Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate on the 1997 budget. I will be splitting my time with one of my colleagues, so in my 10 minutes I will talk about an issue that has aggravated western Canadians for years: the endless attempt by successive governments, Tory and Liberal, to buy Quebec's love with large amounts of federal largesse.
To understand the source of this irritation I will point out a few blatant examples from this and recent Parliaments. Second, I will talk about why successive Liberal and Tory governments have felt compelled to perpetuate this habit of favouring Quebec to the detriment of other provinces and other territories. I would like to spend my last few minutes outlining why my Reform colleagues and I feel there is a better way to address the Quebec question.
On the first point, I have watched this dance play itself out between Ottawa and Quebec for the last 30 years. Quebecers say they are unhappy with the federal system and if something is not done they will leave.
Instead of sitting down and addressing Quebec's concerns, the federal politicians in Ottawa are consistent in trying to buy its love instead of dealing with the matter. Here are a few examples.
To put it bluntly, in dollar terms Quebecers benefit disproportionately from the federation itself. For example, Quebec accounts for only 25 per cent of the Canadian population yet it receives30 per cent of all federal transfers to provinces.
The equalization program is supposed to assist the poorest provinces to provide services to their people. Quebec, the fourth richest province in Canada, receives more equalization dollars than any other provinces. It receives more than the four Atlantic provinces combined.
The separatists will dispute these facts and claim that Quebec pays more to Ottawa in taxes than it receives in transfers and program spending. This is not true. The fact is that Quebec paid22 per cent of total federal income tax, which is less than its 25 per cent share of the population and considerably less than its 30 per cent share of federal transfer dollars.
This systemic bias in favour of Quebec is not what really irritates western Canadians. Rather, what galls my constituents in Lethbridge, in southern Alberta and in other places in western Canada is the blatant political pork which successive federal administrations, Liberals and Tories, have shovelled into Quebec.
Let us take some examples. The infrastructure program was supposed to be for roads and sewers, basic infrastructure. The very first infrastructure project announced by the government was a convention centre for Quebec City. Do we need another example? How about the canoe museum in the Prime Minister's home town of Shawinigan? Then there were business subsidies. Last weekend it was $600,000 for a hotel in Shawinigan in the Prime Minister's riding. The next day it was an $8.1 million sock factory for Montreal, with the taxpayers of Canada footing the bill.
How about Bombardier? Over the past 15 years total federal subsidies to this giant corporation totalled $1.2 billion: 1.2 billion of taxpayers' dollars to a company that earned $400 million in profit last year. It had a profit. It could have gone to the market and got the money on its own without the intervention and the handout of the Liberal government in Ottawa.
The final example I would like to use is the allocation of federal funds to assist provinces with the settlement of immigrants and refugees. Under the terms of a deal signed during the Mulroney administration Quebec was guaranteed $90 million per year for that program. In turn Quebec agreed to accept 25 per cent of Canadian immigrants. Quebec has not honoured that agreement. Today Quebec only accepts 12 per cent of Canada's immigrants but continues to receive the $90 million. That is wrong. That represents roughly 30 per cent of the total funds allocated to that program.
To illustrate this geographically, British Columbia receives about $1,000 in federal funds for each immigrant. For the same immigrant in the province of Quebec the allocation is $3,327.
My constituents want to know why there is a double standard. The reason is that successive Liberal and Tory governments-and this one is as bad as the rest-have refused to address the legitimate concerns of Quebecers about the federal system. Their selfish refusal to abandon the status quo and make real change means the federal government has nothing to offer Quebecers except federal largesse. Instead of renewing the federal union to keep them in Canada the government tries to buy their loyalty instead.
It is a losing proposition. After three decades of overspending the federal government simply does not have enough money left. More important, people's loyalty or love for the nation cannot be bought with government money.
The bottom line is that Quebecers are unhappy with the way the nation works and have been for some time. Quebecers object to a domineering federal government that intrudes into provincial jurisdiction. They object to an elitist status quo that vests powers to the Prime Minister and his respective cabinet which not allow them to elect their own senators or appoint their own lieutenant governors.
It is ironic that many other Canadians object to exactly the same things, especially western Canadians. As my leader said last week in Oshawa, Quebec sent 50 BQ members to Parliament and western Canada sent 50 Reform members to Parliament because both parties articulated the contempt felt by Canadians toward the political status quo. The big difference is that Reformers offered a plan to rebuild the federation while the separatists in the House are merely offering to tear it down.
What is the new path Reformers would like to offer Canadians? It should reach the ears of some Liberals who sit rather deaf in the House. What would we like to do?
We would rebalance the federation by transferring control of jurisdictions such as resources, training, culture, housing and tourism back to the provinces where they belong. We would forbid any new encroachments on provincial jurisdiction through use of federal spending power. We would replace federal cash transfers with a tax point system of transfers to prevent future governments from slashing such transfers the way the present government has done. We would reform our democratic institutions to allow for election of senators, freer votes in the House of Commons, provincial input into judicial appointments and much more. We would give the final word on any constitutional amendment to the people of Canada in the form of a national referendum.
The bottom line is that if the next federal government continues to resist fundamental systemic changes to our federation Quebecers will more than likely choose to leave. The concern in western Canada will continue.
If, however, the next government commits itself to real change and offers all Canadians including Quebecers a new deal then the Canadian federation would finally be placed on the foundation it needs to lead us in a confident and united way into the 21st century.
As we move into the possibility of a spring election it is incumbent upon the current members of Parliament to consider that it is easy to play political games and to seek re-election for the sake of having power in the country. However, if parliamentarians and those going into the next election look at their responsibilities and their goals and are unable to say they have a new plan to build a Canada for all Canadians rather than just for a political party, we are doing a major disservice to our history. That will be the challenge of the 1997 election.
Can the Liberal Party and the Tory Party step over the bridge and away from their continuous goal for years of seeking power and of handing out federal government largesse to Quebec and maybe to other provinces just to get votes which allow them to stay in power? Can they cross over that bridge and change their ways and take responsibility for building a better nation? It is time they tried.