Mr. Speaker, the reinstatement motion before us is a motion which, of course, does not at all satisfy the Bloc Quebecois, particularly in light of the events that have occurred over the past few months within the government and the Liberal Party of Canada.
This motion would have been totally pointless if, after the election of the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chrétien, had decided to leave and had allowed the new Prime Minister, assuming he wanted to do so, to keep the session open. Instead, for reasons of politics, they preferred to prorogue, supposedly to allow the new Prime Minister to prepare the Speech from the Throne. However, when we look at the speech that was delivered, we immediately realize that this was an operation simply designed to prepare for the upcoming election.
Similarly, no one is fooled by the reinstatement motion. If we look at the bills that were selected, such as C-17, C-13 and C-49, it is obvious that the motion is only necessary for Bill C-49, because the Prime Minister's stated objective is to call an election as soon as possible once the new electoral map comes into effect.
So, we have this reinstatement motion which, as I mentioned, includes the following bills: C-17, on public safety; C-13, on assisted human reproduction, and C-49, on the effective date of the representation order. However, no mention is made of Bill C-34, on the ethics commissioner. According to this bill, the ethics commissioner should now be accountable to the House and not to the Prime Minister, as was previously the case. In my opinion, the review of this legislation is much more urgent than that of the bills included in the reinstatement motion.
This is particularly true today, considering that the Auditor General's report will be tabled in a few hours, if not a few minutes. I think we really do need an independent ethics commissioner who is accountable to all the members of this House.
Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose this reinstatement motion. First, as I mentioned, the motion would have been pointless if things had been conducted in a normal fashion, if the new Prime Minister had taken over Mr. Chrétien's duties within a normal timeframe, and not the way it was done, by using that time to avoid having to answer questions in the House.
We will vote against this motion on reinstatement, particularly since we had previously voiced our opposition to Bill C-17 on public safety. We have absolutely no interest in seeing this bill come before the House again. The public safety bill extends the responsibilities of the RCMP and CSIS. In November 2002, the privacy commissioner himself wrote, and I quote:
But my concern is that the RCMP would also be expressly empowered to use this information to seek out persons wanted on warrants for Criminal Code offences that have nothing to do with terrorism, transportation security or national security.
What is the point in reinstating this bill when the privacy commissioner himself considers it problematic.
The same goes for the bill on assisted human reproduction. This bill has been long awaited. Perhaps there is a serious need to adopt various rules on, for instance, cloning, but Bill C-13—true to Liberal government form—encroaches on the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces in terms of health.
On October 7, 2003, Quebec's health minister, Philippe Couillard, expressed concern that Bill C-13 encroached on Quebec's jurisdiction. He said,
We have sent a clear signal to the federal government that we are very concerned about certain aspects of the bill, which we see as a clear encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.
So, why would the Bloc Quebecois support reinstating a bill that, in the opinion of Quebec's own health minister, infringed on Quebec jurisdiction?
Finally, there is Bill C-49. Although our criticisms are known, they deserve repeating. If any area deserves the utmost objectivity and the most transparent neutrality—the need to set aside all partisanship with regard to the Canada Elections Act—if any legislation should be non-partisan, this is it.
These reasons, which are exactly the same as those leading to the fall prorogation, so a new Prime Minister could prepare a throne speech that was ultimately a failure, account for the introduction of Bill C-49. In other words, so that the effective date of the new electoral map could be moved forward, thereby allowing the new Prime Minister to go before voters in short order.
Consequently, as in the case of the last session, which was adjourned, and the reinstatement motion, it is for partisan reasons only that Motion No. 2 is being put forward. This is unacceptable.
It is all the more unacceptable that the strategy of the new Prime Minister and the Liberal government is to put off all the problems that are priorities for Quebeckers and Canadians.
For instance, the Prime Minister does not want to take a stand in the same-sex marriage issue so he asked the Supreme Court a fourth question. The answer will come after the election, of course.
In the Arar affair, the Prime Minister began by saying that the Americans must have had a good reason to deport Mr. Arar to Syria. Afterward, he realized that Canadians and Quebeckers thought this a rather weak response. He then spoke of a possible independent inquiry. Then he said that the Government of Canada had nothing to be ashamed of. Again he realized that public opinion was not with him. His next move was to call a public inquiry, the results of which will be made known after the election.
What came out of the meeting with the provincial premiers is that things are grim with respect to transfer payments to the provinces. Here again, the approach is to put things off. We are told a serious discussion will be held on this issue—which is urgent now, not six months from now, I would even say it was urgent the day before yesterday—but not until next summer, or after the election.
No one is being fooled by this strategy of postponing matters. The Prime Minister wants to keep all his options open and have carte blanche from this House, Canadians and Quebeckers to do what he thinks is best. This will not work because the opposition, the Bloc Quebecois in particular, will require him to provide answers now and during the election campaign.
I bet that with the tabling of the Auditor General's report on the sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister will try to come up with some trick to postpone the findings and his positions until after the election. An independent inquiry will probably be recommended without any set date, again to ensure that the findings are not made public until after the election.
They said to us, “We have to shut down the House, because we have serious work to do; we have to prepare a Speech from the Throne to set a new direction for this government”, which, it seems, was worn out after its 10 long years in power.
What do we find in the throne speech? Nothing: nothing concerning the priorities of Canadians and Quebeckers. There is absolutely nothing to settle the fiscal imbalance. I remind the House that this is a very serious problem.
We do know that the agreement on health which was signed in February 2003 by the provincial premiers and former Prime Minister Chrétien will expire next year, and that the amounts have gone down considerably.
This year, even with the injection of $475 million for Quebec, which has been announced three times, or the $2 billion ad hoc injection for the health sector by the federal government, even with that, according to the study by Quebec's finance minister, Mr. Séguin, the Government of Quebec will receive 4.5% less in federal transfer payments. Equalization payments will decline by 38%.
We might have expected that the Prime Minister would at least tell us the schedule and what his guidelines would be concerning negotiations on the equalization agreement, which expires very soon, on March 31, in fact. That is not after the election, and so now is the time for answers.
Meanwhile, the provincial finance ministers and premiers have to juggle with speculation about the future of health financing. We know that health financing also determines all kinds of other choices to be made in government policy for the provinces, particularly for Quebec.
I will give the House an example. The Quebec finance minister, Mr. Séguin, told us several months ago that there was a shortfall of $3 billion, and that he did not want to touch either health or education. The Quebec budget, setting aside health and education, amounts to $9 billion. Can the Government of Quebec reasonably be expected to cover this $3 billion shortfall out of this $9 billion?
Because of the unwillingness of the federal Liberal government and the current Prime Minister to provide answers, the Government of Quebec will have no other choice but to reduce its health and education costs. Health and education are priorities for Quebeckers and I am sure for all Canadians.
We would have expected the federal government to tell us, in the throne speech, how it intends to deal with fiscal imbalance, whether it is through equalization, the social transfer for health or other sectors, or even through tax point transfers, which is, as you know, the option preferred by the Bloc Quebecois.
However, the throne speech is silent on this issue. It is not mentioned at all. As I said earlier, the announcement was like a lead balloon. We were told that $2 million would be forthcoming. The former finance minister could have made the announcement in his economic statement, last October 31. It could even have been announced as soon as the agreement with the first ministers was struck in February 2002, if my memory serves me well.
So, there is nothing for health. The throne speech does not even mention the fiscal imbalance as an issue that the government will have to deal with. There is nothing on employment insurance. This is rather odd, particularly considering that, back in June, the Prime Minister himself promised a coalition of community groups and unions called the Sans-chemise in the Charlevoix region that he would settle this issue. Not only is the issue not settled, it was not even mentioned in the throne speech as an issue for which the federal government needs to find a solution quickly.
As we know, seasonal workers will soon be entering the so-called spring gap. These workers will no longer qualify for employment insurance, but they will not have gone back to work yet. There is nothing for these people, who cannot get social benefits, because one must use up a significant amount of his assets before qualifying. So, these people will have to use up their savings, because the federal government cannot find a solution to a problem that it recognizes, since the current Prime Minister had pledged to the Sans-chemise coalition that he would find such a solution.
So, there is nothing on employment insurance and on the fiscal imbalance. As regards our seniors, the hon. member for Champlain conducted an extraordinary campaign on the guaranteed income supplement, and this resulted in thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians getting this supplement, because for years the federal government had been as discreet as possible about the existence of this program. Now, things are easier thanks to the Bloc Quebecois, although this supplement was not made fully retroactive.
Indeed, those who were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement for years and who just found out that they are entitled to it are getting 11 months of retroactive payments, when they should at least get the same retroactive period that the current Prime Minister gave himself with Bill C-28. As we know, Bill C-28 was passed in 1998, but was retroactive to 1995, the year when Canada Steamship Lines International transferred its headquarters from Liberia to Barbados.
Consequently, the Prime Minister gave himself a retroactive measure. However, in the case of the elderly, this retroactive measure would represent too much money for the federal government. Once again, we must say that, even if the surplus is perhaps lower this year, due to economic circumstances, the government will still have quite a major surplus.
Thus, this reinstatement motion is presented to us in this context. I believe that, in this context, the opposition has no choice but to oppose this reinstatement motion, because we would be playing the partisan game of this government and this new Prime Minister, who is absolutely not a champion of change. Indeed, he wants, perhaps through a veneer, to pursue the same type of operations that were taking place when the former prime minister, Mr. Chrétien, was here.
Indeed, let not us delude ourselves. The Liberal Party of Canada is a structure, a machine that has, unfortunately, governed Canada too often and for too long and that has a vision of Canada that in no way reflects Quebecers' interests. The only specific aspects in the throne speech that was presented to us reflect just that.
The Liberal Party of Canada has a centralizing vision of the Canadian federation. It is Ottawa that must make the decisions. For the federal government, the provinces—I said this once in front of mayors, and I will say it one last time to tell you this anecdote—are big municipalities at best. Of course, mayors in my region were shocked. So I then used another expression. Now I say that, for the federal government, the provinces are big regional boards at best. I can say this now that the Liberal government in Quebec City has abolished them. This no longer shocks anyone.
A number of means will be decentralized, but the federal government will still have control over the way the money is spent.