The former Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, even if she lost her department, should allow me to continue. We listen when she speaks, so I would appreciate it if she would do the same for me. I will be happy to answer her questions in due time.
What matters is not to seek visibility through one small-scale initiative after another. I have worked in the community sector. I have also worked with community organizations, particularly cooperative housing corporations. Applying for every program under the sun and trying to please everyone, one can lose sight of what matters and, in community organizations, what matters is to provide services to the public. An inordinate amount of time could be wasted wondering whether this little federal program with this little goal requirement or that little provincial program with that little goal requirement should be applied for, when the agreement is only for one, two or three years, after which there will be a new fad.
My experience of these applications is that what the federal government requires makes you feel like saying never mind. They are very complicated, take a very long time to fill out and, more often than not, are rejected. That is a huge waste of time. And the public is not well served by that. This is true for community organizations as well as for those working with persons with disabilities and even child care centres and agencies dealing with parental leave. This kind of duplication wastes a great deal of energy. It may give government employees work, but that is not the objective. The objective is to use the allocated money properly.
Initially, this megadepartment with 12,000 employees will basically be responsible for managing seniors programs; 97% of its budget is earmarked for that. Unfortunately, straightforwardness and clarity are not this government's strong suit, and neither is administrative efficiency.
There is something on file about that. According to the Auditor General, the department's data did not provide an accurate picture because certain programs are netted, which makes it difficult to know what exactly the expenditures and the tax revenues were. Netting diminishes actual program expenditures. The Auditor General offered many comments and suggestions to remedy the situation. So, we do not have an accurate picture.
According to the available picture, however, the budget is essentially allocated to seniors. On the other hand, there is always this will to re-create, through this structure, little visibility programs, which I call future social sponsorship scandals. These scandals will not necessarily flow from kickbacks to the Liberal Party, this time around, at least I hope so, nor from small gifts given to the ad companies. The source of those scandals will rather be that money is being spent uselessly, without an integrated policy, through small one-year, two-year or three-year programs which, generally speaking, are set up based on the front pages of newspapers and on the flavour of the month, rather than being based on an integrated approach to fight child poverty.
We know that the federal government is far from the objectives in that area. It will not fight in an integrated fashion against poverty, or social inequities. It will design small, high-visibility programs, which is very costly for society. We cannot afford such duplication.
I am saddened by the creation of these megadepartments of national encroachment, these social propaganda machines. They have no social purpose. The responsibility for social development and related issues related has been handed over, and rightly so, to governments which are closer to the people. These governments have acquitted themselves quite well. I feel that the Quebec government is really an outstanding example. Over the last 20 or 30 years, it has been a trailblazer.
Every time Quebec does something, it is penalized in a way because it has funded its excellence on its own. Then the Canadian government comes along far later and tries to copy the program nationally. The Government of Quebec says it already has this program and asks for money, for full compensation. This is our money, from our tax dollars. This is nothing laughable. We want nothing more than our own tax dollars. We are not looking for charity.
We are hearing things here that are disdainful and shameful. We hear laughter when we say we want money. What we do not want is intrusion and imposed standards. We do not want just any old money. This is our money. We would not like to have to go begging for it, nor to have to negotiate for 10 years to obtain something so very obvious.
We have a program that does what it is intended for perfectly. For example, Quebec's child care services are a source of pride, and we are known for it elsewhere to some extent. Even within a capitalist framework, our society has been able to help its children, to help women get into the work force, to do things for society, without letting families suffer. Our accomplishments have earned a proud reputation both nationally and internationally.
But how is that, every time we do something like this, we have to do it totally in Quebec and at the expense of the Government of Quebec, without all the needed funding because it has gone to the federal level? When the federal government tries to do something that is not under its jurisdiction, it tries to impose standards on us, when we are the ones who have been innovative and creative, and have set the standard of excellence.
Then we get short-changed. I idolized the Minister of Social Development when I was a boy. He was an excellent goalie. One might say he is not so good at offence, where Quebec is concerned. He ought to be able to defend the federal jurisdictions without going over the blue line. That is out of bounds for him. When he crosses the blue line, when he is ragging the puck, he pulls some plays a hockey referee would not allow. He tells us that we will be compensated with no strings attached and then he says the negotiations are still going on.
How can it take months to negotiate financial compensation with no conditions? That is really something. Perhaps in the new position he is playing, he has decided, or imagines, that slower is better. I do not know. It seems to me that, if this were hockey, we would be in never-ending overtime.
What is very important is to be efficient in operations and to avoid encroaching on provincial jurisdiction and creating programs that nobody needs but are deliberately enticing to make a big impression on people who do not closely follow politics.
Yesterday, motions for the creation of a national cancer strategy and a national handicapped persons strategy were introduced. There already is one in Quebec. Provinces do have those strategies. They have jurisdiction over health. If we corrected the fiscal imbalance and gave resources proportionate to their responsibilities to those in charge of education, health and social services, do you not think that we would serve people better than by federalist chest thumping?
They come up with bite-sized programs that last only a few years, that are ill adapted, poorly conceived and whose only objective is to confuse people and waste energy.
The worst thing is that we are talking about social development. While we are talking, child poverty does not diminish and the services we would like to provide for our population in Quebec remain in the planning stage. All issues of social solidarity, women's rights promotion and the integrated fight against diseases stall. Tobacco control measures do not move ahead either. Why? Because the central government has a pathological need to prove its usefulness when responsibilities rest at the local level, at the provincial, community and day care levels. The federal government has a pathological need to interfere and it does so at the expense of the most disadvantaged.
That is all I have to say about that topic.
What is just as outrageous is that, in establishing this Department of Social Development as a new flagship or tool for intrusion, the government can use money it has taken away from the most disadvantaged for that purpose.
It is safe to say that the money is in Ottawa, while the needs are in the provinces and in Quebec. Sadly, this money was taken out of the EI fund.
My colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain mentioned that this money was taken away by denying full retroactivity to those seniors who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, which is directly under the purview of this department. More than $45 billion was taken out of the EI fund, tens of billions at a time. This money taken away from the most disadvantaged is used to finance programs supposedly designed to help them, help them by duplicating provincial programs with programs that are a bit of a fad, implementing national strategies for the sake of it, and expanding Health Canada, which controls hardly any hospitals except in Aboriginal communities. So, what does the government do? It generates revenues on the backs of the most disadvantaged.
In my field, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has generated a $3.5 billion surplus, while 1.7 million households in Canada and Quebec are continuing to pay too much for bad housing. This means that this surplus has been created by not meeting needs. In this instance, the government had every opportunity to meet these needs, but did not. The Bloc Québécois even had to introduce a private member's bill to try to remedy the situation. I hope that Bill C-333 will have the support of the House. The government has been generating surpluses on the backs of the most disadvantaged. It dreams up very expensive departments and inefficient programs, and then comes out with its little announcements.
There is something immoral here. Discipline and morality seem to be lacking. There is a lack of discipline in management because of all the duplication, and there is a lack of morality when you knowingly take social measures that are inefficient, redundant and outside your jurisdiction. All of that raises the level of cynicism towards politics: What are these guys doing in Ottawa? Are they supposed to help people? Are they supposed to manage the public finances efficiently? Are they supposed to support local communities and provinces in their main roles? Or is it just bluffing, political one-upmanship, and flag waving? Are they just looking for personal political capital or grand ministerial tours, a bit like the recent one, when they spent $22 billion in ten days not for good reasons based on principles, but because they feared an election?
The Prime Minister said as much to the business community. This was not a matter of principle but of cold calculation. They decided to invest this money or promise to invest it. There were some cases of recycling. Just about the only thing that is green with this government is its constant recycling of programs. That is the kind of thing they do.
Out of cold calculations, this increasingly centralist government creates structures, departments, programs and envelopes to the point where we cannot understand anything anymore.
I was listening to a journalist who said Parliament Hill felt like Alice in Wonderland. I might change the word “Wonderland”, but we are truly living in the surreal. Just look at the government's social programs or the CMHC. Although on the Internet the programs might look wonderful, often, in reality, they are no longer being funded. All the money has been allocated. The government creates programs with catchy titles using a piecemeal approach, but they never last long and are never integrated with the responsibilities of Quebec and the provinces, never in support of those working in the field. There are people in our ridings who tell us that when it comes to problems with social assistance or employment insurance, the government is the government.
They do not come asking for a pan-Canadian program, but they come asking for help for their children, for jobs to be created or the EI program to be fixed. We tell them our hands are tied because the Canadian government is withholding the money. The government announces artificial programs and creates departments instead of supporting the work of the provinces. That is what we are forced to tell our constituents, who are not asking for a pan-Canadian child care system, but for services from their government.