Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my remarks on Bill C-76. It should be noted that the Liberal government has already reduced the net income of seniors by approximately $500 million with the tax credit cuts imposed in the 1994 budget.
The freezes and cuts imposed by the federal government since 1984 currently translate into a $9.7 billion shortfall in the funding of social programs in Quebec. We have more than 808,000 people on welfare in Quebec today; in Ontario, they are more than a million.
In 1980, about half of the social programs in Quebec were funded through federal contributions. By 1997, only 27 per cent of these programs will receive federal funding, while Quebec sends $29 billion in taxes to Ottawa every year. Since the Liberals took office in 1993, the number of welfare recipients has increased by 53,000 mainly because of UI cuts.
That is the kind of compassion demonstrated by the Liberals for the most disadvantaged segment of our society. These cuts fly in the face of red book promises and everything the Liberals stood for in the last election campaign.
The federal government only manages to increase the problem of poverty, instead of alleviating it. The Chrétien government is the largest producer of welfare recipients in Canada.
Close to 500 Quebec women took part in the march to denounce poverty and the plight of children, and also to promote a better world. The 200 kilometre march, which I enthusiastically supported, started from Montreal, Longueuil and Rivière-du-Loup, lasted 10 days, and ended yesterday in Quebec City with a demonstration, in front of the National Assembly, in which 15,000 people participated.
There are still too many women affected by poverty because of their family situation, their age, their training, or the fact that they are unemployed or on welfare. Yet, federal cuts to social programs only make the situation worse for these women.
I want to pay tribute to these marchers for their courage and for their cause, which also concerns men and the population as a whole. This march is a giant step in the fight against poverty in Quebec and in Canada.
I want to point out that Mr. Parizeau's government reacted positively to the claims of these women. For example, minimum wage will increase by 45 cents on October 1st, going from $6 to $6.45. At the federal level, minimum wage is only $4. It is a disgrace.
The federal government should know that the vast majority of minimum wage workers in Canada are women. This march had other positive results: housing for homeless women, training for welfare recipients and the automatic collection of child support payments.
In addition, the sponsorship period for immigrant women is reduced from ten years to three. As a result, immigrant women will be able to free themselves from abusive or violent husbands without too much trouble, I hope. At the federal level, however, this sponsorship period is still 10 years. This is a disgrace.
As far as the preventative withdrawal of pregnant women from work and parental leave are concerned, Quebec is way ahead of the federal government. The federal government must act quickly to improve its social legislation in order to protect women instead of cutting everywhere, except where necessary, especially in defence spending. I just found out that the Liberal government has decided to purchase 15 search and rescue helicopters and 32 helicopters for the navy at the astronomical cost of $2.6 billion.
It is outrageous that this government is spending billions on military equipment at a time when it is cutting social programs, UI benefits and social transfers. This decision is all the more disturbing since upon taking office in 1993 the Liberal Prime Minister cancelled the contract to purchase 50 helicopters that had been signed by the old Tory government. I am accusing this government of not keeping its word in this matter.
I am asking the federal government to withdraw Bill C-76 and enter into negotiations with the Quebec government. The federal government must withdraw completely from social programs, education and other areas under Quebec jurisdiction. In return, it should give Quebec full fiscal compensation by transferring tax points.
The time has come to end federal interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction. Quebec has the right to give itself job creation, manpower training, education, health and welfare policies in line with its own needs and priorities.
For all these reasons, I am against Bill C-76.