Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for recognizing me. I am very happy to rise today in the House to tell you why I do not agree with the assumptions made in the Bloc Quebecois' motion concerning the Canadian social union.
In fact, I am glad to have this opportunity today to explain to our fellow citizens throughout Canada how the motion before us is linked to previous federal-provincial-territorial discussions where there are winners and losers and where everyone tries to see where everybody else fits in.
With social union in Canada, there should only be winners, no losers, and these winners should not be one level of government or the other, but the people of Canada themselves. In this respect, social union in Canada has made huge progress which I would like to address.
But first, I want to talk a little bit about our public finances, since the hon. member for Témiscamingue stated earlier that Quebeckers would rather pay their taxes directly to the province of Quebec which could, in turn, use this tax revenue to support health services and education.
I want to point out to the hon. member for Témiscamingue that the taxes Ottawa sends back to the province of Quebec are much higher than the taxes collected in Quebec. For instance, with only 25% of the population in Canada, the province of Quebec gets 31% of the Canada social transfer. As far as equalization goes, Quebeckers, who account for 25% of Canada's population, receive 47% of the equalization budget, which means $4 billion each year for the Quebec government to spend as it pleases to make sure that Quebeckers have access to quality services.
If Mr. Bouchard's government, whom the members opposite are trying to defend, has chosen to make more cuts in health care than in other areas, that is its problem, its responsibility, and it will be accountable for that to the voters of Quebec. But I do not like it when the members opposite use the House of Commons to support Mr. Bouchard's campaign, saying that the health care situation has absolutely nothing to do with mismanagement by Quebec's health minister and by Mr. Bouchard's government and with the bad choices they made.
In the area of manpower and active employment measures, Quebeckers pay 23% of the employment insurance envelope but receive 31% of the budget under the manpower agreement that we have signed. It is another area where Quebeckers receive a lot more than the federal taxes they pay.
I will say a few words about the ice storm, which gave the Canadian social union concept a very tangible meaning in our cities and villages in Quebec. The government of Canada will pay 90% of the costs.
I know the funding we owe to the municipalities is being withheld by the Quebec government. This subject comes up constantly at Treasury Board. But I would like to say how useful the Canadian social union is for Quebeckers, who receive a substantial share of federal funds. As the member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, I benefit from the social solidarity that we enjoy in Canada and I am very proud of that.
I want to tell members about five improvements that were negotiated with the provinces in recent years, including the national child benefit. The two levels of government in this country wanted to do something about child poverty. This is why, in the current three-year period, we will be allocating an additional $1.7 billion to fight child poverty, through the national child benefit system that was negotiated with the provinces, which are partners of the federal government regarding this initiative. This shows the flexibility displayed by our government to renew Canadian federalism, while helping solve the problem of child poverty.
The Quebec government will benefit from a budget increase of $150 million to implement its family policy and day care program, thanks to the increased flexibility provided by the federal government's national child benefit.
The labour market agreements helped us settle an old dispute, while the new Employment Insurance Act enabled us to better help the unemployed get back to work. In the next five years, will give to the Quebec government an annual amount of over $500 million to help its unemployed get back to work.
The Canadian social union is working very well, and I should repeat that while Quebeckers make 23% of the total contributions to the employment insurance fund, they get 31% of the budget spent through active employment measures and training funds. This means a net gain for our fellow Quebeckers. We are pleased about this because this is what Canadian solidarity and the Canadian social union are all about.
We also re-established the employment ministers forum so as to work on, among other things, the matter of unemployment among young people, which is dividing the country and hurting us. We are determined to beat the problem of high unemployment among the young. This is a priority of the labour ministers forum. We meet regularly. This priority around our Youth Employment Strategy and the provincial programs where we co-ordinate our benefits much more effectively also represents significant progress in the Canadian social union to the advantage of our friends in Quebec, once again.
We also have a new employability assistance program for persons with disabilities. This employability assistance program replaces the former occupational rehabilitation program for persons with disabilities, a program that expanded from $168 million to $193 million.
And what about this assistance to help people with disabilities readapt? It is a framework agreement, a broad and multilateral one, that covers all of Canada, but within this agreement, we have signed individual agreements with each of the provinces so that the framework agreement applies differently within each of the provinces, according to the priorities each has set.
This then is the state of the Canadian social union at the moment. It represents real solidarity among Canadians. It is totally flexible and attuned to the needs of each of the provinces in Canada.
Last year, we also considerably improved the student loans system in Canada. The level of debt is very high in Canada, as you know, and we took major steps in the latest budget to improve the student loans system in Canada, a system that is receiving greater funding. To improve our system of student loans in Canada, we consulted with the provinces, the banks and student associations. I think we came up with a student loan system that will help to considerably reduce student debt.
We are modernizing the country and we are building real social partnerships. I would like today to thank all the provincial ministers I have had the opportunity of working with in recent years. Together, we have shown that, for children, for persons with disabilities and for students across the country, the two levels of government can rise above petty partisan squabbles and narrow debates over jurisdictional issues. What all governments really want in this country is to serve our fellow citizens so they may have a bright future.