Madam Speaker, I have the pleasure to speak to Bill C-46 on behalf of the Official Opposition, as its critic on regional development.
There are at least two major elements at stake in this bill to establish the Department of Industry. The first one concerns jurisdiction over regional development, while the second one has to do with whether or not duplication will be perpetuated in government management.
At report stage of Bill C-46, an Act to establish the Department of Industry, the Bloc Quebecois proposes that clauses 8, 9 and 10 be amended by inserting, at line 21 in clause 8, line 21 in clause 9, and line 36 in clause 10, the following: "With the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council of Quebec when it is a field related to regional development in Quebec -"
What does that mean? It means that the federal government does not have jurisdiction over regional development in Quebec and that the province is the only one with the authority to define policies and set up structures in that field.
The constitutional coup against Quebec represented by the Constitutional Act dated November 5, 1981, to which Quebec never subscribed in spite of the fact that it represents one quarter of the Canadian population, allowed the federal government, by claiming it had jurisdiction regarding regional disparity, to give
itself unlimited spending power and therefore also give itself every power concerning regional development.
The 1982 unilateral patriation of the Constitution is federal interference in Quebec's regional development since, as you all know, regional economic development is not a jurisdiction included in the 1867 Constitution.
Bill C-46 is a logical follow-up to the Constitutional deal which was struck in November 1981. It is part of the plan of the Liberal Party of Canada to isolate Quebec, to direct the economic development of Quebecers and to deny their distinct identity by making Quebec's development contingent on federal regional development policies.
In Bill C-46, the government has irresponsibly chosen to ignore Quebec's regional development policies and structures. Unconcerned about duplication, although the party in power, the Liberal Party, admits duplication exists because it wants to eliminate duplication and overlap, in this case they have made it abundantly clear that they want to preserve this duplication by refusing to recognize Quebec's sole responsibility for regional development. They prefer to ignore existing duplication and overlap just as they prefer to ignore the wasteful spending of public funds. The Minister of Industry and his Liberal colleagues want to increase their interventions in Quebec through this bill.
In section 9(1) (a) and (b) it says that the Minister of Industry, and I quote:
-with respect to regional economic development in Quebec, (a) in co-operation with other concerned ministers and boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, formulate and implement policies, plans and integrated federal approaches; (b) co-ordinate the policies and programs of the Government of Canada;
I think we can clearly interpret this as a full scale invasion of regional development in Quebec and a federal takeover of development and policies in this area.
However, the government party must realize that for decades, Quebec has had regional development programs that were far more effective than federal intervention has ever been in this area.
The federal Liberal government, with its two-fold obsession with developing the industrial centres of Quebec's metropolitan areas while ignoring the rest of the province, and with spreading the federal, centralist gospel right and left, without any policies for co-ordinating the interests of those concerned, has often acted in ways that have proved disastrous for Quebec's peripheral regions.
Madam Speaker, in this House I had an opportunity to refer to an impact study of federal regional intervention policies in Quebec, policies that, because of this intervention focussed on large urban centres, have had a devastating effect in the regions, since we now see that peripheral regions throughout Quebec have lost their young people and experienced a decline in population.
In its second report, the Conseil des affaires sociales du Québec pointed out that the situation was disastrous in all Quebec's peripheral regions. The number of municipalities and peripheral regions where the population has declined increased to an alarming extent between 1971 and 1988, when federal intervention in regional development was at its peak-in other words, the better part of the period when the Liberals were in power in Ottawa-so that today, they outnumber communities experiencing population increases. Young people are the first to leave their regions for the big urban centres.
That is the result of the federal regional development policy. In the Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands and other rural areas of Quebec, solidarity movements have sprung up to restore hope to local communities and begin work on comprehensive, integrated development. They include, among others, Coalition urgence rurale, Ralliement des Gaspésiens et des Madelinots and Rural Solidarity. The numbers and types of development partnerships are increasing.
Businesses, unions, local authorities, and the co-operative movement no longer hesitate to take charge of their own development. These players have sought, when appearing before forums such as the Bélanger-Campeau Commission, to promote the idea that, for instance, control of economic development levers must rest with Quebec and that decision-making powers must be decentralized, and to obtain a consensus in this regard. The major consensus that has emerged fits in with regional development in Quebec, and there is growing consensus that the federal government should be told clearly to withdraw from regional development, an area in which it does not belong.
As I have already mentioned, regional development is not a separate area of responsibility in the Canadian Constitution, thus forcing Quebec to take part in unending and fruitless negotiations such as those involving the regional economic development agreements. Bill C-46 confirms the federal government's determination to take over regional development in Quebec.
It also points up the stupidity and waste of such an insistence on interfering, which leads to still more duplication and overlap. Let me give an example. Under section 9(1)(b), the Minister of Industry, through the responsible minister in the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec, shall collect, compile, analyse, coordinate and disseminate information with respect to regional economic development in Quebec, thus enabling the federal agency to undertake a series of studies and analyses with the purpose of defining socio-economic profiles for each region of Quebec.
Studies released by the FORDQ in November, a few weeks ago, studies that were a total waste of time and which were conducted on a region-by-region basis in Quebec, are examples of a monumental waste of money and energy, because it so happens that Quebec has produced its own studies and analyses on each region of the province this past year, in preparation for regional strategic development plans. I have perused the studies released by the office and noticed that the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec had wasted money, using the same statistics and reaching the same conclusions, region by region.
Since such studies cost money, this confirms that this government is ignoring what Quebec does in that area and spends money needlessly on duplicating studies that have already been done. To conclude, the federal government must withdraw from regional development and recognize that Quebec only has jurisdiction over economic development on its territory. That is what our amendment, the Official Opposition amendment, is about.