Mr. Speaker, I will share my speaking time with the hon. member for Mercier.
First of all, I want to say that as a member of the Bloc Quebecois, this is my proudest moment in the past three or four years. Last time, in 1993, we campaigned under the slogan: "On se donne le vrai pouvoir". I remember the taunts of our opponents across the way who said: "Listen the real power is the government, not the opposition".
Yesterday we clearly saw how that power could be exercised at the expense of Quebec. Yesterday, the power of Liberals was a sorry sight. It was pitiful how Liberal members from Quebec who tried to get out of a tight spot, extend moratoriums and find money elsewhere, were finally crushed under the weight of their caucus. If that is the real power of the Liberals, we can do without, and the people of Quebec, I am sure, will re-elect those who defend their interests.
I am fed up with the sentimental rhetoric dished up by members opposite who tell us: "Listen to these people who can no longer bend over to pick up their grandchildren without falling down, because they smoked too much".
At second reading, we agreed with the health objectives of the bill, but now at third reading, when we look at the way sponsorships have been cut, $60 million in Canada, which includes $30 million in Quebec, there is a major problem. There is no compensation.
We heard the Minister of Health say that perhaps the banks could take up the slack. His colleague at Heritage Canada told us there was no way the government could take over the tobacco companies' sponsorships because it would cost far too much.
So the government is getting no for an answer everywhere. The only way was to leave the sponsorships as they are now. There are statistics. The government brandishes its statistics, and we have ours. As the Leader of the Opposition explained yesterday, when young people go to watch the Tennis Canada championships in Montreal, the Players open, will they say on the way home: "I am going to buy a carton of Players?" They are more likely to say they wished they were able to play tennis at that level.
It has not been clearly proven to my satisfaction that advertising automatically creates a need to smoke and automatically induces young people to smoke. I have not seen that happen so far.
I also want to condemn the procedure for getting this bill through the House. We were pushed to adopt this bill very quickly. The government took a very cavalier attitude, which will prevent us from having a debate on the substance of the bill, and even if we have a chance to do so this afternoon, we would have needed far more time to consider how to deal with the health issues and at the same time protect sponsorships. But the government is dead set on having its way. There will be a political price to pay for the government, especially in Quebec.
What sets Quebec apart is its series of festivals. It is something we see everywhere in Quebec, especially in the Montreal area, the French speaking capital of America, where there are many festivals, and their impact is considerable.
The elimination of sponsorship hits the festivals broadside. I will give you a few figures: the Just for Laughs festival, $1 million or 10 per cent of its budget; the Montreal and Trois-Rivières Grand Prix and the Montreal film festival, $1.5 million or 16 per cent; the Montreal jazz festival, $1 million or 71.4 per cent; the Benson and Hedges International, the fireworks festival that lights up Montreal once a year; the Players tennis open, half a million dollars or 11 per cent; and the Quebec City summer festival.
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that all the festivals will be hit hard. They are being threatened by the bill before us. La Presse mentioned a survey taken on September 6 that revealed that 81 per cent of young people would not take up smoking just because they realized an event had been sponsored. Young people are going to start smoking for all sorts of reasons, but certainly not because of sponsorship. It is a matter of education. Rather than take this approach and set up anti-smoking campaigns, the government has gone on a witch hunt. And, as I said before, the festivals in Quebec and in the greater Montreal area will bear the brunt.
Sixty-eight per cent of these people opposed the prohibition of sponsorships, because they could see quite simply that this was not the way to resolve the problem of smoking among young people, or adults, for that matter.
I would like to bring a new argument to the debate: the impact on other festivals. In my region, in the riding of Saint-Jean, we have the Haut-Richelieu hot air balloon festival, the most beautiful of the balloon festivals in Quebec and Canada. My colleague says there are others. There is one in the Outaouais as well, but unfortunately, it lacks the prestige and grandeur of the Festival de montgolfières du Haut-Richelieu. The festival receives $1.5 million in sponsorship. I might perhaps give you some figures before I present my argument.
The number of people going to the hot air balloon festival has substantially risen since its beginning. Attendance was 130,000 in 1993, 160,000 in 1994, 190,000 in 1995, and 250,000 in 1996. Just as the festival is becoming big enough to attract this type of sponsorship, this bill is pulling the rug out from underneath it. The bill says that, from now on, sponsorships will not be allowed, therefore the festival will never be able to get that kind of sponsorship.
Worse than that. This bill will affect not only the hot air balloon festival, but all the other, smaller festivals in Quebec. With $30 million less in sponsorships in Quebec, major festivals are going to turn to the sponsors of smaller festivals, such as the hot air balloon festival in the Haut-Richelieu region, which generates $8 million in economic benefits. This bill has an adverse impact on sponsorships.
This bill is not about health. Personally, I think it is true that in Canada smoking kills many people, the young and the not so young. However, the government should not go as far as prohibiting sponsorships. This threatens not only the major festivals that I mentioned earlier, but also the one in my region.
With economic spinoffs of $8 million and a sponsorship of $1.5 million for the festival in my riding, we cannot afford to be told, in two years from now: "We were thinking of sponsoring your event, but the World Film Festival approached us and we will have to transfer our sponsorship". Sponsors always choose the most prestigious events, and this is understandable.
The big festivals are not the only ones to be affected. I invite the minister, the Prime Minister and all of my colleagues to the hot air balloon festival. I would be very pleased if the Minister of Health did come next summer. Not only will I promise him a ride in a hot air balloon, but we will certainly have a welcoming committee explain to him why the bill is unacceptable and how it is a threat to festivals that are the pride of the regions.
My colleague from Trois-Rivières showed me a message from one of his constituents who is extremely proud of the festival there. She could see that the Trois-Rivières Grand Prix was in jeopardy.
It is the same thing everywhere. In Saint-Jean, we are worried. We ask the minister to back down. If he does not, I hope he will come to Saint-Jean this summer. We will give him an interesting welcome. We will send him up in a hot air balloon and hope that he never comes down.