Unfortunately, opposition members do not want to take part in this debate. The only thing that they are interested in is independence, sovereignty, but not necessarily the well-being of their fellow citizens.
In my riding of Bonaventure, I am very concerned by the level of education, of schooling of my constituents. That is certainly a problem. There are many certainties in politics. But among other certainties is the fact that the rate of secondary level graduates is much lower in Quebec than in other Western countries. I think that there is a lot to be done at the professional training level. We have the opportunity to encourage these young people to discover new horizons. The only way that we can do that is to ensure a sort of continuity in the Canadian federation, but also to encourage the young people to complete their studies, to encourage businesses to hire them afterwards and to give a chance to these new and small businesses to find new markets not only at the Canadian level, but also at the international level.
The federal government must take into account not only the social security net, but also the new defence policy of the Government of Canada in a world where the cold war is over, where we do not have the same number of soldiers and officers any more, where our need or our strategy is no longer a military one, as regards the East European bloc. We certainly get some benefits from that. No doubt we have to revisit and reconsider the funds allocated to National Defence.
There is also our foreign policy which costs us a lot of money. Once again, we must develop a new strategy. What is the new Canadian strategy at the international level? I think the Prime Minister made a remarkable demonstration of it when he determined that in the future, the Government of Canada and above all, the Prime Minister, would have to promote our products and services worldwide.
Let us look at what happened in China, for example. We signed contracts for almost $8, $9 or $10 billion. I think that this mission was very profitable to Canadians, to Canadian businesses and also to companies from Quebec. We now have learned that 30 per cent of the contracts were awarded to Quebec businesses. The reputation of Canada was, of course, instrumental in all of this. In order to get contracts, especially in Asia and most particularly in China, you have to give small businesses support, sometimes at a fiscal level but also at the level of foreign policy, to get signatures on contracts, very important contracts.
According to Bernard Landry, it is unfortunate that these contracts were negotiated before the Prime Minister of Canada arrived in China.
We have to recognize that for these countries it is important to deal with politically stable countries, recognized in the area of international trade, countries which have acquired an enviable reputation like Canada. We must acknowledge that it is not the case of Quebec. Quebec is not an independent country, Quebec always took advantage of the fact that it was part of Canada, it always capitalized on our good reputation in the world of international trade.
I will repeat that the consultations undertaken by the Department of Finance, and naturally the committee, are meant to give information to Canadians.
This information on the deficit is fairly well known, we have talked at length about the accumulated debt, and about the situation in the provinces and municipalities. We have to take into account the new Canadian policies regarding job development, defence, foreign affairs; all of these have one overriding goal, to revitalize the national economy.
However, once we have given this basic information, we have to itemize spending, we must tell Canadians where our money comes from, and explain why we have a deficit. You know, it is not easy to explain, but numbers are self-explanatory. That is the reason why we must appeal to Canadians from all walks of life to give their opinion and suggest solutions to the deficit problem we are facing right now.
Whether Quebec becomes independent or not, the deficit is a problem we share with all provinces. When you prioritize economic recovery, you give priority to Canada for the economic benefit of all Canadians. Obviously, we must work together. I believe that every one of us has the duty to take into account the fiscal reality of the country as well as the possibilities to find common solutions.
We are now talking about the central role of the federal government, but we still want to hear the point of view of all Canadians in every sector of the economy. I believe that when the committee starts touring the country, it will meet east-coast fishermen, people working in the forestry area, not only workers, but also businessmen.
Of course, we must assess what our strengths are, but also our weaknesses; this is the way to reach a common position. In Ontario, we will certainly meet more industrialists, in the car and aerospace industries. There is a lot to do, in every province.
Getting advice from all the sectors in which we are strong is a priority for these consultations. I hope that the opposition will take part in them. University professors, scientists and scholars will also be able to contribute so that we can get our national economy going again. Strangely enough, when we talk about national economic recovery, this includes local and even regional economic recovery.
This past week-end, in Eastern Quebec, the Université du Québec à Rimouski granted economic regional development certificates. People, especially young people, were asked how to elaborate new economic development policies. I see my time is running out. What a pity! Twenty minutes go by so quickly-