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Results: 1 - 15 of 140
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the federal government wants to impose its conditions and choose Quebec's environmental projects while, from 1970 to 1999, Ottawa spent $66 billion on oil, gas and coal development and a measly $329 million on clean energy such as wind energy.
The agreement should be based on the model used for the municipal infrastructure program under which Quebec has the last word on the choice of projects.
How does this government have the nerve to tell Quebec what to do?
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, we have learned that Ottawa wants to select from projects presented by the municipalities and towns of Quebec. It is this paternalistic attitude that has caused the public to lose confidence in this government.
Does the government intend to step back, drop its paternalistic approach and let Quebec call the shots on this agreement which comes under its jurisdiction and applies to its own territory?
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, first, I wish to point out that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
Madam Speaker, I understand that you are retiring from public life. It was an honour, every time, to hear you call the name of my riding. Had we been here longer, maybe one day you would have done it without hesitating. Anyhow, I was very pleased to hear you every time.
As has been mentioned on numerous occasions, we support the principle of Bill C-44. I wish to speak specifically to the part concerning rail transportation.
A railway line runs through the entire Portneuf RCM, in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. Indeed, rail is a critical component of intermodal transportation. Earlier, my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel talked about the importance of the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is a good example in the Portneuf RCM which, with the Portneuf wharf, combines very successfully sea transportation, rail transportation and trucking. I think of a number of businesses in my riding that rely on these three transportation modes, including Ciment Québec and Alcoa.
I wanted to talk to you more specifically about the railroad part, because one of the aspects of this bill involves trying to resolve certain irritants relating to intermodal and railway transport of goods. I can confirm, as can all of the people of Pont-Rouge and its environs, that the railroad runs very definitely on time. Every evening at 10 p.m., a train passes within a kilometre of where I live. It and its whistle can both be heard very clearly.
I know when I hear it it is time to turn on the television for the national news. It does not bother me all that much, because my house is some distance away from the tracks. However, a few years ago, I lived much closer to them. So, in addition to the noise of the train, there was the problem of the vibrations. We can all see glasses clinking together in the cupboard, in our mind's eye. It is annoying sometimes.
In principle, as I was saying, we support Bill C-44. Unfortunately, one of the negative aspects is that the provisions governing excess noise do not permit the limiting of other annoyances. I think the agency has the legislative framework needed to be given authority over annoyances. It does not perhaps go far enough in terms of oil and gas fumes and vibrations.
It will be noted that, in the context of C-44, and more specifically clause 32, reference is made to noise of a railway and more specifically, the noise near marshalling yards, which is an irritant met in a number of Quebec ridings. As I mentioned that can be a problem not just near marshalling yards. It occurs in the many villages along the shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway. I mentioned Pont-Rouge earlier as an example, but I could have mentioned the towns of the Portneuf RCM.
Clause 32 of the bill gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints about noise to order the railway company to take certain measures to prevent unreasonable noise. It should be pointed out that, in its mediation, the agency must consider the railway company's economic requirements.
Consequently, again, as is often the case, we must find a balance between the comfort of residents, the comfort of citizens, the right to a relatively quiet private life and certain economic and commercial factors.
In fact, up until 2000, pursuant to section 95, the agency believed it had an extended power allowing it to force a company against which a complaint was made to limit disturbances to a minimum. However, the agency was using a power it did not have.
This is why, when certain people say that, and rightly so, section 32 of Bill C-44 does not give the agency as much power as in 2000, we must keep in mind that the old act did not allow it any recourse, either.
Moreover, section 95 is not amended by Bill C-44, and the requirement for minimal disturbance during the operation of a railway line stays the same. This section empowers the agency to reconcile the need to allow rail companies to do business with the right of residents to live in a reasonably peaceful environment. Accordingly, the agency will be empowered to order a railway company to undertake any changes in order to prevent unreasonable noise, but it must take financial factors into account.
The orders of the transportation agency are like orders of a superior court. Anyone who contravenes such an order may be guilty of contempt of court and may be liable to imprisonment.
Accordingly, as I said earlier, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-44. Indeed, there are a number of provisions, especially in this section, that allow the agency to regulate, up to a point, the noise aspect of rail transportation.
However, there are still a number of criticisms. If this bill is introduced again in a future Parliament, one will need to be raised. Actually, besides noise, the clause does not provide for other nuisances to be curtailed. The Bloc Québécois believes that the agency has the necessary regulatory framework to give it jurisdiction in terms of fumes, such as oil and gasoline, and vibrations. It would be very important that these elements appear in any future incarnation of this bill.
Ten minutes go by very quickly. I was talking about the possibility that this bill be introduced again in a future Parliament. Allow me to take my remaining few minutes to thank the constituents of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, who put their trust in me in June 2004. In all likelihood, within the next hour, a very rare event will take place in this chamber: thanks to a very clear motion, the opposition will withdraw the confidence it previously placed in the government. All my constituents in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier know that I will run again for the Bloc Québécois. I hope that they will put their trust in me again, like they did in June 2004.
Let me conclude by saying that we are in favour of Bill C-44, even if some of its clauses need to be reviewed.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, of course, I wish the same to my valiant colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour and I thank him for his good words. Likewise, I am convinced that constituents of this wonderful riding—where I had the pleasure to go most recently to celebrate the member's 20 years in the political arena—will trust him once again with a new mandate.
My colleague mentioned a number of irritants. I must say that I totally agree with him in this regard. Too often, agencies, quasi-public or semipublic businesses take advantage of the fact that they are not directly under the control of the government to exempt themselves from the Access to Information Act. This is very unfortunate. Indeed, quite often, many of these businesses get public funds and very large sums of money.
Consequently, when we talk about the democratic deficit, about transparency in government spending, in politics in the noble sense of the word, it would seem normal to me that VIA Rail, for example, would be subject to the Access to Information Act.
We had a good example of this recently. I certainly do not want to bring back the sponsorship scandal to the House, but everyone remembers what happened at VIA Rail and the dismissal of its president of the board. Since this case is still before the courts, I will certainly not deal with it any longer.
As my colleague mentioned, there are still a number of things to clarify about Bill C-44. We will do so in the next Parliament.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for two things.
First, he talked about some of the tricks used by people who are into fraudulent marketing. I believe this was very important. He also reminded the government that it had to be diligent to ensure that costs would not escalate.
That being said, my colleague talked earlier about some sectors that are exempted from the bill, including charities and political parties. Perhaps my colleague could explain this a little further, because I did not follow this bill as much.
Also, there is another question which he may be able to answer. Some businesses contract out their telemarking operations. The firm doing the operations is a private business. Within these particular charities operations, will these private businesses be exempted from the bill?
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asked how it came to this. I will point out to him that he will soon have ample opportunity to inquire. Perhaps it came to this because the government failed to ensure that more than 40% of workers qualify for employment insurance, and soon.
It may be that the government is playing with figures and, as a result, has come up with three different budgets since May. It may be that, instead of looking after its own responsibilities, it is trying to take the place of Quebec and the provinces in the areas of education, child care, early childhood, health, and with municipalities. It may be that, when the prospect of elections was raised in May and June, it managed to make commitments totalling $21 billion in 21 days. It is the same scenario all over again. It may be that this government is linked to one of the biggest scandals in Canada's political history.
Its Prime Minister keeps repeating that his priorities are health, education, early childhood and municipalities. Would the Minister of Transport not say that his Prime Minister is simply at the wrong level of government and should run at the provincial level instead?
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the initiative shown by a group of producers and consumers who have started a food co-op called AlimenTerre cooperative.
Taking place in Pont-Rouge, this initiative is extremely innovative—and the first of its kind within the Portneuf RCM.
Members of this new co-op share a set of values, including, of course, solidarity, but also a concern for environmental protection and the promotion of local resources and products.
Members can obtain various local products at the co-op, thereby helping to sell new agricultural products from the beautiful Portneuf region.
The Bloc Québécois congratulates all the founding members of AlimenTerre. We wish it every success.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill S-3.
Whereas the government has flip-flopped and hesitated with regard to ways to help the francophone and Acadian communities develop, the Bloc Québécois has long supported francophone communities outside Quebec. For example, the Bloc Québécois urged the federal government to recognize the unique situation facing francophones living in minority situations and to take emergency measures to counter assimilation and foster the development of francophone and Acadian communities.
Over the years, the Bloc Québécois has also filed complaints with the Official Languages Commissioner about the treatment of francophones in the Canadian forces, Treasury Board's failure to ensure that numerous federal institutions comply with the Official Languages Act, the right of amateur athletes to practice their sport in their own language and, finally, Air Canada's obligation to provide service in French outside Quebec.
In all these files, the commissioner demanded that the institutions in question take the necessary measures to fulfill their obligations to serve Canadians in both official languages. In my opinion, those obligations go without saying.
The Bloc Québécois has intervened and taken positions in favour of Canada’s francophones on a large number of issues. Specifically, we have pressured the federal government to increase funding for francophone organizations, to have regional news in French or RDI broadcast in the western provinces and to have the government adopt a genuine development policy for francophone and Acadian communities.
When the Bloc committed itself in 1994 to defending the interests of the francophone and Acadian communities in Ottawa, it also expressed Quebec’s desire to continue this mission when it becomes sovereign. It did so by proposing a reciprocal mechanism in Canada, so that each can verify respect for the rights of the francophone minority in Canada and the anglophone minority in Quebec.
In our opinion, the Official Languages Act, in its current form, already included all the mechanisms that the federal government needed to ensure the development of minority official language communities. However, after years of cuts in the funding of official language communities and a decline in the use of French among the francophone population of Canada, the federal government finally acknowledged that action was necessary to promote the development of the francophone and Acadian communities.
The Action Plan for Official Languages tabled by the government in March 2003 had a budgetary envelope of $750 million over five years. It should, we hope, be sufficient to support the development of the francophone and Acadian communities. The Action Plan, however, is not a panacea, as was also noted by the Commissioner of Official Languages in her report published on October 19, 2004, especially insofar as the Liberal government has not made a sufficient effort with regard to the plan. The plan is still, moreover, being implemented slowly. Unfortunately, the Liberal government’s lack of political will has penalized the minority official language communities.
Our Liberal colleagues have on numerous occasions raised the argument that Bill S-3, to amend the Official Languages Act, applies only to federal institutions. Unfortunately I feel compelled to tell them that our reading of Bill S-3 differs from theirs.
Even though we are aware of the importance of this bill for minority francophone communities, we proposed a series of amendments at the committee stage. What we in the Bloc Québécois wanted was to preserve Bill S-3 in its current form for francophone communities in Canada, but to limit its territorial scope in such a way that the new obligations would not apply to Quebec.
This amendment to Bill S-3 appeared reasonable to us in the Bloc Québécois, since it would have allowed us to preserve the linguistic peace that Quebeckers have been able to achieve and thus to prevent the new obligations introduced by this bill from plunging Quebec into a new conflict over language. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case, to our great dismay, the Bloc Québécois’ amendments were deemed out of order by the clerk of the committee.
What were these concerns? We had some concerns about the judicial scope that might be established by the passage of Bill S-3. I would like to discuss this aspect briefly.
Among other things, section 43 of the current act states:
The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall take measures to ensure the advancement and the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society and ... may take measures to—
Hon. members will note that “Canadian society” as used here covers more than “federal institutions”.
Some examples of this are given in paragraph (d):
encourage and assist provincial governments to support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities generally and, in particular, to offer provincial and municipal services in both English and French and to provide opportunities for members of English or French linguistic minority communities to be educated in their own language;
One thinks immediately of examples where there may be some grounds for fearing interference in areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. We know that it does not always go down well with the government in power, but when there is reference to municipal services, these are clearly under Quebec jurisdiction. As well, education is also, as far as I know, still under Quebec jurisdiction.
Here is something a bit more serious. The federal government is required to get results as far as implementation of the various regulations under this legislation is concerned. It is supposed to encourage and cooperate with the business community, labour organizations, voluntary organizations and other organizations or institutions to provide services in both English and French and to foster the recognition and use of those languages.
Our fear is that some group, for instance, could take the federal government to court some day for not doing enough to make companies offer services in both languages, or that a group like this could take an employers association or a labour organization to court for not necessarily providing services in both languages. In my view, these questions are much more a private matter.
In general, for example, speaking of labour organizations, they already have translation naturally where services are provided in both languages.
There was a fear in Quebec, therefore, that the linguistic peace that has developed over the last few decades could be disturbed. We do not interpret that, of course, in the same way as the government.
We recognize, however, that it is essential to protect the francophone minorities outside Quebec. The federal government has often failed in this regard.
I can understand why the various associations to defend francophone rights and communities, whether in Ontario, Alberta or the other provinces, are demanding that Bill S-3 be passed and find it necessary. As I was saying earlier, the federal government has failed all too often to defend the rights of our fellow francophone citizens outside Quebec.
In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we still have some concerns about the implementation of Bill S-3, if it is passed. Rest assured, though, Mr. Speaker, that the Bloc Québécois and the people of Quebec hope that they are wrong. After we finish reading Bill S-3, we will try to make sure that we are wrong. We hope we are wrong. We hope that the passage of Bill S-3 will not upset the linguistic peace currently prevailing in Quebec and that it will apply solely to federal institutions.
I will conclude by adding that we understand very well how necessary Bill S-3 is for francophones outside Quebec. However, we think it was unfortunate that we could not get the requirement for a territorial restriction adopted in committee, which would have ensured that Bill S-3 did not apply to Quebec.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, student associations from Quebec and Canada met today in Ottawa and called on the federal government to transfer an additional $4 billion plus annually for education in order to raise funding to its 1994 level, prior to the cuts by the current Prime Minister, who was trying to balance his budget at the expense of Quebec and the provinces.
Does the government intend to fund 25% of post-secondary education as it did before the 1994 cuts?
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, will the federal government make a commitment that, should there be any transfers for post-secondary education, Quebec will be able to use this money for education as its priorities dictate and with no strings attached?
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I find it extremely sad to listen to the member for Mississauga South. He believes what he is saying. This is very sad. He has talked a great deal about the fact that it is impossible to make accurate forecasts. I agree that, some years, revenue would be higher and expenditures lower. But, if it is impossible, how is it that they have been making the same mistake since 1998, oddly enough? This government no longer has any credibility with regard to its estimates. It has none whatsoever.
Bill C-67 formalizes this government's recurring practice of underestimating its surplus so that, at year-end, it can spend this money for electioneering purposes, in direct contradiction to the budget consultation process. This shows disrespect for the witnesses who appear before the Standing Committee on Finance, for the committee itself and even for the House of Commons. It is unbelievable.
Could the member tell me why our finance critic, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, always forecasts the government's end-of-year surplus almost exactly, while the government keeps getting it wrong? This government no longer has any credibility.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, we have heard the government's rhetoric during this debate on Bill C-67. We have heard the government present a series of half truths. It even tried to push its propaganda on us.
Now let's talk about the real things regarding Bill C-67. Since 1998, $130 billion of new federal initiatives were not included in the budget at the start. This represents close to $75 billion in surplus since 1998, $40 billion of which were unanticipated. That is the problem. It is quite simple. This government estimates have no credibility whatsoever.
I have talked about the government's half truths. Let us be clear. Bill C-67 does not deal with surpluses. It deals with the unanticipated surpluses in the various budgets. That is the problem.
In Bill C-67, the government is proposing a three part formula. Paying down part of the debt is very nice. But it should be considered as a budget item instead of having $3 billion set aside in an annual contingency reserve. If the government really wants to apply $3 billion to the reduction of the debt, it should provide for it in the budget.
That may seem like rhetoric, but it really is not. Since 1998 we have seen a series of last minute measures at the end of the year, more or less electorally motivated, to make the surplus as small as possible. The last financial year is a prime example, in which the projected surpluses changed from $1.9 billion to $9.1 billion and back to $3 billion. At some point, taxpayers have a hard time understanding what is going on, and I can certainly understand why.
The existence, year after year, not just of surpluses but unanticipated surpluses—according to them—is a perfect illustration of the fiscal imbalance. Why? Because the government taxes too much in comparison with its needs. Not only does it tax too much, it does not redistribute enough money to the provinces and Quebec for them to fulfil their responsibilities very well.
It is rather ironic that Bill C-67 is the perfect illustration of a phenomenon that the government totally denies, namely the fiscal imbalance. Bill C-67 should respond to the financial requests of Quebec and the provinces for the funds they need to provide services and fulfil the responsibilities they have under their jurisdictions.
The Prime Minister often talks about education, early childhood, health and the needs of municipalities. He should run for a provincial legislature or in Quebec. If these are the issues that concern him, he is in the wrong legislature.
The governments of Quebec and the provinces often have to meet the direct needs of citizens, but unfortunately Ottawa again ignores the demands of Quebec and the provinces. The federal government should, first, have increased the transfers, especially for post-secondary education and social programs. That would have been very important.
Since 1995, we have seen deep cuts—there has been a slight increase recently I must admit—to the transfers to the provinces. This is one of the ways in which the government financed the paying down of its debt. This was one of the methods, these deep cuts in the transfers to the provinces.
Therefore, rather than institutionalizing these unanticipated surpluses through Bill C-67, the government should reinvest massively in the transfers to Quebec and the provinces. That would be a first step toward trying to correct the fiscal imbalance, at least partially, so that Quebec and the provinces can fulfil their responsibilities.
For example, the second step would be real reform of equalization.
There are ten provinces and two territories in Canada. Equalization is calculated on the basis of five provinces. When there are ten and you want to work out the average, it seems to me that you base your calculations on ten and not on five. However, I understand that the government sometimes has a little difficulty with relatively simple mathematics.
I was saying earlier that the government has too much revenue for its responsibilities. We have what we feel is an excellent suggestion to relieve it of this burden, remove the temptation to spend left and right, and encourage it to regain control of its expenditures. This solution was actually tried already in 1964 and other times and it could still be done today. It involves transferring either tax points or tax fields—such as the GST—to Quebec and the provinces.
In our view, the government's current tax reduction measures are more an electoral gimmick intended to curry short-term favour with the taxpayers and make them forget the fiscal profligacy, poor management and all the scandals tainting this Liberal government.
We proposed to the government many solutions that are not only feasible, but also realistic. If only the government acted in good faith.
The Minister of Finance often says that he consults the best forecasters in the private sector. Why does the government not create a real independent forecasting office which could truly assume the critical responsibility of advising the Minister of Finance in the development of his budget policies, while also, to a certain degree, acting as a watchdog and perhaps telling the minister, from time to time, that he is off the mark in his forecasts?
I said a number of times in this House that, when it comes to budget forecasts, the government has no credibility at all. It always comes up with surprises. Year after year, since 1998, with a simple calculator and a few documents, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot arrives at figures that are very close to the actual numbers at the end of a fiscal year.
By contrast, the government, despite all the resources available at the Department of Finance, is off the mark by billions of dollars. Let us get serious. Unfortunately, as we know, thoroughness is not a trademark of this government.
Bill C-67 institutionalizes unanticipated surpluses. How? This bill proposes a new scheme of this government. If our surpluses exceed the $3 billion expected in the budget, which is a reserve for contingencies—$3 billion would already be used to reduce the debt—the government would apply, in equal proportions, one third to the reduction of the debt, another third—a second time—to the tax relief, while the last third would be applied to the funding of priority socio-economic expenditures.
It is important to keep a number of things in mind. This morning, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot made a very telling presentation on the tax relief. We are talking about an amount of $129 annually. I did the calculation and found out that this amounts to 35¢ per day. In other words, I could not even ask for the repayment of a pack of chewing gum, because I would need three days' worth of credits to be able to buy it.
But there is worse, and this is an old habit of this government. At the end of a fiscal year, the government might be tempted to present new budget measures to meet its priorities, as opposed to those of the provinces and citizens, and the government's priorities have to do with an election.
They refer to a period of a year. These are not recurring measures. For once, the government has been clear about this.
What is going to happen? Once again, the federal government is going to create a program, try to meet a need, one that may sometimes not be a priority for the provincial legislatures or for Quebec, and then after a year pull out its funding, leaving it up to the provinces and Quebec to fund these new initiatives. This is an eloquent and undeniable example of fiscal imbalance and of the federal government's all too frequent attempts to interfere in areas under provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. Unfortunately, when it pulls out, for all manner of reasons, MLAs and MNAs are stuck with trying to take over the burden, when they can. They are forced to take over the new program and administer it.
Given the financial capacity of Quebec and the provinces—with the exception of Alberta—at this time, and the visible nature of these services most of the time, the provinces are stuck having to explain to their population why the government has to terminate a program.
With Bill C-67, the federal government obviously prefers to invest its resources in direct spending programs it is in a position to control and thereby improve its image in the eyes of the public. That is understandable, and it needs any improvement it can get. It does this, however, even though this spending is not within areas under its jurisdiction. What is more, the proposed measures close the door to any sharing of the tax base with Quebec and the provinces.
This bill will not stop the federal government from once again cooking the books so that the budget surplus looks smaller than it is. There is nothing that can stop them from doing that. As well, there is nothing stopping them from stepping up their spending in order to avoid having to disclose a huge surplus.
Everyone in this House will clearly recall the national spectacle we were treated to last June when, over a 21-day period, the Prime Minister announced $21 billion worth of initiatives. That spending spree and flood of announcements was nothing short of scandalous.
As I said, there are about 15.5 million taxpayers in Canada. Assuming that the redistribution of the surplus going to tax cuts were based on the figure of a $9 billion surplus, $2 billion of which would go to pay down the debt, that would work out to about $129 per taxpayer, or 35¢ a day.
A little earlier, a colleague from the Bloc Québécois also said that these surpluses include those in the employment insurance fund. Of course, if you ask a member of the government party, he will assure you that there is no problem with this fund. He will tell you that its completely natural that more than half of the people who file claims cannot obtain benefits, and that only 38% of the youth, women and people filing a first claim qualify.
Now they have found one way, among others, to eliminate the surpluses in the employment insurance fund, which is to reduce the premium rate. The problem at present is not the premium rate, but the level of accessibility. Some people find themselves in black holes. They are forced to go on welfare because they cannot collect employment insurance at the hard times in their life.
But if we listen to our friends in the government, everything is just fine. No need for concern: they are taking care of it. We know they are taking care of our money. We see it every day in the House of Commons, and citizens feel it every day in their pocketbook.
The federal government has to address the source of the problem and stop generating indecent unexpected surpluses. The solution is to transfer tax points or the GST, so that the provinces and Quebec can obtain autonomous revenue that can be spent where and how it will best meet the needs of our fellow citizens.
Too often the government reduces this question to a very political dimension, and says: “You know very well, you in the Bloc Québécois.” The Conference Board has estimated these surpluses. I do not believe that the Conference Board of Canada is a sovereignist, separatist agency. If they are, they should call me, I’d like to know. The Conference Board estimates the recurring surpluses at over $10 billion for the current fiscal year, with more than $7 billion tucked away in the foundations established by the present Prime Minister.
You will not convince me that the federal government does not have the resources to correct the fiscal imbalance right now. As I was saying earlier, there will be no surplus; they will barely get to $3 billion in the contingency reserve.
The federal government had the means to do more with this bill to help Quebec and the provinces emerge from the budgetary impasse it has put them in by making deep cuts to transfers since 1995. The recurring surpluses, meagre transfers and increasingly inequitable equalization, far from resolving the fiscal imbalance, have aggravated it. This is a huge problem.
Instead of tackling real problems with Bill C-67, the government is introducing a cosmetic bill to try and improve its image with the population. This is very disappointing. We might have expected better from our elected officials. The past is an indication of what the future holds in store, and unfortunately, Bill C-67 is before us and we have to consider it today.
In the last decade, we have witnessed a constant growth in the Canadian and Quebec economies and a large operation to put public finances back in order in Quebec. In this province, difficult choices had to be made, with financing deadlocks leaving very little leeway because of all the severe cuts made since 1995. Quebec and other provinces did not have much choice.
Today, Quebec is forced to make negative choices and unfortunately to raise taxes, reduce services and add to its debt load. There is almost no flexibility in Quebec as in many other provinces. At the same time, the federal government is generating recurrent budgetary surpluses that are apparently unanticipated. They are really playing with the numbers. This government has become an expert at it. It increases its expenditures and its intrusions into areas of Quebec's and other provinces' jurisdiction. It is trying to impose its will and its political objectives on them.
The federal government's superior financial situation compared to Quebec and other provinces is the backdrop that we, in the Bloc Quebecois, have been trying to correct for a number of years. As I said a little earlier, the federal surplus has shrunk in 2004-2005 to a mere $1.6 billion. However, the Fiscal Monitor for February 2005, which came out in June, was still predicting a $9.7 billion surplus. I cannot understand that lack of reaction by the members of the government in the face of this kind of manipulation of figures that allowed last minute expenses to drastically reduce those unanticipated surpluses, only to invest them in pre-election projects and in this budgetary sham.
In conclusion, I would say once again that Bill C-67 is completely unacceptable because it imposes procedures that will prevent any correction of the fiscal imbalance. The enormous surpluses that the federal government has run over the last few years show that there is a fiscal imbalance. The government must agree, first and foremost, to correct this imbalance so that Quebec and the provinces have the necessary resources of their own to meet the needs of their people. How? By substantially increasing the transfer payments for post-secondary education and social programs, correcting equalization, and negotiating an agreement with Quebec and the provinces for a new division of the tax fields. This would enable them to have the increased revenues of their own that they need to fulfil their responsibilities in their own jurisdictions. Rather than engaging in budgetary smoke and mirrors, the government should deal with the real problems.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, first I will excuse the parliamentary secretary who is perhaps not terribly familiar with the various governments in Quebec over the last 20 or 30 years. I would just like to inform him that the governing party that put Quebec back on track to a balanced budget was the Parti Québécois. I just wanted to point that out. It is important to correct him on this.
The problem is very simple and does not reside in the fact that a government has surpluses so long as they are properly budgeted for and are part of a budgetary framework for expenditures in particular sectors. If the budget calls for paying down the debt by—just as an example—$3 billion, that is fine.
But that is not what we have here. We have a system in which, year after year, this government's fiscal forecasts are nowhere close to the real numbers. It is a system that this government instituted in order to underestimate government revenues year after year. In this way, it can present itself as the great saviour with these unexpected surpluses. And if it thinks that it would be politically advantageous to spend money in a certain area, it can do so.
We say that it is unacceptable for this underestimation of surpluses, which we have seen for seven years, to become structural. That is where the problem lies.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is very simple: the government has so much money right now that it does not know what to do with it. It has completely lost control of its operating expenditures.
I do not have the exact numbers to give a complete answer to the hon. member. It would necessitate more calculations. However, I can say that between 1998 and 2003, the operating expenses of the federal government increased by 39%. That is not negligible. A good part of that increase can be explained by the surge in payroll expenditures in the last few years. They increased by 55.6% between 1998 and 2005 for an annual growth rate of 6.5%. I do not have the exact numbers but I can assure the hon. member that it will not be cheap for taxpayers, that is for sure.
View Guy Côté Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. Of course, a Liberal would answer that question by saying that there is no fiscal imbalance.
The bill is indeed the perfect illustration of the existence of a fiscal imbalance. With it, the federal government try to bury the issue so each and every year it can announce new electioneering measures to divert attention from all the scandals that besmirch it.
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