Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to the opposition motion before the House today, and I may recall the wording: That this House condemn the government's legislative agenda, which makes clear its intention to usurp provincial jurisdictions and construct an entirely centralized state, as can be seen from Bills C-76 on the Canada Social Transfer, C-88 on the Agreement on Internal Trade, C-91 on changing the name and mandate of the Federal Business Development Bank and C-46, which confirms that the Department of Industry is responsible for regional development in Quebec and Ontario.
These are legal terms we use in the House, but basically, the real question being asked today, and it has already been asked this morning by the federalist parties, which demonstrates their failure to understand the issues at stake for Quebec, is as follows: Why is Quebec again disturbed by this attack by the federal government which is intruding in a variety of areas? Why is Quebec again being a spoil sport? Since today is the first day of June, 1995, I think we should make this show-and-tell month.
In fact, after the offensive fought during the Trudeau years to put in place a system the Liberals now want to resuscitate, we had a strategic retreat by the Conservatives when, because of nationalist members within the Conservative caucus and because it was impossible to get through the bureaucracy at Industry Canada, for instance, the government decided in favour of what I would call a by-pass operation. It created the Federal Office of Regional Development and other regional agencies to get around the centralizt bureaucracy and find parallel channels for spending federal money in the regions. However, that was still at a time when there seemed to be enough money or in any case the government was still willing to borrow money, all of which helped to run up our current debt.
Today, the "arteries" are being closed down. There is no more blood for the system to pump. Whether we try to preserve the Conservative-built bypasses or whether we return to the centralizing approach, the system needs oxygen and does not meet the objectives. This is what has led us to the present situation of 1.2 million welfare cases in Ontario and 800,000 in Quebec and a debt that will soon reach $600 billion. I think these are the symptoms of the system's failure.
We are seeing a repeat of the events of the 1970s. The federal government decided it had the solutions to all the problems in areas of jurisdiction other than its own. Let us take Bill C-76 dealing with the Canada social transfer as an example. The federal government has decided to intervene in the areas of health, social assistance and post-secondary education-all areas of provincial jurisdiction. It has decided to establish national standards, which take no account of the economic and social realities of Canada's regions.
Let us look at a few examples. Bursaries and loans, for one. The bursary and loan system was changed on the sly so the provinces are now forced to comply with the wishes of the federal minister in this area. In Quebec, we developed a different model, and here Quebec will have to choose between complying with federal standards and making the rest of the population pay for the constraints established by the federal government.
One thing I learned as a member of the human resources committee on its cross-Canada tour is that there is not one Canada and that there is no single solution to the problems raised. The approach of setting up national standards, as we have seen in health care and other sectors, at a time when the federal government is cutting back, leads nowhere, except to frustration. This is the reason for today's motion by the opposition, which is to make people aware, in June 1995, a few months away from the referendum in which Quebecers will decide whether they want to leave this madhouse, as René Lévesque described this dysfunctional and dead-end system.
Therefore, Quebecers must do some thinking. At first we had thought they would have to decide between the status quo and sovereignty. Now, however, it appears that the choice is between a degenerating status quo with the federal government wanting to intervene even more and sovereignty. It is very clear.
I understand why people who consider the federal government to be the main government in Canada, the one that must apply all the rules, have difficulty understanding where the official opposition stands on this issue. When one looks at it from Quebecers' perspective, it is clear that for Quebecers in general, the main government has for a long time been and still is Quebec. The government in Ottawa is to a large extent the result of a compromise made in 1867.
Quebecers cannot accept that this federal government systematically interfere in areas such as social programs, internal trade and potential loans by the Federal Business Development Bank, and give the Department of Industry the responsibility for regional development in Quebec and in Ontario when one knows very well that this system never worked.
The Tories had been forced to create parallel agencies to put an end to this bureaucracy. Now the Liberals come back to the old system which suited Ontario but does not suit Quebec. I have nothing against the fact that members of Parliament from Ontario protect their interests, but I am against the consequences of restoring an old structure which adversely affects Quebec and does not offer good prospects.
Let us take, for example, the bill to implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, Bill C-88. We should keep in mind that this bill implements an agreement based on co-operation. Everyone in Quebec, Canada and North America realizes how important free trade is. It is so important that Quebecers rallied to the defence of the FTA, which would never have passed without Quebec's massive support. The FTA goes well beyond interprovincial trade opportunities.
Adjustments were made to reach an acceptable compromise. This agreement is based on interprovincial co-operation. Suddenly, with Bill C-84, the federal government is surreptitiously putting its big paws in this agreement by introducing a judicial process into an agreement based on an administrative consensus that disputes should be settled between the parties.
However, the federal government has now come up with a wonderful idea. In one case, whether or not the federal government is a party to the dispute, it may impose sanctions on the provinces which, in its opinion, do not comply with the agreement. This amounts to being both judge and party. This is a concrete example of the paternalistic approach used by this government and developed by the Canadian federal system, since, under the federal decision making process, senior officials always feel that they are right about what to impose on Canadians.
I now come back to the example of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. A year ago, officials, deputy ministers told the committee that UI reform would introduce two levels of coverage. They said that people in the outlying regions and seasonal workers go on UI because they are not prepared to work hard. Our committee travelled across Canada and unanimously rejected the proposed system. The minister set up a committee on seasonal work, which also rejected the whole approach proposed by the federal bureaucrats. This week, senior officials smugly outlined for our committee the same vision they had a year ago.
Although he may have acted in good faith in this matter, the minister did not succeed in convincing them to change their proposal one iota. The bureaucracy's control over Canada's development is unhealthy. Bureaucrats are responsible for the current results. It is because of them that regional disparities are so wide, because they never wanted, because this government in particular does not want, to give each region control over important sectors. Instead, perhaps because the constitutional provisions on the division of powers are so vague, it always feels like interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction, simply because it has the right to collect and redistribute taxes.
Following the Canadian social transfer and the agreement on internal trade, the federal government is stepping up its attacks by proposing a new Business Development Bank of Canada.
Clauses 20 and 21 of the new legislation to change the name of the Federal Business Development Bank to Business Development Bank of Canada, which is a minor change as far the name is concerned, make it possible for the federal government to systematically interfere in regional development. This goes to show, once again, that the federal government does not regard regional development as a provincial area of responsibility. In fact, it is unclear whether the provinces exist at all in the eyes of the federal government.
Under clause 20 of this bill, it may deal directly with any organization, which means that the same pattern will be used as in the past. The federal government will walk in with its money, tell community consultation organizations, municipalities or development funds: "The thing is, we can give you money for regional development, but we want to have a say about how it will be used, since our contribution will be substantial". And the pattern of fighting will be repeated, with provincial and federal organizations each defending their turf. In the end, who will be the losers? The people. In this case, with the development bank, the businessman is the one who will be in a worse
position than before with the various departments he will have to deal with.
This is the third bill which, under the guise of simple name change, is used to discreetly introduce provisions that would have gone unnoticed if it were not for the watchful eye of the opposition. But this is serious business and it speaks volumes about how this government operates, always trying to go over the heads of the provinces.
If we were certain that this approach was effective, we would have to recognize that, as unconstitutional as it may be, it is efficient, but experience shows that it is not effective and never has been. A region like Eastern Quebec is a perfect example, having been a proving ground for every federal-provincial action for the past 25 years. And the end result was a significant drop in population. All the young people have moved away, and we are struggling in our communities to get out of this situation, but were it not for the goodwill and sweat of local stakeholders, we would get nowhere. But we also get tired of trying to work with that system and finding ways to implement programs locally.
There is another clause in the Business Development Bank of Canada bill which is indicative of duplication, as it set out two different goals for a development policy. I am referring to the fact that the bank is to support Canadian entrepreneurship. This is a very general statement. It means that, if some provinces implement projects on their territory to make up for the seasonality of their economy, for example in the Maritimes or in certain regions of Quebec, a federal intervention aimed at providing programs which support Canadian entrepreneurship could easily trigger a centralization of businesses in the large centres, and thus result in an even greater population decrease in the outlying regions.
The provinces, and particularly Quebec, will have to spend energy and money to fight that approach. The federal government will do just the same, with the result that public servants will be very busy and will work really hard, but not toward the stated goal, which is to develop the economy.
If only one bill or another was involved, we could talk about a blip on the screen, or say that the federal government wants to interfere in social programs because it feels that some provinces are not adequately assuming their responsibilities. However, this is a planned approach. It is a systematic approach designed to make Canada a unitary state.
The predominantly English-speaking provinces probably have no problem with that approach, since they are pretty comfortable with a system where the federal government assumes all the responsibilities. A university chancellor in the Maritimes told me that we were now at a stage where we need a federal department of education and that it will have to come to that. I told him that I appreciated his being so clear about the issue. Such will be the choice for Quebecers. They will have to decide whether to keep the steamroller which, in 1982, unilaterally erased the reference to two founding nations in Canada's constitution.
Now we are left with the Canadian people. Since 1982, all the federal structures have favoured this approach, which is at odds with how Quebec wishes to develop.
Take health, as an example. The official opposition is said to continually criticize the federal government's interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction, but, of course, they are sovereignists. The members opposite will even say we are separatists. But if we take an event like the health forum, there could have been two different approaches.
The federal government could have made sure that the provinces were represented. The discussions might have taken a little longer, but it would have been possible to reach a consensus and find a logical solution. Instead, it was decided to hold the health forum without the provinces. Not to worry, we will bring in experts to define Canada's needs. The result was inevitable.
We find ourselves in the situation where the recommendations resulting from this forum will have no credibility with the provinces, who already have jurisdiction in this area and are aware of the problems created by the reduced federal budgets. And more problems are expected in the future. The provinces must take on increasing responsibilities, with no consultation by the federal government, accepting the news and making short term adjustments.
Here we are at the beginning of June 1995. Quebecers are three weeks away from their national holiday and a few months away from a referendum in which they must decide if they want the future of the people of Quebec to be governed entirely by Quebecers or whether they can risk seeing the people of Quebec become just a minority among Canadians within the Canadian constitutional context.
We have the choice of accepting the model proposed by the federal government or fighting it within the existing Canadian system. But that has been the nightmare of the last 30 years. There is no longer anyone in Quebec who dares to say that we should keep trying to change the federal system. No one in a position of political responsibility would say it because it no longer has any credibility, there is no longer any likelihood that it can be done.
The third choice available to Quebecers is to leave the existing federal system, eliminate duplications and overlap, all the reasons to do with how it operates. But why, when it comes right down to it, should we leave? Why must we make sure that these unsuccessful efforts are not repeated? Why cease these futile struggles? Because, fundamentally, we are a nation. We have long sought to work out an agreement with Canada's other founding nation. Now is the time to make a choice. As Maurice Duplessis said: "Donnez-nous notre butin". Faced with a choice between what this government is offering us and taking
control of our own destiny, I think that Quebecers will choose Quebec and that, in the fall, they will decide that it is time they had their own country.