House of Commons Hansard #166 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scotia.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, if that is in fact unparliamentary, and I was not aware it was frankly, then I will withdraw it.

It is fair to say that the hon. members are clearly afraid of the Prime Minister. We have seen many bullying tactics in the House and on the Hill. These colleagues from Atlantic Canada have not found, unfortunately, the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the Prime Minister. There is still third reading of the budget bill coming up shortly. I hope they will show that fortitude then.

There are two things that everyone in Nova Scotia knows. The first is that the Prime Minister betrayed Atlantic Canada on budget day when he failed to honour a signed agreement between the Government of Canada and my province. It was a signed deal, a signed contract; I know, because I signed it.

The second thing is that the hon. member for Central Nova and the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's had the chance to stand up for their province. They could have said, “Wait a minute, this is not right. One cannot just unilaterally tear up a written contract just because one does not like the region and wants to punish us”. They could have said that.

Those members could have done what the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley did, who showed he has a backbone. He stood up for his region and his province. Instead, sadly, they chose to support their misguided leader. Was it out of party loyalty? Was it out of fear? I do not know what the reason was, why they could not show more fortitude.

I know one thing, that voters in Nova Scotia and across Atlantic Canada will remember the lack of support those Conservative MPs from Atlantic Canada showed the region. When the next election is called and the members are out knocking on doors, I think they will hear about it. Voters will remember that the budget betrayal at the hands of the Conservatives may cost my province, for example, $1 billion for things that we need, such as better hospitals, schools, fixing roads and many other important investments. They will remember that those Conservative members of Parliament squandered a deal that gave Nova Scotia 100% of its offshore revenues with no clawback.

It is exactly what those Conservative members promised when they sent out a brochure to Atlantic Canadians a few years ago, which said on its cover, “There is no greater fraud than a promise broken”. They promised no clawbacks, 100%. That promise has been broken.

The foreign affairs minister said that the budget respected the accord. That has been his claim for months. Now he is saying that the decision of the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley was premature because he and others are still in talks over honouring the accord. Huh? How is it possible for one to have already honoured it but one is still in talks over honouring it? It seems to me it ought to be one or the other.

The finance minister and his Nova Scotia puppets over there tell us we should be happy that we are getting more in equalization this year. What a joke. What a farce. They should read the accord.

That is why columnists in Atlantic Canada such as David Rodenhiser of the Daily News are so outraged. He said today:

We have a government that lies to us, steals from us and aligns itself with a party bent on tearing the nation apart. These are not proud days for Canada.

In fact, underneath his article there is a line which reads:

David Rodenhiser thinks [the Prime Minister] has a phobia of accords: the Atlantic Accord, the Kyoto Accord, the Kelowna Accord. The man must be petrified when passing a Honda dealership.

When the finance minister was Mike Harris's henchman in Toronto, he mocked Premier Hamm, saying that his campaign for fairness was like someone who won a lottery and still wanted to collect welfare. It seems the same meanspirited mentality prevails today. The hon. member for Central Nova and the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's have adopted it, unfortunately. That is very sad. It is frustrating. It is atrocious. They should be ashamed that the government has a petty, patronizing attitude toward Atlantic Canada. The next thing is they will say we have a culture of defeat.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's words very carefully. I want to ask him a question that I posed to his leader earlier today to which I did not get an answer. I am not sure whether I will get a direct answer from the hon. member. I would like the member to clarify remarks made by his leader in March of this year, only a few short months ago.

In March of this year the Leader of the Opposition stated that he believed that non-renewable natural resources should not be excluded from the equalization formula. He went to say that he also believed in addition to that, there should be a fiscal cap.

Today the hon. opposition leader seems to be completely reversing himself. There is a complete contradiction. Three months ago the opposition leader stated there should be no removal of non-renewable natural resources, and in addition to that, we should put on a fiscal cap, which would have destroyed, frankly, any attempts by Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to receive money through equalization.

Since the opposition leader is clearly a learned man and I am sure he chose his words very carefully, was he misleading Canadians then, or is he misleading them now?

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, in fact my hon. colleague should have listened to the answer to his question this morning. Obviously he did not, because he would have heard the leader of my party make it very clear that is not what he said at all. In fact, I know what he said.

The Leader of the Opposition has made it very clear that he will live up to the terms of the Atlantic accord. In fact, he was part of the cabinet that approved the Atlantic accords, that implemented the Atlantic accords. What the member is talking about is absolute nonsense and he ought to know it.

I think we should hear more from Conservative members from Atlantic Canada who actually have some idea, or I hope they do, of what the accords are all about.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today very troubled. We went through an election campaign where we were promised honest and accountable government with good stewardship. In Hamilton where we have lost 11,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year alone, we are facing a situation where there is no manufacturing strategy. We have had the softwood sellout. Now Premier MacDonald, Premier Williams and former premier Hamm are flatly saying that the government has betrayed people.

My question for the member opposite is, how low does he think they will go and who is next?

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Prime Minister has a rather negative attitude toward written agreements and his own promises.

Did the government honour the Kelowna accord? No. Did the government honour the child care agreements that it signed with every province in the country. No. Did the government honour our international obligations under Kyoto? No. Did the Prime Minister keep his own word on income trusts? No.

Does the government have any honour or integrity left? I do not think it does. It is not showing it.

Can the Prime Minister be trusted to keep his word to hard-working Canadians on anything? No, unfortunately.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question for my colleague, the member for Halifax West, is a fairly simple one.

The fact is the Premier of Nova Scotia said immediately after the budget:

I'm...caught by surprise tonight [by the budget] and quite frankly, my government's caught by surprise. I've always believed the offshore accord was an economic right of Nova Scotians...not a handout.

It is almost as if the government wants to continue to give handouts to Nova Scotia. That is unfair. The premier said that he was blindsided by the federal budget and yet, the other night he was on the phone trying to convince the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley to vote for the budget that he had earlier said blindsided the people of Nova Scotia.

My question for the hon. member is, who is Premier Rodney MacDonald serving, the people of Nova Scotia or the Prime Minister?

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I must tell my colleague that I am disappointed in the performance of the premier of my province in this case. Actually, I like the premier. I have played hockey with him. He is a very good hockey player and he is a nice guy, but I think he has not been nearly as strong as he should be on this issue.

We have seen very great strength from Premier Danny Williams in Newfoundland. He has been very firm and has shown real backbone. I would like to see a greater strength from the premier of Nova Scotia. To say to the one gentleman here on the Conservative side, the one hon. member who is prepared to stand up for Nova Scotia, that he should not do so is unfortunate and I regret it.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate in support of the motion introduced by the member for Labrador, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.

It is quite serious when we have to stand in the House and make such a resolution about the Prime Minister, about his engagement, his respecting of his word. There are institutions that Canadians have to be able to depend on. One is the office of the Prime Minister. While we may debate policy, while we may have different opinions on how to bring the country forward and what the right programs are for our country, we should always be able to depend on the office of the Prime Minister, and that whoever occupies that office at the time will be a person of integrity who is true to his or her word.

It is very disappointing that we are in the situation where Canadians cannot trust the office of the Prime Minister because the person who holds the office has shown time and again that his word is completely meaningless. Let us remember back to before the same individual became Prime Minister. He said that supply management was a communist scheme of price fixing. He said that we had to build firewalls around Alberta. On national unity he said he did not care how many national capitals there were, and he now calls himself the great defender of national unity. That is the person in whom we should be able to put our trust and confidence in trying to advance the interests of the citizens of this country and the country's future.

When we look at the example of the Atlantic accord, I think first we should look at what the accord is. The accord is quite simple. It says that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland shall benefit from 100% of the revenues from their non-renewable resources, in this case offshore oil and gas, to the exclusion of all other programs. That means if there is change in equalization, if there is additional money given in other programs by the federal government to the provinces, that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland would their share and the Atlantic accord is separate from that. It is above and beyond all other programs.

The budget turns it into an either/or situation. The province of Nova Scotia and its finance minister must decide whether to participate in the new equalization formula which has some advantages for Nova Scotia, or to maintain the Atlantic accord which also has some advantages for Nova Scotia. If Nova Scotia goes into the new equalization formula, the Atlantic accord substantially disappears, the amount of revenue is capped and Nova Scotia stands to lose $1 billion.

Some may argue that in the current system the accord is a disproportionate benefit for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, perhaps one could make that argument. Perhaps the Prime Minister could advance that argument but that is not the argument he advanced during the election campaign. He said in writing and verbally that he would honour the letter and the intent of the accord.

I remember when I was on the government side of the House, we presented a budget that included the ways and means to implement the Atlantic accord. The Prime Minister and members of his party, the opposition at that time, asked that we split the bill, that we remove the Atlantic accord from the budget because the intention of the opposition members at that time was to vote against the budget but they wanted to vote in favour of the accord.

That was the very same accord they are now knee-capping. That is pure hypocrisy and it is a betrayal. It is a betrayal to the people of Atlantic Canada and it is a betrayal to the people of Saskatchewan who were promised that they would get 100% of the revenues of non-renewable natural resources outside of the equalization formula.

It was pointed out by the member for Labrador that we are getting hit now, as will others, each at their time.

The Prime Minister, when he made those promises in the campaign, did not say he would somewhat honour the accord but would cherry-pick elements, suggestions and recommendations out of this and that report, some from O'Brien and some from others, and make a budget that dismantles the intent of the Atlantic accord. That is not what he promised. He promised that there would be 100% exclusion of non-renewable natural resource revenues from the equalization payment and that the accord would be maintained.

I was disappointed. I happen to have the privilege of sitting on the finance committee, where we evaluated the budget. Premier Lorne Calvert came before us and made a very good presentation on behalf of his government. I was very disappointed, as was mentioned by the member for Halifax West, by the relative weakness of the premier of Nova Scotia on this issue.

We know that he is in a dire political situation. We see in the polls that he is in third place. There is not a lot of confidence in his government. People are looking for alternatives. Rather than showing strength and fighting for what already has been won by his predecessor, the relative weakness of the premier of Nova Scotia on this issue can be seen. We are not asking for anything new here. We are asking that the Government of Canada honour its commitment.

That brings me to the second point, which is the institutions. We must be able to trust the Office of the Prime Minister and whoever occupies it, and we also must be able to trust the legacy of the succession of the Government of Canada, in that an agreement signed by one Government of Canada lasts until the end of its natural course. In this case, it would be 2020. An agreement is an agreement is an agreement.

Premier Rodney MacDonald should accept the invitation of Stephen McNeil, leader of the Liberal Party, to put forward a common front. Although I have not been in discussions with him, I am sure Darrell Dexter would join. We would have a common front with all Nova Scotians fighting for 100% of the Atlantic accord.

What we see and hear in the papers and the media is that there are negotiations happening, and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans mentioned that in question period, negotiations for improvements in the bill presented by the government, but not the 100% retention of the Atlantic accord.

A promise 90% kept or 80% kept or 70% kept is 100% broken. The accord is a signed deal. It should be maintained. I think the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley has made it very plain.

Let us look again at the institutions of our country. Let us look at our Prime Minister. He and the Minister of Finance, during the election period, promised that they would not tax income trusts. They gave that solemn promise to Canadians. Canadians, many of them seniors, were encouraged to invest even more within the income trust sector as they had the promise of the Prime Minister that they would not be taxed.

What does he do? At the first occasion, there is a 33% tax and a 100% betrayal of those investors, with $25 billion worth of capital loss, a lot of it in the hands of seniors, either retired or preparing to retire. Let us imagine this. I spoke to some seniors who told me that they went from having a comfortable retirement, and being economically and financially self-sufficient, to poverty, essentially, to sustenance living on small pensions and reduced savings.

They were losing $10,000 to $15,000 of revenue a year. When one's revenue is $35,000 to $45,000, losing $10,000 is a lot. It is huge. That is money they had depended on. They had been encouraged to do it by the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister had not made that promise, the reasonable investor would not have had such huge exposure in one element of the market, but that was not the case.

The Atlantic accord? Betrayal. It was a betrayal by the Prime Minister of the people of Atlantic Canada. And there was a betrayal by the Prime Minister of the people of Saskatchewan.

As for the member for Central Nova, he is an experienced member of the House of Commons who is not prone to fly off the handle and do things he has not considered. He has been here long enough. In answer to my question, he made a promise in the House to his colleagues that they could vote as they wished, that they could vote their conscience on the Atlantic accord and there would be no retribution and they would not be kicked out of caucus.

Either he was misleading the House or he is a complete buffoon, because he knew, as we saw with the vote, that the minute the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley voted his conscience, he was removed from his caucus.

The member for Central Nova goes around the world representing our country. We have seen the Prime Minister betray the country, its citizens and Atlantic Canada, and we have seen the Minister of Foreign Affairs betraying his colleagues. These people are out there representing the interests of the nation and entering into dialogue with statesmen from other countries in trying to find accommodations to bring forward. Those people from other countries can have no confidence in the institutions of our country.

It is a dire situation. It is a situation that I have not seen before. I ask that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance apologize to Canadians, to Saskatchewan and to Atlantic Canadians before it is too late and reverse this unfortunate decision.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's comments draw to mind the newspaper headline following the last election in Nova Scotia which stated that the NDP is a government in waiting. With the references to what that premier has been doing, now I am starting to understand why.

My question is very simple. I would never claim to be a mathematician, but if there is no exclusion, that is a billion dollar loss for Atlantic Canada. It should be that simple. When we have Premiers MacDonald and Williams and former premier John Hamm all saying that the government has betrayed them, again I say, who is next?

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. A quick evaluation of the budget shows it on the equalization and on transfers. The three provinces that will suffer most and not get any increases are Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, three provinces that need a lot of assistance, that need a hand up in using their resources to advance their own cause.

I was honoured to see that the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley had the courage to make a very tough decision and vote against his caucus. I am amazed that not one of the Newfoundland and Labrador MPs had the courage to do that. One out of three from Nova Scotia did, but zero out of 12 from Saskatchewan. There are a dozen Conservative MPs from Saskatchewan and none of them raised the issue. None of them made any noise. A dozen is six of one and half a dozen of the other: six sheep and half a dozen cowards. They should fight for their province, as did the member for Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, that was an excellent speech by my hon colleague from West Nova. I am sure he is aware of the brochure that was sent out by the Conservatives in our province during the discussions over the Atlantic accord some two and a half years ago. It stated:

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that offshore oil and gas revenues are the key to real economic growth in Atlantic Canada. That's why we would leave you with 100 per cent of your oil and gas revenues. No small print. No excuses. No caps.

Then we have the comments of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on May 15 in answer to a question from my hon. colleague from West Nova. He said:

We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring, or firing on budget votes as we saw with the Liberal government.

Yet our hon. friend, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, was in fact thrown out of that caucus. I would like my hon. colleague's comments on what has happened.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it was amazing. I have never seen anything like it and I have been in this House going on seven years. I have never seen the government stand in this House and say that a vote would not be a confidence vote and then, after the vote has been held, declare it a confidence vote.

A senior minister of government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs no less, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, the same guy who said he would not unite the Progressive Conservatives with the Alliance but did, the guy who said he did not make disparaging remarks about one female MP of the Liberal caucus, but all witnesses say he did, that same guy stands in this House and says that it is a free vote and that members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada or anywhere else will have the freedom to vote their conscience.

However, when one of them has the courage to do that, he cuts the legs out from under him and kicks him out of his caucus. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley did not have time, according to what I read in the papers, to make it to the curtains. He was kicked out and expelled from that caucus on the spot.

It is not unusual for members to have whipped votes on the budget and the Speech from the Throne. What is unusual and amazing is that the government would make an announcement that a vote is not a confidence vote, that members have the right to vote how they feel, and then, when one member votes his conscience, he is immediately expelled from that caucus in a very hypocritical fashion. It is either a misleading of members or total buffoonery or both.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the discussion on the Liberal Party's motion today, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.

The Bloc Québécois supports this motion because to do otherwise would be to deny the obvious. As we have said in the past, we did not agree with the Atlantic accords in principle, and we still do not agree with them. However, it is perfectly obvious that the government has broken its promise, and we will not argue with that whether we like it or not. No matter what we think of the promise, we do, in principle, agree with the motion.

Unfortunately, this is not the only commitment that this government has broken since coming to power. This government calls itself the “new government” and promised to do things differently from the previous Liberal government. Unfortunately, it seems that the government has learned quickly and has wasted no time following in its Liberal predecessors' footsteps. This government has broken a lot of promises.

The Atlantic accords we are talking about today are a prime example, even though—and I will come back to this later in my speech—we do not agree with these accords and we do not think the government should move forward with them.

According to this motion—or at least according to the Bloc's interpretation of it—the government is being criticized for, deliberately or not, making irresponsible election promises. I would hope it did so out of incompetence and not with the deliberate intention of misleading and fooling the electors. The fact remains that a promise was made and it is not being kept. The Bloc Québécois denounces this irresponsible promise.

Among the many other areas where the government has not kept its promises is the matter of the seat at UNESCO. Once again, the government is playing with words and repeating the same thing ad nauseam—that it made good on its promises— in the hope that by constantly repeating the same thing, whether it is true or not, the public will believe it one day. That is what happened with the seat at UNESCO.

During the election campaign the Prime Minister promised to give Quebec a seat at UNESCO, like the seat Quebec has in the Francophonie. That is what he said, verbatim, what he repeated, what he wrote down and has never denied. Obviously, when we talk about a seat in the Francophonie, we are talking about a full seat, a voice and a vote. That is what all Quebeckers were expecting. That is what everyone was talking about. The Prime Minister never said to Quebeckers during the election campaign that what he was really promising was a small folding seat, a little stool at the back where they could whisper their agreement, or stay quiet should they disagree. That was never the case.

When the Conservative government proposed this accord, it was saying to Quebeckers that it agreed to bring its delegation along, that it would be allowed to participate and give its opinion provided that this opinion fell within the general position of the federal government, or something to that effect.

In other words, Quebec would have the right to indicate its agreement, but if it does not agree, it would not be allowed to say so. More importantly, unlike what was promised, Quebeckers would have no right to vote, as it does at the OIF. That is another promise that was completely broken. It is so true that nothing has been done. When the government made that proposal, even my predecessor in Jeanne-Le Ber, who was once the Minister of Canadian Heritage, said that, in any case, that was already how it was done. No one ever stopped Quebec representatives from coming along, sitting in the background and whispering comments. We are really no further ahead. This has been nothing but smoke and mirrors, with basically nothing new to indicate that this promise, giving Quebec the right to vote, will be honoured.

The Prime Minister resorted to false arguments concerning the issue of Quebec's right to vote, saying that, at UNESCO, only independent states have the right to vote. First of all, with all due respect, I would point out that, when the Prime Minister and the Conservatives made this promise to Quebeckers, they knew that. Second, they could have allowed for a mechanism by which, when the two positions are at odds, Quebec would abstain, which would mean the same result. That is another broken promise. For people in the maritime provinces, there was a broken promise regarding the Atlantic Accords, and for Quebec, it was our seat at UNESCO. Income trusts have been discussed at length in this House. The structure of these income trusts allowed certain legal entities to get out of paying taxes, and we saw more and more businesses convert to income trusts under pressure from their shareholders to pay less tax.

The Bloc Québécois had asked for a moratorium on the conversion to income trusts. It has always said that the conversion of businesses to income trusts for tax purposes was not a good thing. This was its position before, during and after the election campaign. Naturally, when the government decided to tax income trusts to partly close this loophole in Canadian taxation, we thought it was a good idea and we supported it. Nevertheless, that was another promise that the Conservatives did not keep. The Prime Minister had personally promised, in black and white, during the election campaign to never—and not just maybe—never tax income trusts. Consequently, some Quebeckers and Canadians, taken in by the Prime Minister, invested in income trusts believing that they would realize large returns. The value of income trusts continued to climb on the premise of the Prime Minister's good faith. The mistake made by these investors was that they probably believed the Conservatives would keep their promise. They did not. The day the government announced that it would put an end to the special tax treatment for income trusts, they dropped sharply in value, placing many investors in very unfortunate circumstances because they suffered huge losses. And all this because the government, to get elected, made unacceptable and irresponsible promises resulting in this situation.

And that is not all. Many other promises were broken by this government. I would like to speak in more detail about the promise regarding the fiscal imbalance. This has been a long fight for the Bloc Québécois

Here again, the government seems to think that it only has to continue repeating the same thing and the public will end up believing it.

I was amazed to see how the Minister of Finance “corrected the fiscal imbalance” in his latest budget. He just tabled a budget, increased cash transfers to Quebec and the provinces and then got up in the House and said that the fiscal imbalance had been fixed. To him, just saying that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, was enough to convince people. When the Conservatives promised Quebeckers to correct the fiscal imbalance, Quebeckers expected that the solution would be along the lines of the consensus that had formed in Quebec, which had been built around the Séguin commission on the fiscal imbalance. When the concept of fiscal imbalance was put forward, the phrase “fiscal imbalance” was not chosen at random, out of a hat, it was chosen deliberately, because there was an imbalance between the federal government and the provinces and this imbalance was fiscal in nature. Otherwise, it would have been called the budgetary imbalance or the monetary imbalance. But it was called the fiscal imbalance.

When the Conservatives promised Quebeckers to correct the fiscal imbalance, Quebeckers had reason to expect a fiscal solution. Yet this budget contains no tax measures. I asked the finance committee, officials and the minister himself. The minister admitted quite candidly that his budget contained no tax transfers to Quebec or the provinces. At the same time as he is saying that the budget contains no tax transfers, no tax measures to correct the fiscal imbalance, he is telling us that it has been fixed. Something is wrong there.

We voted for the budget because it represented a step forward and transferred significant amounts to Quebec and the provinces. But there is no guarantee that those amounts will still be there in one year, two years or three years. Quebec and the other provinces that receive equalization transfers, for example, are still subject to the whims of the federal government. The equalization formula has just been amended, but it could be amended again in the next budget, whether that budget is brought down by this or another government.

Quebec wanted financial autonomy, it wanted to receive stable, predictable revenues which would grow over time, and over which it would have control, so that it would not be at the mercy of the federal government's choices. It is so true that the fiscal imbalance is not permanently corrected and that Quebec still depends on the federal government, that even the Conservatives' Quebec advertising says—and I want to get this right—that the Leader of the Opposition, if he became prime minister, could take back the money. This is what the Conservatives are saying. Their advertisements in Quebec say that the fiscal imbalance that they claim has been permanently corrected, could return if another government were elected. This is not a correction. It would have been corrected if tax fields had been transferred, GST for example, to the Government of Quebec. It could have had complete and total control over the revenues, which would be predictable over time, and all this with no chance of the federal government backtracking. It could have been the transfer of tax points, as was done in the past, but this was not the case.

A number of promises have been broken by this government, and the government before it. We can objectively say that it is fortunate this is a minority government, because it is breaking just as many promises despite the fact that it is a minority. I cannot imagine what would happen if it was a majority government and could do what it wanted in the House.

We can imagine that the number and importance of the broken promises would increase significantly.

Today's Liberal motion has the advantage of being a reminder to Quebeckers. They must send as many Bloc Québécois members as possible to Ottawa to ensure that their voice is strong. No matter which party is in power, we are crossing our fingers that it is a minority so that it cannot do whatever it wants.

I have made a list of some election promises broken by the government. I would now like to get down to specifics and talk about the Atlantic accords, which the Bloc Québécois does not agree with. On the one hand, these accords violate the equalization principle, which should ensure that all provinces can offer similar services to all their citizens, with a similar tax rate, regardless of how rich the province is. On the other hand, Quebec has already contributed financially to the development of the fossil fuels industry. Now that this development has taken place, we absolutely do not agree with continuing to contribute to it.

For example, from 1970 to 1999, Ottawa gave $66 billion in direct subsidies to the fossil fuels industry, including coal, natural gas and oil—an industry that for all intents and purposes does not exist in Quebec. During the same period, a paltry $329 million was given to the renewable energy sector. Of that money, not a penny went to hydroelectricity. While Quebec was investing in hydroelectricity, Ottawa was supporting the development of polluting energy sources instead.

The oil and gas industry was developed in large part with the taxes paid by Quebeckers, even though this development went against the fundamental interests of Quebec, economically or environmentally speaking, since polluting energy sources, as their name suggests, create more pollution. Some $66 billion has already gone toward this development. In the case of Hibernia, we can talk about $5 billion, roughly a quarter of which came from Quebeckers' taxes. Now that we have paid for this development, now that the companies have become profitable and the development of these non-renewable resources has become lucrative for the provinces, Quebeckers are being asked to keep paying for this development? It seems completely illogical to me to give a bonus to provinces for developing non-renewable energies, but not for renewable energies.

This exclusion of non-renewable resources is completely arbitrary. Why was this choice made when there are hardly any such resources in Quebec and other tax fields could have been excluded? Excluding the aerospace industry, for example, would have benefited Quebec greatly. Excluding renewable energies such as hydroelectricity would also have represented billions of dollars in equalization, but no. Non-renewable resources were chosen and are excluded from the equalization calculation. This seems completely arbitrary and unjustified.

I want to close by dispelling a myth I have heard far too often in this House, that Quebeckers were the main beneficiaries of equalization. It is true that the amount is greater. That said, the population of Quebec is larger and, per capita, Quebeckers receive the least amount of equalization. Just take the amount and divide it by the number of people in Quebec.

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber will have a 10 minute period for questions and comments after question period.

Elgin Regiment
Statements By Members

June 7th, 2007 / 1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, 20 surviving World War II veterans and their families gathered at St. Thomas-Elgin to celebrate the Elgin Regiment's 60th and last reunion of World War II veterans.

Festivities began Friday with a reception honouring the veterans. Saturday, the veterans, accompanied by soldiers of the 31 Combat Engineers, the Elgins, paraded to city hall to request the freedom of the city. The parade even included a Sherman tank.

This weekend's activities concluded Sunday at the Royal Canadian Legion's Last Post Branch in Port Stanley. One of the Elgin's young veterans attended, a 21-year-old corporal, Kayla Campbell, who recently served in Afghanistan.

Lord Charles Bruce from Fife, Scotland attended to serve as the honorary colonel for the Elgins, and Charlie Phillips, the oldest surviving World War II veteran in Elgin, joined in the celebrations. Charlie faced battles in Sicily, France, Belgium and Holland before returning to St. Thomas in 1946.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute Charlie, Kayla and all of the Elgin veterans for their service to Canada.