Mr. Speaker, it is my duty today to denounce one of the worst incursions in the history of federalism into provincial jurisdiction. Bill C-76, an act to implement certain provisions of the last federal budget, opens the door to all kinds of federal interventionism in jurisdictions belonging to Quebec and the other provinces, and also widens the scope of its incursions.
As far as deficit-fighting measures go, we have seen better. All that the federal government could dream up was a merger of all of its transfer payments for health, social services and post-secondary eduction into one payment: the Canada social transfer. They hope to take on the deficit by offloading to the provinces.
For 1995-96, the transfer to the provinces will effectively be reduced by $2.5 billion; for 1997-98, it will be cut by $4.5 billion. If this transpires, Quebec's shortfall could be in the neighbourhood of $1.9 billion, if the distribution of the Canada social transfer is determined by the criterion of population. That, at least, is the criterion which would be most favourable to the government, as it would result in Quebec having to shoulder close to 42 per cent of the cuts in transfer payments for 1997-98. If the federal government were to continue using the current distribution method, Quebec's shortfall would still be approximately $1.2 billion.
The federal government would use these centralizing measures to relegate Quebec and the other provinces to a purely consultative role. At first glance it seemed as though the Canada social transfer would give the provinces the transfer money they needed to carry out their responsibilities, since the federal government would be withdrawing from areas of provincial jurisdiction, or so the government wanted us to believe.
In reality, the bill maintains the national health standards and provides for the addition of new standards in the areas of social welfare and post-secondary education. What happens if the provinces do not meet these standards? The government hits where it hurts, in the wallet. It will cut off their rations, like it did for our society's most disadvantaged: the unemployed and welfare recipients.
This is the point we have reached in this country. The government wants to impose national standards unilaterally in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The provinces-imagine that-will be consulted. Nothing in this bill requires provincial approval for the implementation of standards imposed by the federal government. This means that, in areas as sensitive as health and education, the federal government will be entitled to say to the provinces: "Your program does not meet national standards. If you do not arrange it the way we want, we will cut off funding". Not only is this government making unprecedented cuts to social programs, but it is imposing national standards in areas of provincial jurisdiction. I wonder whether Pierre Elliott Trudeau ever went so far? And this is no compliment to the current government.
Bill C-76 will enable the federal government to tell Quebec and the other provinces, at the end of unsuccessful negotiations, for example, that it is cutting them off if they do not accept its standards. It is just that subtle. In Quebec, the message will be understood as: "Toe the line or you are dead". Quebecers will choose this fall to suffer such humiliation or to form a country. Elsewhere in the country, people are not thrilled about the bill either.
Take for instance the Canadian Council which criticized Bill C-76 in these terms when it appeared before the finance committee: "If the federal government tries to impose national standards without giving the money that goes with it, it will simply get negative responses from the provinces".
This bill will have numerous deplorable effects. Let us take manpower development in Quebec for example. Bill C-76 will allow the Minister of Human Resources Development to go forward with his intention to grab the savings coming from his unemployment insurance reform in order to create a human resources investment fund.
And this fund will be used, among other things, for manpower training programs, a jurisdiction that Quebec has been claiming for many years under governments from all political allegiances. Students also will be hit. Since their grants will be reduced, universities will have no other choice but to increase tuition fees, which will force students to borrow even more.
I suggest that this government is a past master in the art of getting into debt. Yet, as far as I know, the federal government can no longer afford to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. Following the last budget, the government has made it clear that it intends to reduce its participation in the funding of Quebec social programs to about 28 per cent.
While footing only 28 per cent of the bill, the government still wants to assume the right to interfere in our business by imposing its national standards. Fortunately, by 1998, Quebec will have taken its own destiny into its hands. The Bloc Quebecois knows exactly what the Minister of Finance and this government are up to.
The bill has two objectives: first, to obliterate Quebec's claims in its own jurisdictions and, second, to hide from the people the truth about transfer cuts to the provinces and the effects that these cuts will have, especially two years from now.
Federal transfers to Quebec, and I want to specify here that this is Quebecers' money, taken from the $30 billion in taxes they sent to Ottawa, will be reduced by 32 per cent between 1994-95 and 1997-98.
The bill is a perfect example of what motivates us to want to become sovereign; this is plain interference, except that this time the government is going further than any other centralizing government has ever gone. We denounce that and the people will hear us.