will accelerate sharply over the next decade.
That is especially true in my region, the Lower St. Lawrence, which has one of the fastest-aging populations in Quebec. Currently, one in four people in the Lower St. Lawrence region is over 65, and that ratio will increase to one in three within 10 years.
This decrease in the number of workers is also causing a labour shortage that continues to be a headache for employers. At the same time, one in four seniors believes that staying employed is important for staying active, cultivating a sense of usefulness and aging in a healthy way. Why then are most of them leaving the labour market?
It is not out of a lack of interest, but because of disincentives to stay. Pensioners who stay in the labour market have their pensions clawed back when they start earning employment income. We need to address this problem and bring in measures to encourage experienced workers who are willing and able to keep working.
A new tax credit for experienced workers, similar to the one Quebec is offering to help workers aged 60 and over, is worth exploring. An increase to the amount of employment or self-employment income that is exempt from the GIS calculation is also a promising option, as it would allow seniors to earn more annually without having money clawed back from their GIS cheque.
In conclusion, I could never see myself condemning the federal government for doing too much for seniors. The Bloc Québécois will be supporting the Liberal motion, but I would remind our colleagues on the other side of the House that sometimes, it is better to leave well enough alone.
I am certain that the member for Etobicoke North has seniors' well-being at heart. I therefore invite this member of the Liberal Party to stand in solidarity with the Bloc Québécois by supporting our proposals to substantially increase the purchasing power of seniors in our communities. Seniors need allies in the government party.
The government should start by increasing OAS for all seniors at age 65, to allow those who are being hit hard by inflation to breathe a little easier. Only then can we undertake further studies.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Madam Speaker, to begin, I would like to say that I am both pleased and disappointed to be speaking to Bill C-5. I am pleased because it makes several advances in the area of diversion, and the Bloc Québécois fully believes that it is a step in the right direction. However, I am disappointed because Bill C-5 addresses the issue of mandatory minimum sentences, but it does not get to the heart of the problem or offer any solutions. I will come back to these two aspects in detail a bit later.
First of all, I want to condemn the fact that our request that the government divide this bill went unheeded. I want to be clear: Diversion and the abolition of mandatory minimum sentences are two very different issues. That is why the Bloc Québécois feels that it would have been preferable, in the interest of transparency towards our constituents, for elected officials to have the opportunity to vote on each of these subjects separately. Since I cannot do that, I will spend the next few minutes sharing my reservations about the bill.
I will start with what I do not like about Bill C-5. First, it does not solve the fundamental problem with mandatory minimum sentences. Minimum sentences are problematic because they are subject to Constitutional challenges for a simple reason: They apply to all adults without regard for the circumstances in which the offence was committed. The outcome is that sometimes a harsh sentence is handed down when the extenuating circumstances would warrant a lesser or different sentence. The very principle of justice is sacrificed when judges are not given any flexibility to assess each situation and its special circumstances.
However, there is a simple solution that we, the legislators, can implement to address this problem. We can introduce a clause that would enable a judge to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence when warranted by exceptional circumstances. With such a provision, we could have prevented many injustices and saved public financial resources, which are getting gobbled up by legal challenges of mandatory minimum sentences instead of being used to fund programs or infrastructure for Quebeckers and Canadians.
This amendment was proposed by the Bloc Québécois in committee but was rejected. The Liberal Party also moved a similar amendment, but when the time came to defend it, the government simply lacked the political courage to do so. It chickened out and did not even have the decency to defend it.
To all that, I would add that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action 32 recommended that a similar provision be added to the Criminal Code. Basically, the government messed up the opportunity to listen and do what needs to be done to move forward as a society along the path to reconciliation with first nations. That is deplorable.
The other thing that bothers me about mandatory minimum sentences is that there is a lack of consistency with respect to which ones will be abolished. When the government announced the bill in February, it said it would be abolishing mandatory minimum sentences, except for serious offences. That makes sense. As lawmakers, we do want to maintain some degree of control over sentences for crimes against the person. However, the bill abolishes minimum sentences for crimes such as discharging a firearm with intent or recklessly and robbery or extortion with a firearm. We see those as serious crimes.
It would have been preferable to maintain mandatory minimum sentences for these serious crimes, especially in a context marked by an increase in gun violence and in which public concern is palpable. In short, we would have preferred a less ideological approach from the government on these issues. I hope that the criticisms and suggestions I have raised will be heard by the government.
Now that I have outlined the areas where an amendment would be required, I would like to take the time I have left to talk about what we like about Bill C‑5, or, more specifically, the diversion measures.
We must recognize that the war on drugs has never been, is not, and will never be the solution to the opioid crisis and to other drugs that are wreaking havoc in Quebec and Canada. After decades of gathering evidence leading to this inevitable conclusion, it is time to acknowledge this reality and change our approach to treating addiction problems. We need to recognize them for what they really are and that is health problems, first and foremost.
That is the main principle behind Bill C-5, and I must admit that, like all of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I am relatively satisfied with the progress made. We understand that the government wants to emulate the success Portugal has had in tackling drug abuse. I think it is entirely appropriate to rely on the evidence and follow best practices to move forward on this issue.
I firmly believe that the benefits of offering diversion measures will soon be felt in our communities and our justice system. Rather than dragging people through the courts unnecessarily and at great expense, we can dedicate those resources to treatment and education. This will also enable our justice system to focus on the cases that are truly problematic, in other words, the drug traffickers.
The only caveat I would add about Bill C-5 on these issues is a simple reminder to the government that Portugal's success relies on frontline services. In order for these services to be delivered, additional resources will be needed. Of course I am talking about an increase in health transfers and an increase in social transfers.
Someone who is trying to recover from addiction needs access to a series of support measures during their most vulnerable period in that transition to recovery. These measures include housing, employment assistance, psychological support and, of course, health care services.
I remind the government that it also has health care responsibilities and that it must sit down with Quebec and the provinces and increase health transfers to 35% of system costs. This is how we can achieve our objectives when it comes to tackling drug addiction.
I want to conclude by talking about decriminalization for simple possession. I think that we have found a balance with Bill C‑5 and that expungement of a criminal record after two years for this type of offence is a good compromise. It will take some time for our procedures to adjust to this new approach. I believe that we must consolidate our network before we move forward with decriminalization and that diversion programs are the best approach for the time being.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Madam Speaker, it is not a question of what the provinces should do, but what the federal government should do. This is the federal Parliament; we are the federal lawmakers.
As I said in my speech, if the federal government wants to facilitate the diversion process, it must increase health transfers. The premiers of all the provinces, including Quebec, and the Quebec National Assembly are unanimously calling for that. This request has support, even here in the House of Commons, from the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and, of course, the Bloc Québécois.
I would like to remind my colleague from Brampton North that, here, we are the ones who decide what happens in the federal Parliament. The provinces are autonomous and it is not up to the federal government to impose its legislation and decide for Quebec and the provinces.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Madam Speaker, Quebec has fantastic social programs. However, these programs require financial support from the federal government, and that support is completely lacking. The fiscal imbalance is a well-known problem.
There was nothing in the federal government's latest budget about increasing health transfers. Now it is proposing something new, diversion and decriminalization. Making all these changes requires resources.
Obviously, if we want to be proactive in providing assistance, helping people heal and preventing addiction, we will have to take certain approaches, and the federal government can definitely help by increasing health transfers.
View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is not necessarily closed to the NDP's proposal. We are saying that Quebec and the provinces will need some time to adjust. All these legislative changes have tremendous consequences for people on the ground who will have to deal with the repercussions of these decisions.
What the Bloc Québécois is saying today is that there needs to be better planning to prevent things from derailing. It will be much more difficult later for the people working directly on the ground to deal with the consequences of the legislative decisions we are making in the House.
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