Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to discuss the budget recently tabled by the Minister of Finance.
I feel quite comfortable doing so, because I since had the opportunity to consult my constituents and to hear their comments, which I will convey to this House.
First, taxpayers and residents in my riding of Chicoutimi feel that the Minister of Finance totally missed the boat. They simply ask the government to get its revenues-since the revenue minister is here-where the money really is, starting with family trusts.
They also want the government to review the whole corporate tax system and to abolish tax shelters.
The Minister of Finance is ignoring these calls from ordinary citizens. With the support of all government members, he continues to take what little is left in the pockets of the poor, the unemployed and students.
By contrast, no measure is proposed to recover the $6.6 billion owed to Revenue Canada. Nor is there any plan to review the whole tax system. In this budget, we note that, in terms of income tax, more than $5 billion will be collected from individual taxpayers this year, as compared to a mere $700 million from corporations.
Several of my colleagues have mentioned the fact that, as part of its deficit reduction effort, the government was helping itself to money that workers and employers have contributed to the UI fund, thereby creating an artificial deficit reduction. This astronomical amount could have been put to other uses, such as creating employment.
By his actions, the Minister of Finance is disguising his deficit. He even went so far as to say that he would continue to dip into the UI fund in coming years. It is a disgrace.
Incidentally, business people, workers and unemployed people will be holding a protest march in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, on May 4, with the support of the Conférence des chambres de commerce du Saguenay, to show the Minister of Finance that they disagree with his action and also to let the Minister of Human Resources Development know that they disagree with his reform. I can assure you that no activist will be taking part in this demonstration.
The fact is that the Minister of Finance is completely blind to the reality, and he is pulling his government along in his wake.
This budget also contains some measures which endanger another sector of activity that is very important in my area, in Quebec. The announced cuts to the dairy industry place it in jeopardy. Quebec's agrifood industry will be facing cuts of some 32.3 per cent.
For some years now, we in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean have seen the number of dairy farms decrease. Federal government funding, estimated at some $8,000 per farm, allowed milk producers to keep production costs low. You can see right away what will happen. You can guess what the results of this cut will be: increased cost to the consumer. Production will likely be lower because of that.
According to a number of people in the region, quotas could leave the region because dairy farmers will not be able to support their operations on their own. Once again, more unemployment in a region that has long been number one in the country for unemployment, a dubious honour we could readily do without.
Yet, when the Liberal government announced abolition of the Crow benefit, it automatically included a $3 billion compensation for western farmers. Here, the subsidy to the dairy industry is being abolished, but where are such measures this time? Nothing has been planned. A fine country, is it not, with equality for all? The true face of those people across the floor is a two-faced, double standard.
Comparisons are unavoidable. Thus the Liberals have always had two speeches: one for Quebec and one for the rest of Canada. Things are different from one place to the other. Things are watered down. There is, for example, no more mention of distinct society status for Quebec. Now they are talking simply of a cultural homeland in North America, a homeland where the Americans may perhaps have something to say. Why not state right now, clearly, that Quebecers are a people, yes, a people?
Now, I would like to go back to taxation. The minister did promise a review of taxation. But no. What better thing did he come up with? He came up with the clever idea of setting up a committee with people coming from very important companies that have the pleasure of using tax havens. It is ludicrous. However, until this committee makes its report, money is flowing out of the country causing unemployment to rise.
This budget, which we in the Bloc described rightly as a mediocre make-up session, hides the truth about Canadian finances. It makes promises whose fate is the same as those the famous red book made. When will jobs be created? When will the GST be abolished? When will real steps be taken to improve the economy? Nothing. Not even a glimmer of hope.
However, people were hoping for something better. Everything is falling on their heads at the moment. They were especially hoping for jobs. So the famous promise of jobs is a smoke screen. The Minister of Finance has announced he would double summer jobs for students. He is simply putting back what was there before.
Last year, in my riding, half of this funding was cut. This year, it is being doubled, so we are back where we started from. This has happened all over Quebec. Once again, it is window dressing.
We have come to the point where the government has lost all credibility. It is unable to revive the economy, to keep its promises, or to create jobs. Furthermore, the government is about to pass a law that would deprive thousands of unemployed workers of UI benefits. This reform is an admission of failure by the government.
The budget tabled by the Minister of Finance is not a responsible budget. It simply implements what the minister announced earlier and tells us what to expect in the future. For example, if you are 60 years old today, will you remember in five years that you may no longer qualify for the old age pension? Again, this is nothing but a smoke screen. The Minister of Finance must go back to the drawing board so that he can finally meet the people's expectations.