Mr. Speaker, it is with pride that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance rose in the House this morning to make his speech and say that the federal government has been generous in giving money back to the provinces. The government feels generous because, among other things, it gave Quebec $489 million in equalization payments.
If the federal government is returning money to each province through the equalization program, it is primarily because these tax revenues from the provinces and workers have increased, while government spending has decreased. The government has now eliminated its deficit, but not because it is a good administrator, not because the Minister of Finance is better than his predecessor. Rather, it is because the Minister of Finance decided to take $6 billion a year from the employment insurance fund. It is because he decided to make cuts to transfer payments to the provinces for health and education. The federal government has relinquished all responsibility for the maintenance of airports and piers.
This money is not a present from the government, it is money owed to us. In a sovereign Quebec, we will manage the $33 billion that is collected through taxes and we will tell the federal government “Keep your equalization program”. I am prepared to trade $33 billion for $489 million.