Madam Speaker, I would like to resume where I left out before Question Period. I said that so far the main characteristic of this government has been its lack of vision. I was talking about the conversion of military industries to civilian production, something we have not heard much about ever since the government wrote about it in its red book, so much so that recently, no later than last week, the Quebec Minister for Industry, Trade and Technology was getting impatient and-no matter how federalist and Liberal he is, just as this government-asked the Canadian government what was implied in the statements made in the red book. And since then, in spite of his influence, this minister has not heard a word regarding three specific matters of some urgency, namely Oerlikon, Paramax and MIL Davie.
There is another issue that brings to mind the notion of vision, if we can use that word, but in this case it is a machiavelic vision; I am referring to the Youth Service Corps. We know that one of the three objectives of this planned corps, which should involve 10,000 participants a year, is to promote a better understanding of Canada, and this, strangely enough, just before the Quebec referendum. We recognize there the consistency and the persistence of these same Liberals who were already very actively involved in the 1980 referendum and who used all means, from Pro Canada to the Council for Canadian Unity, to try to unduly influence the people in Quebec. Next time, they will outdo themselves, for sure!
We find the same lack of vision and political courage when it comes to the information highway. We know that in the United States the whole project is being spearheaded by the Vice-President, whereas here, all we have is a committee in name only which, completely in the dark, is supposed to be advising the government. This exemplifies the kind of political courage and vision this government has.
This is what was written in the red book, but things seem even worse when we look at what was not written down in its pages. The situation is even worse when you consider the actions of this government since the opening of the session, through the budget. I am referring to measures which were not mentioned in the red book. Indeed, when the government uses nice metaphors about modernizing, revitalizing or undertaking major initiatives, such as is currently the case with social programs, we cannot help but wonder about how sincere it is, about its real goals, and about the real motives of the Liberals even before they were elected, considering the measures they are now proposing to correct the situation.
The government targets the unemployed instead of unemployment; it targets the poor instead of poverty. Indeed, the government targets the poor when it decides to lower UI benefits from 57 per cent to 55 per cent, a measure which will affect 85 per cent of claimants.
The government is targeting the unemployed, when it decides they will need 12 weeks instead of 10 to be eligible for unemployment insurance. Does this mean that from now on employers, in a show of social solidarity, will hire five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-four, fifty, eighty, or a hundred employees for an extra two weeks so they can get their unemployment insurance benefits? That is not how it works. An employer needs an employee for a certain period, especially in disadvantaged regions, and unemployment insurance criteria are not a consideration when hiring people.
We should also realize that because of the latest amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act, people will receive less money for shorter periods of time. So the government is deliberately targeting people who work and often live in unenviable circumstances. The government has decided that from now on, they will receive less and receive it for shorter periods, although they will have to work longer to be eligible. If this is not hitting the unemployed instead of unemployment I would like to know what is.
If we consider the amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act and if we recall the government's stated intention to modernize and revitalize social programs, is it any wonder we are extremely concerned about the government's underlying motives for making such sweeping changes in the administration of social programs and the whole concept of government intervention in this area, especially when we consider the following. Let me explain. In spite of consultations that were held and others that will be held by the minister on this subject in the months to come, we know, and this was made clear in the Budget speech, that this modernizing and revitalizing will save the public purse $7.5 billion at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society, with more than $5 billion resulting from amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act.
When discussing these issues, we must not forget we are talking about fellow citizens and the conditions in which they live. We must realize that across this country, hundreds of thousands of Canadian men and women are living in a state of anxiety and poverty. We know how such conditions can lead to criminal activity, family violence, undue reliance on medication, malnutrition in children, and so forth.
I must say that I deplore the apparent lack of concern shown by many members opposite, including the Prime Minister, about a situation that is so disturbing and I would ask them to make cabinet members realize that something must be done to find intelligent and effective ways to improve the lives of these people. I think we can all say the unemployment rates in our ridings are intolerable, for instance in the Maritimes and Que-
bec, where levels are totally unacceptable, in Ontario, which is experiencing problems, and even in western Canada.
However, we should talk about the causes as well as the effects. In this kind of debate, which is a debate about the kind of society we want, one issue is particular important, and that is that in a few years, our society may start to resemble what we see in other so-called underdeveloped countries, where there are a wealthy few in a sea of poverty and a fast-disappearing middle class. I think that is something we should consider, namely, the kind of social structure we have and the kind of society we can expect in the future.
In concluding, I would like to quote briefly what was said by an economist at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. André Joyal, a resident of my riding whose work I admire, wrote the following in the Catholic magazine RND: "What we have experienced for the past 20 years is probably not, as is often said, just another economic cycle, but a thorough transformation of our society. A transformation as drastic as that caused by the steam engine in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries or by the agrarian revolution 10,000 years ago when our ancestors realized they could sow and harvest crops, which meant they could have permanent settlements. The society of tomorrow may be totally different from the one we know today".
In the same vein Louis O'Neil, a distinguished professor at Laval University, wrote the following: "There is no reason why we should accept, without further analysis, the disappearance of thousands of jobs, today's exclusion after yesterday's exploitation, job uncertainty, the dismantling of health care services, a return to inequality of access to knowledge, the pauperization of rural areas, and regional population loss. We have the right and the duty to oppose a return to unbridled capitalism, to a system which currently puts 35 million people out of work in industrialized countries and which triggers disintegration and impoverishment.