House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.

Topics

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no unanimous consent.

The hon. whip for the Bloc Québécois on a point of order.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, were we talking about unanimous consent for the report of the procedure and House affairs committee tabled by the Speaker? Is that the question?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The motion he proposed was regarding the report tabled in the House and passed by the House. They are two separate things.

I will ask the question again. Does the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse on a point of order.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

March 4th, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the point of order that was raised after question period.

My honourable colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, mentioned Mr. Latulippe's appointment to a high-profile position. Mr. Latulippe was solicitor general in Robert Bourassa's Liberal government. Mr. Latulippe's thinking has changed over time. He was once a sovereignist.

During question period, I said that he understood that one could be both a Quebecker and a Canadian. Now he is going to head up an organization. Mr. Latulippe's appointment as president of Rights & Democracy is an excellent choice for Quebec and for Canada. He understands that one can be a Quebecker and a Canadian, and I wish him well in his new post.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I believe that concludes the point of order.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

The Economy
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before question period, the hon. member for Joliette had the floor. He has five minutes remaining for his remarks.

The Economy
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin with an aside concerning Mr. Latulipe, given that the member for Lévis—Bellechasse has raised the matter.

It is true that he was the solicitor general in a Liberal Quebec government. He was forced to resign because of a conflict of interest. I do not think this is an example for the public. It is somewhat in the Conservative way of doing things and, in that regard, Mr. Latulippe has become representative of the Conservative government more than anything else. We will continue to voice our criticism of his appointment. I highly doubt that was the intent of the member for Lévis—Bellechasse.

To return to more serious matters, I will begin my speech by recalling that we travelled around Quebec. We heard very specific demands. Unfortunately, yesterday's throne speech tells us that these demands will not be heard by the Conservative government.

I spoke about loan guarantees for the forestry industry. It is obvious from the throne speech that the government has not yet understood that these loan guarantees are necessary. I also spoke about assistance for the manufacturing sector, especially the aerospace and pharmaceutical industries, in Quebec's case. Entrepreneurs, unions and the corporate world all told us that a refundable tax credit for research and development is necessary.

On a number of occasions we also heard of the need for support to transform the Canadian and Quebec economies into green economies. The throne speech contains only a few paragraphs on global warming, which is a disgrace for a government prepared to support the Copenhagen agreement. There was no agreement in Copenhagen. Thus, it is easy to see that the government intends to continue with its current policy and do nothing to seriously tackle the causes of global warming.

Quebeckers want to work on building an economy that is prosperous and has a future while emitting less greenhouse gases.

Here is a local example. In my riding of Joliette, the downtown, Place Bourget, has been completely renovated over the past two years. The renovation plans included charging stations which are still buried because there is not yet a need for them, unfortunately. These stations will allow the owners of electric cars to recharge their car batteries when they park downtown. Such a vision is shared by all Quebeckers, except the Conservative MPs from Quebec.

One might have expected measures to be introduced to help those industrial sectors that want to move toward a greener economy. The Conservative government is sticking to its old approach of setting the economy against the environment, an approach that has not only proven its limits, but also had disastrous effects. That is clear from the announcement made in the throne speech concerning energy developments.

This is totally contrary to the vision of almost every western nation, including the United States. Canada is a rear-guard nation. I almost said something worse, but I am holding my tongue. The people of Canada are not to blame; it is the fault of this retrograde, conservative government.

The government is retrograde and conservative economically and environmentally—the economy and the environment being closely tied—as well as socially, by refusing to substantially reform EI and to increase and index guaranteed income supplement payments. In the Speech from the Throne, we would have expected the government to announce not a Seniors' Day, but rather a real desire to show seniors how grateful we are to them for their contributions by increasing the guaranteed income supplement.

This is a government that is failing in all subjects and does not deserve our confidence. We will therefore be voting against this Speech from the Throne. I am making this announcement now, even though the debate will take place next week.

The Economy
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue along the same lines as my hon. colleague, the House leader of the Bloc Québécois and member for Joliette. This throne speech leaves much to be desired, from many different perspectives. Many groups are left out completely; entire categories of citizens are not mentioned at all in the throne speech. We will see more of this at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, during the budget speech.

Given that the throne speech serves to outline the government's parliamentary agenda and budget, it is reasonable to assume that the Conservative government will continue ignoring those groups of people.

During this completely inappropriate prorogation, we had the opportunity to meet with people from various communities. It did not mean that the members were not working. I can assure this House that the members of the Bloc Québécois were very active on the ground. We did not have time to attend the Olympics in Vancouver, because our constituencies needed us. The economic crisis in the regions of Quebec seriously affects us as parliamentarians. Meeting with the people on the ground really showed us just how much they are affected by the current economic situation.

I would like to come back to an issue that affects most of Quebec's resource regions, the lack of any real reforms to the EI system. Yes, I had the opportunity to go to Haute-Côte-Nord to take part in my party's prebudgetary consultations in Baie Comeau. My hon. colleague from Manicouagan and I met with groups of unemployed workers, specifically the group Action Chômage Haute-Côte-Nord. Although we met with various groups, the same rang true throughout Quebec. This government is completely oblivious to the reality in the regions of Quebec.

There is a category of unemployed workers for whom the EI system is ill-suited and poorly adapted, and that category is workers in seasonal industries. It is not right to call them seasonal workers, for they are not workers with seasonal qualities. They are workers who happen to work in seasonal industries. It is the industry that is seasonal.

Even if someone wanted to do silvicultural work in the forests, this was an exceptional winter in Quebec in terms of the number of centimetres of snow that fell. It was a below average snowfall. I am no expert, but this may be an indication of climate change. For example, seals in the Magdalen Islands will not be able to give birth on the ice pack because there is no ice pack. That being said, the Bloc Québécois is still in favour of a seal industry for the people of the Magdalen Islands.

When there is between 100 cm and 150 cm of snow and tiny shoots need to be planted, forestry work cannot be done. When there is extremely thick ice, commercial fishing cannot take place. This is also a reality for the inns and lodges in the Charlevoix region, which I represent. A few Europeans come to discover the charms of Quebec winters, but the reality is that the inns and lodges in the region are not at full capacity during the winter months. Therefore, the workers in these seasonal industries have to claim employment insurance benefits. Unfortunately, under the current system, the benefits do not last long enough to carry the workers through until their work resumes in early May.

That is happening right now, in March and April in particular.

Judging by his reaction, the Speaker agrees with what I am saying. I am sure that in his region, in Ontario, there are people affected by this. Those people do not receive employment insurance benefits in March or April. They often live in their own homes and own a vehicle and therefore cannot receive social assistance benefits because they own property. They would have to liquidate all their assets in March and April, but they start working again in May.

The employment insurance program creates a vicious circle that is out of step with the needs of workers in seasonal industries. That is why we asked for an extended benefit period. We also asked the government to reduce the number of hours required to qualify, but the throne speech did not address these issues.

People who do not work enough hours because their season is too short cannot qualify for benefits, but they certainly do pay into the fund while working. Employment insurance contributions are a hidden tax, no more, no less. People contribute to the fund, but they cannot collect benefits. That is outrageous. The system does not work.

The Bloc Québécois wonders when we will have a government that takes its responsibilities seriously so that people who unfortunately lose their jobs or are periodically unemployed can collect benefits. Nobody wants a system that traps people in this vicious circle.

I would like to challenge the Speaker to visit my riding, to come to the Île d'Orléans, the Côte-de-Beaupré, Charlevoix and the Upper North Shore. I would like him to ask people whether they would rather work year-round, whether the existing system works for them. People would rather work.

Our regions are in the middle of an economic crisis, and the regions of Quebec, which are struggling with crises in forestry and manufacturing, are no exception. There may not be much in the way of forests in some regions, but many manufacturing facilities have had to close their doors or lay off huge numbers of people because of the economic situation. These people, especially the workers, need help.

The Bloc Québécois wants loan guarantees for the forestry industry. The industry is not asking for subsidies; it wants loan guarantees to help it get through the crisis.

One major player in Quebec is a paper company that produces more newsprint than any other company in the world: AbitibiBowater. It has laid off workers and shut down plants across Quebec. In my riding, in Beaupré, which is a wonderful place, a plant that once cleared $52 million a year had to close its doors because of the economic crisis and AbitibiBowater's financial situation.

The government should have included such promises in the throne speech. We hope that the budget speech we will be hearing in 30 minutes will contain measures to help these workers.

The Economy
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, for indeed, this budget contains nothing for the forestry sector or for workers.

Furthermore, in the budget, this government and the token Quebeckers who sit across the floor are offering a gift to the retired workers of Nortel and AbitibiBowater: a seniors day, to help them think about their problems. It is unbelievable.

How could anyone come up with such a solution, when we are still in the midst of a serious crisis and all those workers are facing such a reality? There is nothing in the budget for social housing or employment insurance.

I wonder what my colleague's thoughts are on these aspects of the throne speech.

The Economy
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles is so anxious to see the budget, and he has such high expectations for the budget that I hope, for his sake and for the sake of all parliamentarians, that he will not be disappointed. If the past is any indication, we know what to expect from the Conservatives. There will be nothing, zero, zip, in this budget that will satisfy the people it affects.

Before being elected by the people of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, my colleague was always a staunch defender of workers' rights. I thank him for that. We spoke about employment insurance, and workers who are currently in the manufacturing and forestry industries. But too often, we forget about retirees, who helped build the companies and helped them earn a profit and provide jobs. These individuals worked hard their whole lives. They saved to have access to a retirement fund, and they could lose all of their retirement income if the government does not do something. I thank my colleague for making me think of retired workers. I admit that I forgot to do so earlier.