Mr. Speaker, since the budget was brought down in this House, I have witnessed a great deal of praise being heaped on members on the other side of the House. First, the Prime Minister praised his Minister of Finance as if he held the keys to eternal truth. The other ministers also showered him with praise and thanked him for slashing their own departmental budgets. And to top it all off, the minister even congratulated himself. I have never seen so much flattery before, all designed to mask a flood of useless, futile words.
A number of my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have denounced this budget, and rightly so. I too would like to join with them in saying that there is nothing in this budget to give some hope back to the least fortunate members of our society. This budget was devised by sons of darkness, whose father is none other than the Prime Minister himself.
A son of darkness is someone who always thinks in terms of his party and his career. Many of my colleagues here in this House hail from rural areas. There are some young Turks on the other side of the House who, outside the chamber, have said: You are right, but we are only starting out in our career and we want to move up. Sometimes, we have to keep quiet. Some other members who have been around longer and who are more adept at expressing themselves say this: Why not protect our career and maybe some day get appointed to the Senate.
A son of darkness is someone who never admits his mistakes. It was announced here in this House that the military college in Saint-Jean, a francophone college, will be closed. Everyone concedes that the government is making a monumental mistake, but the government is not willing to admit it.
A son of darkness is someone who protects the wealthy, family trusts and large corporations, someone who never gives any real answers here in this House. The answer is always maybe, or perhaps, but never anything specific.
A son of darkness is someone who accepts a double standard. The poor are asked to tighten their belts, while a minister can take off and spend $160,000 on a trip.
A son of darkness is someone who exploits the poorest among us and surrounds himself with wealthy friends during election campaigns. He has no problem with spending $1,000 or $3,000 on meals with his friends. He is also someone who is prepared to bleed our senior citizens dry, to tax their income above $24,000 or $25,0000. He is someone who does not put any value on workers and who makes life hell for the unemployed.
I do not have any examples to give you, but I have toured my riding several times and workers as well as the unemployed understand what I am saying. A son of darkness is someone for whom the end justifies the means.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs says one thing in the House, and something quite different outside the chamber. A son of darkness is someone who does not care about the people. We have had some very sincere federalists in Quebec. There was Jean Lesage who coined the expression "masters in our own
house". He sat here in this very House. Did anyone listen to him?
Immediately after him came Premier Daniel Johnson, Sr., who said "equality or independence". Did anyone listen to him, Mr. Speaker? No. His son, now the Premier of Quebec, did not listen. He is even worse than the others.
Then there was René Lévesque who spoke of sovereignty association. At one point, he talked about the "beau risque", the "fine risk". Did anyone listen to him? No.
Mr. Speaker, you will have recognized the people behind the latest budget. Furthermore, I have christened the Prime Minister the father of darkness. Why have I done this? You will recall that the Constitution was patriated unilaterally. Quebec was not there in the London fog. You will recall Meech Lake. Well, the Prime Minister was there in spirit. And finally, you will recall Charlottetown. This episode will help him to write his posthumous memoirs.
There is not a thing in this budget which would give some hope back to the small communities in my riding grappling with serious social and economic problems. If I were forced to live on temporary and seasonal unemployment insurance like most of my fellow citizens, I too would have a strong desire to rise up in protest.
Where are these secure jobs in rural areas and in our small towns? If I had voted for the Liberal Party, I would feel betrayed. What was said during the election campaign, Mr. Speaker? They said, "jobs, jobs, jobs". Where are these jobs? Other than the infrastructure program, where they will be put in place as soon as possible. In Quebec, particularly if there is an election, we will see bulldozers all over the place, to give the impression that jobs are being created, the illusion that temporary jobs are being created, only for that reason.
If I were the mayor of a small rural municipality, I would be convinced that this government has simply let rural people down once again. The nice promises this government made to Canadian voters in the last election campaign on underemployment, unemployment, and housing have all gone up in smoke.
Not only is there nothing in this budget for the least fortunate, but it picks the pockets of the poorest once again. It bleeds dry the old people who built this country. These people have worked hard to save a little money and now they will have to return part of their savings, put together over 50 or 60 years. They will have to give money back to the government, after doing everything to build this country.
What I heard in this House on February 22 is what I fought against during the last election campaign in my riding. It is urgent that we in this country understand once and for all that we will not solve the deficit problem by going after the poorest and the elderly. It is a funny way to thank these people who worked hard and put their health on the line to build Quebec and Canada.
This government must begin, and this is urgent, creating long-term jobs, not temporary jobs, not pre-electoral jobs, not sporadic jobs, not jobs that will make the party look good, but jobs for people who want to work. The Minister says he is counting on private enterprise to create jobs, and I agree with him.
Development depends to a large extent on small and medium-sized business-I am sure of that-which represent about 99 per cent of all Canadian businesses, great! However, small and medium-sized businesses are facing new problems that prevent them from effectively playing the role of job creators under the impulsion of the economic recovery.
Small and medium-sized businesses are having trouble getting the money to fund their development from financial institutions. Administrative requirements from the different levels of government are unnecessary burdens that take up the energy needed for production activities.
Small and medium-sized businesses complain about their tax burden and see the need for squandering and duplication to be eliminated in governmental programs and services. Is this government prepared to identify and reduce tax, administrative, social, economic and other barriers to small business starting up and remaining in operation? This is a clear, precise message from over 75 per cent of business leaders in this country.
Unemployment insurance reform, to be initiated in the near future, parliamentary committee on alternatives to the GST and a task force on the economic situation, which will take a timid look at what could be done to facilitate access to conventional financing and explore new funding sources at the local and community level. In other words, studies and more studies. But studies do not create jobs, except perhaps for a few civil servants and especially for some consultant friends of the Liberals.
Mr. Speaker, you will argue, and rightly so, that man does not live on bread alone. Maybe so, but man does need bread. In my riding, the good courageous parents who cannot afford to buy food could not care less for study committees. When a single mother has no money to pay rent at the end of the month, she too could not care less for committees. What does the other side suggest? Let us strike committees to solve the problems. That is not what people are asking for in my riding. There are urgent needs that have to be met. When an unemployed individual, one of the many in my riding, sends out 200 resumes and does not get one single response, he too does not care for committees. I am using polite language out of respect for this place, but that is
not the language they use when talking to me. Cuss words are flying these days.
When the great minds of our region, in Matapédia-Matane, have to migrate to find work, they could not care less for study committees. I met former constituents of mine in Vancouver who told me: "It is not that Vancouver is not friendly, welcoming and all, on the contrary, but we did not move here with a light heart. We did not have a choice. There are no jobs back home".
What measures does the Minister of Finance intend to put in place to help businesses, the small and medium-sized businesses, create jobs? Help is urgently needed. Is this minister or any other prepared to help the Business Development Centre, BDC for short, invest more in share capital and venture capital? So far, most BDCs have been granting 80 per cent loans. They are almost like the banks and credit unions. That is not what I am asking from the minister. I am asking the ministers to take some risks. That is what they are there for. Now we hear that BDCs must become profitable. Of course, but not by ruining people in the process. Some businesses do need support.
Is this government prepared to invest more in the forestry industry? You are probably aware of the major role played by forestry in Canada's economy and trade. Listen to this! One job out of every 17 created directly or indirectly in Canada is in forestry. That is 729,000 jobs. But the minister never said a word about natural resources, not a word, at least not so far. That is really sad. In Quebec, forestry creates one job in 13. Still, not a word from the minister.
Furthermore -and I find it somewhat insulting that this fact has gone unnoticed- natural resources are the key element of the trade balance, with $19 billion a year. Yet, they seem to be relegated to the second, tenth or twentieth position. That is incredible!
Figures from 39 joint management groups show the impact the economic activity of small and medium-sized businesses in that area has had on the economy in 1992-93. In source deductions and taxes alone, these groups have paid back close to half the funds received. Governments have recovered in part the seed capital provided, all the while helping enhance capacity, creating thousands of jobs and supporting a regional and provincial economic activity.
Budget cuts in that area will not only result in job loss. The companies that woodlot owners have struggled to set up over the past 20 years, going as far as pooling resources and forming co-operatives to create jobs by allowing individuals who did not own lots to work them, are threatened. They have made huge sacrifices. I could give you a list of examples a mile long.
To contribute to the management of their forests, these owners have taken risks. They have taken risks for forests now threatened with disappearance. Joint management groups are seriously concerned. RESAM, which represents 39 groups, struggles along from one year to the next, while all it would need is a little boost. We do not even have the-generosity is not the word- the heart to say that it is the government's job to create jobs. Why not do it?
It would seem that natural resources are not valued in this House. Forestry alone brings in $19 billion, more than agriculture, fisheries, industry and energy. But here, in this House, it apparently has no importance whatsoever.
I hope that my colleagues from rural areas will set party politics aside for a moment and say: "Let us do it for rural Canada".
There are many ministers from big cities, but the rural areas do not have a voice, and I would like to be that voice for the voiceless, the spokesman for those who go unheard. Of course, if I am alone, it is not a partisan issue, I can do very little.
I come back to these small forestry businesses, which as you know, Mr. Speaker, are scattered all across Quebec and Canada. They are real tools for regional development. Without them, what would become of our resource regions? What would become of the forest industry? What would become of this country's positive trade balance?
This year, development corporations in my riding are asking for more aid to operate. They are simply asking the Canadian government to invest, because it is an investment; it is not a loan or a grant but an investment that they request, and they very often are turned down. I hope that this year your government will not refuse. For the government, it is a long-term investment that will pay off.
I ask this government to respond positively as soon as possible, because the Société des Monts, which prepared a very large brief-last year, the forestry workers and the employees of that outfit, led by the company president, Mr. Malenfant, had their salaries cut 10 per cent so that the company could survive and create and maintain those jobs. If you earn $20,000 a year, a 10 per cent pay cut means taking bread and butter from your children. When the school year begins, you cannot pay your children's back-to-school expenses, and we know what that costs, especially if you have three or four children.
The Société des Monts, the Société de la Vallée and the Scierie Métis sawmill must plan their work as soon as possible. I know hundreds of forestry workers who in early March-I do not want to dramatize-are getting stomach ulcers because they do not know if they will start to work. They do not know. We are waiting while the whole cumbersome government bureaucracy takes one or two or three months to answer. That is easy for
someone who is not thinking of the people, the parents who have nothing or almost nothing to feed their children.
Maybe you have not seen that but I have. I come from a poor community, one of the poorest ridings in Canada. People talk about the east end of Montreal; yes, it has tragic problems too. Our cities also have tragic problems. But in my area, it is even worse. I am not speaking on my behalf; I am speaking for those who voted for me and those who voted against me. It makes no difference to me; those people have a right to work and do not have a job, and for some reasons that are hard to identify, they are insecure every year.
The people of Matapédia-Matane are fed up with seeing their wood leave with only basic processing. We used to be called drawers of water. I say that today we are bearers or even eaters, a more apt description, of sawdust.
There is only sawdust left in our yards. That is all there is left. Our wood is being taken away; trucks carry it everywhere, and we cannot even process it at home.
Let me give you an example. Back home, there are many mills that make wood laths. We wanted to build lobster crates, but I was told that it was not possible because transportation costs were too high. And we just learned this week that the CN might no longer provide a service to our area, because there is not enough freight to transport. It seems to me that the state should help regions such as ours and give them a chance. If the train keeps serving our area, it will not cost any more and it will enable us to send out finished products.
People in my riding want to work; they want to give an added value to the forest resources which would help develop their region.
We need a little help, but not in three years. We need just a little bit of help because our people are resourceful. That is all they need. If you give them that little break, you will see a series of new, dynamic and job-creating small businesses emerge.
But for that to take place, there must be a firm political will to apply technology to natural resources. The Eastern Quebec Development Plan must be maintained beyond 1995. It must be improved and adjusted. We must invest even more. All those involved agree on that.
In my region, the per capita income is 25 per cent lower than the Quebec average. That is right: 25 per cent. At the same time, the Minister of Finance is going after unemployment insurance benefits and old age pensions. People in my riding would like nothing more than to work. As I said earlier, the job market must provide stable employment.
The only thing I am convinced of is that, in my region as well as in all rural areas, this budget will only generate more hardship and poverty. More people will have to rely on income security. How can you expect people in my region to believe in profitable federalism when this regime leads us to such a state of dependency and poverty? Yet, the budget will perpetuate this situation.
When ministers and government members opposite ask us: You want sovereignty, but how are you going to manage? I have a ready answer: Mr. Speaker, things can never be worse than now.
Development corporations are in serious trouble. Moreover, our population is aging and our young people are leaving. In my riding, there is only one CEGEP and no university. It is not federalism which supported our regions: It is our municipal representatives, our small parishes and our mayors who worked very hard. It is also our entrepreneurs who often risked everything. And it is especially those men and women in the field who worked relentlessly seven days a week. On Friday afternoon, my neighbour in a small village had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital, where the doctor told him he would be all right. Monday morning, he went back to his chain saw-this was a Mr. Morrissette-to work to support his family, because he had to. I want to thank him and the many Mr. Morrissettes in our region. There are hundreds and thousands, and of course I cannot name them all, who are like that.
I also want to thank all the mothers who were prepared to raise their families in a rural community. l want to thank these unsung heroines who are the salt of the earth. I especially want to thank the young people and professionals who came back and accepted a drop in salary, to try to help us. We can use more young people. If this means making a sacrifice, make it, but you will be rewarded by living in a community that has the strength to pull together.
I want to thank the older people. Their grandparents ploughed their fields with ox and horse teams. They worked very hard. Do we have to get rid of all these rural communities? That seems to be the trend. I always say that a village is worth as much as a town. Is the government going to get rid of them? It has no rural policy. It is cutting back on forestry and agriculture and practically everything. Our small businesses are very vulnerable. I know the Minister of Finance said that the government would try to do something, but the infrastructures project means that sewers will be built, plus a few temporary projects, but after
that, what happens? Temporary has been the name of the game for 20 years in my region. The government has created temporary jobs but that does not help. We need a much more vigorous approach to these problems.
Actually, federalism has kept our regions poor, giving the impression that they were only good for producing raw materials to give this country a trade surplus. Just provide the labour, and we will collect the money. Great!
What does this budget have to offer rural areas? There is nothing for agriculture and forestry agreements have been cut. And on top of that, the government increased the number of insurable weeks for unemployment insurance and is not creating jobs. If this government bothered to listen to the needs of rural communities, it could create hundreds of jobs. If it only gave us a chance to process our own raw materials, we could create thousands of jobs. That is a niche in which the Minister of Finance could have invested.
The Minister of Finance and most ministers here in the House are absolutely ignorant of rural needs. Even if he was born in a big city, and good for him, it seems to me he should try to understand the most vulnerable and the poorest members of our society. They are the people, the men and women, who built this world, who built our regions, but at the international level, at the level of this planet, people are prepared to let small communities die. Just shut those six small communities down! Do we have to organize to defend our rights? We had Operation Dignity, and we took to the streets. There was Ralliement populaire, and we took to the streets as well. And both times we had something to show for it. When we took to the streets, we got something. If we do not take to the streets, we get nothing. Will we have to take to the streets again? It is hard work-in fact it is exhausting-but we will if we have to.
Even a minimal investment in our regions would yield major dividends for the state. Rural communities are not asking for charity. Do you know what they want? Their fair share! A dollar invested in forestry operations yields the government $7. Is that charity? One has to be completely cut off from the real world not to realize this.
We do not need all kinds of benefits. We do need start up money, and it is high time the government decided to invest in durable jobs and sensible projects.
I have met a lot of people in my riding. They are very disappointed in this budget. They are also very worried about what will happen to their families. They talked to me about their concerns. I met them not long ago, and their first question was: Will we still have the right to live in this region of lakes and mountains? Matapédia-Matane is one of the most beautiful ridings we have-everybody says so-but you should come and see for yourself.
Their second question was: Can we expect to live out our lives in dignity in this peaceful and tranquil area? What kind of future will our children have in this region? What kind of future can they expect?
During the election campaign, the members opposite, those sons of darkness, had more or less become, Mr. Speaker-