Mr. Speaker, first, I want to say that three words summarize today's debate: encroachment, encroachment and encroachment.
And the government is encroaching in a particularly iniquitous way because we all know the very serious problem cuts to transfer payments have created for the provinces.
This issue has been discussed at length in Quebec. Quebecers did not realize that the problem is as acute in other provinces. We have seen a whole series of absurdities. Believe it or not, people from Saint-Jean have to go to Plattsburgh to get treatment, and this costs Canadian taxpayers a bundle.
So much so that the hospital in Plattsburgh has just bought very sophisticated equipment because of the large number of Quebecers who are going for treatment to the United States. All this because the government decided, a few years ago, to cut transfers to provinces, including Quebec.
The shortfall for last year was $1.7 billion, a tidy sum. Members can understand why the Government of Quebec found it so hard to achieve zero deficit while, at the same time, managing a health care system where demand is rising while funding is dropping.
We have to see how the government is feathering its nest, because that is just what it is doing. The Minister of Finance talked about a potential surplus of $95 billion over five years, but according to our estimation it will be more like $130 billion over the same period.
This surplus was accumulated by means of the Canada health and social transfer. The government has cut transfers to provinces, including Quebec, and by doing so it has created a terrible crisis for them. Waiting lists show how people are paying for this now.
We should not forget that the government is feathering its nest even more with the employment insurance fund. It still has ultimate control over the unemployed, limiting access to the employment insurance plan. Today, only four out of ten workers have access to the plan; before the reform it used to be seven out of ten. While the government is paying out less to the unemployed, it is still taking in just as much from employees and employers. Not only will it not upgrade the plan, it will not adjust it so that benefits are equivalent to the period worked.
The government is still feathering its nest, putting more money aside and, when it sees fit, it uses that money to encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. I do not know whether the premiers of the other provinces are listening to us today, but I believe that with the signing of the social union such federal encroachments on provincial jurisdiction are going to increase.
I remind the House that Quebec did not sign this agreement, precisely to protect its jurisdiction over health care. Normally in Canada, under the Constitution, everything social is a provincial responsibility, but often things are called a different name.
For instance, with regard to the bill before us today, the name used is health research institutes; the government says it is not necessarily about health, but really about virtual research, or some other kind of research. There has been no consultation with the provinces. In fact, the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois are aimed at remedying this. We want the provinces and Quebec to be consulted.
What about the health research institutes? In 2001-2002, $500 million will be invested in these institutes. When we look at how research and development are evolving in Canada, we see that we have big problems. When it comes to research and development in Canada, Quebec is at a disadvantage.
I often indicate that Quebecers represent 25% of the government's tax base. In the Outaouais region, let us not talk about institutes of health research but only about research centres; they are 43 of them, 42 on the Ottawa side, one of the Hull side. And yet, Quebecers foot 25% of the bill.
When it comes to research, we must also see all the economic benefits of a research centre, of an institute of health research. This is important. First, these are highly paid jobs; second, these research centres award a lot of contracts and subcontracts. A lot of people will be supplying the research centre, and that creates jobs. This is the new economy.
When we look at the way the money has been distributed for several years, even several decades, Quebec is always on the short end of the stick. I have the statistics with me. They prove that as far as research and development is concerned, Quebec receives only 14% of the money. We are paying 25%, but we are receiving only 14%. Is the same thing going to happen with the institutes of health research? Are we going to pay 25% of the bill and let Ontario reap the benefits? That is more or less how things stand, right now.
Is it Liberal ridings that are going to benefit from the institutes of health research? We know about the scandal at Human Resources Development Canada. Is the Liberal government not inclined to say “We have done all the necessary studies. First, it so happens that, in Quebec, you will not get 25% of the institutes. Second, those you will get will just happen to be in Liberal ridings”?
We might get two or three research institutes in Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies. Unfortunately, as usual, Saint-Jean will end up empty-handed. These issues are a big concern to us.
Finally, the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois say two things: yes to research, because we think it is important, and no to interference in a provincial jurisdiction Quebec is proud of. I say hats off to the Government of Quebec. Mr. Landry just brought down an excellent budget. Finally, he is able to reinject money in health, and this is also due to the economy. If we had been in a recession, Mr. Landry would have had a hard time reinjecting money in the health system.
The federal government did not do it. Mr. Landry just reinjected in the health system 14 times more than the federal government; in the field of education, Mr. Landry just gave 7 times more than the federal government to education in Quebec.
It is important that Quebecers know these facts. Before the Government of Quebec's budget was brought down, I had said that the Minister of Finance's budget, here in Ottawa, came up short and gave nothing to Quebec, and that Quebecers should now get used to the idea that they have to rely on only one government as far as health and education are concerned, and that is the Government of Quebec.
The federal government has missed an opportunity to redress the severe injustices I was talking about earlier.
All this boils down to one single thing: encroachment, encroachment, encroachment. It is not too late to do the right thing. They only have to support the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois and say “Yes to research, we think it is important. However, we agree that this is under provincial jurisdiction, so we will consult the provinces”.
This is roughly what the Bloc amendments are all about. We do not oppose the research aspect of it, for all the reasons I have just given. Within the federal system, we know that the government is the one that has the money, it collects the money from the taxpayers and never gives any of that money back. With it, it pays part of the debt, and by going half and half in new programs that encroach on provincial jurisdictions.
I do not think that this is the best way to manage money. We have always been against duplication, overlapping and encroachments. It would certainly be more cost effective to respect jurisdictions, to stop assigning an army of public servants to deal with matters that are already being dealt with by the other, to stop treading on each other's toes.
I urge my colleagues to vote in favour of the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois. To sum up, as I said earlier, we say yes to research, but no to encroachment.