Madam Speaker, I want to echo the very relevant remarks made by the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup because what we are studying today is the bill that officially creates the Department of Human Resources Development.
I have to remind members that this bill has been around for quite some time, since it was before the House last fall as Bill C-96. Today, because of the prorogation, it is Bill C-11. In fact, it is an old bill that has already been discussed in Parliament. Members will recall that, halfway through its mandate, the government wanted to give the impression that it had new projects, new programs to offer to Canadians.
It shuffled the Cabinet, came in with a new speech from the throne and made a lot of noise to create the illusion of a change when in fact there is nothing new in the bills we have been discussing since the beginning of the new session. They are all old bills. The one now before us has even gone through clause by clause study in committee-and I remember it well since I am a member of the human resources development committee.
We, in the official opposition, had fought hard at that time because we felt the government was taking the opportunity to make official its new Department of Human Resources Development, which brings together services that existed previously in other departments and which will manage half of the available budget once the interest on the debt has been paid. The Department of Human Resources Development is huge. What is worse, and the reason why the opposition criticized it, is the increased government meddling in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The Reform amendment reflects part of our objective but not enough, because it leaves the government with the possibility of yet again meddling in provincial affairs.
I am the training and youth critic, so the educational sector interests me. We know that vocational training is the subject of a big discussion in Quebec, and especially of a consensus. There is nothing in this bill, however, even with the proposed amendment, to prevent the Minister of Human Resources Development from intervening in vocational training. As the bill says: "-may enter into agreements with a province or group of provinces, financial institutions and such other persons or bodies-" and then they talk about "agencies of provinces- as the minister considers appropriate". It still gives the Minister of Human Resources Development too much latitude to intervene in areas of provincial jurisdiction, especially in vocational training.
So, of course, we expended a lot of energy during clause by clause consideration and we are continuing to do so today, because these amendments give us the opportunity to discuss this issue and to tell the people of Quebec clearly that we must object. For us, education is of the utmost importance, as is training, and we realize that, if these debates drag on and excuses are found to waste time, a kind of lassitude will set in. People say that it is always the same debates, always the same things. We let time go by, and, in the end, people get tired; they get fed up with this sort of debate.
However, this is vital. We do not want to talk constitution, and the government said the Bloc just wants to talk about the Constitution. But by presenting this bill, by continuing to work for its passage, the government is drawing us into a constitutional debate, because it wants the support of Parliament and the House of Commons to meddle further in provincial affairs. We oppose that.
Recently, someone took stock of the vocational training programs. Altogether, there were 108 different ones-both federal and provincial. Thousands of people are waiting for vocational training courses. Because resources are dispersed, there are people who may not be entitled to vocational training, because the money available in a province, in Quebec, in a sector or in a region has dried up.
In the meantime, the federal government is continuing along opposite. Despite the fact that there are those who are excluded or who fall between the cracks. The present system is a double system. The federal government wants to cut the number of UI recipients. It then looks at vocational training or job readiness programs to get people off unemployment insurance without guaranteeing them a job.
During this time, the provincial government saw the consequences of cuts in unemployment insurance, to name just one area, which lead to an immediate increase in the number of people on welfare. As a result, the government finds itself performing a sort of balancing act. It must come up with training programs that will get employable welfare recipients off welfare. Sometimes this helps them to find a little job, something part time, but then they find themselves back on unemployment insurance. This is what happens in many cases.
A constituent in my riding told me of his personal experience over a period of five years, how he was caught in an endless cycle of job training, unemployment insurance, welfare and uncertain employment. That is one thing.
There are also those who now fall between the cracks, between the various levels of government, and do not qualify for assistance. I am thinking here of women who want to get back into the labour force, after staying at home for years with young children, who have had two or three children and, in their forties or earlier, would like to return to work. Not having drawn unemployment insurance benefits latterly, they are not eligible for these courses.
The system excludes many people. Once again, we in the official opposition are fighting for something that is extremely important. We are trying to explain to the people of Canada, to government members, that they should not go so far, that the government should not keep trying to interfere in something that does not concern it, because it is not in the Constitution, and then go directly against the Prime Minister's promises. At the time of the referendum, he said he was withdrawing from manpower training.
Despite what we saw last week, not only the members of the National Assembly, but important representatives of the socio-economic sector at the Quebec City summit, despite the people representing the Conseil du patronat-the motion was even presented by Ghislain Dufour, the president of the Conseil du patronat-despite all that, the federal government continues along its merry way, counting on the lassitude of Canadians and of the media, who are giving this debate less attention. It thinks that, over time, people will be lose interest. It is just as dangerous for the future of Quebec.
That is why we in the official opposition are joining forces and we hope that organizations will express their opposition to this, while there is still time. Despite the efforts of the Reform Party, the amendment will not reduce the federal government's meddling. On the contrary. The federal government has just said, through those of its members who spoke earlier, that it intends to continue in this area by making the Department of Human Resources official. In my opinion, it is almost a monster. It includes vocational training along with employment services; it has a say in old age pensions, child and family benefits and day care services. It is considerable.