Madam Speaker, I am always keenly interested in taking part in a debate when the subject is job creation. The subject becomes all the more stimulating when we tack on the words "concrete measure" and the mandatory "urgent". Concrete and urgent action. That is what hundreds of thousands of unemployed people are expecting. It is absolutely essential that these words be reflected in the government's day-to-day initiatives. The ministers who have the means to improve the horrendous job situation quickly and efficiently have to realize that when the will to introduce concrete and urgent measures is lacking, the government is condemning hundreds of thousands of unemployed people to harsh, intolerable living conditions.
The extent of the unemployment situation has harmful consequences and deeply affects our social fabric. Unemployed persons, along with their families and children, quickly find themselves living in hellish conditions, without adequate financial resources. Day-to-day survival becomes a problem. Tensions mount and the pressure increases as the unemployed scramble to meet basic needs. Many households experience crises, dramas and break-ups.
Intolerable living conditions brought on by unemployment affect the mental and physical health of those involved. In the long term, significant social costs are incurred and it is we who ultimately must pick up the tab. These things are happening in every one of our ridings and the situation is deteriorating. Our social fabric is unravelling and the public's anger is simmering. The Prime Minister can say what he likes but the way he was welcomed last week is proof that the public is fed up with pious wishes and nice speeches.
The people no longer believe in promises. They want action to get them back into the labour force quickly. If the members opposite fail to understand the message and to respond quickly
to the demand for jobs, they will expose our society to more serious problems very soon.
If the government does not pay enough attention to the repeated warnings heard in recent days, I sincerely believe we are moving towards a dark future. Our children will pay for this inertia. For some such as the well-off, including some of the members opposite, the daily problems of the jobless may appear trivial, not very important, since their own current assets allow them to secure their descendants' future. If I were in their shoes, I would worry and start asking myself serious questions.
We have seen great empires melt away because of crises caused by serious socio-economic problems. In my riding the situation is alarming: over 30 per cent of the labour force are out of work. Worse still, these people see no light at the end of the tunnel. Signs of employment recovery are non-existent. The members opposite promised us job-creation measures. They said over and over it was their priority with a capital "P". Where are these measures? Where is this well-publicized job-creation plan?
The people in my riding are now seeing the Liberals' lack of imagination and unwillingness to create jobs. The government is falling back on its infrastructure program, which is clearly insufficient to put people back to work. What a crock! It is not a project creating or maintaining 45,000 temporary jobs that will restore confidence to the 1,559,000 Canadians and 428,000 Quebecers without jobs.
For workers, it is disappointing to see this government take an almost passive attitude in the face of the unemployment crisis. It throws out a few crumbs and then sits and waits for the expected economic recovery to turn the situation around. However, economists agree that this recovery will not bring a miraculous increase in the number of jobs. Miracles do not happen in this world, as the members opposite know full well. So what are they waiting for to take action? What are they waiting for to innovate, introduce new programs, stimulate the economy wisely?
Nice speeches are not concrete and urgent measures to create jobs. In my riding, the infrastructure program will create or maintain only a few hundred temporary jobs. It is not very convincing from a party that proclaimed itself, before October 25, of course, the saviour of the economy and the great creator of lasting jobs. It already admits that these measures will only have a minor effect on unemployment, since the budget forecasts that the unemployment rate will remain around 11 per cent in 1995.
The government always says it cannot do more given the current financial situation. The lack of money has become the favourite tune of the members opposite whenever the Canadian people ask them to invest more money. This tune is unacceptable. In its last budget the government decided not to trim fat or eliminate waste. Had it listened to us and shown the will to thoroughly examine all these programs, it would have had enough financial leeway to foster and invest in job creation. But it has made its bed and must now lie in it.
In the March 21 issue of La Presse , we read that 1,000 Canadian entrepreneurs will participate in the Expo 1994 trade fair in Mexico. This is not a bad thing. These business people will test the ground and look at the opportunities offered by that country's 86.5 million people. This is all well and good but when these entrepreneurs need help to penetrate that market, what kind of support can they expect from a government that decided to maintain waste and fat instead of giving itself greater flexibility? Fat and waste are not concrete and urgent job-creation measures.
The same applies to small and medium-sized businesses. They must be supported in their development and their plans for the future. Where is the Liberal government's flexibility? It does not have any, just crumbs that do not allow for real development. Our economy is based on regional small and medium-sized businesses. We must stimulate, even favour their creation. The government must get out of its rut and support dynamic environments such as universities, polytechnic schools and engineering departments; it must go there to find new ideas and people able to start new small and medium-sized businesses.
If the members opposite just sit and wait for an economic recovery, do you really think the economy will pick up? So far, the Liberals have not shown any vigour, any new idea in their job-creation strategy. Roads, aqueducts, sewers, viaducts and bridges are all they came up with. They will create or maintain small, precarious jobs, spend some $2 billion without, in the end, investing anything in new medium and long-term projects, when such projects could create jobs in addition to stabilizing and strengthening our economy.
Madam Speaker, I would now like to draw your attention to an issue I deeply care about, which I have often raised with the ministers opposite. It is the construction of new social housing units and co-ops throughout the country. As we know, the Liberals have maintained the Conservatives' decisions in this area. Low-cost, co-op and non-profit housing programs were abolished on January 1st; from now on, not one cent will be spent on providing decent accommodation for the 1,200,000 Canadians in urgent need of housing.
Yet, these programs aimed at helping the poorly housed also created many jobs.
Statistics indicate that building 1,000 new housing units generates 2,000 jobs in the construction sector. That is a lot of jobs. We kill two birds with one stone: Employment is stimulated and living conditions are improved. I am convinced that
many contractors and construction workers in my constituency would be very pleased if several hundred social housing units were to be built in our riding. This would be a concrete social measure which would be beneficial from a socio-economic point of view. Unfortunately, members opposite decided otherwise. They chose to leave poor families in slums and instead go for fat and waste. This, for me, will always remain a shameful decision.
When we talk about employment, we must necessarily deal with professional training. In that regard, we are all aware that a significant amount of public money is wasted because of program duplication and the federal government's interference and desire to control and centralize.
For a long time now, there has been a consensus in Quebec to the effect that the federal must delegate all powers to the province regarding this field of jurisdiction.
It has been clearly demonstrated that the vocational training system in place is more and more obsolete. In Quebec alone, $250 million could be saved every year by eliminating overlapping. The system shows obvious flaws under the pressures of new technologies and new forms of work organization. In fact, the system does not allow individuals to quickly and adequately meet market needs. It is too burdensome, slow, complex and costly. The federal government interference in this field is certainly not conducive to promoting an efficient training system. It is individuals who pay the price for this interference. The system simply does not work. Individuals and labour markets are both adversely affected. We, Bloc Quebecois members, are asking the federal government to completely withdraw from this sector. However, as long as Quebec remains part of Canada and keeps paying taxes, the federal government will have to transfer to the province its fair share of public money. This patriation will finally allow Quebec to train efficiently and quickly its manpower, based on the needs of the labour market.
This is another concrete measure which will help develop the ability to work of the unemployed, and consequently reduce the unemployment rate.
In conclusion, I ask members opposite to take a close look at reality. Good horse-sense should tell them it is time to shape up and have a vision. Look beyond the immediate future. Try to see what the next few years hold; try to see what will happen with labour and consumer markets, services and products of the future, as well as new technologies. Look at all this and try to find initiatives which will make us ready. If you do not undertake this exercise and come up with a vision now, in ten years we will still be building roads to support our economy. I am very aware that this technique was once very profitable for old parties, but individual workers want more than just using a pick and a shovel for a short while to earn a living.
Our workers are intelligent and they want to be considered as such. University students work very hard for three or even five years to earn their degree. And then what do they find on the job market? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yet these people represent our future: they have all the skills and knowledge necessary to rebuild the economy.
I ask the government to open its eyes wide and invest in real employment, as opposed to short-lived programs, so that all these young people can have a future.