Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague for the quality of his French. I have known him for four or five years and his French is improving. I would like to tell him also that I hope with his learning French and understanding Quebecers that in a few months he will change his mind and vote in favour of the sovereignty of Quebec. Let us hope so.
I am glad to be able to speak today to Bill C-20, however difficult it may be for us in this House to convince people.
I followed closely the dynamics that developed since the introduction of the bill before Christmas and, like great philosophers, I like to ask myself questions.
The first question I asked myself was why? Why want to trap Quebecers in the status quo? Then, I told myself I had to try to identify the interests of the party in power. Not only did the Liberal Party introduce legislation that is undemocratic, but it trampled several democratic rules that I want to address in my remarks.
I came to the conclusion that the interests of the Liberal government are quite simple: it is interested in Quebec because Quebec sends a lot of tax money to Ottawa and that must not change. I found a few examples, and what is going on here in Ottawa is best described as misappropriation of Quebecers' money.
In fact, taking into account several issues over the years—I was first elected in 1993—I believe that the government wants to keep Quebec in Canada because it is profitable for the government. It is not profitable for Quebecers or it is far less profitable for them, but for Canadians and the rest of Canada, for example, the motto is “Let us keep Quebec in Canada and, if need be, let us lock it up in Canada”. At least I believe this is what the government is trying to do.
For instance, and this is one example among many, let us look at the issue of GST harmonization. Not long ago, as members will remember, the government said “We will scrap the GST”. As soon as they were elected, they said “No, we will keep it”. Moreover, they tried to convince all the provinces to harmonize their taxes with the federal GST.
The Atlantic provinces, for example, received $1 billion for the harmonization of their taxes with the GST. Quebec was the first province to say to the federal government “Listen, you are giving compensation to the Atlantic provinces, so, give us compensation too”. We were asking $2.5 billion. And the federal government stubbornly said “No, you are not entitled to this”. They said to themselves “Let us keep Quebecers and Quebec in Canada, because it is to our advantage. We can compensate the other provinces, but let us forget about Quebec”.
I remind the House that it was even suggested that an arbitration board could be set up between representatives of the federal government and Quebec arbitrate on this issue, and the federal government said no.
Other examples come to mind, such as the Canada social transfer. The value scale of the Canada social transfer has always been based mainly on the wealth or poverty of the provinces or the regions. The government changed all that. Now it is just the demographic factor that counts, meaning that Quebecers have lost a lot of money, because Ontario is the largest province in demographic terms. It is the one getting the big chunk of federal money in the Canada social transfer. Another injustice for Quebec. “Let us keep Quebec, it is very important to us. We can limit transfers, give a little more to the others and enclose Quebec in Canada. This is what we want, because it is to our advantage”. The question is always the same: what are the interests and why this bill?
Another example is Public Works Canada. No more than two weeks ago, the statistics came down: Quebecers contribute 25% of the cost of all the departments, including Public Works Canada. Yet 57% of contracts go to Ontario and 13% to Quebec. “We have to keep Quebec in Canada, because it is a cash cow”. Quebecers pay full taxes to Ottawa, 25% of the tax base, but they are not given the equivalent. They have to be imprisoned in Canada.
There is an annual $2 billion shortfall in Quebec. Then they tell us that Quebec does not know how to manage, that it has a huge debt, that it always has deficits, that the federal government has put itself in a good position and that now there is no deficit. We can understand why. I am giving examples of instances where Quebecers are continually shortchanged in Canada.
Quebecers continue to contribute 25% of the tax base for National Defence, but only 18% of spending goes to Quebec and only 16% of the infrastructures are in Quebec. Another shortfall.
Some even talk about a shortfall of 5,000 Quebecers in the military. An additional 5,000 Quebecers in the labour force would have a significant impact on the economy. Again, the federal government ignores this because it wants to keep Quebec a prisoner in the Canadian federation.
These days, we hear a lot about the price of gas. I want to tell Quebecers who are listening that, for at least 15 years now, they have been paying 3 to 10 cents more than Ontarians for gas. Why? Because the government of the time decided that no subsidies would be paid to refineries located east of the Borden line. That decision automatically triggered a 3 to 10 cent increase at the pump in Quebec. Incidentally, three refineries in eastern Montreal have since shut down. The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve is well aware of this. It happened almost in his riding.