Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in the debate at report stage of Bill C-76, an Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 1995.
I oppose this bill, which maintains national standards in the health field and provides for the introduction of new national standards with respect to social assistance and post-secondary education. These measures fly in the face of the provinces' autonomy and jurisdiction. If the provinces did not comply with these national standards, the federal government would impose sanctions by cutting transfer payments, having already cut benefits to the unemployed and those receiving social assistance and planning to target seniors next.
This bill will affect the education sector, a sector of exclusive provincial jurisdiction and one that is vital to Quebec's cultural identity. These Canada-wide standards will reflect the interests of the majority of English speaking provinces, not the reality of the special situation in Quebec, which is a distinct society.
In my opinion, this bill has two fundamental objectives: first, to steam roller over the legitimate claims of the government of Quebec in its own areas of jurisdiction; and second, to introduce unprecedented cuts in provincial transfer payments and, consequently, in social programs.
The first federal budget in 1994 began by offloading $5.5 billion in cuts onto the backs of the unemployed and $2 billion in cuts onto the backs of welfare recipients and the education system for the period from 1994 to 1997. The February 1995 budget announced additional cuts of $7 billion in transfer payments for social assistance, education and health, and another $700 million in cuts to unemployment insurance. Is this is the much touted flexible federalism of the Liberals?
In addition, the Minister of Finance announced in his last budget that the government will review the old age pension plan. Seniors, including the 15 per cent of the population in my riding of Bourassa who are aged 65 or over, can now expect to see their cheques further eroded. I hope that seniors will again rise up and protest, as they did under the Mulroney government, against the deterioration in their living conditions, particularly with respect to pensions.