Debates of June 1st, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #209 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.
- Government Response To Petitions
- Department Of Health Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Cultural Exchanges
- Environment Week
- Visit Of Thomas Mitsios
- The Environment
- National Access Awareness Week
- Chile's Inclusion In Nafta
- Liberal Red Book
- Regional Development
- Gun Control
- Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader
- Red Cross
- Upper Nicola Indian Band
- Sergeant Thomas Joachim Hoppe
- Parti Quebecois
- Gross Domestic Product
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Government Appointments
- Air Navigation
- Student Exchanges
- Air-India Disaster
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Canadian Wheat Board
- The Environment
- Research And Development Contracts
- Employment Equity
- Gasoline Prices
- Contraventions Act
- Presence In Gallery
- Business Of The House
- Legal Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
Questions On The Order Paper
Some hon. members
Gaston Leroux Richmond—Wolfe, QC
That this House condemn the government's legislative agenda, which makes clear its intention to usurp provincial areas of jurisdiction and construct an entirely centralized state, as can be seen from Bills C-76, C-88, C-46 and C-91, all designed to take substantial powers away from Quebec and transfer them to the federal government.
Madam Speaker, on this opposition day, the Bloc Quebecois is presenting the following motion:
That this House condemn the government's legislative agenda, which makes clear its intention to usurp provincial areas of jurisdiction and construct an entirely centralized state, as can be seen from Bills C-76, C-88, C-46 and C-91, all designed to take substantial powers away from Quebec and transfer them to the federal government.
With this motion, the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, is seeking to denounce the extremely centralizing offensive launched by the present federal government. It also wants to show that the ultimate goal of the federal Liberals is to establish a de facto unitarian state in Canada. We have seen with recent federal pieces of legislation dealing more specifically with regional economic development, such as Bill C-46 on establishing the Department of Industry, Bill C-88 on interprovincial trade, Bill C-91 on redefining the Federal Business Development Bank, and Bill C-76 regarding certain dispositions concerning transfer payments to the provinces, the increasingly centralizing approach of the present federal government.
This motion, which I present this morning on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, is a warning to provincial governments to beware of the interference of the federal government with regard to regional economic development. I urge them to be vigilent and not to let some of their powers slip away as their provincial autonomy is put on the back burner because of the upcoming referendum in Quebec.
Even though every single piece of legislation being presented by the federal government in the area of regional economic development has an impact on the political autonomy of all, this morning, I want to address my comments more specifically to my fellow Quebecers. Because they deny the specificity of Quebec, and the need for Quebec to have its own tools of development, it is in Quebec that federal centralizing measures hurt the most.
One of the effects of the Constitution Act, 1982, the "Canada Bill", was to establish provincial equality where all provinces would be on the same level. It created a sort of egalitarianism which denied the Canadian duality and the very existence of the Quebec nation. It is on this kind of egalitarianism that they will base today's Canadian nationalism. Towards the end of the sixties, Pierre Elliott Trudeau came to power with a nationalistic vision that he would not give up in spite of repeated interventions. The establishment and development of a more unified Canadian economy had to be based on the rationalization of government operations and on the concentration of powers.
In June 1978, in a context of unilateral patriation of the constitution, the federal government published a meaty declaration by Pierre Trudeau under the title A Time for Action . In fact, it was a very elaborate constitutional reform project. One can see from that declaration that, even though the Canadian people is the result of sociological and historical diversity and comprises the first nations, who have legitimate rights we must respect, two large linguistic groups and numerous cultural communities, the constitutional approach of the federal Liberals is essentially based on the primacy of citizens and individual freedoms.
Therefore, and I am quoting part of that published declaration: "The unity of Canada must transcend the identification Canadians have with provinces, regions and linguistic or other differences. -Each must feel that Canada, and the federal Parliament and government acting on his or her behalf, are the best guarantors of the security".
As member of the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, I say to my fellow Quebecers that such a declaration, such a statement of intent, threatens considerably the existence of the Quebec state and the Quebec nation and threatens also the economic development tools we want to give ourselves.
The referendum failure of May 20, 1980, the failure of the PQ government's proposal, changed the circumstances. The federal government now enters into negotiations by taking the offensive; it starts by reminding us that decentralization is not a solution to Canada's problems and states that the Canadian federation sorely needs the federal government to ensure a strong economic management.
The Canada Act, or Constitution Act of 1982, includes in the famous Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a formal amendment limiting the capacity of provincial governments to obstruct economic mobility and therefore extending federal jurisdictions to all essential matters necessary to preserve the economic union. The goal is to put an end to the many provincial initiatives which impede the mobility of production factors; in other words, Ottawa is trying to marginalise the provincial level.
We find the same objective in the federal position on all the important questions relating to areas of shared jurisdiction.
For example, Bill C-88, an act to implement the agreement on internal trade, signed by the provinces last summer and denounced by the official opposition, is a direct result of this highly centralizing outlook of the Canadian government, started by the federal Liberals. Bill C-88 gives the federal government powers which were never considered at the time the agreement was negotiated or signed, and embodies the extremely centralizing position of the federal Liberal government.
Indeed, clause 9 of the bill goes way beyond the spirit of the agreement signed last summer. It reads as follows: "For the purpose of suspending benefits or imposing retaliatory measures of equivalent effect against the province pursuant to Article 1710 of the Agreement, the Governor in Council may, by order, do any one or more of the following-" What we are talking about, here, is an order in council. This is no laughing matter. Orders in council, or decrees, are generally the means used by totalitarian governments. What this clause says is that the Liberal government wants to govern by decree. Are we faced with the prospect of a Liberal dictatorship?
Similarly, the text of clause 9 means that, if ever a party is recognized at fault pursuant to article 1710 of the agreement-and I would like to remind you, Madam Speaker, that article 1710 deals with retaliatory measures-the aggrieved party can take retaliatory measures against the other party which does not conform to the agreement.
Now, the federal government, no matter whether it is part of the dispute or not, is taking it upon itself to impose retaliatory measures on all provinces, without distinction. As regards this bill, the federal government shows its intention of setting itself up, in the area of interprovincial trade, as both judge and party, of establishing, within this agreement, an enforcement power that would take the form of an order in council, which it alone can invoke, and of extending the application of federal laws to the provinces, as is mentioned in paragraph (c) of clause 9.
Therefore, Madam Speaker, the fact that the government intends to govern by order in council and act as if it were in charge of interprovincial trade goes far beyond the spirit of the agreement that was reached by the provinces, last summer.
The government is assuming too much retaliatory power through this clause. Indeed, it is assuming excessive power to take measures against all the residents of a province. Obviously, clause 9 of Bill C-88 does not go in the same direction as the current tendencies in international trade. This is all the more relevant since economic development is based on competitive development, which seeks to take advantage of the quality of the workforce, the infrastructure, and the savings associated with conglomeration and urbanization.
It must be remembered that those levers come under provincial jurisdiction, since health, education, and land use planning come under provincial jurisdiction. By setting itself up as an arbitrator in international trade, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and therefore Bill C-88, the federal government is impeding the development and the autonomy of provinces.
The spirit of the unitary state, of centralizing federalism opposed to provincial identity, thus directly impeding directly the development of the people of Quebec, can also be found in Bill C-46. This enabling bill for the Department of Industry adds to duplication and overlap in Quebec, and deprives the state of Quebec of exclusive authority over regional economic development.
Along these very centralizing lines, clause 8 of the bill specifies that the Minister of Industry of Canada, a minister from Ontario, is responsible for regional development in Ontario and in Quebec. This bill confirms the existence of overlap in regional development, by confirming the interventionism of the federal department of industry in an area over which Quebec has long claimed jurisdiction.
Quebecers have a very different way of looking at their regional economic development needs. Decentralization of budgetary envelopes and powers proposed by the Parti Quebecois is the answer that outlying regions in Quebec have long
been waiting for in order to take charge of their own interests. This is a democratic vision of regional development which has nothing in common with the centralizing vision of the liberal government in Ottawa.
Quebec does not want to see the development of its 16 administrative regions based on an exclusively industrial vision controlled by the federal department of industry. Regional development forms the basis of a social covenant which rests on an understanding of all the needs of the various milieux which only regional stakeholders can understand well.
I say to my Quebec compatriots that in the context of the referendum where they will have to decide on the political autonomy of Quebec, a negative answer to the proposal of the Quebec government team would mean accepting the centralizing federalism defined by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and the end of the people of Quebec.
Bill C-91 is another example of denial of the existence of the Quebec State. With this bill, the government seeks to rationalize and modernize the Federal Business Development Bank, words undoubtedly well suited to the market realities of the end of this century, but that fool no one as to the primary objective of the federal government, that is to interfere even more in matters of regional development in Quebec while increasing its involvement in the main mechanisms of economic development in Quebec.
There is such a thing as a Quebec state. It is trying to create its own development instruments, despite the federal government's intrusive presence in economic development issues. The FBDB remains a parallel structure, an unacceptable example of administrative duplication. Several structures and programs addressing the needs of small business are already in existence in Quebec.
The Société de développement industriel is an example, though it was not used efficiently under the Liberal government of Premier Robert Bourassa. Programs like production assistance, with a contribution reaching up to 35 per cent of capital expenditures for a minimum investment of $100,000, and the Reprise de la PME program, which offers loan guarantees covering up to 80 per cent of a financial institution's net loss, are tangible illustrations of the Quebec State's involvement in assistance to small business.
Let us not forget the solidarity funds: the Fonds d'aide aux entreprises, which is managed by the regional development councils; the Fonds décentralisé de création d'emplois, managed by the Secrétariat au développement des régions; and Innovation (PME), managed by the ministry of industry, commerce, science and technology. All these attest as well that a very well balanced assistance structure exists already for small business in Quebec.
In his last budget, the Minister of Finance of the Quebec State, Jean Campeau, claimed he would maximize the use of venture capital by increasing the number of regional funds and creating the Fonds de solidarité de la CSN. Among such regional funds, I want to mention SOLIDE, a venture capital fund created under a program called SOLIDEQ, the purpose of which is to promote local development. The SOLIDEQ program was created jointly by the Fonds de solidarité du Québec and the Union des municipalités régionales de comté du Québec.
I cannot help mentioning the Caisses populaires Desjardins, that play an important role in the funding of small business by granting loans at the local community level. A network of 1,232 caisses populaires everywhere, throughout Quebec, provides almost a quarter of all business loans in Quebec.
So, this is what centralizing federalism is all about: parallel structures at outrageous costs that are directly responsible for the Canadian deficit. Centralizing federalism is responsible for the bankruptcy of the country.
Furthermore, clause 20 of the bill allows the Federal Business Development Bank to conclude agreements directly with individuals or organizations. This means that the FBDB could conclude agreements, among other things, with the Conseils régionaux de développement, as the Federal Office of Regional Development wants. However, in Quebec, the Act respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif forbids organizations operating under provincial legislation to conclude agreements with the federal government without the minister's consent.
Once again, the federal government is ignoring the Quebec government's existence and is shamelessly giving itself the power to act without consulting Quebec.
Finally, I would like to conclude by reminding the House of some of the elements of Bill C-76 that represent extremely centralizing and anti-Quebec measures. Bill C-76, which deals with the implementation of certain provisions of the federal 1995-96 budget, goes way beyond the scope of that fiscal year.
Indeed, clause 48, without prior negotiation with the provinces, will result in a shortfall of $2.5 billion, with $650 million in Quebec alone. Moreover, the implementation of the Canada health and social transfer will mean a shortfall of $4.5 billion in 1997-98 for the provinces.
The Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, is also opposing this bill because it establishes a mechanism whereby the federal government, despite the fact that it does not have any constitutional jurisdiction over social programs, will be able to further interfere in these areas and impose national standards on Quebec.
Bill C-76 maintains national health care standards while taking away all transfer payments and introduces new standards in social assistance and postsecondary education. If the provinces do not meet these standards, their funds will be cut off by Bill C-76.
This arrogant kind of federalism does not decentralize powers in any way, as these national standards will limit the autonomy of the provinces in their own areas of jurisdiction. In addition, Quebec's distinct society will not recognize itself in the new national standards implemented from coast to coast in a sector as important to its cultural identity as education.
In fact, many observers and analysts have confirmed that Bill C-76 relegates the provinces to a purely advisory role and does not give them a veto on the introduction of new national standards in their own areas of jurisdiction. For example, in an editorial published in Le Devoir, Lise Bissonnette says this: "Bill C-76 treats postsecondary education as a social program and allows Ottawa to apply national standards in this and other sectors. The most that the provinces, whose jurisdiction over education is very clearly stated in the Canadian Constitution, can expect is to be consulted".
For her part, Chantal Hébert wrote in the March 31 edition of La Presse : ``In the bill it tabled in the Commons to implement its February budget, the federal government opens the door to the unilateral introduction of new national standards in sectors such as postsecondary education, child care, etc-. In fact, Bill C-76 gives the provinces a purely advisory role in this exercise.-No provision of this bill requires prior provincial consent for the introduction of national standards for social programs''.
In closing, I say to my fellow Quebecers that voting Yes to Quebec sovereignty would end federal interference in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction and lead to real savings by eliminating duplication and overlap.
Voting Yes to Quebec sovereignty would allow Quebec to develop job creation, manpower training, education, health and welfare policies in line with its needs and priorities.
Voting to Quebec sovereignty would also ensure that Quebec will no longer be vulnerable to federal low blows such as the patriation of the constitution in 1982 without Quebec's consent, and the federal government's unilateral cuts to transfer payments. In short, whatever the hon. member for Brome-Missisquoi may say, Quebec says Yes to sovereignty, to maturity, to trust, to openness, and to the pride of the people we already are.
Alfonso Gagliano Secretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this the official opposition's last opposition day before the summer adjournment, especially since the motion put forward by the hon. member for Richmond-Wolfe gives me and some of my colleagues an opportunity to dispel misconceptions voiced by our colleagues opposite on several major issues involving the Government of Canada.
I hope that the first group of ten Bloc members whom the Leader of the Opposition intends to send every week, starting this month, to spread the good word on the referendum are here today. They will have a better idea of what the federal government's intentions really are regarding each and every one of the bills mentioned in the motion put forward by the hon. member for Richmond-Wolfe.
Before getting on to these bills, I would like to comment on the part of the motion that reads "an entirely centralized state". It seems to me that this is going too far. I have known for a long time that the supporters of separation had a propensity for verbal inflation, but from what I can see today, they are more bombastic than ever. An entirely centralized state, they say. In fact, it is just the contrary, and the figures speak for themselves. Every study on the subject will tell you that Canada is one of the most decentralized countries in the world.
Compared to OECD countries, Canada is a federated country where the central government is the most diffused among all the public administrations. This means that, compared to the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, France or the United Kingdom, the Canadian government's share of revenues and expenditures is lower than that of the provinces and municipalities. In fact, the Government of Canada collects less than half of the overall public sector revenues.
In almost all other federated OECD countries, the central government gets more than half of these revenues. As for expenditures, in Canada, they are 3.5 times higher at the provincial and municipal level than at the federal level. How can a level of government that spends less than the other levels be described as centralizing? We must realize that decentralization has been going on for some time already in Canada.
Since the 1960s, a series of agreements have been entered into by the governments of Canada and Quebec, promoting decentralization. Successive immigration agreements have enabled Quebec to select who can immigrate to the province and to put in place its own immigration and host programs, all the while collecting substantial financial compensation from the Government of Canada.
At the international level, Quebec can deal directly with France and Belgium under Canada-Quebec framework agreements. There is also an agreement giving Quebec the status required to participate in the Francophonie Summit. In Quebec, the provincial government collects GST for the federal govern-
ment, thereby eliminating costly overlaps and duplications in federal and provincial tax collection.
Since the mid 1960s, opting out agreements have allowed Quebec to withdraw from a number of federal-provincial programs and to assume the related administrative and financial authorities. In 1992-93, the federal government paid more than $2 billion to the Quebec government under these opting out agreements.
No, Madam Speaker, Canada is not an overly centralized state, as members opposite would have us believe. Canada takes the necessary steps to meet the challenges it faces, which is precisely the object of the bills mentioned in the motion. For example, let us take Bill C-91. The sole purpose of this bill is to give more flexibility to the Business Development Bank of Canada, formerly known as the Federal Business Development Bank.
The changes proposed to the bank's mandate will not usurp provincial powers, far from it.
The primary purpose of these changes is to improve services to the bank's clients, small and mid size businesses, so that they are better equipped to develop and create jobs.
The official opposition is wrong if it considers this bill as a trick that the federal government is using to invade provincial jurisdictions. The Canadian government uses no tricks, others can do that. And the polls show how little success they are having.
The motion also mentions Bill C-88, an act to implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, which was concluded, in July 1994, by the Prime Minister and provincial first ministers. That agreement is an example of how efficient Canadian federalism is. It will promote interprovincial trade liberalization, as well as economic growth and job creation.
Those who support separatism are constantly telling us that they are free traders and that they support access to new markets, as well as the free movement of goods, services and labour. Consequently, I do not understand their objections when the federal and provincial governments agree to liberalize internal trade. Come to think of it, I do understand their reaction very well: the official opposition has no interest in admitting that Canadian federalism works well. This is why it opposes this legislation so strongly.
People are not stupid. It is obvious that the Bloc Quebecois is firmly opposed to a Canada-wide economic association. Quebecers will know what to expect when the details of the offers are made public. Clearly, the official opposition's campaign to promote economic association is nothing but another ploy or mirage to try to fool Quebecers.
The official opposition also denounces Bill C-46. This is rather surprising since, on September 26, at second reading, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières had this to say about that legislation: "Bill C-46 is aimed at maintaining the status quo, making the minor amendments that are needed, but not substantial". Yet, today, the official opposition is launching an all-out attack against this bill. True, this is not the first time that the Bloc has changed its mind.
Bill C-46 seeks to establish the new federal Department of Industry. It merges four departments into a single one which will be better equipped to implement three priorities. Let me read you the three priorities of the new department.
The first one is to create better conditions to do business. This means doing everything possible to allow businesses and workers to concentrate on job creation.
The second priority is to stimulate trade. This means using new ways, inspired by Team Canada, to take advantage of foreign market opportunities, and to help Canadian businesses access these markets.
The third priority is to create an efficient infrastructure. This means ensuring that Canada has transport, telecommunications and information networks which will enable businesses to be efficient in a modern economy.
You will agree, Madam Speaker, that these priorities meet the true concerns of Canadians, including Quebecers. However, the official opposition is not pleased with these priorities. The Bloc Quebecois tries to block every initiative designed to help boost the economy and create jobs. Such an attitude is unacceptable, considering that so many Quebecers are out of work.
Official opposition members keep saying they are here to defend the best interests of Quebecers. These interests require that the opposition play a constructive role and support the federal government in its efforts to boost the economy and enhance job creation. Quebecers understand, increasingly, that the interests the official opposition is defending are not theirs. Finally, the official opposition is also opposed to Bill C-76.
In this regard, one need hardly be surprised that the advocates of separation are opposed to last February's federal budget. Our budget shows that Canadian federalism works and, what is more, is working well. This budget mentioned only two conditions to be met: compliance with the five principles of the health care insurance plan, and prohibition of the residence requirement as a criterion for eligibility to social assistance. Seventy-seven per cent of Quebecers believe the principles underlying the Canada Health Act are very important. In every other social program, provinces will agree by mutual consent on shared principles and goals.
Unless the definition has been changed, "mutual consent" does not mean imposition of national standards; "mutual consent" means just that, that is that the parties involved will have to give their consent. This shows once again that the federal government wants to give the provinces a wider flexibility.
This is about flexibility, decentralization and co-operation; not about centralization as advocates of separation are fond of suggesting.
What deserves condemnation is not the pieces of legislation mentioned in the motion, but the official opposition's attitude. Earlier, we heard them, they are already talking about voting yes. The referendum campaign has not even been launched yet. The Parti Quebecois did not even have the courage to hold a referendum in its first eight months in office.
Obsessed as it is with the referendum question, the official opposition alters facts, indulges in grandstanding and tries to depict to Quebecers a Canada that does not exist. I know Quebecers. I know they expect their governments to put their financial houses in order, to boost the economy, and do their utmost to enhance job creation. Since the election, that is what our government has been trying to do.
The budget that was tabled in February reduced federal spending by 7.3 per cent, a first in our history.
It was a difficult decision, and we did not make it with a light heart. But we had to do it, for the sake of the future of young Canadians.
We know jobs are important for all Canadians. That is why we launched the infrastructure program, which created nearly 20,000 jobs in Quebec alone.
Trade missions under the leadership of the Prime Minister in Asia and Latin America have resulted in contracts adding up to almost $10 billion. We know that Quebecers and all Canadians want to feel safe in their cities and towns. The gun control bill will contribute to making communities safer.
That is what we mean when we talk about good government, and that is what Canadians want. That is what Quebecers want, too.
I repeat that what should be condemned is not the bills mentioned in the motion, but the motion itself.
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC
Madam Speaker, I was very surprised to hear the hon. secretary of state for Parliamentary Affairs say, especially at the beginning of his speech, that when the Bloc members go visit the people in their ridings, they are not performing their duties as members of Parliament. I want him to tell me that I was not carrying out my duties as a member of Parliament when I met some fifteen senior citizens of Trois-Rivières to talk about the upcoming old age pension reform and listened to their concerns that the federal government would cut their old age pension as it did with the unemployment insurance benefits.
I think we are acting very properly when we get together with our constituents. This does not stop us from taking the opportunity to talk about the real solutions to these problems that would give the province of Quebec more control over its own development.
When we meet with people who complain about the unemployment situation and tell us that 40 per cent of all new welfare recipients end up on the welfare roll because of the new restrictions put on UI benefits by this new government, which is more Conservative than Liberal, are we not performing our duties as members of Parliament?
When the federal government decides to cut all research and development in sheep production, a promising new industry which is quickly expanding in Quebec and in Canada, and we are asked by the people: "Who took that decision, what is going on in Ottawa? What is wrong with them? Do they have their heads in the clouds? They are cutting R and D", are we not performing our duties as members of Parliament? I think the member for Saint-Léonard should reconsider his position on this issue.
On the other hand, given the centralization efforts of the current government, Quebecers will obviously have a very clear choice to make. This is the most positive aspect of the federal efforts. Everything is quite clear. When they talk about national standards and their willingness to interfere in the day care sector and impose national standards so that Alberta and Quebec are both treated the same way, we realize that their initiative does not make any sense and is doomed from the start.
It does not make sense for the federal government, which has no authority in education, to create a human resources investment fund and, by a devious device, intervene in the area of education instead of reducing unemployment insurance premiums, because less money is needed to finance the unemployment insurance fund, and giving the difference back to the people who do finance the fund. The unemployment insurance scheme is not there as an excuse to create an education department. It is there to provide benefits to workers between jobs. Is this not an intrusion of the federal government where it has no business?
There is also the agreement on internal trade. Let us talk about it. This agreement was signed by all provinces and the federal government. It is designed to ensure that internal trade is at least the equivalent of what we have with NAFTA in external trade. But the federal government tables a bill with the insidious provision that it will be able to rap the provinces on the knuckles if it does not like a decision, if a province does not measure up. It is acting as both judge and jury.
Is that not the return of the steamroller style we first saw in the Trudeau years? Is not the present Liberal government acting as the servant of federal bureaucracy, which is systematically denounced by Canadians as a whole? Everybody in Canada, sovereignists as well as federalists, is fed up with the fact that the federal bureaucratic machine dictates how things should be done, and what Canadians and Quebecers should think. This is why the official opposition is perfectly justified in rising up against it.
When we know that there are 800,000 welfare recipients in Quebec and 1,200,000 in Ontario, it means that it is not only the fault of the government of Quebec, which has been in power for less than a year. When we see that there are 800,000 welfare recipients in Quebec and 1,200,000 in Ontario, does that show that the Canadian system is working? Are the interventions of the federal government producing good results? I believe the member has to recite an act of contrition and reconsider his position.
As I was saying at the beginning of my speech, my question will be on this subject.
In that case, what choice remains to Quebecers but to side with those who want change, those who really want Quebec to be the master of its development? We are talking about the Bloc Quebecois, the Parti Quebecois, and possibly the Action démocratique du Québec party, all of whom want Quebec to be in charge of its own development.
Should not the member for Saint-Léonard try to convince his government to reconsider its positions and to backtrack on this decentralization project which will only lead to more results like Canada's present debt, an absolutely negative result of the Canadian federal system?
Alfonso Gagliano Saint-Léonard, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to tell the hon. member that I agree with him on one point only. I agree with him when he says that he represents change. The members opposite have changed their minds back and forth so many times that even the Premier of Quebec, their ally, said that he was getting a stiff neck. They are trying to get out of this situation but they cannot because they are already in too deep.
All the polls show that Quebecers want to stay within Canada. But the separatists-and they refuse to be called by their true name-want people to believe that after they separate from the rest of Canada, they will have a political and economic association and that things will not be much different than they are now.
The member could at least stay put and listen to what I have to say. The choice is his, but if he does not stay, it means that he does not care to hear the answers to his own questions.
If separation really is the way to go, if it would solve all of Quebec's economic and social problems as the member was saying, why then do they have to have this change of direction after months of reflection and say that they will have a political and economic association? Because they need a winning question.
They have to play with words, to get around the problem to try and confuse people with their separatist option. There are not four or five questions, there is only one: Do Quebecers want to separate from the rest of Canada, yes or no? A bit earlier, the member for Richmond-Wolfe who asked his fellow Quebecers to vote yes. Why should they do so? For more pie in the sky? Another stiff neck? That is the question.
Today, for example, the opposition is telling us that we want to impose national standards. The budget was very clear on that. It said that there had to be mutual consent. The bill was clear. Furthermore, to make sure that it was really clear, that it said what the Minister of Finance and the government meant, we proposed amendments to specify that there would be agreements and mutual consent. Mutual consent means that the two parties agree. This is what we will aim for in our negotiations with the provinces.
If, instead of always complaining that Canada does not work, those who are in favour of separation were ready to co-operate with the other provinces and the federal government, we could solve many problems. For example, last year, in July, a free trade agreement was signed. The separatists want free trade with the United States and Mexico, but they are against free trade within Canada.
We introduced a bill to implement the free trade agreement signed by the Prime Minister and all the provinces but again, they oppose it. They say that the federal government wants to overstep its jurisdiction. Again, we took precautions, we checked the legislation.
The other day, in this House, we announced that there would be clarifications. The federal government does not for one moment intend to usurp the provinces' powers. What do we want? We only want to make the Canadian federation work.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. secretary of state, but his time is up. I take the opportunity to remind you all that we should never mention the absence of an hon. member from his seat.
Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words in this debate as once again the citizens of Canada are treated to this family squabble.
It is difficult from time to time as a member of the Reform Party to be in agreement with the members of the Liberal Party but there are some things which do tend to draw us together.
Something about today's debate and today's motion by the Bloc is embarrassing to me as a member of the House and as a Canadian. If I were a resident of Quebec, whether I were a separatist or not I would be embarrassed about it. If I were a separatist I would be doubly embarrassed by this motion and by the attitude of the Bloc in the House and what it has been doing in recent months.
It is my opinion that Bloc members over the last few months are becoming less and less a force in Parliament. They seem to have marginalized themselves. When the House started they came and by and large the media were their lapdogs. The media loved the Bloc. It created clash and conflict all the time and it had a free ride from the media outside of Quebec. I do not know about the Quebec media but the English media looked at Bloc members and thought they were people who really had it together.
Quite a number of Bloc members are competent and capable. Unfortunately when they get together some group dynamic takes over. It must be something they drink which causes them all of a sudden to become introspective, afraid, frightened, isolationist; everything they would not want to be, they become.
Here we are debating a motion, the essence of which is to put a wall up around Quebec with a one way check valve in the wall: send money in but do not let anything else out and then they can take care of themselves. How can a group of people presume they will take their province into separation and they can stand on their own as a separate nation, when every time they open their mouths they are afraid to stand alone as a separate province? It does not make any sense. There is a huge contradiction.
There is a difference between constructive opposition and obstructionism. It is single minded. I cannot find a word for it right now but I am sure one will spring to mind to describe the incessant day in, day out attitude of the Bloc. Tribalism would be the word. The attitude in committee and the attitude in the House is not what can they do to make their province better, thereby making the country as a whole better; the attitude is consistently what is in it for them and how can they benefit to make sure they do not get screwed by the rest of Canadians who get up every morning and have one overriding thought which is how can they stick it to Quebec.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Canadians from coast to coast have treated Quebec with kid gloves for at least all of my adult life. My adult life has been spent asking: How do we make Quebec feel at home in Canada? What can we do to make Quebec and the people who live in Quebec happy as Canadians? For the last 30 years or so we have tried to buy their affection and has that worked? I think not.
Let me give an illustration. For those who may have just tuned in today is an opposition day, a supply motion. This means the opposition gets to determine what we are to debate in the House today.
Keep in mind that 52 Canadians are being held hostage, including Quebecers, in Bosnia. Bear in mind our country is into the hole $120 million a day. What do we do? We debate this motion:
That this House condemn the government's legislative agenda, which makes clear its intention to usurp provincial jurisdictions and construct an entirely centralized state, as can be seen from Bills C-76, C-88, C-46 and C-91.
The opposition presumes all these bills are designed to take substantial powers away from Quebec and transfer them to the federal government. What about the rest of the country, the rest of the provinces? There is nothing in any of these that say these bills are specific to Quebec. This is legislation the government brings down for the country. We may not like it but it has a majority and we have to deal with that.
As the loyal opposition and the third party we have to do what we can to make it better legislation and where possible derail legislation which is in our opinion not worthy of support. It is not my role as a member representing an Alberta constituency to get up every morning, come to the House and ask how I can look after Alberta.
I am a federal member of Parliament representing a federal constituency in Alberta. My primary responsibility is our country, not just Edmonton Southwest. I have to be concerned about every Canadian, not just Albertans, not just people who live in Edmonton. If I am not prepared to do that, why am I sitting here?
The Reform Party's bias is to radically decentralize Canada and we share with our colleagues from the Bloc the notion that it is imperative to reduce the overlap we acknowledge exists in many areas in the country. Why do we need a federal environment department, a provincial environment department and a municipal environment department?
Every time we turn around there is overlap. We have more public servants per capita, per square inch than most countries. We share that with our friends from the Bloc. We need to decentralize. We share with our colleagues from the Bloc ideas about decentralizing authority and responsibility to make authority and responsibility to devolve that closest to the people who are being served.
We would like to see a radically changed federal government, much smaller, much less intrusive in the lives of Canadians, with provinces having far more responsibility as would be necessary to make our country work better. That does not mean
the federal government does not have a role in national affairs. If we are to be a country we need certain uniform things from coast to coast.
All of these bills whether we like it or not speak to those ideas. Bill C-76 is the budget implementation act. What the Bloc was complaining, whining, moaning and dripping about in the budget implementation act is that it has a clause whereby transfers to the provinces will be block transfers.
This means that instead of transferring specific moneys to education, health and other areas along with the Canada assistance plan, these moneys will be transferred in block, allowing the provinces to do with that money as they will. That makes sense to me. That sounds like decentralization to me. How is it that the Bloc can possibly construe that to be some sort of centralizing plan? What the Bloc did not say is there is a possibility the people of Quebec will have to be a little more careful in how they spend their money because they will get less money.
Our country is into the hole $120 million a day. Every single Canadian will be in debt. Our deficit per individual Canadian is $1,375 just for this year. Our total per person debt in Canada is $19,000. For a family of four it is $76,000. That is our federal debt. Forget the provincial debt, of which Quebec has a ton, that is just our federal debt. There is going to be less money to transfer to the provinces and I think the Bloc is a little upset over that.
Let me give an illustration of some of the inequities that exist in our country. Under the Canada assistance plan, if someone happens to be on welfare, collecting benefits from the province, and lives in Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia, the federal government kicks in 29 cents of every dollar that is paid out. However, if that person lives in Quebec or one of the other provinces considered to be a have not province, the federal government kicks in 50 cents of every dollar.
Because it is in a block transfer, if Quebec is going to continue to pay benefits the way it has been, then it is going to have to take that money from somewhere else. Why on earth should Alberta residents pay taxes via equalization payments that go to Quebec so that seniors in Quebec do not have to pay for prescription drugs? Those who live in Alberta have to pay for prescription drugs. Quebec is considered a have not province and we subsidize it. Over the last 30 years or so Quebec has benefited to the tune of $100 billion from equalization payments. Why is it that the rest of the country should put up with that?
I want to make it clear that as a person, I kind of like the hon. member for Richmond-Wolfe who led this debate. But I sure get fed up with him every time he starts to pontificate in the House about how hard done by the people in Quebec are. I thought his comments this morning were pathetic. I wondered how, representing isolationism thoughts like that, Quebecers could possibly have any confidence in that group to run their affairs in an independent Quebec. They would spend the first 20 years of independence building a wall around Quebec.
We know that Quebec benefits tremendously from interprovincial trade which is what Bill C-88 is all about, which they do not like. Bill C-88 was a bill to reduce the interprovincial trade barriers within Canada. The Reform Party objected to the bill because it did not go far enough. We felt the government should have used its powers to force the provinces to bring down the trade barriers. It is in our common best interests to develop a critical mass that will allow us to be competitive on a worldwide basis.
People will recall that when we entered into free trade with the United States we got whipped in those first few years. Why did we get whipped? Because we had a high dollar, high interest rates and we had these interprovincial trade barriers all across the country so that our industries that were protected were not capable of competing in the world markets.
We would have to be brain dead, and I think we were, to enter into an agreement to have free trade with the strongest trading nation in the world without having free trade within Canada to start with. How could we be so stupid-I hate to say not to put bullets in our gun because with Bill C-68 we are not going to have any-as to go hunting and have our guns loaded with blanks?
We have a high dollar, high interest rates and we have these interprovincial trade barriers. The federal government is carrying out its rightful duty and responsibility by saying to the provinces that we are going to get rid of these interprovincial trade barriers so we can compete.
I have notes somewhere on just how important trade is to the Canadians of Quebec, to the people of Quebec whether they are independent or not. Let me make it clear. The last thing in the world I want is the people of Quebec to be independent. If by some quirk of fate they are dumb enough to follow the Bloc and go down that road, this is what they had better keep in mind.
Quebec exported more to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1989 than to any country in Europe, including France. It sold as much to Ontario as it did to the United States. The rest of Canada exported more to Quebec than to the European Union and Japan combined.
In Quebec 470,000 jobs were directly and indirectly attributable to interprovincial exports in 1989. Quebec was the only province other than Ontario that registered a surplus in interprovincial trade. Let me repeat that Quebec was the only province other than Ontario to register a surplus in interprovincial trade.
Quebec had a deficit of interprovincial trade with Ontario of about $3 billion but it had an overall surplus of, I think, about $1.3 billion because it traded with other provinces. And members of the Bloc representing the people of Quebec say: "We want to put up barriers; we do not want free trade within our own country". Well, I can say that an independent Quebec will be on its knees at the door of Canada asking please could it have free trade because it must have it. How is it that the Bloc members can stand here today and say they do not want it?
Bill C-91 concerns the Federal Business Development Bank. We have some serious reservations about continuing the Federal Business Development Bank. Our perspective is we do not think the federal government has any business setting up a crown corporation to compete with private business. That is the essence of what will happen. We are going to have a renewed Federal Business Development Bank which will be competing with the existing banks in Canada. I do not think we should do it. We should force private enterprise to do what it must.
Bloc members have a perspective that is different from ours and I think they are far more dependent upon government for everything in life. I think it is fair to characterize members of the Bloc as living in a kind of socialist dream world. They would love to see societal responsibility for everything and personal responsibility for very little, but that is fair. It is a difference of opinion.
We have a difference of opinion over this. We are saying we should not have a renewed bank because we do not want to compete with the private sector. The Bloc perspective is that somehow a renewed bank is going to compete with existing agencies in Quebec.
Why does the Bloc not ask how to go about melding existing agencies in Quebec? It is not as though the people who work for the Federal Business Development Bank came from Mars. Those people came from Quebec. The president of the FBDB, Francois Beaudoin, is in Montreal. So combine FEDNOR and reduce the overlap and the costs of providing these services to Canadians. Do not just stand in the road saying that this or that cannot be done. Be constructive.
The final one was Bill C-46, the reorganization of the Department of Industry. What can I say? That is basically a housekeeping bill. We objected to it because our role is to oppose, but it is going to be done.
I think this illustrates the fact that the House will work if we work together constructively. I would ask members of the Bloc to please bear that in mind in future debate.
Maurice Godin Châteauguay, QC
Madam Speaker, I have listened to the member's analysis of my colleague's remarks. I must tell you that it is difficult to know what he thinks. First, he criticized everything that the Bloc has said or done since its arrival in the House of Commons. Then he told us he agreed with everything we are doing. Where does he really stand? It is certainly not evident; it is difficult to follow him.
The bulk of his speech was about decentralization, something he shares our views on. For years now, we in Quebec have been asking, without success, for decentralization of powers to the provinces in order to meet the challenge of eventual globalization of markets.
The debt was mentioned. It is centralization that has brought us this $500 billion debt, which may well wipe out all the social programs and be passed on to future generations. In particular, he spoke about the advantages to Quebec of east-west trade. But he neglected to mention that we have spent millions over the last 127 years to develop this trade. This might allow an independent Quebec to look in the direction of other large markets of interest to us, north-south markets.
He also spoke about the problems we are experiencing that we have been unable to resolve within the existing system. I would like to mention a few to him. If we are speaking about structural problems, there are fundamental problems to which solutions have never been found under the constitution. First, the interference of the federal government in provincial areas of responsibility; second, the distinct society; third, the autonomy of the First Nations; fourth the absence of affinity between eastern and western Canadians, the well-know alienation of the west, which has always viewed itself as the frontier; the federal government's right to fund megaprojects without the agreement of the provinces, which has resulted in a debt of $500 billion and the unemployment we are now experiencing; economic recovery and job creation; and finally, the challenge of tomorrow, which is the globalization of markets.
Yet, if I take the period between 1968 and 1993, there were two great leaders, with two different approaches-Trudeau from 1968 to 1984, and Mulroney from 1984 to 1993. One was pushing a dominant central government, one strong nation while the other-in all fairness, Mr. Mulroney cannot be faulted for trying-proposed decentralization simply in an effort to get this great country going again.
We all know the results: the Meech Lake fiasco and the failure of the Charlottetown accord, despite the fact that English Canada spent $13 million promoting this accord compared to the
some $800,000 spent on the Yes campaign. Furthermore, in the election following these events, the Conservative Party was wiped off the map.
There is no denying that something is happening. We are heading straight for a black hole, and we have proof that strong federalism is steering us towards it, while decentralization-well, everybody is in favour of it but no one wants to make the first move. And that is simply what Quebec wants to do. Quebec wants to take its matters into its own hands and simply show the rest of Canada that it is time to make a move, because we are on the brink of falling into the black hole.
My question for the hon. member is about the globalization of markets. Be it in the industrial sector or the public sector, it has been proven that the only survivors will be small units capable of charting their own course, reorganizing their operations and meeting market demand. Does he think that the road to success is through decentralization, which has yet to have been seen here, or through following the status quo?
Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB
Madam Speaker, in response to some of the questions put forward by my hon. colleague I want to make it clear that I do not agree with everything the Bloc is doing. As a matter of fact, I do not agree with a lot of what the Bloc is doing. But I do agree wholeheartedly with one of the things the Bloc stands for, and that is the notion of a radically decentralized Canada.
It drives me crazy that while I would be looking at it from the perspective that it would be better for Canada, when the Bloc members speak they say it would be better for Quebec. They are here representing the federal Parliament. I know it is a contradiction, since they represent the Bloc. However, their role as the official opposition is to make Canada work better. As long as they are here, quite willing to collect their pensions from Canada, they should start thinking in terms of what is right for Canada. If they want to leave, leave. But they should be leaving a stronger Canada, not a weaker one because of their actions in the House.
As far as transferring responsibility to the provinces, the Bloc has made a good point; it is quite right. The federal government has cut the amount of money being transferred via block transfers while at the same time not allowing the provinces to raise additional money to pay for standards the federal government is maintaining. The federal government cannot on one hand say that it is going to transfer responsibility to the provinces and then say the provinces have to run things exactly as the federal government tells them. There must be more latitude. We concur with the Bloc in that constructive sentiment.
The other major point my colleague from the Bloc mentioned was that Canada is set up on a trading basis of east and west, while the natural trade routes are north and south. He is absolutely right. It has cost people in western Canada an absolute fortune over the years.
Why is it that in Montana you could buy a piece of farm equipment manufactured in Toronto for less than you could buy the same piece of equipment in Alberta? Because of these tariff barriers. Why is it that for years all Canadians were paying twice as much for textiles as we should have in order to protect the textile industry in Quebec, thus allowing it to become non-competitive on a world basis?
The member is right. We have had these trade barriers, which have created an artificial economy east-west when the natural one is north-south. Imagine how much stronger they would be in the maritimes if they were dealing north-south with Boston and the New England states.
The member talked about looking at new markets. What on earth prevents the people of Quebec from getting new markets to the south today? Is there anybody saying to people in Quebec that they cannot trade with the United States? Of course not. We are trying as hard as we can as a nation-and the people in Quebec-to export.
Quebec has been extremely efficient in managing exports to the United States. I am not quite sure, but I think that over recent years Quebec has had something like a 3 per cent increase in its exports to the United States, more than the Canadian average. There is nothing to prevent Quebec from exporting as much as it wants south right now. It does not have to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on this opposition day, a debate that concerns the following motion:
That this House condemn the government's legislative agenda, which makes clear its intention to usurp provincial jurisdictions and construct an entirely centralized state, as can be seen from Bills C-76, C-88, C-46 and C-91, all designed to take substantial powers away from Quebec and transfer them to the federal government.
I also welcome this opportunity to take part in this debate because as the industry critic, I was involved in the drafting of this motion. In fact, we have four bills, three introduced directly by the Minister of Industry, that have certain implications which are very disturbing, both for Quebec and the other provinces. I hope that my colleagues, especially those in the Reform Party, will realize that what is happening here in Ottawa not only violates the legitimate aspirations of the people of Quebec but
also the legitimate aspirations of Canadian provinces that support decentralized government.
What makes this so disturbing is that this government acts so discreetly it is almost self-effacing. No fuss, no boasting, but meanwhile, it is carefully and almost secretly centralizing the powers of the Canadian federation here in Ottawa as no other government has done before in this country's history.
I will try to explain this process, starting with Bill C-46, which comes first both numerically and chronologically and which last fall, took a number of departments, including Communications, Consumer and Corporate Affairs, and amalgamated these to establish the Department of Industry, as it is known today. So far, so good, except that the Federal Office of Regional Development (Quebec) was maintained. When I say maintained, we should realize that for some time there were rumours that the office would be dropped.
In view of the deplorable and indeed disastrous state of Canada's public finances, the federal government, as you know, had to take a long, hard look at the situation and, in the process, it seems the very existence of the Federal Office of Regional Development (Quebec) was called into question because it could no longer provide financial assistance for small businesses. At the time, it had found its niche helping high tech companies but, because of budgetary cutbacks, all this had to be shelved so that the continued existence of FORD was in doubt. However, instead of getting rid of FORD, the government maintained this empty shell, which has now become a kind of conveyor belt, a Trojan horse, the federal government's favourite mechanism for getting involved in regional development in Quebec.
The mission of FORD is being changed. It will serve as a consultant to small and mid size high tech businesses, primarily in the area of exports. This is all very well, except it is already the case in Quebec. And the networking-and since you were at the Standing Committee on Industry recently, you know what I am talking about-that FORD can do as part of its activities, the Quebec Department of Industry and Commerce is already doing it. We have already dealt with this concern on the part of high tech business and high tech exporting businesses. This ground has already been covered. Instead of abolishing the Federal Office of Regional Development, it is being kept alive by further duplicating mechanisms that already exist in Quebec in the area of regional development.
Except that it is becoming the preferred vehicle, making agreements, as we will see, with the Federal Business Development Bank. This will enable the federal government to slip in and meddle even more blithely than before in the operations and the management of regional development. It will do so while ignoring the presence of the Quebec government and the regional development apparatus it already has and the equality of the Quebec government in the relationship. The federal government must remember that if it is going to intervene as a government, it must be to provide support and not to compete with the provinces. This is what we see in Bill C-46 with FORD remaining as we know it today in terms of SMB adviser-resource persons.
I move on now to Bill C-76. Briefly, because the main theme must always be taken into account, what is new about Bill C-76, which is the bill to implement the budget the Minister of Finance tabled a while back, is that it establishes a completely new concept, that of the Canada social transfer, which is the budget for social and welfare programs. A new concept is therefore in use, doubtless to assist in the advancement of the science known as the Canada social transfer.
According to Bill C-76 implementing the budget, the federal government will, over the next three years, reduce by $7 billion the public funds it gives to the provinces, which means a $2.5 billion cut for the Quebec government.
Not only are the cuts in question huge, the federal government, instead of being apologetic about it and paving the way for a true decentralization of powers following its financial withdrawal, is interfering more and more in the management of health, welfare and social programs and more recently, in post-secondary education. Also it announced that it will set national standards to which provinces will have to conform to avoid being further penalized.
It is a new way of interfering into areas of provincial jurisdiction. Section 93 of the Canadian constitution provides for a distribution of powers and areas of jurisdiction. The areas just mentioned-health, post-secondary education, social programs and welfare-are all within provincial jurisdiction. These areas, which affect Quebecers every day, are crucial to Quebec's distinct society in the Canadian federation. They are existential.
The federal government has no right to set national standards for Quebec. Furthermore, under clause 37 of Bill C-76, the federal government demands that its financial assistance be visible, which means that, from now on, the forms used by citizens must reflect the fact that the federal government contributed to such and such a program.
Not only is it withdrawing, not only is it cutting, not only is it setting standards, but now it boasts about it and demands to be praised by the provinces so that citizens realize that the federal government doles out presents. This is the underlying philosophy: to show that it is giving presents to the provinces, as if it were not with the taxes paid by Canadians and Quebecers, and this is the normal state of affairs. As unconstitutional as these measures may be, it is normal for the Canadian government to be
redistributing money. Still, one should keep in mind that these measures are indeed unconstitutional.
The position of the official opposition is clear in this regard: it demands that the federal government withdraw from provincial areas of jurisdiction without any ifs, ands or buts. In other words, within the Canadian confederation, the official opposition demands that the constitution be abided by, and that the withdrawal of the federal government from social programs, health care, and education be offset by the transfer of tax points so that taxpayers do not end up paying more. It would balance out. The federal government would lose one or two per cent in taxes to the current province of Quebec, and thus the tax burden of citizens would not get heavier.
Therefore, we see that, with this second piece of legislation, Bill C-76, aimed at implementing the budget, the federal government keeps on attacking, and even intensifies its attacks against the provinces, especially Quebec, by setting national standards in the areas of health care, post-secondary education, social programs and welfare.
I now come to Bill C-88. Bill C-88 deals with internal trade in Canada. It is a matter which was the subject of an interprovincial agreement signed last year, on July 1st, by the provinces, the federal government, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and which is to come into force on July 1st, 1995. There is, in this agreement, a certain legal vagueness due to the wording of article 1710-which is at the heart of the agreement and could become the stumbling block-providing for mechanisms to settle possible disputes between two provinces, or between the federal government and one of the signatories; the least that can be said about these mechanisms is that they are somewhat lacking in clarity.
The reason is that the signatories agreed that any dispute settlement mechanism would be based on the good faith of the parties and would not, in any case, be of a legal nature. There was, on April 10 of this year, less than two months ago, a federal-provincial conference of provincial, territorial and federal ministers, in Calgary, where, we are told, nothing was said about the fact that there were new texts and new ways of doing things in the areas of dispute settlement mechanisms.
Yet, two or three weeks ago, the federal government came up, without any warning, without debate, with Bill C-88 where, in clause 9, it imposes or rather assumes powers it never mentioned to the parties and for which it was not mandated by said parties.
I will read clause 9, which will create quite a conflict because the federal government really assumes powers although, in the spirit of the agreement, it is solely one partner, equal to the other signatories. This question is extremely important and was called by the Premier of Quebec a "trade war measure". He did not mince his words. Given the credibility of the Premier of Quebec in this area, we can see the importance of what I talking about.
Clause 9, which is the main element of Bill C-88, reads as follows:
For the purpose of suspending benefits or imposing retaliatory measures of equivalent effect against a province pursuant to Article 1710 of the Agreement, the Governor in Council may, by order, do any one or more of the following:
(a) suspend rights or privileges granted by the Government of Canada to the province under the Agreement or any federal law;
(b) modify or suspend the application of any federal law with respect to the province;
(c) extend the application of any federal law to the province; and
(d) take any other measure-and this is important-that the Governor in Council considers necessary-what it means is to bring the province in step.
In subclause 9(2), they even make the following precision, and I quote: "In this section, federal law" means the whole or any portion of any Act of Parliament or any regulation order or other instrument issued, made or established in the exercise of a power conferred by or under an Act of Parliament".
Before the parties gave any kind of authorization, before any discussion or joint action, without any mandate, the Government of Canada, a legitimately elected government, unilaterally, arbitrarily and arrogantly decided to add a provision whereby it granted itself the authority to set any stubborn province right.
Just think what that could mean in the case of Quebec. Personally, that is one thing I hope Quebecers will seriously think about during the upcoming great consultation. This is the type of Canada we will have in the future where there will be only one real government, Madam Speaker, and it will be this government, arrogant, arbitrary, cut off from the people and ignorant of regional interests; the so-called provincial governments will become mere regional governments. Imagine what irreparable damage will be done to Quebec where we firmly believe to be, where we claim to be a distinct society within Canada with different habits, thinking patterns and background.
That clause, as others is typical of this government's way of doing things, in Ottawa, capital of Canada, a country soon to be centralized, unitarian, accepting no debate or consultation and no social debate, a debate which the Canadian population should demand, especially westerners. Without any social debate as we have in Quebec, a clause like this one could have serious consequences. The intent of that clause would certainly have a catastrophic impact on Quebec.
I am coming now to Bill C-91 which deals with the Federal Business Development Bank that will soon become the Business Development Bank of Canada. There again there was no consultation and no joint action. This showed a certain disregard for the industry committee of which I am vice-chair and which never made such recommendations, on the contrary. If there were a recommendation from the parliamentary secretary, it was basically to reduce the importance of the bank, to make it the bank of Canadian small businesses. It was to scale it down. But now, we are going to the other extreme, Madam Speaker, with the Business Development Bank of Canada, to which the minister gives a new mandate; it will no longer be a last resort for small business but rather intervene in programs supporting Canadian entrepreneurship.
Those words, which are neither defined nor specified in the legislation, will allow the federal bank, pursuant to clause 21, to intervene not only in federal organizations, but also in provincial ones and in regional organizations created by the Quebec government. That is still basically a way of interfering in the daily lives of the people in this country, and of the people of Quebec, without any mandate to do so.
For those who do not believe what we are saying, I refer to the March 30 article in which two well-known Liberals talk about the future of Canada.
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC
Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. member for Trois-Rivières and I would like to ask him a question. Are liberals not trying to find solutions to the problems of Ontario regarding the financing of small business and to generalize the Ontario model by amending the Federal Business Development Bank Act?
I remember that, in the months following the election, Ontario Liberal members on the industry committee were somewhat angry and said that banks were not sensitive enough to the needs of small business, that the last recession had caused many bankruptcies and that ways had to be found to deal with the situation.
Quebec committee members were less concerned by the situation because Quebec had already developed its own tools like the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs de la FTQ-the CSN will soon have a similar fund-and the Mouvement des Caisses Desjardins. There is also the use made of business support centre funds and regional development funds. We already had all those resources.
I feel that the amendments to the Federal Business Development Bank were proposed to please Ontario but they will not make funds more easily available to Quebec. We already have regional funds available. There are many coordination problems between the various funds. Is the change of vocation of the Federal Business Development Bank not going to make things more complicated and increase delays without necessarily having a positive effect on the access of Quebec small business to financing?
Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, for his question. I commend his intuition. Indeed, when the Standing Committee on Industry started looking into the matter, the problem was centered on the issue of funding of small and medium size enterprises. Members of Parliament from Ontario made legitimate representations, considering the slump caused by the lack of credit, although this was never proven.
But things went differently afterwards, when the purpose of the Federal Business Development Bank was radically changed. Previously, the bank's primary purpose and almost only concern was assisting small and medium size enterprises, but that is now becoming somewhat secondary.
I will read the first lines of clause 4 which deals with that purpose:
"The purpose of the Bank is to support Canadian entrepreneurship-"
That is what subclause 4(1) says. Subclause 4(2) says:
"In carrying out its activities, the Bank must give particular consideration to the needs of small and medium sized-enterprises."
So, we see that what was previously a fundamental concern for small and medium size enterprises is becoming somewhat secondary. The bank will deal as it can with small and medium size enterprises having primarily established entrepreneurship development programs, as I was saying earlier, which do not qualify or have not been defined. Anything is possible with the private funds that the bank will have in the future.
I would like to give more information on the two distinguished Liberals that I was telling you about. They are the hon. senator Rivest and Mr. Forget. They said on an open line show on the CBC, which is as credible as these two gentlemen: "Mr. Rivest having revealed that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Privy Council is preparing a major administrative and tax reform for Canada". This is Mr. Rivest speaking, a very good Liberal.
"Mr. Forget went on to say that he feared a no vote on the referendum-this is very important for Quebecers-would lead to a loss of control by the government of Quebec on subsequent events". That is, after the referendum. "This situation would create opportunities for initiatives, whether under the constitution or not, but which could, at any rate, considerably change the rules. It seems to me that, for now, the threat to Quebec lies
much more in this restructuring of the government-a vital issue-than in some constitutional matter".
I conclude with these comments, which confirm our apprehensions. Here, in this Parliament, as well as in the Langevin building, very important events are occurring, but they are not being publicized. A country is being built and changed without any debate. I think it is outrageous.
Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC
Madam Speaker, I just heard the hon. member for Trois-Rivières speak about the Federal Office of Regional Development in Quebec. I would like to remind him that the Office's presence in Quebec was requested by the social and economic stakeholders in the regions.
In my riding, as in most ridings, people have asked for a regional economic development policy. A few days ago, we heard the Minister of Finance say in the House that he had written several times to his provincial counterparts inviting them to co-operate on matters related to regional economic development. He has received no answer to date. This is an important point that we must not forget during our debate.
A few weeks ago, a seminar was held in Chicoutimi on the future of Quebec and its regions. At the seminar, the Quebec government was asked to do something along the same lines as the federal government in the area of economic development. I think this is important. The federal government is a leader in the field of economic development in Quebec, and, through the Federal Office, it is responding to people's needs, as Quebec should do. It is very important that the federal government continue its efforts, but with the provinces' co-operation.
Finally, I have a question for the member for Trois-Rivières. In his riding, some forty economic development projects have been approved by FORD-Q. Would he deprive his constituents of the federal government's economic presence in his own riding?
Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Brome-Missisquoi for his very thoughtful question. Sure, we do not want to deprive our constituents of the moneys they have already paid to the government and that are redistributed in the normal way. When one claims to want to develop the economy, as the federal government is doing, it is perfectly normal that from time to time it takes tax moneys paid by Quebec taxpayers to redistribute them in Quebec.
There is nothing new here, there is no gift in there, contrary to what is hinted at in such a question, as if that money was paid out of generosity. However, I am not sure, and there lies the danger, that these 40 projects are being developed in harmony with the efforts being made at the same time by the Quebec government. That is not obvious at all. On the contrary, one is left with the impression that there is competition, duplication and overlapping of energies.
I would like to take the opportunity provided by my colleague's question to talk about the Federal Business Development Bank and the change in policy it is setting for itself or that is being imposed on it by the minister. We seriously wonder how, despite all its claims, the new Business Development Bank of Canada will be able to meet the need it met successfully up till now for very small businesses, because 52 per cent of the loans made by the FBDB were loans of $100,000 or less, which suited the needs of very small businesses. Given the new aspirations of the Business Development Bank of Canada, it is not that obvious that the needs that were met up till now will be met in the future. This is not very reassuring, and therefore leads us to question the validity of this new mandate.
Winnipeg North Centre
David Walker Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate. I will take this opportunity to set the record straight concerning the Canada health and social transfer.
Contrary to the propaganda spread by the Bloc Quebecois and reflected in the motion before the House, the Canada health and social transfer does not take powers away from Quebec and transfer them to the federal government. Instead, it gives more flexibility to provinces.
Thus, the new Canadian social transfer is a big step toward more mature federal-provincial fiscal relations.
In the last federal budget, the government acted on the request made by Canadians that deficits be reduced through structural changes.
That kind of change is essential if we are to secure Canada's economic well-being and protect our social programs. But the structural changes we need could not be made without a reform of the provincial transfer system.
Cash transfers amount today to more than 20 per cent of all federal program spending.
The government responded to the need for change with a new transfer system that is both more sustainable and more effective, the Canada health and social transfer. Currently the federal government transfers funds to the provinces for health and post-secondary education under established programs financing or EPF.
Funding for social assistance and social services is provided under the Canada assistance plan. Beginning in 1996-97, these transfers will be replaced by a single transfer as described in Bill C-76 which is before the House. The Canada health and social transfer is part of that bill.
Unlike the current system, which is based partly on cost sharing arrangements, the Canada health and social transfer will
be a block fund like EPF. This means that amounts transferred will no longer be determined by provincial spending decisions as under cost sharing.
The new system will be more fiscally sustainable. When the Canada health and social transfer is fully implemented in 1997-98, the total of all major transfers to provinces will be down by about $4.5 billion from what would have been transferred under the existing system.
This is significant action but to put it into perspective, the reduction will equal about 3 per cent aggregate provincial revenues. Furthermore, the Canada health and social transfer is not merely more sustainable but also more efficient. It will bring real benefits for both levels of government.
The Canada health and social transfer continues the evolution away from the requirement to obtain federal government approval in areas of provincial responsibility, which has been a source of entanglement and irritation in federal-provincial relations.
From the provinces' point of view, the new system will include fewer conditions on the use of transferred money.
From now on, there will be no more rules on the kinds of expenditures that can be cost-shared and those that cannot. Provinces will be completely free to use innovative means in the context of social security reform, and they will have more flexibility to set their own priorities.
Let me offer some concrete examples of what this greater flexibility could entail in practice. There would be no need for provinces to submit claims for federal approval and no need to draw up lists of provincial laws, welfare agencies and the like. This will bring significant administrative savings.
The move from CAP cost sharing to block funding will also mean that policies and programs could be designed to better integrate social, health, education and labour market programming.
Further, provinces can use simpler, less intrusive methods of establishing eligibility for income support and services such as an income test. In this way federal funds will assist a wider range of people with disabilities to live independently, based on a variety of personal and employment criteria.
A less stringent implementation of needs tests could also help provinces make income support and non monetary benefits more widely available to low wage earners or people who try to stop depending on welfare and to enter the labour market.
That way, federal money could be used to support the APPORT program in Quebec and other income supplement projects geared to low income families and workers.
By moving from the needs test, provinces could also provide integrated prevention programming to a broader cross section of children and families. For instance, federal funds could support community or school nutrition programs which are not currently eligible for CAP because they are not needs tested.
The flexibility I have just described-the flexibility to spend as effectively as possible-paves the way for better design and more affordable social programs for Canadians. Each province will be able to emphasize the programs and services that work best for its own unique circumstances.
It is important to emphasize this enhanced flexibility does not mean a free for all. The Canadian health and social transfer maintains an important federal role in social programs.
First, the federal government will continue to provide substantial funding to provinces in support of health and other social programs. Individual provinces will receive amounts ranging from about 20 per cent to about 40 per cent of their total revenues.
Further, the principles of the Canada Health Act will continue to be enforced. Canadians have made it very clear this is extremely important to them. Seventy-seven per cent of Quebecers believe these new principles are important to them also.
Also, there will be no change in the principle that provinces must provide social assistance without minimum residency requirements.
Furthermore, the Minister of Human Resources Development will be inviting all provincial governments to work together on developing, through mutuel consent, a set of shared principles and objectives that could underlie the new Canada health and social transfer.
The official opposition would like us to believe that this whole process is nothing but a plot to underhandedly impose new conditions, methods or penalties on the province of Quebec.
Frankly, that is absurd. Let me emphasize again the only standards contained in the legislation introduced in the Canada health and social transfer are the Canada Health Act provisions and the social assistance mobility condition. These are not new and they have not been changed. Compared to the status quo there are fewer legislative social assistance conditions in this
legislation, not more. The legislation provides no legal authority to introduce any new conditions, standards or penalties. Claims to the contrary are simply wrong.
The legislation does contain a statement of the federal government's intention to launch the consultative process I have described, a process seeking mutual consent on principles and objectives.
Nothing new was included in this statement of intention. On budget night, on February 27, 1995, the government stated clearly that it would be "inviting all provincial governments to work together on developing, through mutual consent, a set of shared principles and objectives that could underlie the new Canada social transfer".
This is the exact same commitment we included in Bill C-76, word for word. What does "mutual consent" mean? It means no government whatsoever in Canada can be forced to adhere to new principles and objectives against its will.
In other words, only the governments who subscribe freely to new objectives and common principles will have to abide by them. Nothing is clearer than that and those who claim that we are dispensing with mutual consent are being ridiculous.
There is another piece of nonsense from the Bloc members that I would like to challenge during this debate. Contrary to the devious spin being given by the opposition, the bill does not allow the federal government to introduce new standards through the back door. Quite the contrary. There is absolutely no clause in the bill that allows the federal government to introduce new criteria or new financial penalties with the Canada social transfer. Bill C-76 does not allow us to tack new conditions on the Canada social transfer arising from the consultative process carried out by the Minister of Human Resources Development.
Those who say otherwise have misunderstood the bill. They do not make a distinction between statutory conditions and statements of intent. The principles and objectives eventually reached through mutual agreement between governments would not necessarily lend themselves to inclusion in a legislative text. If, some day in the future, the consenting governments want to entrench an agreement in a federal statute, it would be necessary to submit a bill to this effect to the Canadian Parliament.
In conclusion, I would say that one of the main characteristics of the Canada Social Transfer for health care and social programs is that it is proof that Canadian federalism is capable of evolving. It opens the door to further progress toward a kind a federalism that is more mature, more responsive to the concerns of Canadians, who want more viable programs, and to the concerns of the provinces, who want more flexibility.
It proves our commitment to get the government back on the right track and to reduce duplication and overlap, which will result in administrative savings. And it clearly shows the federal government's firm commitment to co-operate with the provinces. That commitment involves a consultation process on the establishment of a permanent distribution formula for the Canada health and social transfer, as well as on a series of issues concerning fiscal federalism.
I am not at all surprised that the official opposition expresses its dissatisfaction about the characteristics of the new program. The Canada health and social transfer delivers a fatal blow to the separatists' arguments because it proves the vitality and the flexibility of the federal system.
But the great majority of Canadian men and women strongly support this evolution of Canadian fiscal arrangements, as do most members in this House. Therefore, I urge all members to support this motion.