House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition consists of pages and pages of signatures of folks in east Vancouver, metro Vancouver, all over, who are in support of Bill C-544 put forward by my colleague, the member for British Columbia Southern Interior, which is an act to amend the Health of Animals Act.

The petitioners are very concerned about the need to prohibit the import and export of horses for slaughter for human consumption, as well as horse meat products for human consumption.

Old Age Security
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to present this petition on behalf of constituents from Lamont, Tofield, Mundare, St. Michael and other places in the constituency.

They note that the current recipients of the old age security pension are Canadians who have duly contributed to Canada for at least 10 years. They argue that decreasing the residency requirement for pension eligibility is a disincentive for new Canadians to work, contribute and integrate into Canadian society.

The petitioners ask, therefore, that the House of Commons oppose Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement).

Passport Fees
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition calls on the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest levels since 1972. It has fallen by 5 million visits in the last 7 years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for an American family of four could be over $500. Fifty per cent of Canadians have passports but only 25% of American citizens do.

At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and over 500 elected representatives from 11 border states and 3 provinces, the following resolution was passed unanimously:

RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage[s] the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and, finally, promote a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.

Seniors
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition regarding improving the federal guaranteed income supplement, the spouse's allowance and the survivor's allowance programs. These programs are not fulfilling their basic purpose, which is to ensure an adequate income for low-income seniors. That is why the petitioners ask that there be automatic registration for the guaranteed income supplement, that it be increased by $110 a month for persons who live alone, that the survivor's allowance be increased by $199 per month, that there be full and unconditional retroactivity, and that the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance be extended by six months upon the death of one of the beneficiaries in a couple.

It is my pleasure to table this petition on behalf of the FADOQ, the Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens.

Firearms Registry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present three petitions. The first petition is on the topic of the long gun registry.

The petitioners states that the long gun registry was originally budgeted to cost Canadians $2 million but the price tag spiralled out of control to an estimated $2 billion a decade later, that the registry has not saved one single life since it was introduced, and that the registry is a political pacifier created to give the impression that Canada would be safer.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to support legislation that would cancel the Canadian long gun registry and streamline the Firearms Act.

Skin Cancer
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in regard to skin cancer.

The petitioners states that one in seven Canadians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma is the most serious types of skin cancer, one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in Canada and the second most common cancer in young adults.

The petitioners are asking for support for a national skin cancer and melanoma initiative to provide much needed access to newer drug treatments and funding for research and educational programs.

Employment Insurance
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my last petition is in regard to medical benefits.

The petitioners states that there are a number of severe, potentially life-threatening conditions that do not qualify for disability programs because they are not necessarily permanent.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to enact specific and precise legislation to provide additional medical EI benefits at least equal to maternity EI benefits.

Federal Courts Act
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to present a petition signed by several dozen French-speaking Ottawa and Gatineau residents from both sides of the river. These residents are asking for support for my Bill C-354. They state that since Canadian multinational companies sometimes violate human rights and environmental standards, a legal regime should be established to allow offshore residents to sue these Canadian companies in Canadian courts. That is precisely what Bill C-354 is proposing. These residents of Ottawa and Gatineau consequently urge parliamentarians to support this bill.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending Power
Business of Supply
Government Orders

October 21st, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should, as long called for by the Bloc Québécois and now called for by the Member for Beauce, end the so-called federal spending power in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, eliminate the federal programs that violate the division of powers, and transfer tax points to the provinces by: (a) eliminating all federal spending in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, unless express authorization is given by Quebec or the province; (b) providing a systematic right to opt out with full financial compensation and without condition of all existing and future programs, whether co-funded or not, that intrude into jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces; and (c) transferring, at the request of Quebec or a province, fiscal room in the form of tax points and/or GST to replace the amounts that the province would otherwise have received under the Canada Health Transfer, federal programs in its areas of jurisdiction and the transfer for social programs and post-secondary education indexed to 1994-1995 levels.

Mr. Speaker, in 1867, the people of Quebec were not consulted on whether or not they wished to join Confederation, but in order to make the pill go down, so to speak, it was promised a spoonful of sugar: that it would be sovereign in several areas, and that it could use that partial sovereignty to develop as a society. That is indeed what the use of the word “confederation” rather than “federation” implied. It was on this condition that Quebec became a part of Canada.

However, Ottawa does not hesitate to invade Quebec's exclusive fields of jurisdiction. Family policy, health, education and regional development are a few of the most striking examples of areas of federal interference. In 2008-09, the federal government spent more than $60 billion in areas that fall under Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdiction. This situation is patently intolerable.

We recall that the Conservative government committed to creating a framework for the so-called federal spending power in 2006, but so far it has not followed through. Last week the Conservative member for Beauce went further and proposed the pure and simple elimination of the so-called federal spending power as a solution to constitutional squabbles. This is what the Bloc Québécois is asking for today in this motion, and also what was proposed in the bill tabled in April by my colleague, the member for Saint-Lambert.

The motion focuses on three elements. First, it seeks the explicit elimination of Ottawa's self-given right to spend in areas outside its jurisdiction. Second, it calls for Quebec to be given a systematic right to opt out of programs, without conditions and with full compensation. Third, it seeks compensation in the form of tax points so that Ottawa cannot determine how much Quebec allocates to its various areas of responsibility.

The House of Commons finally recognized the Quebec nation. And recognizing a nation is more than just a symbolic gesture. Nations, like people, have fundamental rights, the most important being the right to control the social, economic and cultural development of its own society, in other words, the right to self-determination. You cannot, on one hand, recognize the Quebec nation and its right to make choices that are different from Canada's and, on the other, deny the nation the ability to assert that right by maintaining the federal spending power. Denying Quebec the power to spend undermines its very existence as a nation.

Let us consider the recent comments of the member for Beauce. It is a rare occasion when I agree with the member for Beauce, but I see that he has finally sided with the Bloc Québécois, and I hope that he can convince his party to support today's motion.

This is what the member for Beauce said on October 13. He himself was quoting Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The member for Beauce said that, in a speech to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec in 1871, Laurier made the following statement:

If the [federal] system is to avoid becoming a hollow concept, if it is to produce the results called for—this is Laurier speaking—, the legislatures must be independent, not just in the law, but also in fact. The local legislature must especially be completely sheltered from control by the federal legislature. If in any way the federal legislature exercises the slightest control over the local legislature, then the reality is no longer a federal union, but rather a legislative union in federal form.

That is the end of the quote by Sir Wilfrid Laurier cited by the member for Beauce.

The member for Beauce concluded:

Now, it’s obvious that what Laurier feared has unfortunately come true. Ottawa exercises a lot more than “the slightest control” over local legislatures. The federal government today intervenes massively in provincial jurisdictions, and in particular in health and education, two areas where it has no constitutional legitimacy whatsoever. This is not what the Fathers of Confederation had intended. The objective of the 1867 Act was not to subordinate provincial governments to a central authority. But rather to have sovereign provinces within the limits of their powers, dealing with local matters that directly affected citizens; and a sovereign federal government within the limits of its own powers, dealing with matters of general national interest.

The member for Beauce and the Bloc Québécois are not the only ones challenging the legitimacy and the very basis for the existence of the federal spending power; all governments of Quebec have done so, no matter what their political allegiance. Why? Because the federal spending that encroaches on provincial jurisdictions is in direct opposition to the division of powers in Canada. In principle, both orders of government in Canada are equal and equally sovereign in their respective areas. The division of jurisdictions is supposed to be watertight in order to prevent the majority nation, the Canadian nation, from imposing its views on the minority nation, the Quebec nation.

The division of powers that took place in 1867 between Ottawa and the provinces is quite simple if we look at it in the context of the 19th century. Matters that directly affected people and their way of organizing their society fell under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. This was the case for instance for the civil laws that codified the relationships between people and the organization of society through social programs, health, education, cultural matters, etc.

If, however, an issue did not directly affect people or the internal organization of their society, it could be placed under federal jurisdiction. This is the case for monetary policy, international trade, and the overall regulation of trade and industry. In 1867, Quebec was not really industrialized and that aspect did not affect people very much. Thus, Quebeckers believed they had acquired the autonomy they needed to allow them to organize their own society without external interference. And it was on that basis that Quebec agreed to enter into the Canadian federation in 1867.

However, the federal spending that encroaches upon areas of provincial jurisdiction calls into question this division of powers and Quebec's autonomy. In fact, this was the pact at the basis of the Canadian federation, which Canada is denying daily and has been denying for three generations by interfering freely with Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

Benoît Pelletier, the former Quebec Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs under Jean Charest, said the following:

I...have a great deal of difficulty in reconciling the values underlying the Canadian federation with the idea of a federal spending power that is in no way subject to the division of powers.

It is for that reason that the Séguin report in its turn expressed the opinion that:

The “federal spending power” displays a singular logic in that the federal government intervenes every time in a field falling under provincial jurisdiction without having to adopt a constitutional amendment.

We could add “without having to obtain the authorization of Quebec's National Assembly”. In short, the federal spending power is the way English Canada unilaterally put an end to the pact in which Quebec agreed to be a part of Canada. Through the spending power, it managed to unilaterally change the distribution of powers to its benefit without having to go through the cumbersome process of constitutional amendment.

There is now a consensus in Quebec. The spending power is illegitimate. Quebec has always felt that the federal spending power was nothing more than a power to implement, that is to say that in the final analysis, it is a power to impose policies.

That is why Quebec maintains that federal spending power should be limited to areas in which the federal Parliament has legislative jurisdiction. Regardless of the party in power, Quebec has consistently maintained that Ottawa simply does not have the power to spend money in whatever area it chooses, and that any federal intervention in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction is in direct violation of the Constitution.

Federal government interference in fact proves that the fiscal imbalance has not been resolved. The fiscal imbalance is due to the fact that Ottawa raises more in taxes than it needs to discharge its own responsibilities. And the result, in Quebec's case, is that Quebec no longer has the tax room it needs to fund its own activities independently.

As long as Ottawa has the authority to spend in areas under provincial jurisdiction, the fiscal imbalance cannot be resolved. Conservative members who claim that the fiscal imbalance is now resolved have not understood a thing. The fiscal imbalance cannot be resolved without putting an end to federal spending power in areas that encroach upon the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.

As the Séguin commission stated, and I quote:

...The problem of the federal spending power is closely tied to fiscal imbalance, and its use is underpinned by the surplus funds that the federal government controls.

That is what the commission found.

Quebec has no intention of being one of Ottawa's mere subcontractors. No, the fiscal imbalance has not been resolved and is, in fact, getting worse. More and more, as a result of the fiscal imbalance and its offshoot—spending power—the Quebec government is being relegated to the ranks of a federal government subcontractor. Through its interference and conditional transfers, Ottawa is imposing Canada's priorities and choices on Quebec.

The situation has gotten so bad that Quebec's own-source revenues hit an all-time low in 2009-10, when a quarter of Quebec's budget envelope was being controlled by the federal government. Now more than ever, it is time for the federal government to hand over the GST to Quebec, as well as a portion of individual income tax, so that Quebec is no longer at the mercy of federal transfer payments and Ottawa's whims.

In 2006, as I was saying earlier, the House of Commons finally recognized the existence of the Quebec nation. Recognizing the existence of a nation is more than just a symbolic act. Nations, like people, have fundamental rights, and the most fundamental among them is a nation's right to control its own social, economic and cultural development, that is to say, the right to self-determination.

One cannot, on the one hand, recognize that the Quebec nation exists and has the right to make choices that are different from those that Canada makes, which right is at the core of nationhood, and on the other hand, deny that right by maintaining the federal spending power. That spending power is in fact a negation of the Quebec nation.

The so-called framework mentioned in the 2007 Speech from the Throne, which was to set limits on the spending power, had indeed been the subject of official Conservative promises, and has continued to be the subject of such promises since; it is nothing but lip service.

I will now quote from the 2007 Speech from the Throne, which said:

...our government will introduce legislation to place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This legislation will allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.

It should be noted that the government's offer, its commitment in that text, is limited to new programs, even though it was already spending $62 billion in areas that do not fall under its jurisdiction. That is the figure from 2008-09. This amount is more or less equivalent to Quebec's entire budget, which was $65 billion for that year, and this is money Ottawa spent in areas that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The Speech from the Throne allows all of that to go on happening. Moreover, it only refers to new shared-cost programs, which are almost non-existent. For instance, as agriculture is an area of shared jurisdiction, the agriculture policy framework is not covered by the commitment in the throne speech. Moreover, insofar as the infrastructure Canada program is concerned, the throne speech changed nothing because Quebec already had the right to select its own projects.

So there was nothing, absolutely nothing in the Speech from the Throne aside from empty words. In fact it was a new version of the Jean Chrétien throne speech, which said approximately the same thing in 1996; and nothing was done following that one either, of course.

It is the same thing as the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville's social union, by virtue of which the Canadian provinces, with the exception of Quebec, agreed to allow Ottawa to take the lead in matters of social policy.

The bill that the Bloc Québécois already tabled is an offer of reasonable accommodation. We are aware that Canadians do not want to completely eliminate the federal power to interfere. When I say Canadians, I am obviously not talking about Quebeckers, but other Canadians, who generally want the central government to be able to set directions and priorities for the entire country in all areas. That is not in keeping with the promise made to Quebec 140 years ago. It is in keeping with Canadians' vision of Canada, though. In April 2010, to put an end to Ottawa's interference in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, the Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-507, which I just mentioned, on eliminating the federal spending power in Quebec's jurisdictions.

Today's motion, which is very much in line with our bill, proposes a compromise by saying that Ottawa should at least give Quebec a full right to opt out of any federal programs in areas that intrude into the provinces' jurisdictions. Canadians will be able to keep on denying the division of powers for themselves, but not for us in Quebec.

One Conservative Party member heard the Bloc Quebecois' call, and we can only be glad. Just a few months after we introduced our bill, the member for Beauce repeated the Bloc's demands almost word for word. He said:

However, several other programs, from family allowances to grants to universities and hospital insurance, were set up which clearly did not respect the constitutional division of powers...

This intrusion into provincial jurisdiction was accomplished by the so-called federal spending power.

No constitutional provision to legitimize this federal spending power was ever adopted. The Supreme Court of Canada has never explicitly recognized this power either. The federal government was certainly aware that the power to spend in areas of provincial jurisdiction does not exist in the Constitution...

Ending the federal spending power, eliminating the federal programs that violate the division of powers, and transferring tax points to the provinces would be the right thing to do from several perspectives.

We agree. Consequently, I invite the Conservative government to support our Bill C-507. I also invite the Conservative members and the members from all the other parties to support the motion I have put forward this morning.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending Power
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech on the issue of the federal spending power.

The question I would like to ask my colleague is the following. For decades now, Quebec governments under both the Liberals and the Parti Québécois have been asking the federal government to limit its spending power, especially in areas under Quebec’s jurisdiction, such as education, health, and so forth.

We very much appreciated the initiative of the hon. member for Beauce and hope that all members of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, especially those from Quebec, will vote in favour of this motion.

How does he explain, though, the federal government's systematic refusal to give Quebec the power to manage its own areas of jurisdiction?

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending Power
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, my answer is that, ultimately, it is just their lust for power. It is quite natural for people who have power to want more of it. That is the reason for the federal government’s constant intrusions into jurisdictions that are not its own.

To simplify and perhaps boil down this concept of the spending power, I want to give two examples. The Constitution assigns education to the provincial governments and the Government of Quebec. Therefore, the federal government does not have the right to, for example, build a university, hire professors and so forth. In actual fact, though, what it does is offer the universities money to organize education in a particular way. It does not pass any legislation. It does not say they have to because it has the power. It does not do that. It does not pass any laws ordering them to do anything in particular. It offers money, and if a university wants the cash, it has to accept the conditions. There is a conditional aspect, therefore, to the spending power, and that is how they force educators in Quebec, for example, to follow federal directives.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending Power
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, our government is very proud of the financial support we provide to the province of Quebec in various areas.

I want to ask two questions, but first I would like to recall a few things, such as the millions of dollars to save jobs and help the unemployed and other people in need. There is more than $200 million for knowledge and innovation in Quebec and more than $1 billion to protect companies and communities during the global recession. I am very proud of the tens of millions of dollars we shared to help Quebec athletes prepare for the Olympic Games.

I have a question for the hon. member about that. I was so proud to be Canadian when our Canadian athletes filed into the House of Commons. The majority were from Quebec. I want to know why it was that when we encouraged and celebrated these athletes by singing the national anthem, which we love, the Bloc Québécois did not join in to encourage these athletes from Quebec? In addition, how are they going to finance these games for Olympic athletes from Quebec?