House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by replying to the hon. member for Outremont.

The reason there is an opposition day on regional development is because there is a lot of bungling that we wanted to draw attention to.

When we speak about employment, or unemployment, insurance, I do not know whether the minister is very aware, and we see here the pressure brought to bear, the Minister of Human Resources Development was already forced to make changes to his bill because it does not work. Worse yet, with this bill, people are going to pay premiums and never be able to draw benefits.

Seasonal workers in an area of my riding where up to 75 per cent of workers are seasonal are going to pay premiums and never be able to draw UI because it is based on the number of hours now and because the system was not designed with them in mind. So he has nothing to teach us, because we are the ones who see these people in our riding offices and we are the ones who have to work with them.

I would also like to remind the minister, who is responsible for regional development, that it is very important that he pay more attention to the Mirabel situation, that he speak to his colleague in transport and bring pressure to bear to get things moving, so that my region no longer has to pay the price because of an error made by this government that he is perpetuating.

So make a decision and do something for the people of our areas who have been suffering for years because of a decision made by this government.

Business Of The House
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that you will find consent for the following order. I move:

That any recorded division requested with regard to private members' business M-31 later this day, March 12, 1997, be deferred to the conclusion of Government

Orders on April 7, 1997 and that any recorded division requested with regard to business pursuant to Standing Order 78 on March 13, 1997 be deferred until the conclusion of Government Orders on March 17, 1997.

(Motion agreed to.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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March 12th, 1997 / 3:55 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Secretary of State (Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak to the motion presented by the official opposition. This will give me a chance to expand on the role played by the Canadian government in regional development and also to set the record straight.

Before I start my speech, I would like to make the following points.

The Canadian government plays a fundamental role in regional development, not only in Quebec but throughout Canada. And if the official opposition wants to try and get the Canadian government out of its regional development role, I simply want to point out that as long as I have my current responsibilities, I will ensure that the interests of all Quebecers are served-

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4 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

We saw that with Bill C-71. We saw that with the Montreal Grand Prix.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

-and ensure that people wherever they happen to be in the province of Quebec have access to the services of the Canadian government.

Listen to them shouting. They are shouting because this goes against their purely partisan dogma.

Mr. Speaker, let us consider the motion for a moment. It says:

That this House condemn federal government which, because of its policies, is in large measure responsible for increasing poverty in the regions of Quebec-

I will not qualify the motion as far-fetched, because this would be unparliamentary, but I certainly do not agree with it.

Let us recall the fundamental role played by this government since 1993. We took over a government that was in trouble. The Prime Minister asked for a number of reforms, which were judged and considered major reforms. Today, these reforms have started to bear fruit to the benefit of all Canadians, which means that in the regions people are already enjoying the obvious benefits of these reforms.

Consider for instance the issue of public finance. Thanks to the work done by my colleague, the Minister of Finance and by all Canadians-because everyone did his share so that we can all turn the situation around-thanks to all this, today we have the lowest interest rates we have had in 35 years.

Members opposite refuse to point out the positive effects, the positive results that the government has achieved. Take for instance a small business in one of the regions, which wants to borrow $1 million over ten years. The annual savings due to lower interest rates amount to $33,400. That is tremendous.

And take a private citizen anywhere in Canada who wants to borrow $15,000 to buy a car. In terms of the interest he would otherwise have to pay he will save about $483 annually.

From the outset, the reform of our public finances has produced incredible results for all Canadians, so that today we can look to the future with optimism. And we also see the economy is picking up.

Another reform I would like to mention briefly is of course program review, a fundamental reform that allows us to better target our programs and rethink the way we do things. This reform has also produced tremendous results for the regions.

As far as the Federal Office of Regional Development is concerned, there used to be some 45 programs, but now there is just the one, called IDEE-PME, a sensible and accessible program. This program is based on the enhanced contribution potential of the Canadian government. It is well focussed, essentially on small and medium businesses in the regions, and thus impacts on the driving force of economic development. It is a program with a number of focal points: R & D innovation, market development, exports in particular, all focussed on enhancement. This involves fostering entrepreneurship. That, essentially, is the basis of the program

The other side says that the Canadian government has no reason to exist. Just look at the IDEE-PME program. Who can deny that the Canadian government has competency, knowledge, expertise, where international market development is concerned? What about Team Canada and its success, what about the embassies and consulates throughout the world?

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

Who can deny the competency, knowledge and expertise of the Canadian government where research and development are concerned? The more I have to say, the clearer and more striking the truth becomes, and the more they holler-which is perfectly normal.

Who can deny that the Canadian government knows what it is doing when it speaks of the new economy? We are heading toward

a knowledge-based economy. We have to create centres of knowledge, something the Canadian government has had a hand in for some years already. We have been able to create a network of institutes or research centres in Quebec that are the envy of many in other parts of the world. To mention but a few: the IRB or biotechnology research institute, the INO or national optics institute, the Institut national de recherche scientifique, the National Research Council.

I imagine it does not suit my colleague to admit this, but in the riding of Trois-Rivières there is an institute that owes its existence to the Canadian government: the hydrogen research institute. This is our vision within the context of the new economy: to work in partnership to create tools that will enable all regions to structure themselves and to develop economies which will enable them to be competitive nationally and internationally.

In terms of innovation, not only are we undeniably competent, but, in the last budget, we announced the creation of the Canadian foundation for innovation with a budget of $850 million. This foundation is based on a partnership. It could have a future budget of $2 billion. This initial investment should be followed by investments by the private sector or various interested provincial governments. The foundation will enable us to intervene in areas like health, the environment, the sciences and engineering.

The federal government aims to support the public through these various development activities and ensure that we can act where we really have the skills and the know-how.

We can talk now more specifically about our projects in the Province of Quebec. Let us look at some examples. In terms of market development, and the export market in particular, we have set up with the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Departments of Industry and Foreign Affairs a program called NEXPRO designed to help new exporters. It is providing 1,000 future exporters with information now through the NEXPRO program that will ensure they have the tools they need to penetrate markets and face the competition when they reach the point where they want to or are able to export.

We provided some 30 sessions in Quebec under this program and invested over $3 million. In this area as well, we can talk of an investment of $150,000 in Estrie international 2007, an export commission, already producing interesting results for the region.

There is also Chaudière Appalaches, an international marketing plan for the tourist industry. This project is supported by over 50 companies. I could also mention the $50 million in the last budget allocated to the Business Development Bank of Canada to help out companies in the tourist business.

As for the other area of activity, namely innovation, research and development, I could give you the example of the regions of Laval, Laurentides and Lanaudière, where $300,000 was provided to the Conseil des bio-industries du Québec. This goes to show that we are focusing on biotechnology and providing assistance in that area. In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, we have helped the Société de technologie de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

In fact, in every region of Quebec, the FORD has made representations to five financial institutions to make nearly $150 million available to help businesses adapt to the new economy, all that in Quebec alone. All this was done through the Federal Office for Regional Development to make loans available, while letting the banking industry develop a new culture, a new philosophy.

On entrepreneurship, we have focused on young people. We have worked both together with my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, and through partnerships, helping set up student clubs in colleges and universities and supporting these young people so that they can develop the entrepreneurial spirit and fibre we will need at the turn of the next century.

These investments, and I mentioned only a few, represent only a small portion of what we are doing for the public in terms of providing a simple yet remarkable structure for regional development. There are 13 regional offices across Quebec, 55 CDICs and 8 CDECs on the island of Montreal. This is a very simple and very flexible structure easy to understand for everyone.

We want to ensure that our services are readily available and that we, the Government of Canada, can keep in touch with the people's needs and reality. That is how we were able to act in the Gaspé-Lower St. Lawrence-Magdalen Islands region with the coastal Quebec program for the North Shore, a $13.5 million program. That is how we were able to develop the Montreal strategy and help the people in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.

In fact, apart from all this, there is our vision as well as our ability and desire to act through various agencies, first the FORD-Q but also the CDICs. In addition to all this, we also provide quality service. We provide very competent advisers to the public. I have worked with the federal office staff for over a year now, and I can tell you these people are doing a remarkable job. They are dedicated, they care about regional development, and they want entrepreneurs to succeed in the regions. This is why the Canadian government is proud to be involved and to work with people to promote regional development.

Members opposite often complain about government interference and unilateral action. However, the examples I just mentioned

are unequivocally based on a consultation of the communities concerned, and on a partnership.

When the opposition claims that we go over the head of the Quebec government to consult directly with the organizations and the people who are familiar with regional development, it is not insulting my government but, rather, Quebecers who are involved in economic development.

It is like indirectly telling these people that they are not very responsible and that they should be monitored by the Quebec government. Let me tell you that the people with whom I work in Quebec to promote economic development are very competent. They have a vision and the federal government will continue to work with them.

The Canada-Quebec agreement was also mentioned. I find it really extraordinary to hear the hon. member saying that we refused to renew the agreement, that we do not want to proceed with an agreement.

First of all, the agreement on regional economic development with the Quebec government had expired. However, the population of Quebec must know that my colleague, the finance minister, who was my predecessor as minister responsible for the federal office, did approach the Quebec government several times to renew the expired agreement. Of course, they do not mention this, but people should know about it.

In 1995, my colleague approached the Quebec government not once, not twice, but four times. We have approached the Quebec government four times to sign a harmonization agreement, first on January 12, 1995, and then on April 5, July 5 and August 11, 1995.

Of course, Quebecers will have understood that that request from the Canadian government was refused, even turned down, and they will have understood why. A referendum was coming, and since those people do not have the best interests of the population at heart but only their political interests, there was no way they would help show that federalism was working.

Therefore, as a responsible government wanting to provide good services to the population, we went ahead and reshaped our programs. Today, our programs are centred around elements based on our services and skills. But I would add that I do think a harmonization agreement is not really necessary, since we are acting in partnership and this is under our own jurisdiction according to the new programming.

However, a meeting was organized. Maybe my friends do not know it yet because, in view of the motion, I am under the impression that they do not know what is happening at their head office, but a meeting was held on February 19, 1997, with the representatives of the Federal Office of Regional Development, and there are some discussions and exchanges concerning a possible agreement. But it is much too soon to say what we think of it, since we do not even know what the Quebec government wants.

When we do know what they want as a government, we will be able to make a decision. Actually, we do not really know with whom we should be dealing in that government. Should it beMr. Chevrette, Mrs. Harel or Mr. Trudel? Perhaps my colleague, who is familiar with the workings of the head office, could try knocking on their doors to find a solution or somebody we could deal with.

This is essentially what directs our action, and I think it is important that we as the Canadian government be dedicated to help the regions. Our action is based on the effectiveness of our services. It is also based on a deep respect for what the local population wants and needs, and for what the situation is locally.

To conclude, I think we should first ask my colleague on the other side to consult with the head office and ask it to clean up its own act as far as regional development is concerned. In fact, a white paper will be published soon.

What saddens me is this: what the Bloc Quebecois wants to do today is not so much to criticize the Canadian government for its regional development policies as to try to prevent it from taking further action in this area, because what action it is taking is right on target. The federal government's action does respond to the population's expectations and does serve the population well. It will stay the course.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it hard to listen to the Secretary of State talk about the involvement of the Quebec government with such snobbishness.

You have to realize that the Government of Quebec has to deal with the entire problem. It has to deal with the whole issue of regional development. That is why there can be some tension and adjustment problems between Minister Chevrette and Mrs. Harel.

The government of Quebec is not just playing around with the issue of regional development. It is not pretending to deal with it. It does not interfere with the CFDC, the 55 CFDC. The main objective of the federal government is to go strut its stuff in the regions and get chummy with some of the local elite to get them on side.

The Province of Quebec is concerned about economic development, technological development and exports. It is the Canadian government's responsibility to deal with foreign affairs. Once we become sovereign, we too will be concerned about international trade, just as the Government of Canada is today.

Let us stop the cuts to transfer payments to the provinces, and especially to the Province of Quebec. The Government of Quebec has some good technological development programs, which it will be able to improve.

I have a simple question for the Secretary of State. Where does the anti-sponsorship policy of the Minister of Health fit into the regional development strategy? There is some concern about that, as we saw in the media. Where was the Secretary of State when we addressed the sponsorship issue that affects every region in Quebec, as well as the Montreal Grand Prix, the Trois-Rivières Grand Prix and the Jazz Festival? We know he was not comfortable with this issue, just like the President of the Treasury Board and even the Prime Minister and the two hot shots from the Montreal area. Where does this fit in with their willingness to really-

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4:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Before turning the floor over to the hon. member, I would ask my colleagues to address their remarks to the Speaker.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, you see the approach they are taking with the people of Quebec. When Quebecers do business with the Canadian government, suddenly they are no longer Quebecers, they are now local elites because they are doing business with the Canadian government. Let me tell you that what you are calling a local elite is far-

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4:20 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman

Please address the Speaker.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

I would be pleased to do so. When they speak of these local elites, allow me to tell you that these people they are busy looking down on today are trying to serve the public well. They have established a partnership with the Canadian government because we have set up programs that meet their expectations, their interests, and their needs and that allow them to structure their region's economic development in terms of the realities of the 21st century.

As far as the tobacco bill is concerned-

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

We would like to hear you.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

I would not call my colleague's remarks irresponsible, for that would be unparliamentary. The health minister's bill was what the public wanted and called for. It was a bill that people wanted. It is a question of public health. My colleague managed to strike a balance between going ahead with the bill and the various interests in the Montreal region-