Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today. First, I congratulate you on your appointment and your presence here this afternoon.
There is no doubt that for a new member of Parliament, it is both an honour and cause for nervousness to speak after such distinguished colleagues as the members for Hochelaga, Chambly—Borduas and Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.
We are dealing here with a technical bill. Actually, it is quite symptomatic to have highly technical bills at the beginning of a new session. It is symptomatic of this Liberal or neo-Liberal administration to introduce a stopgap solution to problems—as it unfortunately seems to be doing with the submarines—instead of coming up with actual policies.
I was born in Chicoutimi, where my family still lives. I realize that I have always been in contact with the transport industry. In my childhood, I remember that we used to go and watch the famous white ships of Canada Steamship Lines. At that time, they did not belong the Prime Minister's family but rather to the Soeurs de la charité of Quebec City. We do not know much about that. I was also distressed to see that this marine industry, which was the engine of economic development, disappeared, as usual because of a lack of vision or policy.
Later on, I moved to the North Shore. I lived in Baie-Comeau. The port of Baie-Comeau is also suffering from underfunding and has been all but abandoned by the Liberal government. This is due to reforms that are stillborn, if I may put it that way, reforms that do not go all the way, that lack means. Because of that, Baie-Comeau, which was once a vital component of the Quebec economy, is now sliding into a kind of economic stagnation that is often due to shortsighted policies and to a lack of understanding of transportation.
I now represent the Beauport—Limoilou riding, just opposite the Davie shipyard. My colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse was telling me that there are now only eight workers left in a shipyard that certainly employed more than 2,000 people at one point. It is very disturbing to see this yard, which has the biggest dry dock in Canada, crumbling because of a lack of policy that very often, let us face it, unfortunately discriminates against Quebec.
Of course we reiterate our general support for the principle of Bill C-4. We are sometimes disappointed to see the very narrow focus of the bills that are introduced, but sometimes they are necessary. The Bloc Québécois agrees with the principle of the bill.
We will recall that the purpose of this bill is to implement two international agreements, namely the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the related Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment. These two agreements were negotiated under the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, with the poetic acronym of UNIDROIT, and the International Civil Aviation Organization, whose headquarters are in Montreal, as we all know. In fact, that is no coincidence; it is headquartered in Montreal because Montreal is an important centre.
Hon. members know that I come from Quebec's national capital. As I indicated earlier, I have lived in the regions, but the economic vitality of Montreal is benefiting all of Quebec. And when we have centres as major a Montreal, we have to help them and their industries. Helping Montreal benefits the workers of Hochelaga as much as those of Beauport—Limoilou.
I would also like to share with you, Madam Speaker, something I feel is important for you to know. I have extensive experience in the field of sustainable development and environmental protection. I also worked in social housing.
What matters in sustainable development is the notions of environmental protection, of sustainability of resources, of equity and employability. Sustainable development requires that people have work, that their industry not be undermined, and that governments provide the support necessary to promote a fairer and more equitable society which shares its resources.
Unfortunately, that is not what we have at present. Here is a bill to better articulate the financing of heavy transportation equipment. We are talking about aircraft, but other similar legislation will be required in areas like aerospace, satellites, and rail. The protocols and conventions for those areas are not quite ready.
So, the government introduces an itsy bit of policy, this itsy bit of legislation to deal with financing, the mortgage and guarantees to secure financing and to have comparable international rules with respect to the financing and the procurement of air materiel.
At the present time, 32 countries have signed or ratified the convention and the protocol. Canada did so in March 2004 and the European Union has plans to do so. So this is all pretty recent. I would remind hon. members—since I believe there is an educational aspect to this House—that the purpose of the agreements is to ensure that countries have harmonized legislation when it comes to securities—what the rest of us might call mortgages—placed by lenders on mobile assets such as aircraft or trains.
As well, the agreements call for the creation of an international registry of aircraft, which would make it possible for lenders to readily determine the condition of a plane or to know whether there is a security against it and if so how much and by whom. Hon. members are aware that registries are important, or at least if they are properly kept.
Once again, unfortunately, we cannot say that the Liberal government's administration of such registries has impressed us much. One need only think of the firearms registry, and how laxly it was managed, with the result that the majority of Canadians and Quebeckers withdrew their support of candidates they associated with that government in this last election.
At the present time, much confusion reigns as far as the financing of aircraft is concerned. An airline can be subject to the law of one country, have loans from lenders in two different countries, owe money to an aircraft engine manufacturer in a fourth country, who has placed a security on one engine in the event of non-payment. In short a situation as clear as mud, as they say.
If these countries do not have harmonized legislation, particularly concerning the order in which creditors are paid off, endless court battles could ensue, leading to long and costly delays when an airline is no longer able to make its payments.
As well, contradictory legislation causes a great deal of uncertainty and increases the risks for lenders, who offset this by charging high interest rates. One might describe what is called in Latin the statu quo ante , or previous situation, as a total financial mess. No matter what term one uses, the reality is that there is total confusion, an unworkable situation that prevented harmonious international commerce.
Currently every country keeps its own aircraft registry using its own criteria, which might be confusing. The passing of this bill and the passing of similar pieces of legislation in other countries in the world will help put an end to such confusion, decrease the risks for lenders and, therefore, for borrowers. So doing they will help improve the ability for air carriers to get airplanes. This will give the aircraft industry a hand, which is good I think.
I am talking about giving the aircraft industry a hand, but we could talk about giving it a finger because what would really help the aircraft industry would be a real aeronautics policy to keep jobs in Montreal and at Bombardier. We are not talking about peanuts; we are talking about 5,000 jobs that are at stake. Due to a lack of policy, workers in the aircraft industry face an uncertain future.
The Bloc Québécois demands an aeronautics and aerospace policy covering important elements. It would support industrial research. With close to a third of high-tech exports, Quebec is way ahead of the other Canadian provinces. When it comes to the number of jobs in the high-tech industry, the Montreal area comes second in North America behind the famous Silicon Valley in California, well-known for producing computers and for its high-tech industry in general.
Telecommunications, aircraft, aircraft engines and parts are among the ten top exports from Quebec. Quebec has climbed to the sixth place in terms of sales generated by the aerospace industry. Montreal is the fourth city in North America for the number of jobs in the bio-pharmaceutical industry. Quebec industries are innovative. Industrial research is the only area in which Quebec gets its fair share of federal research and development funding.
All this is being threatened by the government's procrastination and lack of vision. Currently several American states are courting Bombardier, which is seeking help and not getting any.
With 31 per cent of Canada's high-tech exports, Quebec industries are getting 30 per cent of federal funding. That being said, even though Quebec is getting its share, as a whole funding is grossly inadequate.
Developing a high tech product, be it a drug or an airplane, takes time and costs a lot of money. At this stage, government financing is vital. As the member for Hochelaga and my distinguished colleagues have said previously, the funding of the Technology Partnerships Canada program is stagnant. In constant dollars, it has actually decreased, with the result that we can no longer support this industry.
Furthermore, the government is starting to receive royalties for products whose development was financed in part with public money. Indeed, the Technology Partnerships Canada program is a risk sharing program established in 1996. Through this program, Ottawa invests in research and development. Then, once a product is marketed, five, ten or fifteen years later, the government gets its money back through royalties.
The government is starting to receive these royalties. And while industrial research spending is increasing by about 8% a year, government investment in the Technology Partnerships Canada program remains about the same. Eight years after being launched, this program is now clearly underfunded. This seriously threatens the aerospace industry, the flagship of Quebec industry as we have pointed out earlier.
Our aerospace industry, which exports 89% of its production, must be in a position to stand up to competitors, which get much more support. In the United States, this support comes from the military industry, and in Brazil, the industry gets a permanent and massive support from the government.
The Minister of Transport told us we should avoid a subsidy war, but we should not turn a blind eye either. We should not ignore the problem, but we should realize the competition is international. If, strangely enough, we let down an industry that creates wealth in Quebec while we support the automobile industry in Ontario, this will be an unacceptable double standard.
We are in an society where jobs should be supported. We should not support lame ducks, but we should help successful industries. The aerospace industry is successful. This is not a joke. Nobody wants an open bar or a subsidy war. I think some are indulging in theatrics or try to hide the facts in order to avoid responding to this emergency.
The impact of not responding right now with a serious offer and a partnership with Bombardier would be extremely serious. We risk losing a massive number of jobs. This lack of vision and policy could cost us dearly.
During the election campaign, the Minister of Transport made a habit of using shock formulas and distasteful images that evoke the funds received by the Liberal Party. The management of a department or of policies is not a matter that can be handled in a 10-second clip on television, or by saying that one is against interventionism, when there was a lot of intervention in sponsorships, and the management of the gun registry, which was completely botched.
The government intervenes a lot to take away from working and unemployed Quebeckers and Canadians what is rightfully theirs. In these cases, it is very interventionist.
When the time comes to pay off a deficit on the backs of the provinces and the unemployed, when the government hides surpluses in an incredible way—we are talking about $9.1 billion instead of $1.8 billion—we realize that this government is characterized by secrecy, lack of vision and arrogance. As a result, there is no policy to support programs. We are always in a minefield. We are always facing the possibility of losing jobs and emptying the regions.
This lack of policy does not relate only to transportation; these are realities. We find ourselves without a consistent employment policy. The government undermines employment insurance, as my colleague from Chambly—Borduas has demonstrated. It does not allow youth who have seasonal jobs to stay in their region in the winter, perhaps to create a small business. It sends them instead to urban areas such as Quebec City or Montreal. It sends them to cities, which literally empties the regions. It fears after the fact that Montreal and Quebec City will have the same problem. This lack of policy is very negative.
What we are calling for is a policy to help Bombardier, not only very specific bills, framework legislation and broad views which should not be used to spend public money but to attract industries and improve what is already functioning well.
Obviously, even if Bill C-4 is a step in the right direction in terms of financing the purchase of aircraft equipment, it does not solve the real problem of Quebec's aerospace industry, which is the lack of an aerospace policy.
Bombardier is being courted by three American states who would like the company to set up shop there for the construction of its 110 and 115 seat airplanes. According to the CBC, these states are all offering over $700 million. Can we accept the Minister of Transport's response that the government does not want a bidding war? Could this not be translated to mean that the government does not want to intervene and that it will let the American market dictate where our jobs will go? It is extremely cynical and dangerous. This is playing with fire.
I hope this will not be the only response of the Minister of Transport and that someone, somewhere, is trying to reach an agreement with Bombardier and to support this job-creating industry. However, if this is not the case, if there is no policy to quickly reach a solution on an urgent basis, I think such an attitude would border on irresponsibility. They will then have no excuse for saying that they thought the American states were bluffing and that they were not serious.
Quebec's aerospace industry, which has annual sales of $14 billion and employs more than 40,000 workers, represents almost half of high-technology jobs in Canada. Of the 250 businesses in the sector, 240 are small and medium-sized businesses. As Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said, the aerospace industry is to Quebec what the automotive industry is to Ontario. If the automotive sector gets help, so should the aerospace sector.
It is urgent that this government implement an aerospace policy.