Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my colleagues in this House by splitting it into 10-minute periods.
The least that can be said is that the Liberal government has finally achieved unanimity. In every province, a mass movement is taking shape against the proposed reform of social programs. I predicted-and I was not the only one-that the people would rise up against this reform whose prime objective is very clear: to meet the finance minister's budget requirements by slashing social programs. Yesterday, it was thousands of angry students, as the minister's dry cleaner can attest to. Tomorrow, it will be all the others who have nothing but whom the government is still going after. The only objective is to cut social programs.
The government plans to announce additional measures in its 1995 Budget, as it states on page 23 of its discussion paper. We know that the government has prepared a secret document specifying that the $7.5 billion in cuts announced in the last Budget will be supplemented by another $7.5 billion in cuts over five years.
I will now deal with the minister's proposal to address the current unemployment problem. His favoured option will introduce a second class of unemployed, that of workers with precarious jobs. Women and young people, who hold the majority of these jobs, will be the main victims of this reform. With this proposal, the minister creates cheap labour. In addition to compulsory employability measures, these unemployed people will be required to participate in community work. They also want these second-class people to pay higher premiums in return for lower benefits. Indeed, the government feels that some citizens are just lazy bums who lose their jobs on purpose. It wants to treat the unemployed like thieves sentenced to community work.
The federal government has always stressed that unemployment insurance was a generous system aimed at redistributing the wealth across the country. Yet, the minister's paper states that it may-repeat, may-become necessary to put in place special programs for seasonal workers to offset the negative impact of reform on regions with very high unemployment rates. If the government does not give that assurance in its document, this is cause for serious concern.
Earlier this week, a cartoon in a Quebec daily depicted a producer selling his corn for 75 cents a dozen, at -30 degrees. This is what the government wants seasonal workers to do.
As regards manpower training, the federal government continues to dismiss Quebec's claims. It wants to maintain national standards to bypass provincial initiatives and let local communities decide which programs they want to implement. The government is again trying to impose its famous single-window concept, which perpetuates overlapping and duplication, this time under the same roof. Talk about improvement! While all every stakeholder in Quebec agrees on the need for an integrated provincial policy on manpower development, the federal government persists in wanting to control everything. Ironically, the proposal made by the government in its report is the same one which was rejected last summer by the former Quebec Liberal government.
By persisting in maintaining and even increasing their involvement in manpower training, the Liberals only contribute to the administrative mess they know exists. In Quebec, $500 million were wasted within two years.
As we all saw, many students came here yesterday to demonstrate. Several women called me and said: "Can you tell me, sir, what will happen to me with the new social program reform? My husband earns $50,000 and I earn much less compared to him, but I do pay unemployment insurance premiums".
I told this woman: "Look, in all honesty, I think that you should get the service for which you pay". But this is not what the reform will do. The reform will ensure that you pay, but that you do not get the service.
I should tell you that one group of workers I helped at the union level went to court because they had paid for a service they never received. These people, who may be paying unemployment insurance premiums, will now be able to say: "I contribute to the unemployment insurance fund, and my husband earns so much money. I will no longer pay unemployment insurance premiums, since I will not be entitled to benefits".
It only makes sense not to pay for a service you will not get. We should not focus only on the negative aspects of the reform. At one point, I asked why a reform of the unemployment insurance program was undertaken. I was told that too many people cheat the system. I said fine, can you tell me the percentage these people represent. The answer was 1 per cent. One per cent are cheaters, and because of that one percent, the 99 per cent who are honest, who have not done anything wrong, will be penalized.
That is totally unacceptable. I entirely agree that reform is necessary, but we should not penalize the most vulnerable in our society and we should not penalize all women in Quebec and
Canada by withholding unemployment insurance benefits because of a tax bracket that is beyond a certain level.
There are alternatives, and I can suggest a few simple ones. I agree that reform and cuts are necessary, but leave the most vulnerable members of our society alone, once and for all. Go after the multinationals that make millions of dollars in profits and do not pay taxes.
I have had enough. I can no longer go along with this system. There is something I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker. You saw those young people demonstrating on Parliament Hill. I would urge the unions, I would urge all workers to get up and come to Ottawa to demonstrate against these measures which are intolerable, and I can tell you I will be there on Parliament Hill with those groups, with the most vulnerable members of our society.