Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak at third reading of Bill C-71.
I would like to begin by focusing on one particularly unpleasant aspect of this bill, the one that changes the rules of the game.
The Minister of Finance is changing the rules of the game in the way funds are allocated to the provinces to fund social assistance, higher education and health.
In this budget, without warning—and this particular provision is in Bill C-71—the Minister of Finance decided that, in contrast to past procedures, the most important criterion for the allocation of funds for social assistance, higher education and health would no longer be the provinces' needs but their population, over a two year period.
That changes the picture; that changes things. When it comes to the funds allocated to social assistance to help the most disadvantaged, the most important criterion should not just be the provinces' population, but their needs as well.
If in one region of Canada, in one province that has urgent needs because there is a higher incidence of poverty, the logic of social policy is to give to those in need.
The Minister of Finance decided unilaterally, without talking to anyone, especially not to the government of Quebec, that henceforth all the money would be allocated according to population. As a result, Canada's most populous province, Ontario, will get about 64% of the funds. As early as this year, Ontario will be the big winner regarding the Canada social transfer since, all of a sudden, population becomes the sole criterion for the allocation of funds, even in the case of social assistance, and that province has the largest population.
This means that, over the next five years, under this new formula, Ontario will get about $5 billion out of the $11.5 billion in new money from the federal government. By comparison, Quebec will get $900 million.
Under these unilateral arrangements made by the Minister of Finance, Quebec will suffer an annual shortfall of at least $350 million over the next five years.
During the debate that we had at report stage in this House, some Liberal members said “There is no pleasing you. You are not happy because we are treating all Canadians across the country equally. They are all on an equal footing”. That is not the issue. It is important to stress this again, because the members opposite have a very hard time grasping it. Perhaps this is due to a lack of interest in the most disadvantaged across Canada, a lack of sensitivity or a lack of compassion.
It is important to understand that the funds provided for a social policy must be allocated to those who need them. With this new criterion solely based of population, we can no longer talk about a social policy but, rather, about a policy of equal redistribution of funds across Canada, on the sole basis of population.
The government cannot claim to have a Canadian social transfer, a social policy, when this policy no longer targets low-income households.
Some might say that, if there are more Quebecers who are unemployed or on welfare, Quebec's policies should be a little more proactive and contribute to economic growth and job creation. I agree. Clearly, Quebec has to do more. It must innovate, take up the challenge of the new economy and grab the bull by the horns, as it were, in order to reduce our level of unemployment and steadily eliminate pockets of poverty.
But the federal government must do its part as well. Quebecers are paying approximately $31 billion in taxes every year to the federal government. It would perhaps be a good idea for the Liberal MPs from Quebec to one day do their job properly. I will explain what I mean.
Quebec is still not receiving its fair share. We sound like a broken record. A journalist once told me we were playing the same old tape. Quebec is not receiving its fair share. If Quebec were to receive its share of federal government spending, we would not need to point this out. The situation has not changed in 30 years. The federal government is systematically discriminating against Quebec.
If it did, perhaps Quebec would not have 30% of all the welfare recipients in Canada. Perhaps Quebec would not have, year in and year out, a two or three percentage point difference in its unemployment rate compared to the Canadian average, never mind its position compared to Ontario. Perhaps the Canada social transfer would never have been necessary, since Quebec would have had fewer people unemployed or on welfare, but that is not how it is.
I will give some illustrations, because this is so important. We do seem to be repeating ourselves, but I will do so ad nauseam, until the federal government shows some justice toward Quebec.
Taking the example of goods and services expenditures, Quebec has 25% of the Canadian population but, for the past 25 years, federal goods and services expenditures in Quebec have been far lower than its demographic weight.
For goods and services alone, the government's day to day spending, last year the federal government spent 20% in Quebec. That is 4 percentage points short. We have 24% of the population, and the federal government purchases goods and services from Quebec companies which account for only 20% of its total expenditures in this field. That difference means jobs, and poverty as well. There would be less poverty if that figure were raised from 20% to 24%.
Looking at federal government capital investments, again Quebec is not being treated fairly. Quebec receives 19% of the federal government's capital and general investments, while its population is 24% of the total. Once again, that difference means jobs, construction jobs. It would also mean less poverty, if we increased the percentage of federal capital investments from 19% to 24%.
Federal subsidies to businesses shrink every year as well. Only 18% of federal funding to Canadian business goes to businesses in Quebec. It is easy to say that Quebec businesses have a low productivity record. The fact of the matter is that the federal government siphons off $31 billion worth of our taxes annually in Quebec. It does not give us our fair share, which is about a quarter of the money.
The federal laboratories in Quebec receive only 16% of all capital spending on federal labs. Unless things have changed in the past few minutes, we still have 24% of the population and get only 16% of federal funds for federal government labs.
For research and development, the figure is generally 14% compared to 24%, although R and D is everything and will make our businesses competitive in the future. R and D is what makes the difference between countries or regions of countries ranking among the best in the world or being left by the wayside. We get 14% of the money for research and development.
No one can tell me that this does not have an impact. It has a definite impact on the relative competitiveness of Quebec and Ontario. Ontario gets help from the federal government, while Quebec gets neglect.
In science and technology, Quebec gets 13% of the federal jobs. The number one province in that respect is Ontario. For all the expenditure items I mentioned earlier, the winner is Ontario with 45% to 50% of all the federal funds allocated for goods and services, investments and general capital expenditures.
For several years now we have been doing an annual tally of what readjusting federal spending could mean in terms of job creation, if it were based on Quebec's demographic weight. Do members know how many jobs this means per year?
If, tomorrow morning, the federal government decided to do justice to Quebec—it would be even better if Quebecers decided to achieve independence and keep all of the $31 billion they send every year to the federal government—and invested in Quebec a fair share of research and development, goods and services and so on, there would be between 30,000 and 42,000 more jobs on the Quebec labour market. This is a lot of jobs.