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House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition from my constituents calling on the government to join with the provinces to work on establishing a national highways policy.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Ontario, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka. We are doing a very good job of getting some air time today.

The petition deals with the subject of impaired driving. The petitioners from the Durham region call on the government to ensure that future penalties reflect the severity of the crime of impaired driving.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to ask the House for its unanimous consent to withdraw my private member's bill, Bill C-301, entitled an act to amend the Canada Elections Act.

In view of the passing by the government of Bill C-63 which improves the mechanisms for the administration of elections and to the extent that Bill C-63 encompasses many of my suggestions, such as the establishment of a permanent voter's list, and the fact that it has taken over a year to draw my bill, I ask that you,Mr. Speaker, support my request.

May I please have the consent of the House to withdraw my Bill C-301.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does our hon. colleague have the unanimous consent of the House to withdraw his bill?

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Bill withdrawn.)

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers also be allowed to stand.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish to inform the House that, because of the ministerial statement, Government Orders will be extended by 5 minutes today.

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ended March 26, 1997, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills. In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bills be distributed now?

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

moved:

That this House condemn the federal government which, because of its policies, is in large measure responsible for increasing poverty in the regions of Quebec, especially the loss of 10,000 jobs at Canada Post; the offloading of regional airports and ports without adequate financial compensation; the tightening of employment insurance eligibility criteria that has adversely affected seasonal workers, among others; the setting of fees for coast guard services; the significant reductions in fishing quotas in Quebec; the refusal to extend the framework agreement on regional economic development with the Quebec government; and, finally, increasing unilateral intervention in regional development matters without consideration of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

Mr. Speaker, first I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Laurentides, who is the seconder of the motion.

With your permission, I will also read this opposition motion, for which we deserve to be congratulated. It is time that we, on this side of the House, take stock and condemn the government which is blissfully moving toward an election, as if things were going well, when in fact Quebec and Canada are in a deep slump.

The motion reads as follows:

That this House condemn the federal government which, because of its policies, is in large measure responsible for increasing poverty in the regions of Quebec, especially the loss of 10,000 jobs at Canada Post; the offloading of regional airports and ports without adequate financial compensation; the tightening of employment insurance eligibility criteria that has adversely affected seasonal workers, among others; the setting of fees for coast guard services; the significant reductions in fishing quotas in Quebec; the refusal to extend the framework agreement on regional economic development with the Quebec government; and, finally, increasing unilateral intervention in regional development matters without consideration of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

I will deal with certain issues mentioned in the motion, and leave it to my colleagues to discuss other ones. I should point out from the outset that, as regards regional development, a frame of reference called the Economic and Regional Development Agreement, the ERDA, has been in place since 1974, between the Quebec and federal governments, as the secretary of state probably knows.

The Liberal government opposite is increasingly circumventing this agreement, which has been in existence for over 20 years and which led to the harmonization of relations between the two levels of government with respect to regional development, which is recognized as a primarily provincial, Quebec in this case, area of jurisdiction.

One needs to know that, in 1993, when the members across the way came to power, 62 per cent of funding for regional development came by way of the ERDA, while today, in 1996, we are receiving only 33 per cent in this manner. In other words, two thirds of these public funds are being used as the federal government sees fit, sometimes arbitrarily, supposedly in an attempt to promote regional development.

Why? So that the federal government can be more visible, score political points. So that the Secretary of State for the Federal Office of Regional Development for Quebec can visit the 53 CFDCs and score political points on behalf of his government, cut ribbons, smile nicely, hold press conferences and pretend that there is harmony between the Government of Quebec and the federal government and that there is a genuine intervention and consensus strategy, when in fact there is not.

What there really is, in the case of CFDCs, is competition with regional economic development corporations, which have been there for a long time and which were created by the Government of Quebec and come under its jurisdiction, coming under the department of industry and commerce for example.

In addition to this hit and miss approach, there is also the fact that it is being done through the federal office of regional development. They do this by circumventing and duplicating what is being done or what was already being done in Quebec. Recently they changed the mandate of FORD-Q. It was supposed to analyze submissions from small businesses seeking grants, and evaluate their projects. Funding was cut, so the mandate was changed. Instead of getting rid of this agency, they changed its mandate and turned its employees into advisers to small business, a role that was already being played by the Department of Industry and Trade.

They set up the Idée-PME program which is directly targeted to small businesses in Quebec and is in a way competing, at taxpayers' expense, with other public sector resources for small businesses, which tends to make the whole process of seeking financial assistance from the government unnecessarily complex.

Things are also changing at the Federal Business Development Bank. The name has been changed. It is now called, rather pretentiously, in my opinion, the Business Development Bank of Canada. The legislation authorizes the federal government to approach local and regional stakeholders under the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec. Arbitrarily, without prior consultation, the government decides to intervene in a jurisdiction that belongs to the Government of Quebec.

We can hardly call this co-operation. We can hardly call this strategy. Certainly not when we are talking about the so-called

co-operation between the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada, with taxpayers' money, not hand-outs as the Secretary of State for Regional Development sometimes seems to imply, as though it was federal money, not money paid by Quebecers through their taxes. We should not forget this.

On a macro-economic level, I think we should compare FORD-Q with its Canadian equivalents. There are two. In Eastern Canada we have ACOA, for the development of the maritime provinces and in Western Canada, the Western Economic Diversification Agency.

Suppose we stick to ACOA. Compared with what Quebec receives through FORD-Q, if we consider the number of unemployed workers concerned in Quebec and compare this with the number of unemployed workers in the maritimes, the latter receive four times as much for an equivalent number of unemployed, if we look at it on that basis. If we look at it on a per capita basis, it is five times as much. So this is the profitable federalism the secretary of state was talking about last week when I asked him a question about regional development.

Remember also that not only do the maritimes receive far more proportionally, but altogether, in terms of regional development, the maritimes receive five times as much money from Ottawa as Quebec does.

Furthermore, we have this very controversial decision, and Quebecers are becoming increasingly upset about this, the decision by the Government of Canada to give the maritimes $1 billion in compensation for harmonizing the GST. Of this $1 billion, part of which goes to New Brunswick, $250 million comes from Quebec, and part of that will go to New Brunswick. Thanks to this money, the engaging Premier of New Brunswick will be able to use Quebec's tax money to recruit Quebec industrialists and bring them to New Brunswick, thus competing with the Government of Quebec and the Quebec economy. This is appalling. In fact, there is evidence that this was going on during the recent trip to China by Team Canada.

It also needs to be known that, where the GST is concerned, not only did the maritimes get $1 billion but, as was pointed out during question period, using a cooked-up formula the Minister of Finance finds ever so pleasing, the Government of Canada is refusing to provide Quebec with the same amount, proportionally, which would be in the order of $2 billion, compared to their $1 billion. This offers a clear illustration of the cost-effective federalism the Secretary of State referred to last week.

Where a number of activities are concerned, the concept of regional development can be broad and vague on occasion. One of those activities is the coast guard, which was also referred to in the motion. The coast guard was inherited by Fisheries and Oceans from Transport Canada, with a mandate to manage the ports of Canada, including those along the St. Lawrence, and it was decided to charge users of the St. Lawrence.

This three-tier fee system involves charges for navigational aids, that is buoys, lighthouses and so forth, as well as charges for dredging the river and the waterways leading to the St. Lawrence ports and for icebreaking. The latter is the most significant, and would be the most painful, if ever the federal government sticks with its decision to set fees which would net the federal government $160 million over the next three years leading up to the year 2000. All of this totally ignores any possible impact studies available. The actions taken in this area were the product of an amateurish approach by those concerned only about the costs of the coast guard, apparently without any concern for the major negative impacts that might result if this new fee scale is implemented as the government plans.

Seventy-five per cent of the witnesses, who knew what they were talking about, who knew how to do a case-by-case impact study, begged the federal government to reconsider, because of the threat this represented to the competitiveness of the St. Lawrence ports compared to their competitors on the U.S. east coast, the Canadian east coast, and even the Mississippi.

Since you are indicating to me that my time is up, I will conclude by saying that the way the federal government is going about this illustrates the ever more pressing necessity for Quebec to attain sovereignty so it can finally be in charge, and for the federal government to stop being involved, not in regional development, but in regional anti-development.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalSecretary of State (Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, I will have the opportunity in a while to talk at length on the Canadian government's intervention strategy with respect to regional development and specifically in the Province of Quebec, my area of responsibility.

I would like to say right off that the government's strategy applies to the country as a whole and is aimed at bringing the government and the people closer together to enable the government to be sensitive to the needs of the people and to give the public the full benefit of its services.

I listened to the previous speaker, my colleague from Trois-Rivières, talking about the rural development agreement. In the light of what he was saying, I have a hard time understanding the fact that my colleague does not seem to realize that the regional development agreement has expired. My colleague seems not to understand either that the renewal of the regional development agreement was in doubt and that discussions were held between the Province of Quebec and the Government of Canada.

I would ask him if he is aware of these discussions.

In closing, my colleague said that I spent my time giving press conferences and cutting ribbons. I have the impression that the ribbons I cut must be 24 carat gold because the official opposition is focusing on them on a day set aside for regional development. However, I can understand that it might hurt them too, because our government is particularly effective in the area of regional development.

In my colleague's riding of Trois-Rivières, for example, we have invested over $7 million since 1993. If he asks the people there if they think we should leave, he will see what they have to say.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to these agreements, I will answer that we know, and the secretary of state is well aware, that this kind of agreement has been around since 1974. We are also very well aware that the last one was not renewed.

We know that it was not renewed because the federal government wants to have an increasingly large say in the management of these agreements. It wants to put pressure on the Government of Quebec, which is a constitutionally legitimate body, to call the shots on regional development. Either the federal government wants to circumvent the Government of Quebec, or it wants to get along with it. Increasing power is needed if regional development is to be carried out on the pan- Canadian scale he mentioned.

We, however, claim that we have our own way of doing things. In this regard, it would perhaps be a good opportunity for the secretary of state to give some meaning to the empty notions of distinct society the Prime Minister is so proud of saying he introduced, or tried to introduce, into the Constitution, when we know it is an empty shell. Perhaps the member for Outremont could make an effort to recognize that the people to which he belongs have a different way of doing things, instead of trying to get us to swallow a Canadian vision and logic, which is causing Quebec to lose out on regional development.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Gagnon Liberal Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of the minister, and particularly of the member for Trois-Rivières.

Given that Quebec is receiving $11 billion more than it contributes to the Canadian federation, given the importance of the role of governments in regional development, could the member explain to us where SDI stands? Where does Innovatech stand? Where do Quebec's provincial organizations stand in relation to regional development?

The federal government is investing, but a number of regional development projects are on hold because of the footdragging of the opposition and especially of the Government of Quebec.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, this illustrates perfectly the contempt these people have for the Government of Quebec and for Quebecers.

When we talk about a surplus of $11 billion, it is because we are pleased to be receiving unemployment insurance, we are pleased to be poor. We are pleased to have no real economic development. We are pleased to have no strategy. We are pleased to be poor.

This is a Quebecer telling us this. It is hard to believe. When we talk about the SDI, the Caisse de dépôt, these are organizations that, with the Quebec Department of Industry and Commerce, are working daily to try to improve the situation as much as they can within a constitutional context that gives the Government of Quebec barely half the powers to try to organize its development year in and year out.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise today to speak to the motion of my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières.

This motion condemns the federal government which, because of its disastrous policies, is in large measure responsible for increasing poverty in the regions of Quebec. My riding of Laurentides covers a large part of the Laurentides region, which is subdivided into the Hautes and the Basses-Laurentides. The Basses-Laurentides, closer to the Montreal area, have more heavy industry, while the Hautes-Laurentides further north, rely more on small business and tourism in particular.

My riding, which begins in the St-Jérôme area and ends over 100 kilometres further north, therefore depends for its livelihood on small business and tourism.

I will start off by looking at the tightening of employment insurance eligibility criteria, which will have a major impact on my riding, given the heavy reliance on tourism. Tourism is seasonal and implies seasonal workers.

The new criteria will mean that fewer workers will receive benefits and that the benefits for those who qualify will be reduced. For a riding like mine, where the unemployment rate is already higher than the average for Quebec, this means even less money for workers, even more workers forced to go on welfare. This shortfall in workers' income therefore means more poverty.

In regional economies with high unemployment and poverty, UI reform will make matters worse. The Liberal government is certainly not going to help the regions survive and develop by driving people into poverty. Let us not forget that the Liberals are

drawing money directly out of the UI fund, which consists of money paid by workers and by employers, over $5 billion this year, in order to reduce its deficit. It is utterly shocking.

Another area that is of particular interest to regions in Quebec is that of highway transport. Everyone knows that our highway system in Quebec has deteriorated and is now in need of major investments to keep it in good condition.

Let us look at what the federal government is spending in this area, and what it has set aside for Quebec. Between 1952 and 1986, although Quebecers were paying the same federal gasoline taxes as other Canadians, Quebec received a measly 16.5 per cent of federal spending on roads. Between 1986 and 1988, this fell to 13 per cent. In 1991-92, Quebec received only 4.2 per cent of federal transfer payments to the provinces to help build, repair and upgrade roads. Yet federal fuel taxes in Quebec are close to $1 billion. In return, the Quebec road system receives on average only $30 million annually. Thirty million out of one billion: a windfall for the federal government but grossly unfair to Quebec.

This shortfall in revenue has a serious impact on regional development, since the highway system is an essential tool for development. People from the Outaouais and Ontario who go skiing at Mont-Tremblant in my riding know that the highway system is not good if they take the road north at Montebello. But they do not know that the federal government is not providing its share of funding for Quebec's highway system.

Another issue that directly concerns the people of Laurentides, one that has been in the headlines for several months, is Mirabel airport, a perfect example of the inefficiency and devastating impact of federal intervention in Quebec territory with respect to air transportation.

In 1969, without any consultation, the federal government unilaterally decided to proceed with the most extensive expropriation exercise ever seen in this country, involving 80,000 acres of farm land, to be used to build Mirabel international airport. Twenty-seven years later, we know that 5,000 acres would have been ample for the airport's needs.

The federal government estimated that 30 million passengers would be going through Mirabel by 1990. Today, Mirabel and Dorval together get only 8.3 million passengers annually. When Mirabel was under construction, the federal government said it wanted to make greater Montreal the port of entry for air traffic in eastern North America. A few years later, it awarded the seven largest European carriers the right to land in Toronto. This federal decision was to be the main reason why Montreal never became the port of entry for European traffic in eastern North America.

Add to this the federal government's refusal to proceed with phase II of the Mirabel master plan under which domestic traffic would gradually be transferred from Dorval to Mirabel. We now see the disastrous effects of having two airports side-by-side, with all the communications problems that entails. Twenty years ago, Montreal airport attracted almost as many passengers as Toronto, but in 1995, Montreal dropped to third place, with 8.3 million passengers annually, after Toronto with 20.9 million and Vancouver with 11.1 million.

Out of 53 countries which had access rights to Montreal, only 17 exercised those rights.

Always without public consultation, Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, created by the federal government to manage Mirabel and Dorval, announced in February 1996 that international flights would be transferred from Mirabel to Dorval. This decision is the latest in a series of ill-conceived decisions and mistakes by the federal government, as former Liberal minister André Ouellet was to comment.

During this time, irreparable damage has been done to the volume of air transportation in Montreal, hundreds of millions of taxpayer money has been wasted and more than 10,000 expropriated landowners have suffered.

The federal government's bungling, its lack of vision, and its contradictory decisions in particular, will have accomplished nothing more than to deprive Montreal of its role as air traffic hub, in favour of Toronto.

Other subjects concern the people of the Laurentians, a matter linked directly to the federal government: the federal wish to introduce measures to register, and set fees for, sailboats, rowboats, pedal boats, canoes, kayaks and so on. Ottawa would like to register all pleasure boats, to make their owners purchase licences which would cost from $5 to $35 yearly, to require minimum skill and knowledge levels of all persons operating these boats, and to set up a system of fines similar to those for motor vehicles. For the Laurentians, with their numerous lakes, such a measure would be a total catastrophe. This tax in disguise would be unacceptable, and the proposed monitoring measures unenforceable.

An idea like the one proposed by the Liberals is quite simply buffoonery. There are, I believe, more important things to be doing than going around putting licence stickers on pedal boats and making sure that those using them are pedalling forward, backward, or whatever.

Another thing: the federal decision to require Canada Post to withdraw from delivering ad mail, with the loss of 10,000 jobs. That is surely the biggest single job loss in the country. The government claims that the private sector can easily take over, but that is far from reality for regions with low population density. The costs of private distribution are far higher in these regions. Thus, the federal government's decision means the virtual disappearance of ad mail in many regions, and considerable job losses in those same regions.

Finally, for the farmers in my riding, the federal government keep on cutting back the budgets and services affecting them. In the latest budget, the federal government announced the total elimination of dairy subsidies. This will translate into a $107 million loss for Quebec.

Since you are indicating that I have just one minute left, I will move on to my conclusion immediately.

The various matters I have addressed demonstrate clearly that the Liberals bear a large share of the responsibility for the impoverishment of the various regions of Quebec. Their decisions are unfair to Quebec, and they have the effect of pushing it even closer to the edge. The coming election will show the Liberals what their strategy to isolate and crush Quebec has really done. Quebecers are not blind; they are capable of judging the actions of the little guy from Shawinigan and his gang.

All of this shows Quebecers even more clearly that their future path is the one that leads to sovereignty. Not even Chrétien, Martin, Dion or Pettigrew can deter us from that path, which for us is a natural and a rational one.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalSecretary of State (Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, on the other side of this House, they are talking about the federal government's bungling of regional development. I can tell you that, if the federal government bungled regional development, we would not be having an opposition day today. However, I will take the few minutes I have to talk to some of the issues raised by my colleague. First is the matter of unemployment insurance.

I was one of the Quebec spokespersons on this reform. I believed, I believe and I will always believe in this reform. This government had the backbone to carry out a reform that everyone wanted, that was indicated by all of the international organizations, starting with the OECD. The employment insurance reform will make the system fairer, will make more seasonal workers eligible for benefits, and will ensure greater stability of contributions.

We will recall that, in 1993, the Conservatives had predicted higher contributions. With our reform, we not only lowered them, but ensured their stability.

In addition, the program now has active measures to enable workers to be trained in order to quickly return to the labour market. This is what we have done.

Inappropriate remarks are also being made about the employment insurance surplus. Yes, there is a surplus at the moment. However, people always neglect to mention that, during the recession at the end of the 1980s and at the start of the 1990s, the unemployment insurance-now the employment insurance-fund was at least $5 billion in the hole.

Who looked after fixing the deficit? Who looked after paying the interest? The Government of Canada, which guaranteed Canadians continued benefits. That is what profitable Canadian federalism with a vision of security is all about.

Finally, I find it a bit odd, and I want to link up with my colleague for industry, that these people are becoming much more, in fact, overly centralizing. Now they are asking the Government of Canada to become involved in roads and highways, which are under provincial jurisdiction.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by replying to the hon. member for Outremont.

The reason there is an opposition day on regional development is because there is a lot of bungling that we wanted to draw attention to.

When we speak about employment, or unemployment, insurance, I do not know whether the minister is very aware, and we see here the pressure brought to bear, the Minister of Human Resources Development was already forced to make changes to his bill because it does not work. Worse yet, with this bill, people are going to pay premiums and never be able to draw benefits.

Seasonal workers in an area of my riding where up to 75 per cent of workers are seasonal are going to pay premiums and never be able to draw UI because it is based on the number of hours now and because the system was not designed with them in mind. So he has nothing to teach us, because we are the ones who see these people in our riding offices and we are the ones who have to work with them.

I would also like to remind the minister, who is responsible for regional development, that it is very important that he pay more attention to the Mirabel situation, that he speak to his colleague in transport and bring pressure to bear to get things moving, so that my region no longer has to pay the price because of an error made by this government that he is perpetuating.

So make a decision and do something for the people of our areas who have been suffering for years because of a decision made by this government.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that you will find consent for the following order. I move:

That any recorded division requested with regard to private members' business M-31 later this day, March 12, 1997, be deferred to the conclusion of Government

Orders on April 7, 1997 and that any recorded division requested with regard to business pursuant to Standing Order 78 on March 13, 1997 be deferred until the conclusion of Government Orders on March 17, 1997.

(Motion agreed to.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 12th, 1997 / 3:55 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalSecretary of State (Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak to the motion presented by the official opposition. This will give me a chance to expand on the role played by the Canadian government in regional development and also to set the record straight.

Before I start my speech, I would like to make the following points.

The Canadian government plays a fundamental role in regional development, not only in Quebec but throughout Canada. And if the official opposition wants to try and get the Canadian government out of its regional development role, I simply want to point out that as long as I have my current responsibilities, I will ensure that the interests of all Quebecers are served-

SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

We saw that with Bill C-71. We saw that with the Montreal Grand Prix.