Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the floor to address the issue of the future of Montreal, an issue that is so very close to my heart.
Today's opposition motion will allow us to give the public the facts, which have been totally misrepresented. I am extremely pleased to rise on this issue, since, as you know, I got into politics earlier this year, in January 1996, because, among other reasons, I was dismayed by the situation Montreal was in. I thought that the only way to boost Montreal's economy was to ensure that Canada is a vibrant country, with a modern and flexible federalism that would allow Montreal to work well. That is the underlying reason of my commitment, and that is why I rise in the House today as the member of Parliament for Papineau-Saint-Michel, representing eastern Montreal, the Montreal that is having a rough time, the Montreal that concerns us so much.
Of course, the Prime Minister had absolutely no difficulty recognizing earlier this week that Montreal is the economic mainspring of Quebec. Montreal has always been, is, and will always remain the economic and cultural mainspring of Quebec
society. Besides, members opposite are among those who have been insisting for years on considering Montreal merely a region like any other, always reminding Montreal that it is only one region among others, whereas we have always recognized its role as an economic mainspring. So, the first words of the motion reflect the bad faith of opposition members who would have us believe they themselves do not recognize Montreal as the economic mainspring of Quebec.
Moreover, in the speech he made last Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Canada went so far as to say that Montreal is not only the economic mainspring of Quebec, but one of the economic engines of Canada. When the Montreal economy is in dire straits, as it is right now, the Canadian economy as a whole is in trouble.
Millions of Canadian citizens feel attached to Montreal. Millions of Canadian citizens feel some kind of attachment for Montreal, which I appreciate and find very encouraging, because when we talk about Montreal in cabinet or in caucus, I can always tell that the government members have a lot of sympathy for Montreal. Canadians love the city of Montreal. They recognize that Montreal is crucial both to the Quebec society and to the future of Canada. I think it is extremely important to recognize this.
Here is what struck me these last few days. I am quite new to politics and I may be rather naive but I am stunned to see that, although the Prime Minister of Canada made an important speech in front of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, last Tuesday, holding out his hand to the Quebec government, the private sector, the community sector, the co-operative sectors, the municipal governments in Montreal and the vicinity in a speech which was meant to be constructive and unifying, his speech was met yesterday and today in question period with anger and attempts to revive old illusions that are completely out of date in a modern Quebec. And I say to the members opposite: this is 1996, please bring yourselves up to date and forget last century's divisions, and decisions that were, in some cases, made at the turn of the century and which they are trying to update with an anti-Quebec twist. This is pure nonsense.
What I can say is that we, in the Government of Canada, are totally pro-Montreal. The Prime Minister, the head of our government, made a speech the Quebec government did not ridicule fortunately. The Governement of Quebec welcomed the Prime Minister's speech because we want to transform Montreal into a job site with a strong job potential for the years to come.
What did we have since then? Not a word on the openness shown by the Prime Minister, not a word on the pro-Montreal and pro-Quebec constructive approach he took by inviting all stakeholders of the private sector and community groups. I was shocked by this absolutely mean attitude. What I am afraid of is that they are not interested in Montreal's well-being, but, on the contrary, in a return to the old divisions.
In my office, this morning, I was listening with only half an ear to the hon. member for Rosemont, who was reminding us of the old rivalries when Montreal was an anglophone city, when the anglophones exploited the poor French Canadians who suffered so much. They are constantly trying to bring us back to the past, to situations which, for the most part, are no longer true in modern Quebec.
The only way for Montreal to regain its place in the sun, to become a prominent economic pole again is to stop reviving the old hatreds and divisions. Really, the only vision that comes from the opposition, from the Bloc which calls itself Quebecois-but which, I have more and more the impression, should be called anti-Quebecois-is a vision of division. A vision of division, of constant division between people.
They try to divide us when we know that we can accomplish so much more by staying together. They disappoint me because this is not what Montreal needs right now. What Montreal needs is that we all work together: the Government of Canada, the government of Quebec, the private sector, the labour unions and the community sector. This is what we want and the hon. members opposite have nothing to offer except division, they did nothing to make any true commitment or to create a collective commitment.
Fortunately, they do not reflect the reaction of Quebec's premier to the great speech made by the Prime Minister of Canada, who made all Canadians aware of the needs of Montreal.
Do Quebecers get their fair share in Canada? For the past 130 years, Quebecers have chosen Canada every time they were asked, even when all kinds of gimmicks were used to make them say what they did not mean. Why is that? Because, in the end, Quebecers know very well that they get their fair share in Canada. We must see Canada as a land of freedom, individual growth, respect and tolerance. This is a lot more interesting than the divisions and racial hatred that some people would like to impose on us by constantly referring to the old myths of the past when Montreal was an English-speaking city.
I cannot believe that I am still hearing today, in 1996, the things I heard this morning. I sincerely hope people will realize that Quebec's society includes all the people, whatever their language or their ethnic origin. This is the only Montreal that can reclaim its place under the sun. This is the Montreal we need, the Montreal that must shine.
The Government of Canada, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, has taken a structuring approach where various federal
departments have their own line of action. These lines of action are very interesting and reflect our government's agenda.
We want to promote the development of the science and technology sector, which is absolutely essential in the new knowledge-based economy towards which we are moving. We are doing all we can in the area of international development. Most jobs that are created today are related to international trade. Our country is open to international trade and that is extremely important.
Our third line of action within our structuring approach is small business development.
The development of the cultural and tourism industries will also be extremely important, as well as local economic and social development, which is my responsibility as Canada's Minister of Human Resources Development.
A few moments ago, the member for Mercier was trying to tell me again that the poor Quebecers did not get their fair share in the new employment insurance program, that our reform was not fair to Quebecers, when in fact local economic and social development is our main concern. The main purpose of our employment insurance reform is precisely to help the most vulnerable people in our society re-enter the workforce by investing much more money than we did before under the unemployment insurance program to give them access to the training that will allow them to re-enter the workforce.
Do Quebecers not get their fair share? If you look at the figures, in 1995, Quebecers received 45 per cent of employment insurance transfers, or $4.7 billion, which is $1.2 billion more than the $3.5 billion they contributed.
And in how many other areas is this true? We do not even want to get into this kind of highly divisive propaganda at a time when the Prime Minister is extending his hand to try to rebuild Montreal, and all we are hearing is insults, to the point where it was insinuated that the Prime Minister was shedding crocodile tears because he said he was sorry about the state of Montreal's economy. Where are these people coming from?
This reminds me of August or September when Quebec's finance minister, Mr. Landry, thought we were not taking statistics seriously. He even mentioned me specifically, the minister standing before you, who has spent his life working for the development of Montreal's economy, of its business community, helping it to take its first steps in international markets, as an international management consultant.
This is nothing more than old style political fighting. Its approach is to attack people's motivation, trying to play on our prejudices, and we are not having any of it.
We think that this narrow partisan discourse, which is unable to rise to the challenge of actually building a society, will get what it deserves from Quebecers in due course.
When I hear the name Bloc Quebecois, I can assure you of one thing, and all Canadians must know this, and that is that Quebecers are far above this divisive mentality, that they are people with a different ideal, a much more elevated community and economic ideal.
I think it important to reassure the Canadian people at this time that the Bloc Quebecois represents a certain part of the population and that we will see a sharp decline in its numbers over the coming years. In any event, Quebec's share of federal research and development spending, which is often mentioned, and I have no choice but to speak about it, because of all the figures that have been given, has gone from 14 per cent in 1979 to 24 per cent in 1994-95.
In 1994-95, Quebec received close to 23 per cent of the funds available for research and development from the Department of National Defence. In 1992-93, Quebec businesses received 33 per cent of grants and 33 per cent of federal research and development contracts. In 1992-93, Quebec universities received 26 per cent of federal research and development grants to Canadian universities.
Early this week, the Prime Minister announced an $87 million investment in Bombardier as part of a technology partnership. What did I hear this morning? I heard people saying: "We do not need grants, what we want is action and policies".
They want words, political decisions. They have asked us for policies and told us they do not want grants.
We give them the focus of our developmental policy, we show them Team Canada proudly carrying the products of Quebecers and other Canadians into the international markets. We show them a Prime Minister of Canada, who has taken those products all over the world, which they have always opposed because they do not want international development, they do not want to be part of Team Canada, despite the great business success these undertakings have enjoyed so far.
Just since the time I became a member of this House, a mere seven months ago, I have seen how many Montreal businesses have received the funding they over there claim they want nothing of. Since this morning I have heard nothing but "We do not want grants, we want policies".
I can tell you, however, that what Quebecers want is more than words, more than political slogans. What they want is economic action. They want partnerships based on returnable contributions, for that is where business is at these days. Such was the case early this week with Bombardier, with $87 million in repayable funds,
because we are sharing the technological risk involved, but we have confidence.
How much has the Canadian government invested in Bombardier, which is in the process of moving up from the sixth-ranking aerospace company in the world to the fourth? We are, of course, delighted with this loan, and I am looking at the list of companies, ones like Bell Helicopter, Delisle Foods, Galderma, businesses in which we have invested jointly with the Government of Quebec. It cannot be such a bad thing as that, if Quebec was also involved. Why tell us they want no subsidies, when extremely important investments are exactly what is bringing about the restructuring of Montreal?
I can tell you that what we need at this time is unity and union. We need to unite all of our strengths in order to find the strength Montreal needs. I am speaking of the east, I am speaking of the pro-east group, in which we invested as a government, in the local community. Those people are doing an absolutely remarkable job. We, the Government of Canada, are there one hundred per cent, attuned to the needs of the people of the Montreal region.
But the Government of Canada is proposing tangible actions, useful actions in order to make Montreal become a great city in Quebec and in Canada. We want to help Montreal to be a great North American metropolis.
We will continue to act in the most structured possible way, with employment as a priority. Employment remains our governments's priority. We have put some order in our fiscal house and we are extremely proud of this achievement. We have transformed employment insurance into a very modern system, which takes into account the reality of the new economy and covers 500,000 more Canadians, many of whom are women from the eastern part of Montreal, who had part time jobs.
This government intends to continue to improve economic growth, employment and the new economy and to work for the young people. I am proud to see that there are some healthy economic sectors in Montreal. A part of Montreal may be in a tough situation but there is also another part of it which is economically well. I know the people on the other side rarely talk about that successful Montreal because it rarely is on their political side.
Indeed, the successful Montreal is not on their side because it is made of people who have confidence in themselves. They are not people who are mean and suspicious, who are afraid of their neighbours and who refuse to share their sovereignty with them. The successful Montreal is the Montreal of aeronautics, biotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, telecommunications, information technologies and multimedia. It is this Montreal the Canadian government stood by and has helped in priority for many years. Montreal, the Montreal that is doing so well, politically supports our approach.
That is why they do not want to talk about the Montreal that is thriving, because it happens to reject this option of suspicion and fear that the neighbours may have done something. That is not our approach. We are faced with the tremendous challenge of helping the other Montreal which is having trouble adjusting to the new economy.
We are there. We now have an investment climate with the lowest interest rates we have known in 38 years. Now that is an extraordinary achievement. Our opposition friends should show the same respect we showed the Government of Quebec and the mayor of Montreal, Mayor Bourque, who was very pleased with the Prime Minister's speech.
If, after the offer made at the beginning of this week, they had the decency to say well, we will have to do better than we have so far because there is still a part of Montreal that is in trouble, if they did, we would be able to do something, because we would all be working together.
There will be a summit meeting in Quebec on the weekend, an important one. We will be watching it very closely. I also want to wish all participants in this summit the best of luck, so that by the end of the month, when the summit takes place, we will have some tangible results. We are going to look at these results, and I can tell you right now the Government of Canada will be there. It intends to meet its commitments, and we will be glad to continue to help the people of Montreal.