Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak in reply to the speech from the throne because, over the past few months, we were able to get in touch with our constituents and finally stock up on the ideas they want us to put across in this House so that Quebec and Canada will be more in line with what the people of Quebec and Canada want.
The first message that was systematically conveyed to me by every person I was able to contact, which is not reflected in the speech from the throne, is to the effect of rejecting the unfair application of the marketplace rules of the road.
In this speech from the throne, there are many instances where the government gives up exercising its duties as a government.
Take the UI reform for example. On this subject, the speech from the throne says that it will go on as scheduled, that this plan to cut $2 billion will go ahead as scheduled, without any changes to the fiscal parameters. This is in direct contradiction with the first few paragraphs of the speech, in which the governor general speaks of the compassion of Canadians. There is a contradiction between what the government is advocating and the objectives we have always pursued in Quebec and in Canada.
How can the government talk about compassion and honouring Canada's traditional values while at the same time requiring, for instance, that any first-time UI claimant have accumulated 910 hours of work? These 910 hours amount to 26, 35-hour weeks of work, but previously, the unemployed needed only work a minimum of 15 hours a week during 20 weeks, or a total of 300 hours, to qualify for unemployment insurance.
The baseline has now been raised to 910 hours. Might as well condemn every young person and anyone working in a seasonal industry to live off welfare for the rest of their lives. This is clearly and simply an incentive to moonlight. This government is systematically encouraging moonlighting.
Another aspect of the speech from the throne that deals with the UI reform and which will certainly prompt members from the Maritimes to jump to their feet and respond has to do with the rule regarding the number of weeks of work. The current UI reform penalizes seasonal workers because they work in seasonal industries. Does the government intend to maintain this type of situation? Will it stick to the principles underlying Bill C-111, or will it do as it is being asked to by everyone, that is withdraw this legislation and start over again, from scratch, and propose a UI reform that truly reflects the values dear to Quebecers and Canadians? Did the government not get the message? Have all MPs from the maritimes not been told by their constituents that this reform was unacceptable, that it did not at all reflect the values of Quebec and Canada?
Old age pensions are another component of social program reform where the government shows no compassion.
The speech from the throne says that it will be necessary to reform the Canada pension plan so as to maintain its viability. The government no longer talks about ensuring the survival of old people through a minimum income that would allow them to have a decent quality of life. Not at all.
The government is only concerned with the plan's viability. Once again, as with the UI reform, the issue becomes strictly a matter of dollars and cents. The government will do to old age pensions what it did to unemployment insurance, that is make the most vulnerable people pay. Is this what a government which is now half-way through its mandate should do? The government should ask itself why it was elected and where it is headed.
The measures proposed in the speech from the throne do not reflect the demands of Quebecers and Canadians in the least.
There is another issue that my constituents keep referring to. They told us that they expected their governments to create jobs. We have to find ways. I will tell you what a worker told me: "We need to find a way of taxing machines." New technologies have transformed the workplace over the last few years and everyone knows that we cannot stop progress, but as these new technologies are being implemented, as eight out of ten jobs disappear, the government has the responsibility to ensure that quick and effective retraining programs are available, especially for unskilled workers. These people must not become the victims of technology. There is no reason why workers should be pushed aside because of technological change.
We must accept technological change, we must make sure that we are competitive, but we must not act in a way that does not respect the human being and the right of each individual to develop his or her full potential and use it for the benefit of society.
I do not see anything along these lines in the speech from the throne. Have you found, in the speech from the throne, things that lead us to believe that the government will give the highest priority to job creation, to the use of workers and to the development of each individual's skills? Have you seen any of that in the speech from the throne? I have found nearly nothing on that subject.
Yesterday, the Minister of Human Resources Development had to give some clarifications on youth employment. The text says that the government will double the number of federal summer student jobs. The minister has since told us that it will not only be in the federal public service, but everywhere.
Should we believe what is in the text or should we believe what the minister says? For now, according to what we see in the speech from the throne, there will be lots of jobs in every area where there are federal departments, and it so happens that there are lots of them in the national capital region.
But will the measure promised in the speech from the throne have the desired result in the areas where federal departments are less present, for example in La Pocatière where the experimental farm has been closed down, where there are fewer and fewer people in the Canada employment centres and where you can count federal employees on your fingers? Never in a million years!
We will get the opposite effect to what we want if we concentrate jobs where they are less needed and allow for fewer of them where they are cruelly needed. The government must correct its range and adjust to what has to be done.
Perhaps the main point that people everywhere mentioned to me is that they want to be respected. There is nothing like that in this speech from the throne. They say to Quebecers: "We are going to control the way you will be consulted on your own future". Quebecers are told that all Canadians will have their say about Quebec's own future; this shows a blatant lack of respect. It proves that they have completely lost touch with the people of Quebec. It shows that they have in no way understood the result of last fall's referendum.
The government must clearly and definitely change its position on that and say unequivocally that it will respect the choice Quebecers made, just as sovereignists did in 1980 and again in 1995; it must recognize that there is a democratic process to be followed and accept the people's choice.
Quebecers have a right to be respected and expect the Canadian government, the Canadian Parliament to do so.
Mr. Speaker, I will continue after question period.