Mr. Speaker, indeed we, the Official Opposition, feel that it is important to make this House and the government aware of the need to worry, and not just talk, about employment in Canada.
Four heavyweight ministers-I do not intend to put them on a diet -participated in the last G-7 conference. We are waiting for them to inform us of the innovative solutions they learned at that conference to help Canada improve the tragic situation of unemployment here.
I must admit however that I am anxious to see what these senior ministers will propose, considering that when the previous crisis occurred, the G-7 advocated drastic measures to control inflation and Canada subscribed to those, so much so in fact that it tried to show the way and applied a solution whose effects were worse than the problem.
In fact, it seems to me that the federal government must ask itself what kind of policy would stimulate employment, as Quebec has done perhaps because it has been experiencing serious unemployment problems for a long time. Quite often countries, including G-7 members and those which are most easily and naturally prosperous because they have been wealthy for a long time, think that employment is what is left once everything else has been looked after. So the government looks of course after problems such as inflation and the deficit, which is largely the result of its anti-inflationary policies, and what is left in the end is the employment situation.
Then nice speeches are made to say how sorry the government is to learn of the plight of the poor ordinary citizen who is in real trouble, who has no security, and who is deprived of what little hope he may have had of at least getting a minimum income for a while through UI benefits. So the government makes nice
speeches to the effect that it is concerned about employment, and it gets elected by pledging to look after the problem but, in fact, it is essentially business as usual.
I want to take this opportunity to tell members of this House- even though their previous income level was not necessarily the same-that very few Canadians and Quebecers enjoy the same peace of mind as we do. Indeed, many of them live in a great state of insecurity which has a profound influence on the rest of their lives.
Of course, when we are in office, we are surrounded by advisors who tell us: You must not worry about it. It is a jobless recovery, it is the same everywhere, and you must get used to people's anger. You have to be thick skinned and not let yourself be moved if you see people who are having a hard time.
I would like to take the time allotted to me to say that there are two main types of economic policy. The first, the most common kind, is a sort of laissez faire, as I was saying; you look after the fashionable parameters and live with the outcome once that is done, and that is the more or less long-term unemployed.
We know that since the 1980s, some ideas that were in in the 1930s have come back in fashion; they say that basically only the strong can survive, so let us help the strong and as for the weak, well, too bad, they are disadvantaged so let them suffer.
But other countries over the years have developed other types of policies where employment is not a leftover, not a residual concern about which nothing can be done; no, they say: the purpose of the economy must be to give ordinary people a minimum, not just enough to keep them from dying, but enough to live with dignity, to have some hope and fulfilment, and in our societies for a long time to come, the key will still be employment.
Some societies have taken the trouble to give themselves instruments, not just macro-economic instruments, not just monetary policy, not just a policy on the deficit, not just a trade policy, but a policy concerned with how jobs are actually created and lost and how, with patient effort, by influencing macro-economic policies, through common effort and working together, asking questions, even tough questions, the future of people can be assured.
Unfortunately, we must admit that in politics, these methods often take time and politicians, men and women in politics, because I distinguish the two, can be in a hurry, their time is limited. However, there can be no quick-fix solutions-there are none. There is only the ability to look at a situation and to develop approaches with people at the grass roots.
Mr. Speaker, you will understand that I will talk about decentralization at some point and I will talk about Quebec. But before that, I want to remind you of the situation, not for the fun of it, because it is not at all funny. The latest figures show 1,559,000 unemployed people. Remember that the unemployed counted here are those who are actively looking for work. You can be unemployed but not counted in this category if you are a discouraged worker. It is more practical that way; you are forgotten.
In Quebec, how many are officially unemployed? There are 428,000, not counting all the long-term unemployed who are on welfare. We can say without exaggeration that there are about 800,000 unemployed people in Quebec who are actually looking for work, although not as Statistics Canada sees it. The lives of 800,000 people in Quebec alone are tied to the ability to find work. It is a question of self-esteem, of parents being able to face their children or help them, of people being able to build a home, have children. According to Statistics Canada, there are 1.5 million unemployed in this country.
The Liberal government came to power on a worthwhile slogan. In either French or English, it was "jobs, jobs, jobs". The government rose to power on the heels of this catchy slogan.
The Liberals conducted a clever campaign. Their slogan amounted to: "Vote for us, vote Liberal".
So, what has this government done to follow through on its promise to create jobs, jobs, jobs?