Madam Speaker, on this third day of debate on the budget, I am pleased to join my colleagues and to speak as the member for Trois-Rivières and critic for regional development.
This government and its Minister of Finance in particular are constantly boasting about their good performance, but, on our side, we never stopped shedding a different light on the facts to remind the public that their fight against the deficit is not really aimed at putting our fiscal house in order, but is done on the backs of the unemployed, the most disadvantaged.
We all know that, thanks to UI contributions paid by employees and employers, the unemployment fund has a huge surplus of some $5 billion that the Minister of Finance is using to reduce the deficit rather than speed up economic development. We this surplus, he could lower UI contributions for employers, and above all for workers, leaving more money in their pockets and thus increasing consumer spending.
No, this would be too wonderful, too generous. The Minister of Finance prefers using other people's money to improve his image just before the election, although this is not in the best interests of the public. He also did it at the expense of the provinces, as everyone knows, by recently cutting $4.5 billion in transfers to the provinces, not to mention, again, the $5 billion taken from the unemployment insurance fund.
So, the government is boasting about an amount of $10 billion when, in fact, it got that money at the expense of others. This is absolutely shameful, and we will make it our duty to inform the public accordingly, including Quebecers, in the months to come.
There was also no tax reform, even though the official opposition, through its members on the finance committee, provided a great deal of advice to the government in recent months. I am referring here to the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, the hon. member for La Prairie, and the hon. member for Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies who, with the help of advisers, did a job that was even noticed by the Minister of Finance, but ignored.
The government turned a deaf ear, even though these were very reasonable, not "revolutionary" proposals, including a suggestion to make sure the tax deferred by corporations is better managed. The business sector is well aware that some companies are making excessive use of that tax provision. Why not crack down harder on these companies, given what is being asked of the poor?
No effort is being made either to ensure that the distribution of wealth is done more properly, and that those who are financially well-off make a greater contribution. And I do not mean the middle class, because it is all too easy to crack down on wage earners. I mean those who wield some financial clout. I mean those who can take advantage of tax havens, who can use several of them at the same time. These are the people we should be going after.
Of course, I also want to mention those who have family trusts of a very high value. I am not talking about a family trust of $50,000 or $100,000, but about the family trusts the auditor general mentioned last year: $1 billion in each one, and morevoer they were transferred to the United States.
When are these issues ever raised, nowadays? When will the government make the rich pay, the really rich people, not the middle class, which is being strangled and which increasingly is working for nothing, a situation which has a destabilizing effect on the social fabric? We are more and more critical of each other, while forgetting in the process that the money is there somewhere. As far as I know, there is no warehouse facility in Canada, in Quebec or in the world, where money is being burned. Money is not being burned. If wealth is not being shared, then it is being concentrated.
In Quebec, in Canada, in the western world, we are witnessing an increasing and abusive concentration of wealth. If this trend is not corrected, we have every reason for being concerned about the future.
There is a passage in the speech from the throne that particularly caught my attention; it is the second paragraph on page 12, and it is of special concern to the residents of the municipalities in my riding and of many communities, especially in Quebec. Some of my colleagues will no doubt feel concerned.
The paragraph reads as follows: "Therefore, we are announcing today that $10 million of funding in each of the next three years will be devoted to significantly increase the number of communities across Canada that have the electronic infrastructure required to access the communications technologies of the future. As a result of this program, virtually every community in Canada between 400 and 50,000 in population will be connected over the next four years-5,000 communities in all."
That is all very nice, but you have to know how much this is out of touch with reality as far as daily communications by telephone are concerned. You have to know that in my riding, in the new part of my riding adjacent to Louiseville, Saint-Léon-le-Grand and Maskinongé, as in many other small communities of Quebec-I got to understand that these last weeks-we have telephone service that cannot be called anything but rotten.
We are still living in the stone age as far as communications are concerned. In the Saint-Léon-le-Grand area and in some communities in the riding of Saint-Maurice, the Prime Minister's riding, four subscribers still share a single line. Four people on the same line, and we keep talking about the electronic infrastructure across Canada. We have satellites and we still cannot even have fax machines at home. This is a far cry from the optic fibre era. We have four people on the same line. Some businesses are also on a party line of four. They cannot get personal calls because there is no confidentiality whatsoever.
Apparently, there are senior citizens homes with 10, 20, or 30 people using a single party line shared by four customers. There is no confidentiality, and it is impossible to make emergency phone calls. These people need to be able to call the police or the ambulance. This is not in the far north, but in an area between Montreal and Quebec City, right in the middle of the province.
I hear more and more that even in the Montreal area, this kind of problem occurs, just like in smaller towns. It is about time the government called the CRTC to order, and that the CRTC called to order big companies like Bell Canada, to make sure the public in Canada and Quebec gets some respect, to make sure taxpayers and subscribers get the kind of respect they deserve.
There is something weird here. We keep talking about the optic fibre networks, of globalization of markets, free trade and high technology-and technology kills jobs-and we cannot even make a simple phone call in decent conditions. This is unacceptable. We at least need the means to spread the bad news. In an area between Montreal and Quebec City, we still have party lines of four. It makes no sense whatsoever. These people sometimes need to call the ambulance. I would like to pay tribute here to the head of the Maskinongé RCM, Jocelyne Elliott Leblanc, the mayor of Louiseville, who has done a remarkable job.
The issue has been brought to the attention of the Office of the Prime Minister, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice. He better deal with the problems faced by the residents of these new municipalities still living in the Stone Age, because his government sanctions the CRTC, which establishes standards fit for large corporations, including Bell Canada, and where navel-gazing is a favourite pastime, except for those who do not have access to adequate phone services.
The Prime Minister has better take care of this. The ball is in his court and we will be waiting for him just around the corner in a few weeks or a few months because, if he is unable to deal with such issues-he was unable to settle other similar issues, as we know-the people of Saint-Paulin and others in that region who are faced with such enormous problems will let him know.
In some cases, Bell Canada's solution was to suggest that people buy cellular phones. There are no phone services in that area, and I am not talking about the far north, as I said, but about a region located between Montreal and Quebec City, one hour from Montreal and one hour and a quarter or one hour and a half from Quebec City.
It does not make sense; it is unacceptable. The government is bragging, something the Minister of Finance is quite good at. They are bragging about the information highway. But we will talk about that again during the election campaign.