House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I spoke on two issues. One was the issue of this particular agreement and the side agreements which I thought was important. I said in terms of the evolution of the agreement, I think this is a very big step. I mentioned the fact that even on the Colombia free trade agreement, we did deal with the issue of human rights with a review that takes place annually.

It is not the ideal of the corporate social responsibility bill that I had supported that was put forward by my hon. colleague, but it certainly is a step forward that we even have this on the table. That should be seen as an achievement in itself, and not going back to the idea that it cannot happen, because it is happening with these side agreements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide some commentary on Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

This afternoon we are debating the four report stage motions which were moved by a member from the NDP. These four motions are all motions to delete certain clauses in the bill.

The first motion is to eliminate clause 7, which outlines the purpose of the bill. I think the bill probably would still operate even if we did not have the narrative about what the purpose is because it is almost self-evident.

The second motion is to eliminate the clause which designates that the minister is the representative of Canada. That is almost self-evident as well, although it is probably good to have it in there.

The third motion is to eliminate clause 12, which lays out the minister's authorized activities in his role.

The last one is to eliminate the final clause, which is the coming into force clause, i.e., when this bill would become law.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh had indicated that, in substance, putting all these together probably makes the bill somewhat sloppy or inoperative and basically would kill the bill.

Now we know exactly why we are spending all this time on this. It is probably why the Speaker has given so much latitude to members who are speaking because there is not very much we can say. These are constructive motions basically to scrap the bill. Some people would rather talk about the bill, which is really not what we are debating.

It is interesting that there has been so much irrelevance relative to what we are supposed to do, but probably some of the more interesting commentary that we have had with regard to bilateral free trade agreements in general. There have been a lot of very good issues that have come up. Some relate to double taxation issues, or tax-sharing information, or multilateral versus bilateral agreements, and some of those benefits and whether or not we should be doing trade at all with countries that do not respect human rights, with countries that do not respect the collective bargaining process.

We talked about the fact that in this particular case the trade activity between the two countries is very small. It is $90 million one way and $30 million the other. It is inconsequential. Yet, there have been eloquent speeches about what a great thing this is for agriculture and so forth. That is nonsense, quite frankly. There is not a great deal of trade.

However, what there is, is a future. There is the expansion of the Panama Canal which is going to be finished, I think, in 2012. It is going to open up new opportunities.

The most important aspect that has been raised is that there is a problem in Panama. It has been identified critically by the OECD, and it has to do with tax evasion through tax havens. Tax havens are fine. Tax avoidance is fine. Tax evasion is illegal.

We need good faith with our trading partners. They may not be part of a particular trade instrument that we have, such as a bill like this one, but they should be part of the conversation. I think that members have basically said we need to have this conversation about how we are going to conduct ourselves in terms of having ethical trade with other countries around the world. We need that conversation. I hope that it will start as a consequence of the input of hon. members today and that we understand that even in Canada there are people who do bad things. There are people who are money launderers, who break the laws, all the things we accuse these other countries of. Let us not be holier than thou. We have problems ourselves. We have to clean them up.

Mr. Speaker, I will finish this speech at the next sitting.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from November 2, 2010, consideration of the motion that Bill C-507, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (federal spending power), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, there are several reasons why I wanted to participate in this debate on Bill C-507, introduced by the member for Saint-Lambert.

First, I must say that only the Bloc could come up with a scenario like the one described in this bill. Our party will obviously be opposed. This bill would not benefit anyone in Quebec or in the rest of Canada. It proposes a system that cannot work, and the consequences of this bill would no doubt be terrible.

We have to wonder about the relevance of this initiative and about its real goal, which is purely political and partisan. I was very surprised that it was introduced, since the federal spending power is something on which we have taken concrete action.

In the spirit of our open federalism, our government has shown flexibility, particularly by restoring the fiscal balance, by focusing on its core jurisdictions and by avoiding interfering needlessly in the provinces' jurisdictions. Furthermore, when such expenditures were necessary, we sought and obtained the consent of the provinces. We avoided creating shared-cost programs in provincial areas of jurisdiction, and when we did so, we sought and obtained the consent of the province or territory.

Let us look at the example of Canada's economic action plan. I do not think I need to go into detail about the difficult situation that forced us to adopt this series of aggressive measures to help Canada make it through the worst economic crisis since the recession in the 1930s. But we worked together with the provinces for the benefit of Canadians. And now, with this bill, the Bloc is asking us to forever abandon this tool that successfully helped us through the crisis.

To that end, our government had to spend in areas of provincial responsibility, sometimes through shared-cost programs such as the $500 million recreational infrastructure Canada program or the $4 billion infrastructure stimulus fund. The provinces' approval of this approach reflected the belief that the response to the crisis had to be a shared response. Furthermore, the targeted, temporary and time-limited nature of the economic action plan reflected our government's desire to avoid long-term distortions of roles and responsibilities.

When the economic recession hit the world, we implemented one of the largest stimulus plans in the G7. Canada's economic action plan used every means at its disposal to stabilize the Canadian economy and get Canadians back to work.

Canada was able to respond to the crisis from a position of strength owing to the stability of its financial sector, the good financial health of businesses and households, the ongoing effect of broad-based tax reductions it had already instituted, as well as its strong fiscal position.

What was the outcome of this co-operation among the various levels of government? Canada is leading the global economic recovery.

Of all the G7 countries, Canada recorded the smallest decline in output during the recession. It is the only G7 country to have practically returned to pre-recession output levels. It is the only G7 country to have recorded, in March 2010, a year-over-year increase in employment. Since July 2009, our government has contributed to the creation of more than 420,000 jobs.

This exceptional performance has not gone unnoticed by other countries.

Canada's economic leadership stands out and has been recognized by international economic organizations and the press. In an article that appeared in the New York Times on January 31, 2010, economist Paul Krugman wrote that the United States must learn lessons from countries that have obviously made the right choices and that their northern neighbour is at the top of that list.

In this context, Quebec is benefiting from Canada's performance.

In his March 30, 2010 budget speech, Premier Jean Charest said:

The recovery plan we have implemented and the strategic investments we are making in our infrastructure, which total $9.1 billion for 2010-11, have enabled Quebec to distinguish itself and do better than any other economy in the world. With more than 3.9 million Quebeckers in the labour force, we are reaching new heights in our history.

At this time, we would like to point out the importance that Mr. Charest gives to the infrastructure program, which is both an essential component of the economic action plan and an excellent example of intergovernmental co-operation.

Although the economic recovery in Canada remains fragile, Canadians can be proud of how the federal, provincial and territorial governments have worked together to deal with the major issue of the country's economic vitality.

It goes without saying that the model proposed in this bill would have made the implementation of the action plan extremely complicated because of the delays the proposed amendments to the Financial Administration Act would have caused. Our government was able to quickly implement the economic action plan; however, the federal-provincial-territorial negotiations that would be necessary if this bill were passed would make such a quick and efficient response impossible. This is just one of the major flaws in this proposal.

There is also another disadvantage to this bill that does not really seem to pose a problem for the Bloc Québécois but that is certainly an issue for anyone who cares about the proper functioning of our federation: the role that the Government of Canada is called upon to play. The constraints imposed by Bill C-507 would make the federal government's leadership subject to the mercy of the provinces. The bill would deprive the Government of Canada of the latitude needed to react to changing circumstances both within the country and throughout the world. It would also undermine the Government of Canada's ability to strengthen the country in the interest of all Canadians.

I am sure everyone will agree that this bill would not improve the functioning of our federation in any way; the only party in the House that is not striving to achieve this objective is the very same party that is proposing that Bill C-507 be passed. This party's loyalties lie elsewhere and it is easy to see where.

By way of example, I would like to quote the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour who said in the September 11, 1997 issue of Le Droit, “We have to show that federalism is not advantageous for Quebec. Sometimes, it appeared to be working. Now, we will be able to take it apart at our leisure.”

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer some commentary on Bill C-507, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (federal spending power).

It is a very straightforward bill. It basically states:

...no payment shall be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in respect of expenditures relating to any of the subjects listed in section 92 and subsection 92A(1) of the Constitution Act, 1867 that are under provincial jurisdiction.

That is unless the province gives the authority to do so. It basically says that the federal government should stay out of provincial jurisdictions and just give them the money and everything will be fine.

The bill requires the royal recommendation in the first place and, therefore, will not be coming to a vote. However, it does give members an opportunity to put on the record some of the thoughts that they have with regard to the importance of healthy federal-provincial relationships in Canada. There are split jurisdictions but there are some things we must work on together because there is no point in having 10 of something, or 12 if we include the territories, when it is possible to have it all come under one umbrella with a sharing of the cost. It is like economic efficiencies.

I will give an example of such an efficiency which might demonstrate why I feel that the bill is not appropriate. It has to do with the fact that Canada is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have a national public cord blood bank. I am sure most members of Parliament have read stories about how after a baby is born the blood can be removed from the cord and the placenta. It is about a cup of blood that is so enriched with stem cells and pluripotent cells that it can be of enormous benefit to the child that it belongs to should he or she develop health problems. This can be stored. Interestingly enough, though, that is a private system. There are private businesses. I know one of our colleagues is spending $100 a month to store the cord blood for his recently born child.

Other countries have found that, because of the costs involved, this is not a health service available to Canadians as a whole. However, having a public bank would allow people to store cord blood and then, through a registry system similar to the way we match blood types, commence matching for anything requiring compatibility to lessen the risk of rejection. This all has to do with stem cell research and therapy.

The fact that we are the only industrialized country that does not have one causes me to question why we would not do such a thing. We do have the Canadian Blood Services Agency which, in 2007, consulted with the provinces, research groups, transplant physicians and operators of public cord blood banks, and it concluded that Canada needed to establish a national public cord blood bank and that the time to begin was now. However, we have not done it and the reason we have not done it is because we are feuding about money.

I was at a breakfast this morning sponsored by the member for Etobicoke North who is very knowledgeable in this area. She told me that I needed to go to the breakfast because I needed to hear something. We are talking about $60 million to establish a national public cord blood bank. It would be of benefit to all Canadians and in fact would be linked into an international network. I have strayed too far away from the bill in terms of time so I will leave it at that.

This is a perfect example of federal and provincial co-operation. Even though health care delivery is a provincial responsibility, the bill says if we want to have a national bank, go ahead, but the provinces do not want it. The provinces want to be able to opt out and get compensation. With that kind of relationship between the provinces, the territories and the Government of Canada, good things do not and cannot happen.

That is a specific example of why the provinces want to have a national public cord blood bank, but they want to haggle over the cost, and that is why they are so far behind. They are probably about five years behind other countries around the world, because of haggling on the financial side. It is shameful. It is wrong and it should be changed. If I had my way, if I were the minister of finance, I would put $60 million in the budget to start a national public cord blood bank. That is the way it should be done because it is for the health and well-being of all Canadians.

We cannot vote on the bill because it requires a royal recommendation, but I have some other thoughts.

The federal-provincial fiscal arrangements in which the federal government exercises spending power in the areas of jurisdiction afforded to the provinces actually dates back to Confederation when the provinces were provided with grants from the federal government to compensate them for the loss of certain fiscal powers. Today these arrangements form an important and positive nexus in federal-provincial relations that help to shape the economic and social environment of the country. The most visible means by which the federal government exercises this power is through transfer payments, including the Canada health transfer and the Canada social transfer. However, various third party federal trust and federally funded institutions, including the Canadian Foundation for Innovation also act as vehicles for exercising federal spending powers in the provinces.

Some parties consider the manner of federal spending as a forcible encroachment by Ottawa on the provincial jurisdiction, which the bill does without consultations or consent. That has fuelled the desire for increased autonomy, especially in the case of the province of Quebec and, more recently, the province of Alberta. When things are good provincially, we fight for our province.

There comes a point at which there is no rational reason to argue it is me first before the country. That goes not only for provinces, it goes for our people. We are all better off when Canada is strong, when Canada is humming along. Unfortunately, the current government has had some difficulty managing a simple bank book. It did not understand that black was good and red was bad. We have too much red in the books, but if we get more red on the other side of the House, we will fix it and bring it back to the black.

The proposed change the Bloc is seeking in the bill is absent of any explicit authorization from the provincial government and is the main issue within the bill.

The Liberal Party opposes this motion for the same reasons that we opposed the Bloc opposition day motion on October 21, 2010. It was quite extensive, but again, incorporated the same elements of argument in this bill, and members may want to consult the Debates of October 21, 2010, to get more background and details as to the arguments made by the various parties.

Having said that, the bill is not votable. However, should it have been votable, the Liberals would vote against it and we oppose the principle of the bill.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the members speaking on this issue here today. Of course, no political system is considered perfect. Some would say that the current system is very generous towards the provinces, but in what way? It is generous towards the provinces with the provinces' money. It is generous with the power it gives itself with the money that the provinces or the taxpayers must pay to the provincial and federal governments.

The hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière tried earlier to justify the federal government's stranglehold over provincial powers by citing urgency. He probably wrote his speech yesterday when it was extremely cold out. He gave a speech that I would describe as numb, as though from the cold. He had no idea where he was going with his totally gratuitous remarks.

In the current situation, one would have to be either small-minded or an idiot to say such things to Quebeckers. If he really believes them or if the Conservatives really believe them, we can only denounce such woeful ignorance.

Bill C-507 focuses on three principles. First, it seeks the explicit elimination of Ottawa's self-given right to spend in areas outside its jurisdiction, a right Ottawa claimed not by citing urgency and saying that it knows how to spend our money better than we do, but rather by believing that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. That is what the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière was saying. Asking for permission would have taken too long. He is probably right, because we agree that having endless discussions on the Constitution and on the power to do this and that takes too long.

We only need to look at how the federal Minister of Finance behaves with the Quebec finance minister concerning tax harmonization. They have been arguing about it and discussing it for 19 years. He says that it does not seem to be taking too long and that the officials are going to continue discussing it. As long as they are in discussion, Quebec will not see any money. Time is money.

The second aspect of Bill C-507 has to do with Quebec's systematic right to opt out without conditions and with full compensation. In other words, having joined Confederation once upon a time, we could agree to put this or that into the pot, but if something has been forcibly taken from us then it must be given back.

The third aspect is that compensation has to come in the form of tax points and not a cheque. We know full well that sometimes a cheque can be withheld. We see that clearly with the Minister of Finance, who owes $5 billion to Quebec. He says he is not sending us the cheque. There were two court rulings, one in 2006 and another in 2008. The government did not go to the Supreme Court because it would have been denounced. It is not paying. Anyone in this House who had two court rulings ordering him to pay up would have his assets seized if he did not. In this case, the Queen is saying that we cannot seize crown assets. We are fed up with this type of discussion. We are not interested in getting cheques. We want tax points in order to determine a tax field that would belong to us.

This entire discussion is the basic principle behind our sovereignist or independence movement. We want to do things our own way. The members opposite can have their own country, the way they want it. I have no problem with that. If they want to give the automotive industry $10 billion, that is fine by me. If they want to give the oil industry billions of dollars, that is just great, but let them do it with their own money, not with mine or ours. We need the money for the forestry industry. That is spending power.

We have our own beliefs, principles and views. We want to build a country in a certain way. What is a country? It is tax principles. In other words, we do not like the tax havens that others encourage. We do not like fraudsters. On Tuesday, in the Standing Committee on Finance, we were told that Canada was promoting the use of tax havens. If that is what they want, that is fine, but we do not agree. Can we opt out and have our own tax policies?

There is also the social aspect. I met with the Minister of Finance yesterday. I told him that, for us, community housing and the fight against homelessness, for example, are very important. We shall see. For years they have said no, they do not agree. If they do not agree, that is fine, but what we are saying is that as long as we are part of this country, we want our money. The member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière was right in saying that our stated political goal is to get the heck out of here, to be somewhere else, at home, in Quebec. That is what we are doing today, what we did yesterday and what we will be doing tomorrow.

However, as long as the people say that they are willing to wait for a “yes” vote in a referendum, we will be here, because we were elected by people who asked us to be here. And the members need not be worried: we will get re-elected. We will get re-elected because we have different social and moral objectives.

We saw it with the gun registry. The vote was not close, not at all. It is not true that there was a two-vote difference. More than 75% of Quebec members voted to keep the gun registry and more than 60% of Canadian members voted against it. They might scrap it, but we do not agree and we will create our own.

There are fundamental differences. This bill is super-simple. It asks the government to stop encroaching on our jurisdictions, to stop acting like highway robbers who claim to know what we need. We have had enough constitutional negotiations. We have had enough fighting over the numbers. Is it $6 billion, $5 billion or $2 billion? What do you want? What do you not want? What do we want? What do we not want? Today it was about taxing diapers. Come on. They can tax them if they want to, but we do not want to.

In the meantime, we want our full powers. That is what this bill is about, and I will say that this bill is just a reasonable accommodation until we are able to pick up and leave, when we have the power to make Quebec our own country. That is why we are all here. That is why I am here and that is why we will be here until Quebec sovereignty is a reality.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to add a number of words on this particular bill before us. I disagree with what the previous speaker was talking about. Having been a provincial legislator for almost 19 years, I understand there are many issues in each and every province and, at times, many of these issues dictated that we did not necessarily agree with what Ottawa was saying, or what this prestigious chamber was acting on.

On different issues at different times, there are always going to be differing opinions. However, at the end of the day, I see the merit of having a strong national government that is able to provide programming standards from one coast to the other. I think that is critically important.

If one listens to the logic of the previous speaker and the talk about tax points, the point made was not to give us money but the tax points. So if a province wants to opt out of something, give us the tax points.

In the 1990s, there was a great debate in the province of Manitoba. It centred around health care. Manitoba politicians were arguing that based on the tax points transfers, it was only a question of time before Ottawa would not be giving any money towards health care. I would argue that the day that occurs, the federal government would not have any real influence in terms of national health care standards in any province in Canada. We need to have the cash transfers. If we do not have the cash transfers, we do not have the ability to ensure that the Canada Health Act is in fact being respected. There has to be the money. If we do not have the money, if we are not prepared to pay part of the bill, we will not be able to ensure there are national health standards.

There are people in every province across Canada who would like to see no money coming from Ottawa, that all of the money would just come in the form of a tax transfer. There are people in Manitoba who would ultimately argue that point. However, I believe a majority see the merit of having national health care standards.

If we ask Canadians, no matter in what province, we will find that Canadians are very proud of the health care system we have. Yes, the provinces have the primary responsibility for administering health care. I know that, because for years I was the health care critic in the province of Manitoba. However, Ottawa has a responsibility to ensure there are national health care standards, to ensure that every Canadian has the right to go into a hospital, whether in the province of P.E.I., Newfoundland, B.C., Alberta, Quebec, or any other province.

My ancestors come from the province of Quebec. I am very proud of the province of Quebec and the things that are happening there, as I am very proud of every province in our country. I believe there need to be national standards.

I am a very proud Manitoban. I love my province and I was part of that debate during the 1990s when we were talking about national standards in health care, and when we had the tax points dwindling the federal commitment to health care. Those things concern me. I was glad when former Prime Minister Chrétien said they were going to establish a floor, a guarantee, in terms of health care funding. That was a good thing, and Canadians supported it.

If we followed the advice of some members or some Canadians from whatever province, we would never have an ability to have a national daycare program. Remember, it takes leadership to demonstrate and respond to what Canadians from all provinces want to see. Daycare is one of those issues. I would suggest that if in the future, we want to be able to have an national daycare program or to support daycare in every province, one of the things we can do is to look at some form of national financial commitment to ensure there are some standards in place, so that every parent or guardian is able to have his or her child in a program.

There are many different types of contributions Ottawa makes to the provinces that are critical to their overall development.

When Lloyd Axworthy was a minister, he made a commitment to redevelop a core area of Winnipeg, The Forks. Today, over two million people visit The Forks. The Forks is a reality today because of an Ottawa initiative. It was Lloyd Axworthy who came up with the idea. He shared it with others and said the government was prepared to put in some money. The provincial and municipal governments got onside and now there is a wonderful, beautiful thing in Winnipeg. Millions of people every year go through The Forks. Prior to that, it was a raw piece of land that had train tracks on it. No one went there. Now it is a magnet for tourism.

This was done because there was a federal government that took an interest in a certain development in the city of Winnipeg. I would argue that this sort of interest is not just in Winnipeg. There are other politicians in all political parties, even within the Bloc no doubt, who have ideas that could make a difference in their provinces. Why would anyone want to prevent Ottawa from encouraging it or investing in it?

That is why it is important to recognize the valuable contributions Ottawa has made in the past and can continue to make in the future, but we need to recognize and respect that provinces have primary responsibilities in certain areas. We have to respect that, but that does not mean we do not play a role in it.

I remember some of the debates on the Constitution. I do not want to open up that issue, but I can recall that one issue was housing. One issue was that maybe the provinces should have sole responsibility for housing and if we followed the logic of the Bloc members, they would say to get rid of the transfer payments and the cash and give tax points instead.

Today Ottawa nowhere near as much as I or many provinces would like to see should be investing in housing. Housing is a serious issue in every province. We need to provide more affordable housing to all Canadians. To say that the federal government does not have a responsibility for that is hogwash. The federal government does have a responsibility to provide shelter for all Canadians, no matter in what province they live. It has a role to play. It is our responsibility. It is time we started living up to those types of responsibilities.

When the government is deficient in addressing those issues, it is the responsibility of the opposition to remind the government that it has that responsibility.

If a resolution, motion or a bill passed of this nature, imagine the profound impact it would have on our nation and how we would we be serving Canadians by allowing a bill of this nature to be passed. It does not matter where one lives.

At the end of the day, if it is important to Canadians, it should be important to us. If there is a way in which we can deal with some of those issues by supporting municipal or provincial governments and working in co-operation with the Quebec government or the Manitoba government, we should be doing it. That is what I would be arguing for.

I feel very passionate about this issue and look forward to many more debates on it.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleague from Hochelaga for his earlier remarks about this bill. He spoke with all the zeal and passion we have come to expect from him. Specifically, he spoke clearly about Bill C-507.

I have the pleasure of rising to conclude the debate at second reading of Bill C-507 regarding what has become known as the so-called federal spending power.

Contrary to what the members for other parties may have said over the course of the debate, the purpose of this bill is not theoretical debate, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister might think, nor is it an “esoteric constitutional matter,” as it was described by the member for Brossard—La Prairie during first reading.

First, I would like to remind those esteemed members that the termination of the so-called federal spending power is something that Quebec has been demanding for a long time. In fact, since the 1960s, no matter what their political party, all the successive Quebec governments have been disputing the so-called spending power that the federal government has given itself. The federal government gave itself this power in order to assume unlawful oversight in Quebec's affairs and impose its standards and conditions on Quebec. I am always extremely surprised to hear Conservative members from Quebec accept this fact. By exercising this so-called power, the federal government negates the social choices that Quebeckers have made, are making and will make. The reason this issue is important is that in Quebec we are concerned about our health care, education and other systems. And that is neither theoretical nor esoteric.

For instance, consider the example of research in Quebec universities. Federal funding in this area comes with strings attached, which means that the federal government can choose the areas of research it wants to promote. In budget 2008, for example, research grants were awarded on the condition that the research relate to business. Other examples are the Mental Health Commission of Canada or the cervical cancer vaccination program announced by the Conservative government in budget 2007, whereby the transfer of federal funds was conditional on respect for federal priorities without taking into account the priorities of Quebec and the provinces.

During the 2005 election campaign, they tried to seduce Quebec by promising to eliminate the fiscal imbalance, even though the federal government's exercise of the so-called spending power is an integral part of the fiscal imbalance.

A few months after the election, the Prime Minister even added: “I have said many times, even since the election of this new government, that I am opposed and our party is opposed to federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions. In my opinion, such spending power in the provinces' exclusive jurisdictions goes against the very spirit of federalism. Our government is clear that we do not intend to act in that way.”

Since that time, however, the Conservative government has definitely not “delivered the goods”. Indeed, in budget 2007, it instead quietly mentioned that it wanted to limit the supposed federal spending power instead of ending it altogether. After project seduction and the election campaign were over, we began to see the true colours of this government. By saying it wanted to limit a power that does not exist, the government was in fact acknowledging it.

Then, in budget 2008, the government said it wanted to introduce a bill that would impose limits on the so-called federal spending power in areas of Quebec and provincial jurisdiction. Obviously, we are getting further and further from the Conservatives' original promise. In fact, the Conservatives are simply following in the footsteps of all previous federal governments, regardless of their party colours: interfering in fields of Quebec and provincial jurisdiction to set national standards and determine what Quebec's priorities should be, instead of allowing Quebec to do so.

As for the NDP, in the first hour of debate, the member for Outremont used a false pretext to avoid saying he was in favour of the bill. The bill would set the record straight by limiting federal spending power to the federal government's own areas of jurisdiction. If the provinces want the federal government to interfere in their affairs, they can sign agreements. The member for Outremont said that he recognized the federal government's right to interfere in areas outside its own jurisdiction, and that he would legitimize the so-called spending power by amending our bill to say that this power exists, except for Quebec.

We cannot accept that. The rule must be clear: the federal government cannot spend money in areas outside its own jurisdiction, unless it is exceptionally asked by a province.

Lastly, all of the federalist parties refuse to recognize that the so-called federal spending power has no basis and that we must put an end to it and give some tax room to Quebec and the provinces to properly fulfill their responsibilities in accordance with their own priorities.

All of these federalist parties insist on legitimizing this so-called spending power to continue to deny Quebec's legitimate aspirations and choices. In fact, all—

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour will please say yea.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Federal Spending Power Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.