I would ask the Liberal members to be silent. In any case, that is what you do best. Keep on doing that. It will not change anything. You are used to that. Do not change anything.
I am happy to join all those who are standing up for their communities. It is our fundamental role as members of parliament. We have to represent the people of our communities. That is what they expect from us.
I was among those who were not too keen on staying here late tonight, but as I listened to the debate, I realized how important it was for these people.
When people voted in elections for members from this side of the House—and it is not just for members of the Bloc Quebecois, but for Conservative members, for members of the Coalition, and New Democrat members, like the one who spoke earlier as well as those from the Canadian Alliance, but especially those from the Progressive Conservative Party/Democratic Representative Caucus Coalition—they did so because it was important for their communities.
People expected that when the member they elected got here, in Ottawa, he or she would raise issues that are important to them. It is a shame that on the other side of the House, they try to ridicule issues that are important to people, that they are concerned about all kinds of accessory things, like, for example, the fact that some of them will be missing their Thursday evening reception. Fine, that is their problem.
Once again, it is high time that they sit up and listen, that they hear the message, the cry for help from communities that live in areas with resource based economies. Quite often, it is the entire industry. Employment in a given region depends entirely upon the resource. In the case of the fishery, many people have lived off this resource, and depended on it for generations.
Today's debate may be secondary for some, but not for these people. I hope that there will be enough pressure put on the people across the way to embarass them into action. The bar is high though, because the parallel is one of their predecessors, the former and ambitious Minister of Industry, at one time, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who at least fought a bit harder. Perhaps he only appeared to make an effort, but he always did make a bit of an effort. Now, there is nary a one of them on the other side that lifts a finger or makes an effort. It is quite despicable.
Mr. Speaker, you granted an emergency debate and it was up to you whether or not to agree to this request. You decided that it was an important issue that should be debated in the House, out of respect for the Chair, for the institution and for those elected to sit here. I hope that the government members, those who are not necessarily here, but who may be following the debate, and those who read the transcripts or a report of what happened here, will say, “This is an alarm sounding. Certain communities need us, need us to act”.
Furthermore, parliament will not be sitting for two weeks. They have the time to act. When we come back to the House, I hope they will announce that they intend to take action. Of course, we all know that these problems are not simple. However, it is not by waiting for years and years that the problem will be solved.
It is high time that this government to made good on its claim of being influential and to sat down to find a solution. Everybody knows, of course, that the resource is rare because of bad management of stocks earlier on; stocks that are not inexhaustible were overfished.
Fortunately, for a few years now, people have been raising our awareness about the environment and the protection of our environmental assets. They are not unlimited and we must manage them carefully. It is extremely important and it has become part of our habits, our behaviour and our planning. People accept that.
Those who earn their living in the fishing industry have made majaor sacrifices because of the dwindling the stocks, in recent years.
Even if we believed in theory that we would lose jobs in some areas but create some in others--and I was among those who strongly supported free trade, international trade and so on--the fact is that it takes more than just a few years for those who so far had made a living from fishing to train for other jobs and find work. Transition is much more complex and takes a lot longer than that. Resistance to change and adaptation problems always occur. Sometimes, we, on the outside, are not aware of the development potential of the more traditional industries.
In the last few decades, or the last decade, all we have talked about was the new economy, the high tech industries, and we focused all our efforts and energy on these important activities.
In the meantime, a lot of people behind the scenes, within the government and the public service, too often were heard saying something like “the industries in our resource regions are fully developed; our future is elsewhere”, but that is not true at all. Opportunities abound.
Take Abitibi—Témiscamingue and northern Quebec as an example. Very often people think that the mining potential has been wholly developed. In reality, however, there is still major potential left. Some people are not aware of these realities, do not experience them, are not open to them. I would invite them not only to be open to foreign markets, but also open to learning about our own society. There are too many MPs from urban ridings who are oblivious to what is going on in the regions.
I will, moreover, cite one of the colleagues on the other side. He said the Minister of Finance was going to have to learn to differentiate between rural areas and major urban centres. Last week, the member for Abitibi--Baie-James--Nunavik said “In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the Minister of Finance is going to have to learn to make this distinction”. Imagine, a member of the Liberal caucus stating publicly, in a region, that the Minister of Finance cannot make this differentiation. This is cause for concern.
I can understand the people in all the remote communities that are mainly centred on development—