Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak in the debate on third reading of Bill C-9. Previously, I had an opportunity to speak to this bill during the debate on second reading.
At the time, without in any way denying the benefits of certain measures contained in Bill C-9 as described by my hon. colleague, the Secretary of State for Finance, I warned the present government not to make the same mistakes as the previous government. These mistakes are, in a way, reflected in Bill C-9. Let me explain.
When we look at Bill C-9, we see that it contains measures which, although beneficial, indicate a lack of vision on the part of the previous government in dealing with a world that is becoming increasingly globalized. We often talk about globalization and opening borders, and we need measures to help our companies and workers adjust to these changes. These measures must provide a framework within which companies can be confident about developing their competitive potential.
During the debate on second reading of Bill C-9, I also warned the present Canadian government about the kind of measures it should take. The budget had not yet been tabled, and I asked the Liberal government not to make the same mistakes as the previous government, which had failed to take steps to bring public finances under control, and as you know, our public finances are a disaster.
So what has happened since the second reading of Bill C-9? First, the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, but the present government failed to put in place measures to promote Quebec and Canadian companies or help them adjust to this new agreement, which includes Mexico. Instead, a big show was made of signing and implementing this Free Trade Agreement. The Prime Minister and his Minister for International Trade played their part, just to say they had managed to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement and introduce certain provisions on labour standards and protecting the environment.
Our analysis indicates there was nothing of the sort. There was no bilateral or trilateral agreement with our U.S. or Mexican neighbours, no measures that would ensure protection for our social standards, our labour standards, and so forth.
Despite all that, the Prime Minister and his Minister for International Trade bragged that they had obtained everything and that they were now quite ready, with appropriate measures, to face the challenge of the North American free trade.
Meanwhile, and I had raised the issue at the time, the world was signing the biggest international trade deal since 1947, the eighth GATT Agreement. Once again, while the Prime Minister and the Minister for International Trade were boasting, sticking out their chests and thinking they had made exceptional gains on the North American level, they were losing on all fronts on the international level. The fact that this government did not shoulder its responsibilities could be very costly to Quebecers in the next few years.
For example, there is the farming industry, where Canada, despite all it was saying, and in the middle of a debate on Bill C-9, lost clause XI.2c)(i) of the GATT, which had made flourishing milk and agricultural industries possible.
The Liberal Party, when in opposition denounced the Conservatives for not having taken all the necessary measures to protect that clause. Well, the Liberals did exactly the same thing.
They bragged that they had obtained everything, even though one of the fundamental pillars of Canadian agriculture had been discarded by the GATT settlement.
We are not against the GATT settlement; quite the contrary. We are free-traders and we have always said so.
We are for improvement of trade on the international level. We are for economic growth linked precisely with our capacity to produce, to export and to capture international markets.
But it is almost indecent for the Liberal Party of Canada to tell us, Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that we are all intelligent people, that Canada won everything, at that time, and that
Canada, faced with market globalization, has put in place more consistent measures than those that are in Bill C-9.
Mr. Speaker, we also asked the Liberal government, when we considered Bill C-9 at first reading, not to repeat the mistakes of the past, not to repeat the mistakes of the Conservative government and to apply such a restrictive monetary policy, that at the peak of the recession, between the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991, there was a 5 point difference between American and Canadian interest rates.
It was an unacceptable situation.
Therefore, we suggested that the government review the whole monetary policy to ensure a fairer balance between the desire to control inflation in the long term-which is a very commendable objective-and our short-term need to create permanent jobs that about 1.5 million Canadians, including 500,000 Quebecers, are still awaiting impatiently.
But instead of that, since first reading of Bill C-9, the government of Canada, that is to say the Minister of Finance, has appointed Mr. Thiessen, the right-hand man of John Crow, the former Governor of the Bank of Canada, as his successor.
At the time of this appointment, the Governor of the Bank of Canada restated the monetary policy of his predecessor, which consisted in struggling against inflation at any rate no matter if, in the short term, we were following the same pattern the Liberals had denounced before. And yet, the need for jobs is desperate.
Mr. Speaker, from the first through the second readings, we have been asking the government not to repeat the errors made in the previous budgets, the Conservative budgets and in the present one, which shows a lack of long-term vision.
Not only did the Liberal Party of Canada repeat the same mistakes, but it has done worse and that is where the actions of the government are most reprehensible.
When I discussed Bill C-9, I would never have thought that the first Liberal budget would be so terrible, so outrageous, that it would be even more so than the most dreadful Conservative budget.
Let us recall the facts. I think it is important when considering a budget, when one is about to pass budgetary measures, to remember that this government without vision has taken similar measures, sometimes harsh ones, as a result of Bill C-9.
First, cuts of $5.5 billion in unemployment insurance over the next three years, by reducing the number of insurable weeks of employment and by targeting the poorest in years to come.
As you know, for years members of this government denounced, not lightly but in the strongest possible terms, any Conservative initiative that they deemed antisocial. For years, Liberals have practically portrayed themselves as leftists. They portrayed themselves as champions of the poorest in our society; yet, as soon as they came into office, they slashed unemployment insurance by $5.5 billion. Since last week, desperate workers, unemployed people actively seeking employment and trying to regain their dignity, have come to realize that they have been fooled by this government. I understand that the budgetary measures reducing the number of insurable weeks have really been applied only since last week.
Since then, in my own riding of Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, I have met desperate people. Those people are desperate because they had put some hope in this government and in the measures announced in the red book, but mainly measures announced elsewhere because the red book is nothing but a rag when assessed on its own merits. Those people had a lot of hope and saw this government, unlike the previous one, as a government that had a long-term vision, one that would create permanent jobs and would give them back their dignity.
For instance, I think of Yan, 20 years old, who wants to finish high school but who, because of this careless government, its laxness and the fact that it tends to consider every request of Quebec regarding decentralization of labour training as a whim, because of that, Yan, 20 years old, living in the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, will not be able to finish his job training. There is also the case of Jean-Yves, 45 years old, who will not be able to get training this year because of red tape and delays. He was told perhaps next year or in two years, depending on the federal financial support that has already been cut in several areas.
Claude, 25 years old, has a university degree and is looking for a job, but he has just been penalized by the unemployment insurance reform. Claude, 55 years old, who lives in Quebec, is the victim of a plant closure, is unemployed and has been on social assistance for a week. Last week, I was really shocked by the story of Jacques, 35 years old. Unemployed, he was given training by the federal government, but by the time he entered the labour market, the training he had received was completely outdated and would not meet business needs. I met many people in that situation. Every week, the movement Action-chômage meets with many people in that situation, such as Rachel, 40 years old and a mother of two children, who is on welfare.
Instead of helping those people by introducing humane measures such as the ones we need right now to allow these people to go back to work, to get adequate training and to obtain permanent jobs, the members opposite, the Liberals, who were saying that they wanted to give back their hope and dignity by creating
jobs, instead made cutbacks in unemployment insurance. I consider them antisocial.
Another measure that I did not expect from a first federal budget, following the speech that I delivered about the Senate, is the lack, in that first federal budget, of concrete measures to promote job creation, except for the infrastructure program. We have nothing against the infrastructure program, but that program only meets about 3 per cent of market needs. There are 1.5 million unemployed in Canada, including 450,000 in Quebec, and all we have to offer them are 45,000 jobs. Mr. Speaker, these 1.5 million unemployed Canadians will fight for the 45,000 jobs available; there will be violence.
I also noticed that since the first and second readings of Bill C-9, this government has taken no concrete measure whatsoever to create jobs, permanent jobs in reasonable quantity and of reasonable quality. Everything concerning the creation of jobs has been dealt with in a shameless fashion. I am talking here about the Job Development Program where the government recently made some cuts.
Another measure in the first Liberal budget which I could never have imagined coming from the Liberal Party of Canada is the abolition of the age credit. This government, those Liberals shamelessly reduce credits for seniors, they who used to denounce in the strongest possible terms any intention on the part of the Tories to take away from the seniors or any attempt to de-index their pensions or even cut them as was the case in the beginning. I thought these people were sincere and I now see that they never were. Under the guise of a social democratic approach, a humanistic approach, they have fooled the people of Quebec and Canada, and they will pay for that.
Nor was I expecting a $2.5 billion cut over three years in Established Programs Financing, especially in the portion earmarked for post-secondary education. Members on the other side of the House-I am looking to see who is present today-keep talking about education, they keep telling us that education is of extreme importance in order to face present challenges, to face the growing competition that results from the globalization of trade. But they cut into funding for post-secondary education.
Nor did I expect that the government would renege on a commitment made at the beginning of last year by the Liberal Party of Canada, maybe even in 1992 if I remember correctly the first statements regarding social housing. When the Conservatives cut the $600 million budgeted for the construction of new social housing units, the Liberals said that they would restore this financing, that they would start afresh with a new social housing development program. When they assumed power they quickly forgot that promise, and ignored the 350 persons who demonstrated in Ottawa three months ago to ask for decent housing conditions, for a dignity they lost a long time ago. These 350 persons were spending anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent of their income on housing, at least. This is intolerable, and even more so when you hit a stone wall like the one that the Liberals put up.
After giving hope to low income people I consider it indecent that the Liberal government is not coming through with a program, thus dashing the hopes of these people.
Analysing Bill C-9 at third reading gives me a chance to discuss, as I did at first reading, the whole vision of the government that tabled this budget. I realize the government does not have a vision and will never have any. Why? It is the same basic question over and over again. Everywhere in the world, in any democracy, when there is no clear and democratic law providing for public financing of political parties, there is always the risk that the ruling party, upon taking control, will be unable as a government to make real decisions, good decisions such as abolishing all the fiscal inequities of our system.
I remember very clearly that when Liberals were the Official Opposition they denounced almost daily the inequities of the federal fiscal system. They denounced tax evasions. They even denounced family trusts. They were probably trying to win over supporters of the New Democratic Party, which has almost disappeared since then. Along with members of the New Democratic Party, Liberals denounced the fiscal inequities of the Canadian fiscal system.
However, since the last budget, nothing was done to redress the situation. Family trusts still exist enable very rich families to avoid paying between $350 million and one billion dollars a year to the federal Treasury. The same is true of numerous agreements between Canada and countries considered tax havens. They still sign the same kind of agreement; they still have regulations allowing businesses with parent companies in such tax havens to pay hardly any taxes on their profits, while the losses they incur in these tax havens can be deducted from profits made in Canada.
Knowing what the position of the Liberal Party of Canada has been in the past, I cannot understand why they are doing the very thing they were denouncing when they were the Official Opposition, and why, after deceiving us for so many years, they are now totally lacking in vision and concern for social justice.
In his recent budget, the finance minister did nothing along the lines of what we recommended during the first debate on Bill C-9. Worse yet, he managed to do even worse than all the previous Conservative budgets. Within three months, his budget, totally devoid of any sense, lost all credibility; even
thoughhe cut $7.5 billion in social programs, the financial world reacted very negatively to his budget.
This budget harms the poor and the financial world. In financial circles, people say that the government has lost control of the public finances, that it will not be able to bring the deficit down to 3 per cent of the GDP as it has been promising for so long. Finance people are not disconnected from reality, they have a very good analytical mind, just like the Bloc Quebecois. They know that the tax revenue projections in this budget are as unrealistic as those contained in all of the previous government's budgets. They know full well that since 1988 or thereabouts, each time Canada's GDP increases by 1 per cent, federal revenues do not increase by 1 per cent, but only by a mere 0.4 per cent.
In other words, given the growth of the underground economy and the whole range of factors tied to the elasticity of tax revenues compared with the rate of taxation-I will spare you the technical details-economic growth in Canada results in lower tax revenues. Financial circles have their own highly skilled analysts who also know full well that this budget is not realistic and they have proven this over the past month. On reviewing all of the short-term and medium-term financial data, one can see the extreme volatility of interest rates, for example. The spread between interest rates on 90-day Canadian Treasury Bills-in my view, the most telling indicator of how the budget was received, of the economic situation and of the government's state of indebtedness-as compared to U.S. bills, was 213 points yesterday, when a mere two months ago, prior to the release of the Finance Minister's budget, the spread was only 40 points.
It is also clear that foreign investors have lost confidence in the Canadian dollar. A similar loss of confidence was experienced while the Conservatives were in office, but the situation has taken a turn for the worse under the Liberals.
On the one hand, then, the budget contains some extremely unpopular measures which target the least fortunate, persons who should not have to suffer any more than they already do, while on the other hand, it caters to financial circles. The Canadian government will have to pay an additional $3 to $5 billion at the end of next year in extra interest charges. The government is responsible for the increase in interest rates. It has turned its back on those who have recently renewed, or who will be renewing their mortgage shortly, by allowing interest rates to creep upward. All of this stems from the lack of credibility of the latest Liberal budget. This budget is as lacking in credibility as any of the previous Conservative budgets.
The situation is very sad indeed, Mr. Speaker, and others share our opinion. The fact that the Dominion Bond Rating Service Ltd recognized that with this budget, Canada had failed to gain control over its public finances and that consequently, it lowered Canada's rating from AAA to AA+ is significant indeed.
Considering that Scotiabank, Burns Fry Limited, the Association des manufacturiers du Québec , the Bank of Montreal, the Conseil du patronat du Québec , hardly a proponent of sovereignty, Globe and Mail analysts and the Financial Post all agree that the latest Liberal budget is as damaging as the previous Conservative budgets and totally lacking in credibility, then there has to be some truth in what we are hearing, Mr. Speaker.
When you are down to saying, as the Prime Minister did in this House on April 13, that the budget can be set aside, that what will determine what cuts and what measures to control spending need to be done and how public funds are to be managed is not that budget, but non-budgetary measures, even if the Prime Minister is somewhat disparaging about the latest Liberal budget, there is a semblance of truth somewhere in there.
This means that the most recent Liberal budget is not only as bad as the Conservative budgets were, but actually worse, because never had a previous Prime Minister of Canada run down the budget tabled by his Minister of Finance as much as this Prime Minister has.
So, and I will close on this, third reading on Bill C-9 has allowed me to see the progress made in the implementation of the measures, to see what actions this government has taken, after the alarm I tried to raise in my speech when Bill C-9 was read for the second time. I realize in the light of the actions taken, and the last budget in particular, that not one of the sensible, rational, well-thought-out recommendations made by the Official Opposition, recommendations that were mindful of social justice, human dignity, seniors, as well as young people actively looking for work and the unemployed, were taken into account for the action plan developed following the debate at second reading of Bill C-9.
I was following the goings-on in the federal political arena long before becoming a member of Parliament and before having the privilege of debating with you and I used to think that the Conservatives were the most right-wing politicians in Canada's political history. I considered their actions to be inhumane, senseless measures that did nothing to address the problems resulting from overliberal budgeting or the Canadian government financial difficulties. I felt that the social price of these measures, especially the price to the less fortunate segment of society, was too high.
Now I realize, Mr. Speaker, that the Liberal Party of Canada is even worse. Their ways are more underhanded. They cleverly wrap up right-wing, inhumane measures that hurt the most disadvantaged people in a progressive discourse, apparently intended to be open, humane, conciliatory, a discourse with a
distinctly economic flavour to it I would say, but based on economics of the modern kind, where economic analysis is combined with a profoundly humane sociological approach. It takes an anti-poverty stand. It takes a very economic approach, but a new kind of economy, which combines dollars and cents with a very humane sociological approach.
So it covers its inhumane acts with its very humane-sounding rhetoric in order to deceive the people. From the election campaign until today, we have seen that this government has no shame about fooling the people as it has done.
I will quote you a passage from an article by Laurent Laplante published in Le Droit on April 12. Speaking of the ineffective measures being taken by the Liberal Party of Canada to support economic growth, he says: ``The Conservatives, by concentrating their whole attention on the inflationary threat, finally dragged Canada into the first fully made-in-Canada recession. Mr. Martin has decided to do better; he wants to make this recession go on forever.'' I find that this passage says a lot about the difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals and I hope that we will soon be out of this regime with our heads held high, with dignity and a real plan for society, a plan to create jobs, a plan for full employment in a sovereign Quebec that is open to the world and takes a responsible attitude to the challenge facing us in an era of global markets.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to talk about what this government has done since the first reading of Bill C-9.