Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-96, to restructure the Department of Human Resources Development. I have been following the debate with interest ever since the minister made his presentation yesterday. I listened to the minister and his parliamentary secretary. I also listened to some speeches made by government members and the various questions that were asked, including the one put by our colleague from Parkdale-High Park.
I draw from all of this a vision of Canada. I am not one to impugn motives right off the bat. I noticed that speeches were high quality, and a number of general principles have emerged. Of course, other remarks, and those made by the previous speaker are perhaps an example of this, remind us that mediocrity is to be found everywhere, even in the House of Commons.
I would like to look back over the debate, because, as I listened, I could perceive two visions: the standard Liberal vision and the Bloc Quebecois vision. I will not deal with what my hon. colleagues from the Reform Party said, but I think that basic issues were raised by the Liberals that need to be pointed out and set in the context of this debate.
Basically, we are looking at the same mountain, except from different points of view. I think that the Minister of Human Resources Development was sincere in his presentation. What did this presentation contain? First, he described a vision of Canada, along with the federal government's responsibilities according to that vision.
I understood the minister to say that the federal government feels it has responsibilities regarding the development of human resources everywhere in Canada. That sector includes issues related to manpower, employment, education, daycare and, in fact, any-
thing that directly concerns individuals, such as their families, their training, their education and their children.
The minister told us that this bill merely seeks to provide a legislative framework for what is already being done in Canada, partly through the federal government's spending power, but also under the laws passed by this Parliament. I have seen, in my riding, some initiatives taken by the Department of Human Resources Development. I must say that, before coming here, I was not very familiar with the Canadian realities related to that department. I knew that there was an employment centre. I also knew that the federal government was involved in various ways, and I saw it take action.
I have no criticism of the way department officials take action. They implement the programs. They do so with the best of intentions and they also try to do it efficiently. Just think of programs such as Article 25, the employability development program, and also programs such as the youth service, or the access to work program for women, which is designed to help women who do not get UI or welfare benefits find work.
These programs reflect good intentions, as well as a clear desire to do the utmost. Through its initiatives, the department seeks to reach out to people in their everyday lives. It reaches out to individuals and community groups, and it signs agreements with municipalities. All this is currently taking place. It is being done and the bill before us seeks to provide a legislative framework for all these initiatives.
Clause 6 clearly states that the minister's powers apply anywhere in Canada. It says:
The powers, duties and functions of the Minister extend to and include all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction relating to the development of the human resources of Canada-
That provision is extremely wide in scope. As for clause 20, it provides that:
-the Minister may enter into agreements with a province or group of provinces, agencies of provinces, financial institutions and such other persons or bodies as the Minister considers appropriate.
In other words, given the provisions of this bill, the minister may enter into agreements with anyone, so as to get involved in the education, manpower and employment sectors.
If we lived in a unitarian state, that might be a solution. Although Canada is a very big country, it has a rather large population and it could be said that, because of regional characteristics, it may be good to have some degree of decentralization so that local needs are taken into account by the minister.
But we are not in a unitarian country although a number of constitutional experts, considering the evolution of Canada, are not willing to say that we are in a federation, let alone in a confederation. But, in a federation, there are various levels of government and, ordinarily, these levels of government are sovereign in their jurisdiction. Canada is made up of provinces which, if we take a look at the Constitution, are supposed to have jurisdiction over education, training, over all the areas that have to do with Canadians as individuals, the federal government having kept, in 1867, jurisdiction over external trade, defence and the economy in general.
If we examine the bill and the objectives of the bill, we realize that this legislation which is now before Parliament will give a federal minister the right to interfere in areas under provincial jurisdiction. It is shocking. People of my race have found this shocking for years-and I use the word race in the sense of nation, as Mr. Duplessis did, since, moments ago, the member for Carleton-Gloucester reminded us of Maurice Duplessis. My people have always been shocked by these ways of doing things.
For us, it is not only a question of what we could call a constitutional orthodoxy, according to which the federal government should have no say in provincial jurisdictions, but there is also an element of efficiency because in Quebec-other provinces may do what they want in this regard-there has been a large consensus for years now. My colleagues talked about it, especially the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, who raises the issue every time he has the floor. That consensus is that, for reason of efficiency, all the issues of professional training, manpower and employment must be Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction.
I think that is self evident. I do not want to repeat what has already been said by other Bloc speakers, but nonetheless, I want to relate a personal experience. A few years ago, I was a career counsellor in the professional training centre in Jonquière, which is the biggest training centre in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. At the time, we provided training in many areas: mechanics, plumbing, electricity, and so on. Every year we trained a group of students in industrial mechanics.
At one point, a study had concluded that industrial mechanics was a trade with a future.
What happened? Our school board kept offering a course in industrial mechanics to a group of about 20 students. The Government of Quebec, willing to provide training to social assistance recipients, commissioned the school board to train people in industrial mechanics-which made two groups-and the federal government also commissioned the school board to train two other groups in industrial mechanics.
Whereas every year we used to have one group of students in industrial mechanics, that year we had four groups. The school board, the Government of Quebec and the federal government did not consult with each other, everybody being busy with their own little policies.
What happened? At the end of the year, instead of 20 people applying for a job, they were about 80. As a result, most of them did not find a job, which killed the industrial mechanics option in the area for several years.
It is sad to see that people genuinely wanting to go back to the labour market were offered training for what was basically a dead end trade, not because studies promising jobs in that field were badly done, but because there had not been any consultation between the federal and provincial governments and the school board. That is what we want to avoid in Quebec.
In Quebec, we want to have a full employment policy, the same type of policy they have in Austria, in some Scandinavian countries or even in Germany. Those full employment policies usually produce unemployment rates of about 6 or 7 per cent, instead of the 12 or 13 per cent rates we have in Quebec and instead of the 15 or 16 per cent rates we have in my area, Jonquière, or in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area.
That is what we want to do, but to do so, we need tools. We need co-ordination, but with the present practices in Canada, there is no co-ordination.
This is why everyone in Quebec, whether the Quebec Liberal Party, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, or central labour bodies-with the exception of the provincial wing of the Liberal Party of Canada-is calling for the return of powers regarding manpower training and employment policies to Quebec so that the province can set policies to ensure that people will get useful training, taking the present job market into consideration, and will not be the victims of jurisdictional disputes or arguments between public servants.
For four or five years now, the Government of Quebec, whether Liberal or Parti Quebecois, all governments of Quebec have been calling for training to be made the responsibility of the government of Quebec.
And what do we see this morning in the House? Bill C-96, which says exactly the opposite, which says that the co-ordination will not be done by the Government of Quebec. This bill tells us that the minister will be entitled, for each community, municipality or province, as he wishes, to present programs, to suggest actions to community groups in order for them to create jobs or to propose the hiring of trainees to employers.
This maintains the present policy, which is not effective. Despite all the good will, despite the relative success of some federal or provincial programs, we realize that we do not have the expected results when we take into account all the money invested and all the skills called up in both the federal and provincial public services.
Why is that? It is not due to ill will or lack of skill; it is simply a matter of organization. Things are poorly organized, and in order to properly organize manpower training, to properly organize employment policies, there must be only one decision maker.
In Quebec, past and present governments, Liberal and PQ alike, unions and business owners' associations, everybody says unanimously that, considering the circumstances, considering the history, considering the needs, considering what is in place right now, it is the Government of Quebec that should have the responsibility for co-ordinating all these policies so that we can one day train our people properly and have a full employment policy that makes sense.
The bill before us means exactly the opposite. This bill says no. The consensus in Quebec is totally useless because a minister in Ottawa, the Minister of Human Resources Development, will have the power to develop programs and enter into agreements with provinces, municipalities, community groups, and individuals, implementing these programs in order to help Canadians get better training and better jobs.
By saying "to develop programs", we are referring to money, because, in the end, it is always a matter of money. In fact, there is always a relation between any given program and the funds allocated to it by the Minister of Finance. So, a proposal is being made to Canadians, even in my riding, where people voted-one mentioned that the sovereignists were defeated in the referendum, but it fact they received almost 50 per cent, or 49.4 per cent. In my riding, however, it was 71 per cent for Quebec's sovereignty. You cannot ignore 71 per cent of the population. My riding came third in Quebec, after the riding of my colleague for Charlevoix and the riding of my leader, the Leader of the Opposition. This is no mean feat.
In a sovereignist region like ours, people are still getting involved in the process, so they keep asking Quebec to fund certain programs and they request funding under some federal government programs. People know perfectly well that something must be done, in Quebec and Canada, as far as training and employment are concerned.
People are not as partisan as some others, and in any case-I am not sure this is parliamentary-people are not against the federal government's involvement, even though they may have very deep-rooted sovereignist convictions. People are concerned and ask themselves: Will there be someone, one day, to make a decision and give us employment policies which are worthwhile?
We do not see any hopeful sign coming from the government side. We do not see any in the area of manpower and, as we have
seen this week during Question Period, we do not see any hopeful sign either in the area of constitutional reform.
I have the distinct impression that eventually, when the question is asked next time, people are going to give the answer that the Quebec sovereignist movement has been waiting for for so long. Why? In order to have effective policies and a state which is efficiently managed, so that its citizens get their money's worth. Taxpayers want effective programs. It is not by stepping on each others toes, as we are doing now, that we will get valid manpower and employment policies.
I hope that the House will support the motion from my colleague from Mercier and that this bill will be sent into oblivion as quickly as possible.