House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Mining Industry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a petition signed by quite a number of folks in Canada, calling the Government of Canada's attention to alleged abuses of human rights and degradation of the environment by Canadian mining companies.

Whereas the petitioners feel that it is a duty of Parliament to hold Canadian companies responsible for their activities when operating in foreign jurisdictions, the petitioners humbly call upon the Government of Canada to do the following: create an effective series of corporate social responsibility laws and consent to the expeditious passage of Bill C-300.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

March 16th, 2010 / 10:10 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

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government demonstrated in its Speech from the Throne and its Budget that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec, as there were no commitments to allocate $2.2 billion to Quebec for harmonizing the QST and GST, to provide the forestry industry with an assistance plan equivalent to that given to the automobile industry, to offer stimulus measures to the aeronautics industry, to meet Quebeckers’ expectations regarding the environment, and to enhance programs to assist the less fortunate in Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead for seconding the Bloc Québécois motion.

I am extremely happy to take part in the debate on the Bloc Québécois motion because I not only believe, but am also convinced that by introducing and defending our motion, we are doing the work Quebeckers wanted us to do when they sent a majority of Bloc Québécois members to this place to defend the interests and values of the Quebec nation six times since 1993.

I will read the motion again because it contains at least five contentious issues between Quebec and the Canadian nation. These are only examples. There are other such issues. I will take a moment to mention some of them before speaking to the contentious issues contained in the motion. The motion says:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government demonstrated in its Speech from the Throne and its Budget that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec, as there were no commitments to allocate $2.2 billion to Quebec for harmonizing the QST and GST, to provide the forestry industry with an assistance plan equivalent to that given to the automobile industry, to offer stimulus measures to the aeronautics industry, to meet Quebeckers’ expectations regarding the environment, and to enhance programs to assist the less fortunate in Quebec.

We are debating a motion containing five contentious issues. As I said, these are only examples. We could have included other issues, but as we know, our rules of procedure do not allow for excessively long motions.

I will give two more examples of issues that could have been included in today's motion. We are still waiting for the $800 million in transfers for post-secondary education despite the government's renewed promise to correct the fiscal imbalance.

I recall that Paul Martin, when he was finance minister in the Liberal government in 1994-95, slashed transfers to the provinces, and Quebec in particular. One of those transfers, for post-secondary education and social programs, has never been indexed since 1994-95. If that money had been indexed, it would represent $800 million more for Quebec at a time when, as we know, Quebec like many others in Canada is having difficulty balancing its budget. As I was saying, this could have been another contentious issue to raise.

Another contentious issue which could have been included in the motion is last year’s decision by the finance minister to unilaterally cap equalization, which has deprived Quebec of $1 billion. I was listening to a minister of state boast to veterans that there had been no cuts to equalization. I am sorry, but the cut happened last year, and it represented $1 billion lost for Quebec.

In total, all of the contentious issues we have counted, which have also been counted by the Government of Quebec and the Parti Québécois, come to around $8 billion. The Government of Canada owes $8 billion to the Government of Quebec. This is money that should have been in the budget and in the throne speech. It has simply been swept away, in an offhand manner, as if Quebec did not exist. That too, I would say, is the conclusion of this motion. It is as if, in the throne speech and in the budget tabled two weeks ago, Quebec did not exist and the needs and aspirations of the Quebec nation did not exist.

We thought it timely to raise today, with this motion, this harsh reality that, despite this House’s sham recognition of the existence of the Quebec nation, there has in fact been nothing concrete to truly take the measure of what this meant for the Canadian nation.

I shall review each of these contentious issues. As there is little time, I will be unable to go into detail, although my colleagues, as the day moves along, will have the opportunity to proceed a little further in this regard, in their respective spheres of expertise. However I think it important to begin the day, for those listening to us at home or in the office, with an overview of these issues.

Let us start with the harmonization of the sales tax. As we know, in the early 1990s the Conservative government of the time, that of Brian Mulroney, changed the tax on manufacturers to a tax on goods and services. This was a subject of tremendous debate.

It was in fact a debate in which I participated, for at the time I was in the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. The debate was settled in the early 1990s. Mr. Bourassa, the Quebec premier at the time, decided to harmonize the Quebec sales tax with the GST.

The federal government subsequently invited all the provinces to harmonize their sales tax with the GST, and three Atlantic provinces did so. The federal Liberal government transferred nearly $1 billion to these three provinces as compensation for the harmonization of their tax.

The Government of Quebec also asked to be compensated for this harmonization, which was not a point of debate at the time that the Quebec government harmonized its sales tax with the GST. The federal finance minister at that time, Paul Martin, refused, making up the following excuse or criterion: to be compensated, a province had to lose over 5% of its tax base as a result of harmonization.

When the Conservatives took power, the finance minister announced that he would compensate all provinces that harmonized their sales tax with the GST. They discarded the pseudo-condition that Paul Martin had invented to avoid compensating Quebec. It was announced that in the future, all provinces would be compensated based on criteria in the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. Harmonization compensation would be $4.3 billion for Ontario, and $1.6 billion for British Columbia.

If the same criteria were applied to Quebec, it should have received $2.2 billion in compensation. However, since the finance minister announced that he would compensate Ontario and British Columbia, and that he was prepared to compensate any other province that would harmonize its sales tax with the GST, Quebec has not seen a single penny of this compensation, even though the consensus in this province is that it should be compensated. This shows a lack of good faith towards Quebec. This compensation has been the subject of several motions in the Quebec National Assembly, the latest one as recently as March 31, 2009.

I will not read the entire motion because we do not have the time, but I must point out that all parties in the National Assembly agree with the demands of the Bloc Québécois for Quebec. The motion states:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the National Assembly ask the Federal Government to treat Québec justly and equitably, by granting compensation that is comparable to that offered to Ontario for the harmonization of its sales tax with the GST, which would represent an amount of 2.6 billion dollars for Québec.

At the time, Quebec was asking for $2.6 billion. The current finance minister in Quebec has adjusted that amount to $2.2 billion. The Quebec nation is clearly reasonable.

This unanimous motion from the National Assembly should have been presented to the House by all members from Quebec, whether they are Liberals, Conservatives or New Democrats. But the only party that informed the House of this unanimous motion from the National Assembly was the Bloc Québécois.

This explains why, election after election, Quebeckers choose to send a majority of Bloc members to the House of Commons. It is the only party that brings the consensus in Quebec and the unanimous positions of the National Assembly, without compromise, to the House. The other parties do not do that.

It is appalling to see the Quebec members saying nothing about issues as important as compensation for harmonizing the Quebec sales tax with the GST. Fortunately, we are here and we will speak for the Quebec nation.

The second issue is the government’s recovery plan, which completely ignores Quebec's economic and industrial needs. The cherry on top is how the forestry industry is being treated. They have allocated $170 million over two years for the forestry industry in all of Canada, which gives Quebec a few tens of millions of dollars, while a third of the jobs lost have unfortunately been in that province.

The forestry industry in Canada as a whole received $178 million over two years, while the auto industry received nearly $10 billion in aid, aid we have never disputed.

What we are disputing is the fact that aid to other manufacturing industries, like the forestry and aerospace industries, has not been comparable to aid to the auto industry. I will come back to this.

We do not have to invent a new formula; we have one already. The industry, the unions, the government of Quebec, the National Assembly of Quebec—in short, everyone involved in this industry in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada is calling for it: loan guarantees. The government told us that loan guarantees were contrary to the softwood lumber agreement with the United States. Strangely, it was Government of Canada lawyers at the London tribunal who argued the exact opposite. So it is quite unbelievable that the Conservative ministers, particularly those from Quebec, are not even capable of defending, in the House, the only coherent position the government should have: that these loan guarantees are entirely in accordance with the softwood lumber agreement with the United States.

This is exactly like Paul Martin’s 5% in the GST harmonization debate. These are excuses. The truth is that the Conservative government does not have the political will to help the forestry industry, to help the regions of Quebec, to help forestry workers who are in trouble, and that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the Bloc Québécois, but it is also unacceptable to everyone who cares about Quebec and its needs.

We proposed a number of measures that should have been included in the budget and the Speech from the Throne. Those measures would have helped the forestry industry. I mentioned loan guarantees, but we also proposed, for example, that forestry products be used for energy to replace our dependence on oil. Reducing oil dependency is obviously a concept the Conservatives do not like very much. People say it all the time, and sadly, it seems to be true: the number one lobbyist for the Canadian oil cartel is the Conservative caucus.

These solutions would provide for sustainable economic development in our regions in Quebec and meet the needs of the forestry industry. As I said, a third of the jobs lost in the forestry industry were in the regions of Quebec. And so we are once again calling for this aid.

We want help as well for all workers, not only those in the forestry sector, although, in their case, the situation is becoming desperate. We have put forward a whole series of amendments, as everyone knows. My colleague from Chambly—Borduas introduced, among other things, a very comprehensive bill on employment insurance. It proposed an eligibility threshold of 360 hours, increased benefits, an increase in insurable earnings to $42,500 and benefit calculation based on the 12 best weeks. The solutions are out there. The people of Quebec all agree with them. Unfortunately, here we run into blatant rejection that is more than just indifference, it is disdain.

Once again, the money that would have helped and should help workers in difficulty would also help our regions. Very rarely will someone unemployed put their EI benefits in a tax haven, as do the banks. He will spend it at the corner store, at the grocery store and on various services in the community. The government could have and should help not only the workers but also the communities affected come to terms with the forestry crisis. Reform of EI must be not only in social terms but in economic terms as well.

What sort of vague reforms or vague cosmetic reforms were we entitled to last year? Weeks of benefits were extended under Bill C-50, for example. Benefits were extended for workers known as tenured employees and those who have not had to draw on EI benefits on various occasions during their active life. All workers in seasonal industries were discriminated against. Unfortunately, the forestry industry is a seasonal industry, and so its workers were discriminated against. And a date was set—January 2009.

Oddly enough, a look at the background of layoffs across Canada reveals that layoffs occurred in Quebec in 2007 and 2008, and in southern Ontario and western Canada in 2009. So the government created a made to measure program. We have no problem with it responding to the needs of workers in Ontario and western Canada. We support it, because we are progressive, but what we do not understand is that, of all the Conservative government's reforms over the past year, none is useful for people unemployed in Quebec.

Worse yet, we have been questioning the government now for a number of weeks on pilot projects to remedy the injustices in the Lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé and the North Shore.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs has said that no decision has been taken in this regard. April 10 is the deadline. The people in these regions are living in insecurity caused not only by the fallout of the economic crisis, but also by the Conservative government, which is unable to give a clear response.

We have spoken a lot of the forestry and aerospace industries. In Quebec, and especially in the greater Montreal area, the aerospace industry may be compared to the automobile industry in southern Ontario. It is a highly structural sector, with a lot of subcontractors. The hours are difficult in aerospace. We can rightly expect the government to support these industries. We have suggested a number of avenues, including that, which could easily be taken, of refundable tax credits for research and development. They would help the forestry industry too.

As I have said many times, Tembec invests close to $80 million annually in research and development. Yet this company has not turned a profit for a number of years now. The company therefore cannot take advantage of the tax credit because it is non-refundable. Companies need cash and they need it now. Companies working in the aviation sector are in the same situation. The aerospace industry has gotten some help, but not the aviation sector.

The Minister of Finance patted himself on the back several times when announcing the elimination of tariffs on equipment and goods needed to modernize and improve productivity in the manufacturing industry.

As is the case with the other solutions put forward by the Conservatives, the problem lies in the fact that these measures help those companies that turn a profit, that have cash and that are capable of buying or investing. For those companies that have no cash, these measures are of no help. It is just like the other Conservative solution—lowering taxes on business profits, which helps oil companies and big banks. It is useless to companies that do not make a profit, since they do not pay taxes.

The Bloc Québécois has proposed some solutions that would allow the manufacturing industry as well as the aerospace and forestry sectors to pull through this crisis and be ready for the economic recovery. But many companies will shut down along the way. So, when the economy has recovered, they will not be there to take advantage of open markets because of this government's indifference to and contempt for Quebec's needs.

The fourth issue we have concerns the environment, towards which this government has the same attitude. The international community is adopting criteria that mirror Quebec's actions. The Kyoto accord uses 1990 as its reference year. Greenhouse gases are to be reduced in comparison to this benchmark year. Quebec wants targeted reductions with absolute targets, but that is not what the government is doing.

We also wanted a territorial approach and the establishment of a carbon exchange, which already exists in Montreal but would need a better environment to develop economically and financially.

This is what the international community is asking for, and Quebec is perfectly comfortable with those objectives. And what is the government proposing? It is proposing to use 2005 as the base year, instead of 1990, which means that all the efforts that Quebec's manufacturing industry made between 1990 and 2005 would not be taken into account as carbon credits for a future carbon exchange. And yet, this industry has made considerable efforts and succeeded in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. The situation is the same for the targets. Not only are the targets not absolute since they are intensity targets, but Canada is the only country that reduced its targets from 20% to 17% after the Copenhagen conference.

In conclusion, I would say that the Conservative government has completely ignored the whole question of program enhancements, as far as the guaranteed income supplement, social housing and employment insurance are concerned.

The Quebec nation will have to recognize that Canadian federalism does not benefit Quebec. Quebec sovereignty is the only way for the Quebec nation to face the challenges of the future and this is what the Bloc Québécois and its allies in Quebec society are working toward.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. In the budget and the Speech from the Throne, there is a lack of political news concerning the official languages in Canada. Quebec and New Brunswick are neighbours. To show that it supports the policies on Canada's official languages, this government needs to provide tools for the large Acadian community.

Does my colleague have any comments about the lack of positive steps on this issue in the Speech from the Throne and the budget?

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. Indeed, the promotion and development of French is another issue about which the Conservative federal government is particularly silent.

Of course, the Bloc Québécois and all Quebeckers have a vested interest in seeing strong French-speaking communities across Canada, whether we are talking about Acadians, Brayons, who live in the Edmundston region, Franco-Ontarians or Franco-Albertans.

In that regard, members should be well aware of the fact that the Bloc Québécois has made some proposals in the House to reinforce the presence of French in Quebec. I think about the bill to have the Charter of the French Language apply to all firms under federal jurisdiction in Quebec. Unfortunately, we had no support except from a few NDP members. The Conservative government has taken very unfortunate actions on this issue.

There are ways to reinforce the presence of French in Canada and one of these, I would even say the main one, is to ensure the prominence of French as a common language within Quebec.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by commending my colleague from Joliette on the quality of his presentation. He is one of the most highly respected members in this place. He has a flair for summarizing with great clarity a somewhat complex set of issues.

He raised the issue of employment insurance, and I would like to hear more about the use made by both the Liberals and the Conservatives of employer and employee contributions to the EI account. As we know, in the past, $57 billion were misappropriated from the EI account at the expense of the unemployed, who have been literally excluded from access to EI benefits.

I would like to know how he thinks the EI account will be used in the future.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Chambly—Borduas, who, I must say, is working extremely hard on the issue of employment insurance. Federally, the EI program is the one that helps the largest number of people. It is at the core of the social safety net that should be in place at the federal level.

Unfortunately, the hon. member is right. The Liberals and Paul Martin have used the EI account extensively to eliminate the deficit. Even when surpluses were generated, they continued dipping into the account, despite the fact that this is money contributed by employees and employers to provide insurance in the event of job loss, and for that purpose only. In fact, the Auditor General, or her predecessor, noted that, while such misappropriation may not violate the letter of the law, it did violate the spirit of the law, because contributions designed to provide income protection to those who lose their jobs were being used for other purposes.

Unfortunately, we can see that the Conservatives will be using the old hard to stomach Liberal recipe. It is clear from both the economic statement and the budget that, between 2011 and 2015, the Conservative government will dip into the account to the tune of $19 billion to offset its deficit. It is not a matter of paying off the deficit that may have been caused by the recession, which, in any case, should be paid off using reserves that could have been built during the years when there were surpluses in the EI account.

Sadly, in the Conservatives' minds, the workers, the middle class and the least fortunate are the ones who should once again be paying to restore fiscal balance. One thing is for sure, however: they will find us, and the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas as well, in their path.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party does concur that the government is not investing sufficiently in the forestry sector, aerospace, the environment, or the nation's poor. It is doing nothing to support the loan guarantees for the forest companies. Action on climate change is not there. There is nothing to tackle poverty. Certainly, there is nothing to support culture, pensions or health care.

It is not federalism that has failed Quebec. It is the Conservative government that has failed Quebec. I think that is an important issue.

The member also raised in his motion the issue of the harmonization of the QST with the GST and the compensation. The member will know that recently there was a story about the tax collectors with the province of Ontario who lost their jobs and became federal employees. That is another significant cost element that comes into the equation in terms of the compensation.

Does the member have any other items which would account for the need to provide additional compensation to Quebec with regard to that harmonization?

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

First of all, one thing is beyond any doubt: whether it is the Liberals or the Conservatives who are in power, Quebec is always sidelined because of either indifference or contempt.

This reminds me of a joke that was often told in the Soviet Union. They defined capitalism as man exploited by man, and communism as the opposite. It is basically the same thing with the Conservatives and the Liberals: when it comes to Quebec, the Conservatives show contempt and indifference, and the Liberals show indifference and contempt.

There are other contentious issues. During the 2006 election campaign, the Prime Minister made a commitment to correct the fiscal imbalance. Nothing has been done on that file. Yes, the health transfer was increased, but correcting the fiscal imbalance means transferring the tax points that correspond to the transfers the federal government makes to the provinces and to Quebec.

We are inviting everyone to get on board. If Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario were in favour of recovering tax points as a fair share of the transfer—not reduced shares—we would be open to that. That would require the transfer of tax points.

In closing, we were promised a bill to limit the federal government's spending power, but four years later, we are still waiting.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the comments of the hon. member from the Bloc.

I recognize also that the former Liberal government cut $25 billion which really affected the provinces all across the country. However, I believe our budget is certainly there for Canadians all across the country, from province to province to province. In fact, I understand that the Premier of Quebec, Mr. Charest, has indeed endorsed the budget. I would like to hear the comments of the member from the Bloc regarding his premier.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not what we heard from Quebec's Finance Minister and Premier.

They are still asking for $2.2 billion in compensation. They still object to the federal government's unilateral decision to cut $1 billion in transfer payments. We did not get the $800 million transfer for post-secondary education in Quebec, which is also true for the rest of Canada, but we are still asking for this and condemning this situation.

I would add to this an extremely contentious issue between Quebec and Canada: the securities commission that the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister are trying to force down Quebeckers' throats even though Quebec is unanimously opposed to the idea.

This is the reality of the Conservative government. Once again, it has nothing to do with being a Conservative, a Liberal or an NDP. The federal government may respond to the Quebec nation's needs, but never to Quebec's needs. That is what this motion demonstrates.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak against, and let me emphasize against, this very ill-informed Bloc motion. I know the hon. member across is surprised that we would be voting against this, but we need to at some point in this debate point out all the incorrect facts that we just heard in the last 20-minute presentation. I shall proceed to do that.

Canada's economic action plan is good for all Canadians, especially in Quebec. Before continuing, let me thank my Conservative colleagues from Quebec, who actually speak on behalf of Quebeckers, many of whom will be speaking later today, for all of the guidance that they provided in advance of budget 2010. I especially note that the Minister of Finance, along with the member for Beauce, held a very productive prebudget consultation round table in the beautiful city of Quebec this past December.

As we know, our Conservative government has launched an ambitious budget focused on job creation and growth to support Canada's economic recovery. We are completing year two of our economic action plan to create and protect jobs now. We are also taking new targeted measures to fuel new jobs into the future.

As budget 2010 makes very clear, our economic action plan is doing precisely what it was meant to, providing unprecedented short-term stimulus to respond to a global economic downturn while making sure Canada will emerge stronger than ever, well positioned to lead in the global economy over the long term.

Quebeckers and indeed all Canadians should be proud of what this country has accomplished through Canada's economic action plan. As Quebec Premier Jean Charest noted recently, “It is true that Canada's economy has done better than the vast majority of countries in the world”.

Many other countries were trying to manage recessionary spending on top of chronic deficits while Canada went into the global economic storm with a solid record of debt reduction and sound fiscal planning. What is more, we will come out of it with the strongest growth and the lowest debt burden in all of the G7 countries.

Some countries are now pondering tax increases. In Canada, we actually reduced taxes to support Canadians and businesses for Quebeckers. Indeed, year two of Canada's economic action plan will provide tremendous personal income tax relief in 2010-11. For Quebeckers alone, this will total $619 million back in the pockets of Quebec workers and families, funds to help Quebeckers manage through their difficult economic conditions.

Quebec will also benefit from new resources being provided to encourage innovation and commercialization, including: $32 million per year for the federal research granting councils to support advanced research and improve commercialization; $8 million per year to support the indirect cost of federally sponsored research at post-secondary institutions; $15 million per year, which actually doubles the budget of the college and community innovation program, a program that fosters research collaborations between businesses and college researchers; and the creation of a new Canada post-doctoral fellowship program to help attract the best young researchers to all of Canada.

Quebec further benefits from the $135 million provided over two years to sustain the National Research Council's regional innovation clusters. This includes support for the aluminum transformation cluster located in Saguenay, Quebec.

Surely all hon. members from all parts of Canada will agree this is all incredibly positive news. In fact, three top Quebec academics, Denis Brière, president of Université Laval, Heather Monroe-Blum, principal of McGill University, and Luc Vinet, president of Université de Montréal, cheered budget 2010's new investments, remarking:

This budget has also given universities a clear signal to get on with the job of laying the foundations for a sustainable economic recovery. We welcome that signal and the support that goes with it in a period of tough choices.

The high praise continues:

...the budget promises new funds for basic research through the granting councils and renewed support for research infrastructure. Continued operating and capital support for basic research will help universities and research hospitals support and retain our top scholars and students, and draw talent from other jurisdictions. Some focused investments are also anticipated for talent development. ... These, too, are very positive initiatives. For that vote of confidence in higher education and advanced research, we are indeed grateful to the government and to Canada’s taxpayers.

“Canada's taxpayers” is worth repeating. All provinces and territories, including Quebec, will also be helped by Canada's economic action plan through other methods. These include over $4 billion to help unemployed Canadians find new and better jobs, including up to five extra weeks of regular employment insurance benefits, and greater access to regular EI benefits for long-tenured workers. They will also be helped by a temporary extension of work-sharing agreements to a maximum of 78 weeks. Employment insurance premiums will be frozen at a rate of $1.73 per $100 of insurable earnings for 2010, $1.5 billion to provide up to an extra five weeks of employment insurance benefits, $1 billion to enhanced employment insurance training programs and $500 million for the strategic training and transition fund.

The plan is also helping Quebec firms create jobs, modernize their operations and better compete globally. One of the ways this is happening is through the elimination of tariffs on manufacturing inputs and machinery and equipment. Quebec will benefit from this measure, as it is the destination of approximately 20% of the $5 billion in total imports that is liberalized by this measure.

In fact, the tariff reduction measures in budget 2010 will position Canada as the first country among its G7 partners and G20 partners to be able to boast that it is a tariff-free zone for manufacturing. This means that Canadian manufacturers will be able to import goods for further production in Canada without the burden of tariffs and the costs of complying with certain customs rules. This will give Canadian manufacturers a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by lowering production costs, increasing competitiveness and enhancing innovation and productivity.

Forestry companies in Quebec will welcome the next generation renewable power initiative. This important initiative will invest $100 million over the next four years to support the development, commercialization and implementation of advanced clean energy technologies in the forestry sector. Indeed, this initiative has already been warmly received.

Avrim Lazar, president and chief executive officer of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said:

From the forestry industry perspective, the priorities are right, which is clean energy and a speedy re-entry of jobs into the recovery.

Jim Lopez, the chief executive officer of Tembec, a well-known Quebec paper company, said:

...federal action is critical to spur investment because companies have seen their balance sheets and creditworthiness hammered by the recession.

Businesses in Quebec could also benefit from the nearly $500 million to be invested by the Canadian Space Agency over the next five years to develop RADARSAT Constellation. This is the next generation of advanced radar remote sensing satellites.

Claude Lajeunesse, the president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, applauded that announcement and said:

...the additional funding provided to the Canadian Space Agency to complete the Radarsat Constellation Mission is good news for the Space industry. “This measure will stimulate the Space sector and keep value-added jobs in Canada...”.

Communities and businesses in Quebec will additionally benefit from the $14.6 million per year in ongoing funding for the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions Agency, or CEDQ. This funding will increase the vitality of communities and help small and medium-sized business and communities to enhance their competitiveness.

The 67 community futures organizations in Quebec will benefit from the $11 million per year in ongoing resources provided in budget 2010 for the community futures program. This program is delivered by CEDQ in Quebec.

In budget 2010, we are also supporting the inspirational work of Pierre Lavoie and his initiative, le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, in promoting healthy living and physical activity with school children across Canada.

Cattle processing facilities in Quebec will benefit from the $75 million funding allocated in budget 2010 to support investments that help improve their operations. This will contribute to ensuring that Canadian cattle producers in all regions of Canada have continued access to competitive operations.

Year two of Canada's economic action plan will also continue to provide historic investments in infrastructure in Quebec. Examples of specific projects include: projects at the Port of Trois-Rivières, including site development to improve storage at the port and security upgrades at new borders at the port; expansion of the Monique-Corriveau Library in the city of Quebec; and refurbishments of an indoor pool and cultural centre in Beauceville.

Montreal area commuters will benefit from the $50.5 million in new funding over the next two years for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated. This funding will ensure that the corporation can make the capital expenditures required to maintain the safety of its bridges, among the busiest in Canada.

Remote communities will benefit from an investment of $18 million over the next two years to support the capital and operational requirements of the Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc. which operates a passenger rail service through western Labrador and northeastern Quebec.

Communities and businesses in Quebec will benefit from the $28 million provided to support the operations of ferry services in Atlantic Canada, including the route between Îles de la Madeleine, Quebec and Souris, Prince Edward Island.

In addition to all these measures, Quebec will continue to receive support through major federal transfers in 2010-11. In fact, budget 2010 confirmed our Conservative government's strong support for provinces like Quebec.

While the Liberals starved provinces and municipalities of much needed support, while the Liberals denied the fiscal imbalance existed, while the Bloc could not and cannot get anything done here in this House of Commons, our Conservative government took action and finally restored the fiscal balance for all provinces, including Quebec.

For Quebec, this totals $19.3 billion in transfer support for 2010-11. That is an increase of $281 million from last year and almost $6.8 billion since 2005-06 under the previous Liberal government.

This long-term, growing support helps ensure that Quebec has the resources required to provide essential public services and contributes to other key components of Canada's social safety net. This includes nearly $8.6 billion through equalization, an increase of close to $3.8 billion or a 78% increase since the former Liberal government; $6.1 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $294 million from last year, for a total of $25.4 billion for all of the provinces and territories; and $2.6 billion through the Canada social transfer, which will provide provinces and territories with a total of $11.2 billion. For Quebec, this payment represents an increase of $441 million since the former Liberal government, which is an increase of 20.5%.

This vital support that the Liberal government slashed helps ensure Quebec has the resources needed to provide essential public services, including health care, post-secondary education and other social services.

No wonder the Quebec premier, Jean Charest, welcomed the budget as good news and said:

The federal government has given reassurances...that equalization payments would not be affected. In that respect, we are satisfied with the response they gave....

That is very important for us. Quebec is receiving more money in equalization transfers...than we did in the previous year.

Premier Charest was not the only one in Quebec heralding budget 2010 as good news. This is what Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, said:

Overall, this budget meets the expectations of the Montréal business community. Given that we are beginning the final phase of the federal government’s recovery plan, we have to ensure that major urban centres such as Montréal come out strengthened by the infrastructure investment that will be made in the next year.

The budget has a certain number of measures that should...have an impact on long-term productivity and competitiveness in Canada. We are particularly satisfied with the additional $40 million devoted to innovation and commercialization efforts of PMEs. Plus the elimination of tariffs on imported equipment for the manufacturing sector is good news because it will strengthen that sector’s competitiveness.

Like all other industrialized countries, Canada incurred a deficit to implement its stimulus package. Once the economic recovery is solidly entrenched our government will move forward on a plan to reduce the deficit and move back toward budgetary balance. Our deficit reduction plan has three key points.

First, we will wind down our stimulus spending as planned and on schedule. Second, we will restrain growth in government spending in specific areas. Third, we will undertake a comprehensive review of government spending on overhead as well administration.

We will not balance the budget at the expense of pensioners. We will not balance the budget by cutting transfer payments for health care and education or by raising taxes on hard-working Canadians.

Our plan will cut the deficit in half in two years and by two-thirds in three years. Shortly after that, the budget will be brought back fully to balance.

As Canadians continue to revel in the pride of our record-breaking Olympic performance and our country's economic performance, budget 2010 offers another reason for us to feel proud.

Great Canadian athletes, like Quebec's own Alexandre Bilodeau, Patrice Bergeron and Joannie Rochette, showed the world their strength and competitive spirit at the Olympics. They are Canada's inspiration as millions of Canadians step up to the world's economic podium and prove that we are open for business as we build today a Canada in which our children and grandchildren will surpass us.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and Budget
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker I think the hon. parliamentary secretary is living in some fantasy land if he thinks that the budget was well received in terms of manufacturing in general and forestry and aerospace in particular.

I would quote Jayson Myers, the president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Association, who said that the budget was a pretty marginal benefit. Or, Claude Lajeunesse, president of Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, who said that he was disappointed in the budget.

Those words may sound a bit mild but this is such a vindictive government that hardly any third party spokesperson dares say anything even slightly negative about the budget. If the head of the aerospace association and the head of the manufacturers association say that the budget is no good for their sectors, then how can the parliamentary secretary possibly put a credible positive spin on it?