House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 24th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I would like the member to comment, if he wants to, on any of these things. He made a good point about housing missing from this, as well as shelters, which is very important in my riding.

I asked the Minister of Finance to increase the mineral exploration tax credit to make it longer and more permanent. The good news is he did for one year, and I am glad he did that, but the mining associations wanted it for more years to give a longer certainty. Would the member support me on that?

Also, there was embarrassingly little for aboriginal Canadians. Museum programs were cut, including the MAP program for small museums. Fifteen arts programs were cut, including the travelling museum exhibits, which are very important for the Yukon. The Conservatives also closed the dental therapy school, the only one in Canada.

The Canadian Environmental Network, which does great work across Canada, will now have to close. The friendship centres have not received a cost of living increase during the entire term of the government. There was nothing for the great CAIRS Yukon project or for search and rescue for the north, which the Senate just said had to be put in, as I have said for five years now.

There were cuts made to the Canadian Tourism Commission. There is nothing for child care, addictions, mental health and, as the member said, there is very little for students and seniors.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the list of complaints expressed by my colleague. The cuts made by the current government strengthen my conviction that, in the areas of culture, research and education, it is not choosing its priorities based on the needs of the general public.

I believe that the government is wrapped up in its ideology, and would spend billions of dollars on punishment and militarism rather than on direct assistance for people who sorely need it. That is what the Bloc finds deplorable about the budget, and that is why we will be voting against it.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. Bloc Québécois colleagues for supporting me in my speech on the budget.

I am pleased to speak here today, because the budget is of particular interest to me. As the member for Québec and caucus chair for the Quebec City region, I cannot help but note that the Quebec City region has been forgotten in this budget. The budget reads more like an election speech, since the measures within the budget are simply a smattering of goodies for vulnerable groups.

The Conservatives will say that, during the election campaign, seniors will not get their $50 a month. They said we did not read the budget, but with our experience here in the House of Commons, we have a good research service and members who have a thorough grasp of their files. From a careful look at the budget, we could see right away how little it has to offer Quebec.

We made some very targeted requests in precise figures. In fact, the Conservative Minister of Finance even said that the Bloc had done a good job. So why are we not voting in favour of this budget at the outset? We had asked for $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing the GST and the QST. Six provinces have been compensated, including British Columbia, Ontario and the maritime provinces. Yet Quebec is being ignored. Several billion dollars were given to those provinces in compensation: $1.6 billion to British Columbia, $4.3 billion to Ontario and $1 billion to the Maritimes, for a total of about $7 billion. Quebec paid $1.75 billion of that amount to compensate them. We are asking for $2.2 billion.

It is also shocking to see how quickly the Conservatives agreed to that: after 244 days for Ontario and 131 days for British Columbia. How long has Quebec been waiting for an agreement to be signed? How many days? It has been 6,841 days. It is truly shocking to watch the Conservatives drag their feet on this issue.

Earlier, the Conservative member for Beauport—Limoilou said that we are always whining. We read the papers just like everyone else, just like the citizens of the Quebec City region. We know very well that Minister Bachand has been working hard while trying not to upset the Conservatives too much because they react easily and he does not want them to slam the door and say that they will not compensate Quebec. Nevertheless, Quebec has been waiting for this money. If Quebec had $2.2 billion dollars in its coffers, the Government of Quebec would be able to pay off 60% of its deficit, which would give it more flexibility to meet the needs of the people.

Conservative MPs from the Quebec City area should have demonstrated more leadership with regard to this budget, which could be called an election announcement. The epicentre for the MPs that were elected here in the House is the Quebec City region, which has six representatives. If there is an election—we are, of course, still waiting to see if there will be one—we will hound the Quebec City region's MPs. They will have to answer questions. During debates or when they are interviewed by our local and regional newspapers, they will have to answer, in an intelligent way, certain questions that we want to ask them.

For example, they put on Nordiques jerseys to support the team coming back to Quebec City. We do not know why they put those sweaters on but, in the end, they did not bring in any funding for the Quebec City arena. They said that private funding was needed. Private funding was obtained and then they wanted something else. The real reason was put in writing. There was a directive from the Prime Minister's office stating that funding would not be given for arenas anywhere in Canada. The Conservatives also wanted to make it seem as though this arena would be used exclusively for sports. That is untrue. This is a multi-purpose arena that would house cultural and sporting events, as well as some Olympic events. Clearly, the people of Quebec City have been misled.

Furthermore, a number of issues have been put on the back burner, for example, the Quebec Bridge.

My hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert has worked hard on defending that issue in the Quebec City area. He also moved a motion in the House calling on the government to repurchase the bridge and enter into discussion with the owners, CN, to find a solution. Again, we saw the Conservatives' bad faith with this file. They acted just like the Liberals and let the matter drag on, saying it was up to the courts to decide. In the meantime, as in Montreal, the bridge is rusting and it could end up costing more than we think. This was an important issue for the Quebec City area.

The Shannon issue is one that I have followed closely and on which I have dogged the government. The groundwater in Shannon is contaminated. We will not get into details about the levels of contamination, but the shocking thing is that the government failed to include any money in this budget for decontamination.

It would cost roughly $20 million a year for a technique that might be better than the last one. This technique would allow us to move forward and clean up the groundwater so that people in the municipality of Shannon can be safe. I know that this case is currently before the courts, but enough with the excuses.

Before the last election, many things were promised. For example, they promised to resolve the mail sorting centre issue and to do something for the zoo. Once the election was over, we did not hear another word about these plans and they moved on to other things. Many things need to be addressed and there will be many more challenges to face for the development of the Quebec City area.

The Prime Minister said in his speech, the day after bringing down this electoral budget, that he was focused on job creation. If there is one issue in the Quebec City area that all members from Quebec City should focus on it is the Davie shipyard issue.

The rules for the request for proposals were changed causing the shipyard to lose weeks, and thereby preventing it from being able to restructure and become solvent. Regardless of what we want to do in this case, they have stymied our ability to be proactive.

In Le Soleil or the Journal de Québec, a daily newspaper in our region, the counterpart of the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse has said he thinks the federal government should be much broader in its request for proposals and give this company the opportunity to prove its solvency.

What is shocking is hearing the leader of the members from the Quebec City region, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, say that the Quebec City region should not expect the Davie shipyard to be a priority. We can see what little weight she carries in cabinet when it comes to talking about the Davie shipyard. She herself said that there should be no expectations, even if the Davie shipyard were solvent. She should stand up for her region and be proactive. She should do everything she can to ensure that the Davie shipyard receives its fair share. The total for all of the contracts is said to be $35 billion. Could the Quebec City region not receive its fair share? We are talking about 2,700 jobs and economic spinoffs to the tune of $2.1 billion, but the Conservatives are nowhere to be seen.

Earlier, I mentioned the Quebec Bridge. Money was taken from the fund for the continental gateway strategy to restore the Champlain Bridge. This fund is meant for modifications or economic inputs in connection with the St. Lawrence River and for the continental gateway. The money being taken from that fund is not new money, and that is what I find despicable about how this government works. We are seeing a smattering of goodies to please voters. I think that vulnerable groups are being held hostage. We know what the Conservatives are capable of doing. During the previous election, we saw how they could dangle the idea of another $50, but we also know that there was a price.

So it is not for everyone. People need to take a close look at this measure.

It is too bad; I would have liked to speak longer. the Quebec City region and a number of leaders were disappointed by the Conservatives' motives in the region—

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, since I arrived in the House of Commons I have been teased by our friends in the Bloc, who say that there is a good and a bad Bernard Généreux, the good one being the president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités. After the budget was presented on Tuesday, I saw this:

Mr. Généreux also welcomed the measure that would make the annual $2 billion investment in the gas tax fund permanent. With such an announcement, municipalities were hoping for more stable funding.

If he was good yesterday, he is still good today. They just said that he is the good Bernard Généreux and that I am the bad one. In the budget, we said that municipalities—I was a mayor once myself—have the right to receive funding. That is what we did.

I would ask my colleague to respond to that.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, he said that he may be the good Généreux, but I know the difference between good and bad. I wish him luck, because this could be his last or second-last day here in the House. We have a good Bloc Québécois candidate who will be able to rise to the challenges that he has not been able to meet for the Quebec City region. We will have people who will be able to speak. Speaking also brings power. During the election campaign we will speak about the good things and, especially, the bad things the Conservatives have done.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the litany of projects in the Quebec City region that have come to nothing under the Conservative government, I would like to ask my colleague what she thinks of members who say that it is important to be in power, to be in government.

Does that mean that there are first-tier and second-tier members throughout the country?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. It says a lot about what the Conservative members think of democracy. Members have to be elected to Parliament, they have to be in government. The Conservatives have not understood that the opposition is there to monitor the government’s actions. They would prefer it if there were 308 Conservative members in the House who got to make decisions without ever being criticized.

They have not understood what a true democracy is. It always makes me smile when I see the Prime Minister go to another country and say that he is going to help it. I will not single out any particular country. The government wants to bring democracy to other countries, but perhaps it should start by taking a look at Canada. That is what we are asking for. The situation is quite shocking. Things often get heated because the Conservatives have no respect for the work done by opposition members, whether they be Liberals, New Democrats or members of the Bloc Québécois.

Rather than saying that a particular member is whining, the Conservatives should consider that the member is analyzing an issue, consulting different segments of the population that they do not consult, and relaying those perspectives back to them. A democracy means allowing people to speak. Yesterday, we were told that we were not capable of reading a budget. That attitude is truly contemptuous of how seriously all members here take their work.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the government has cancelled and closed the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. For a number of scientists studying climate across Quebec and the north, it is very important. Does the member think that is a terrible loss to Canada?

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, this is a very important issue that the Bloc Québécois takes quite seriously. It is our hope that the Conservative Party will really put its heart into this rather than simply continuing to put a spin on the situation, as is its wont. Any action that the Conservatives have taken to help the underprivileged amounts to peanuts. All they are offering is crumbs. I hope that the public will understand the issues at stake in the election campaign, including the democratic deficit. The Conservatives are also trying to gain the favour of the most fragile groups in society, which is dangerous.

Act of Bravery
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to pay tribute to a brave young man from my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul.

On December 4 last year, Kole Devisscher was driving along the Red River when he noticed a young boy struggling to pull himself out of the frigid water. Kole immediately sprang into action to rescue 10-year-old Ralph Chartrand. With only a tow rope in hand, he put his own life in great jeopardy as he ventured out onto the treacherous ice. Astutely, Kole made a loop with the tow rope and guided the young boy into putting the rope over his shoulders, before pulling him out of the river.

By risking his well-being for the life of another, Kole Devisscher truly embodies the values of what it means to be a Canadian. He is a true hero and an inspiration to us all.

As a result of his courageous actions, I am honoured to nominate him for the Governor General's Medal of Bravery.

I invite all members to join me in applauding Kole's bravery.

Susan Audrey Van Bibber
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

On February 28, the Yukon lost one of its great matriarchs, Susan Audrey Van Bibber (Chambers), née Dickson, at 99 years of age.

We could not possibly write a history of the Yukon without mentioning her legendary contributions and those of her 154 descendants and the many others she took under her wing.

She was a hard-working, tough, gritty Yukon woman, trapping, wrangling and chasing horses well into her eighties.

She was a wonderful cook, making incredible moose stew, and her cinnamon buns were gone as soon as they came out of the oven.

Sue was entertaining storyteller, and her family and friends could see the world through her eyes as she wittily shared her endless stories of people and places spanning a century.

Sue's pride and joy was her family. She was loved and will be sadly missed by her husband of 67 years, Alex Van Bibber, and those remaining of her 9 children, 46 grandchildren, 73 great-grandchildren and 26 great-great-grandchildren.

We all miss Sue. May God bless her. Massi.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, the federalist parties are unable to respond to the aspirations of Quebeckers and constantly minimize the achievements of the Bloc Québécois, even though there are numerous examples of the Bloc Québécois achieving concrete results for Quebec.

Only yesterday, Bill C-35 on immigration consultants received royal assent. It is thanks to the work of the Bloc Québécois members that the act contains a “Quebec clause”, which means that all immigration consultants in Quebec will have to meet Quebec’s requirements, which include fluency in French.

Without the hard work of the Bloc, there would be two categories of immigration consultants in Quebec today: those accredited by the federal government, who would not be required to be fluent in French, and those recognized by the Government of Quebec. Fortunately, the Bloc was here to get concrete results for Quebec and for the French language.

The Budget
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, New Democrats want to make this Parliament work. That is why we proposed a practical, doable plan to lift seniors out of poverty, provide pension security, and to ensure that Canadians have access to doctors and nurses.

The problem is that the current Conservative government is only interested in playing games and undermining our democratic institution.

My constituents do not want an election. They need help to make life more affordable.

New Democrats listened, but Conservatives did not. They are too busy behaving as if they are above the law. Is it any wonder we have another instance of abuse of power with the Prime Minister's own former top aide, Bruce Carson?

Just yesterday, I returned a call from a constituent in Capreol, Mrs. Greaves, who had called me to say that she was totally disgusted and insulted by the budget. She said that the $600 in the budget barely addressed her needs. Mrs. Greaves is 72 years old and is still working as a nurse because she has no choice. That is no way to treat our seniors.

It is not too late for the government to change its course and adopt the NDP's practical, doable plan for--

The Budget
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member for Abbotsford.