Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today, as Parliament resumes, in support of the motion of my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Jean, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this Hous, ethe government should make available to Members a support fund for community activities in each of their ridings.
It is an extraordinary thing to see Liberal MPs at last supporting an initiative by a Bloc Quebecois member. It is my turn to applaud them.
This private member's business from my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Jean, is of extreme importance for our communities.
This summer, I travelled all over my riding, and met with the MNA for Jonquière. as well as municipal and county councillors.
In Quebec, we have set up large-scale municipal structures, and the municipal councillors informed me that they had discretionary envelopes. Imagine, municipal councillors have these, while we federal Members of Parliament do not. With the stupendous budget surplus this government has amassed from the taxes of ordinary citizens, it is high time steps were taken to enable us, as representatives of our constituents and the ones closest to them, to help them out on an ad hoc basis.
I could name hundreds of associations in my riding from which we get letters daily saying “I would like to obtain funds from your discretionary fund, your discretionary envelope as an MP.”
When I inform them that I do not have such a thing, they cannot believe it. I was an assistant to a provincial member of parliament for ten years, and we had discretionary funds. The whole system worked very well. Last spring, certain Liberal MPs were saying “Oh but we do not know how that will be administered.”
The chief returning officer for Quebec has carried out a study that showed this was very well administered in Quebec. As far as I am concerned, having a discretionary envelope will make it possible for me to help people out, not give them presents, but give them help. They are not asking for a fortune. Sometimes they are asking for $100, $200 or $300 in order to be able to make it to the end of their fiscal year.
We all know what a hard time these community organizations have chasing up funds. They are constantly holding fundraising campaigns. No one can imagine how important it would be to them to be able to get help from the MP for their riding.
I congratulate my colleague from Saint-Jean for having dared to move his motion. After all the fine applause from the Liberal members, it is time for this government to take real action, so that every member of Parliament can benefit from a discretionary allowance in his or her riding.
These funds would not be used to do just anything. The money would be available to help the people and associations who need it. This is not to put on a big show, because we have had enough of the noise the Liberal Party makes whenever it gives the most paltry amount to people who organize activities.
I think it is a form of recognition. If we did not have such community organizations, how much would it cost society? Imagine the billions of dollars it would cost if we did not have these people who take care of the less fortunate, women, abused women, children, the poor, and so many others. There are also organizations representing seniors and defending their rights. We need these people.
We know how difficult it is to follow all of Parliament's legislative activities. We cannot plead ignorance, but not all legislation can be followed. Even ourselves, as members of Parliament, sometimes have trouble following all the legislation.
These people provide help and can point to what they are doing for their clients.
Once again, I think it is time to act. We are going to stop putting off until tomorrow the things that can be done today. The federal government has enough money to do this.
By the way, as we resume sitting here in the House, I want to welcome all those who are listening and all the members in this House. I want to wish them an excellent session. It will be a very important session. We will be talking about subjects that will affect the people who are asking for our help, in order to give them the means to help the most needy.
When I was working at the provincial level, I never gave assistance to those who did not need it. Sometimes an amount like $100 or $200 is received as if it were $100,000, because they truly need such sums of money if they are going to be able to continue their excellent work.
In my opinion, if the members of this House do not support my colleague's motion, then they are out of touch with their constituents. They are burying their heads in the sand. They are telling their constituents, “Vote for me but, once elected, your concerns will no longer be mine.” It is too bad. I do not know if the other members feel as responsible for their constituents as I do, but I get two, three or four letters every day from such associations asking me for this money.
It is fine to say that it has to come out of my salary. That is normal, and I do so frequently. It is fine to say that we are going to help promote them by giving them $100. They do not even have the means to promote themselves. They spend all their energy seeking both provincial and federal funding just to survive. Furthermore, they must constantly hold fundraisers.
It is time to admit they are right and to recognize them for what they are by giving them a small sum. Even $100 will grow as if they had received $5,000. It is not much, but we are talking about an organization's survival.
I congratulate my hon. colleague from Saint-Jean for moving this motion. Not all the members in this House would have had the courage to do so. Since I become a member six years ago, this issue has been discussed informally. Some members do not know anything about it because they do not want to know anything. However, this goes on at the provincial and municipal levels.
People say that the federal government should provide the support, and this means that it must consider the real needs of individuals and do whatever is necessary to help them. These people are not asking for a free ride. With all the money being stockpiled here, this is their right.