House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.


Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

3:35 p.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Regina--Qu'Appelle.

It is a great honour for me to rise in this place at the beginning of my third term to express my heartfelt gratitude to the constituents of Calgary Southeast, who elected me again, with 72% of the vote, to represent them here. It is a humbling mandate and I hope that I can fulfill the expectations of my constituents.

It is perhaps the greatest honour a Canadian can have, I believe, to be elected by one's fellow citizens to stand in this place and participate in the highest forum of democracy in our land. The former leader of the Conservative Party, John Diefenbaker, once said, and his close friend John Turner often echoed him, that next to the pastoral ministry of faith this is the highest calling. It is something that we must all recall from time to time, this special responsibility we have.

A debate on the motion in reply to the Speech from the Throne is a special opportunity for members to address first principles. That is what I intend to do.

I believe that perhaps the most succinct and compelling statement of the appropriate role of government in Canadian society was made by Father Athol Murray, the founder of a school in Saskatchewan, Notre Dame College in Wilcox, where I grew up. A great Canadian folk hero, he once said that the aim of government should be to provide for “freest human action under the natural law”. Those are words and a concept not often uttered in this place: freedom, liberty, “freest human action under the natural law”.

When I read the throne speech, what I see is a smothering vision of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present government that has grown far beyond what was ever conceived of in the original constitutional order of this country, a government which proposes a program for every conceivable electoral interest group and which sees no proper limits for the size of government and its imposition on and restriction of human freedom.

Economic freedom is expressed by the degree to which individuals are able to retain and use according to their own priorities the fruits of their labours. But under this and previous governments, the average Canadian family continues to pay nearly 50% of its annual income in taxes to all three levels of government. That is to say that from an economic point of view Canadian families are only half-free and, in a certain sense, half their economic choices are captive to the decisions that we as political leaders take.

I think that is a disordered priority. I think that this Parliament and any Canadian government which respects human freedom should leave a much broader ambit to economic freedom by allowing people to make their own economic decisions by keeping more of what they earn to reflect their own priorities.

How is this applied? One of the principal engagements the government makes in this throne speech is to reiterate for the umpteenth time its I think deeply troubling commitment to establish a national program for child care.

I can tell members that I have been a member of Parliament for seven years and before that was involved in public life. I stand to be corrected, but in that time I do not recall hearing from a single constituent or Canadian voter pleading for the federal government to establish a national child care program. But in that time I have heard from literally thousands of constituents and other Canadians asking for tax relief, particularly tax relief for families with children, families that are struggling under a crushing tax burden to do what is best by their kids and to make the right choices to raise their children.

It disturbs me deeply when I hear the new Minister of Social Development refer to the choice made by millions of Canadian parents to raise young children at home as an obsolete model of custodial child care that is 50 years old.

I find deeply disturbing that kind of dismissive approach toward at-home parenting, which laces the throne speech, and I can tell hon. members that my constituents do as well. It is of course true that the vast majority of couples with children, even young children, have both parents in the workforce today. It is equally true that the vast majority of those families would choose to have a full time dad or mom at home if they could make it work financially, if they had the economic freedom to make the choice they believe is best for their children.

However, this government, reflecting a political philosophy which has become dominant in much of western civilization, has decided that it knows better than parents how to make economic choices and child-rearing choices for children. That is why, for instance, the government opposes the policy recommended by my party to allow for a $3,000 per child tax deduction, which exists in other developed western democracies.

It would be a tax deduction that would say to parents they could use the $3,000 per child economic break to decide whether to pay for third-party day care out of the home or give up a secondary income and have one of the parents stay at home. That is what I mean by economic liberty, which builds a stronger nation by allowing people to make choices that are best for them. But this government thinks it knows better than parents, which is why it chooses to create a multi-billion dollar program that will be funded in part from the taxes that come from the second parents in those homes with young children, parents who are in the workforce, away from their kids, in order to pay the tax bill.

In 1962 the average Canadian family paid a total tax bill of roughly 28% of its income. That is now up to 46%. In other words, the second parent in many of the homes that I represent is now working to pay for the incremental tax burden, which families were not facing 40 years ago. That, I think, is a profound violation of economic freedom and the right of parents to choose. That is a fundamental issue for me.

My time is limited and I also want to say I am distressed that in the throne speech the government spends very little time addressing the principal responsibility of a federal government, which is of course the protection of our national sovereignty and national security.

There are pages upon pages of areas detailed in the throne speech whereby the federal government would encroach upon areas of constitutional jurisdiction reserved for the provinces, but there is virtually no vision about how the country can rebuild its role in the world, a role which is best expressed by our investment in our military, which of course represents in a concrete way our ability to project our values abroad.

Under this government, Canada has the second lowest defence expenditure in NATO, at less than half the NATO average. This is a country which, in the words of former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, is willing to sit around the table of world decision makers but gets up and goes to the washroom when the bill comes due.

I think we have a moral obligation to make the investments that are necessary and to stand by our allies, as we have done so proudly in the past in this country, so we can be true to our heritage as a country that does not shirk its international responsibilities. If we are true to our values, then I believe the government should fundamentally change its priorities to, as I say, expand economic liberty and restore pride in our military and our role in the world.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

3:45 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of child care is not child minding. It is about early development, early education and early learning. Surely the hon. member is not suggesting that elementary school is no longer acceptable and that we should now shut down the public school system?

All of the research shows that education must start early if we want to give children an equal opportunity in this country, all kids at all times. Early education is very fundamental to the development of the child.

We are the only western country that starts as late as we do. We call it early learning and care. It is combined. It deals with two things: first, the issue of early learning which is fundamental to the children of this country; and, second, it addresses the issue of parents who are working.

The hon. member says that we should give families tax cuts and a choice. With respect, a $1,000 tax cut for someone who is making a modest to medium income will not make one bit of difference.

My constituents of Beaches—East York made it very clear to me that they want early learning child care assistance. Many of them are paying $1,500 a month per child. That is tantamount to a large mortgage or more. There is a tremendous amount of stress on families. Many children have no access to child care and the parents are obliged to work.

Tax cuts provide no choice at all. First, they do not provide child care for the children who need it. Second, they provide no developmental early learning programs for all children, regardless of whether the parent is at home looking after the child or not. Early learning is fundamental for all children.

As I said, we are starting late as it is with elementary school. We should start earlier. In most western countries, three years of age is when children start early education programs full time. We are really sticking our heads in the sand. We are not addressing the real fundamental issues of early learning and care for children in our society, both in terms of assisting parents and in ensuring that every child has the best possible start in life.

I would like the hon. member to respond to that because his solution does not do it.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

October 19th, 2004 / 3:50 p.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's honesty in allowing her radical ideology to show. Essentially what she is saying is that the state must intervene to take kids out of the home as early as possible to teach them in a way that parents cannot do themselves. She said that it should be at age three. Why not age two? How early does she want to go?

What I hear in that comment is the shrill ideology of a radical point of view which says that the state and the institutions of the state know better how to educate children than parents themselves. I, and I believe the vast majority of Canadian parents, believe that the first and best school is at home and that the first and best teachers are parents and not the state.

She said that $1,000 was not enough. We proposed a $3,000 tax credit per child per family. For a family with three young children, that would mean $9,000 per year. That is considerable.

However I agree with her on one point. That is not enough. That is why we need to restrain things like this multibillion dollar child care boondoggle, which will simply increase the tax burden on families that are trying to raise their kids at home or who would like to have the choice to do so.

I find it profoundly offensive that the member is anti-choice. She is not willing to allow parents to make the right choices for their families, for their kids and for their values. I believe in parents having the right to choose what is best by their kids. If parents want to pay for out of family day care so they can be raised in the early childhood learning out of home environment that the member loves, then they should have the right to do that. I fully honour and respect that right. However if parents think they can do a better job raising young kids at home, then, by golly, we should give them that choice. It is called freedom.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

3:50 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to take a few moments to again thank the voters of Regina—Qu'Appelle for choosing me as their representative in this 38th Parliament.

When I was young and just starting to become interested in the public affairs of this country, I remember watching the first throne speech of the newly elected Liberal government in 1993. That was an historic election. The make-up of this House had been dramatically altered. A new government, two new parties and dozens of new members came to that Parliament. The throne speech that was read at that time contained a litany of promises.

We heard about how the Liberals were going to improve our social safety net. We heard a promise about a national child care program, even back then. We heard a promise about fiscal responsibility and an end to patronage. Therefore I was quite surprised a few weeks ago when I stood in the other place and listened to Her Excellency read almost the exact same speech with the exact same litany of promises.

I thought that since the current Prime Minister was in such a rush to take over the reins of power that he would have had at least a distinct plan from the past administration, but, sadly, I was mistaken. The Prime Minister could not wait to take over the reins of power. He could barely stand the numerous delays that were placed in front of him as he ushered his predecessor out the door.

Now Canadians certainly were not complaining about the former prime minister being forced into early retirement. They were, however, hopeful that the new Prime Minister would lead a government with some sort of integrity. Prior to this past election campaign, the Prime Minister stated that he would view his term in office a failure if western alienation was not addressed. He made numerous promises throughout the campaign about fixing that problem. He indicated that he would be open to appointing senators who had actually been elected, not just appointing his own cronies.

Subsequent to that statement, he then called elected senators from provinces “provincial patronage”. How could he call someone being duly elected by the people of a province, patronage? He also indicated that he would allow Parliament greater scrutiny over appointments to the judiciary and other important posts. However we have seen what that has turned into. The minister explains his decision and Parliament has no opportunity to review that before the appointment is actually made.

Time and again the government has backpedalled from any notion of improving the state of Canadian democracy.

One of the recycled promises in the throne speech was a general statement about improving the economy. We in Saskatchewan know the debilitating effects of having a government that stifles entrepreneurship, that mishandles taxpayer money and that places the goal of a political party ahead of the needs of the people of that province.

Therefore it is fitting that the leader of the NDP has spent the past few weeks desperately trying to prop up the Liberal government. Why should we be surprised? During the election campaign he came to Regina and held up the provincial NDP government as a model for the federal party. He certainly is following that model, because he is propping up a government that also stifles entrepreneurship, that mishandles taxpayer money and that places the goal of the party ahead of the good of the nation. After all, we have all heard the joke that a New Democrat is just a Liberal in a hurry.

Saskatchewan has seen generations of its young people leave for opportunities elsewhere, opportunities that should be available to them at home, and yet, thanks to over a decade of a socialist, backward and incompetent government, those opportunities just are not there.

That is why I am so concerned to see the NDP on that side of the House working so hard to keep the Liberal government in power. Adding a little NDP to the Liberal government is a little bit like adding water to a grease fire. The government is certainly socialist enough without having the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth propping it up.

My colleagues have all made excellent points in their responses to this throne speech. I would like to touch on just a couple of issues.

The throne speech made it quite clear that the Liberals still do not understand that there are certain limits to the scope of government. The government knows no bounds except, of course, for the bounds of decency and accountability. The government does not acknowledge that there could possibly be areas that do not fall under its jurisdiction. It continually interferes in areas of provincial responsibilities. It uses the threat of the removal of transfer payments to keep the provinces in the box that it creates. It sets up all the rules and does not let the provinces find new ways of handling the problems that they face.

A government program for any problem, no matter what the cost, no matter what the fallout, that is the motto of the Liberals.

I believe there are certain natural limits to the scope of government, that some problems need to be addressed by individual Canadians or communities or grassroots organizations.

We need a government that recognizes its own limits. We have seen the creation of dozens of new ministries over the past decade as the Liberals keep on expanding their interference in the lives of Canadians.

Another troubling sign in the throne speech is the lack of attention to agriculture. At a time when so much of Canada, not just in the west but all over Canada, is in the middle of an agricultural crisis there is not one mention of that in the throne speech.

Farmers have been hit by frost. They face rising input costs and have to compete against global subsidies. Farmers need a system that works. The CAIS program is not working. The government keeps using it to deliver funds when problems come up. It keeps pointing to all of the money it throws at it and all the increased attention it gives to it but it is just not working. Farmers know it is not working. The only person who does not know that the CAIS program is not working is the Minister of Agriculture and the rest of the people in the government.

Those who do qualify for payments under the CAIS program receive them late and often when they do arrive the payments themselves are not adequate. The government needs to address this problem and it needs to address it quickly.

I am not sure the government understands that farmers are facing foreclosure. That is what they are up against. They are coming pretty much to the end of the line in many cases. It is becoming more and more possible that they will have to leave the land on which their ancestors started their families.

The Conservative Party has proposed numerous solutions to the various crises that are hitting our farmers. The government has ignored all of them and we are still debating in the House while farmers out there are booking their auction sales.

The government is famous for announcing spending to help agriculture. It comes up with billions and hundreds of millions there. There are lots of announcements but no dollars actually being distributed. In fact, in some cases, for the recent announcements, the forms have not even been printed. There is no mechanism for getting the dollars out there. We keep hearing the government popping up and saying that it has put $1.5 billion into that or a few hundred million into that, but the actual dollars have not gone to anyone who actually needs it.

It is not just two sword lengths that separate the government from this party. It is an ideological chasm. We on this side of the House believe that government is a means. The Liberals believe that it is an end. Their only goal is to become government. They do not care how they get there and, as we have seen, nor do they much care how they govern. They have truly created the nanny state. From cradle to grave the government is there every step of the way. They do not recognize that anything could possibly be accomplished without a government program, a government grant or a government ministry to help it along the way.

I believe that government has natural limits and that it is dangerous when a political party starts to ignore those limits. It should not interfere in the lives of hard-working and honest Canadians. It should not put up impediments on business and try to alter the make-up of the nation just to ensure its political survival.

Let us have a government that respects the rights of individuals. Let us have a government that respects the right of Canadians to go about their lives unmolested by excessive government interference. Let us have a government that protects and promotes families, that allows them to keep enough of their own income to make their own choices about important social questions such as child care.

As my hon. colleague made very clear, the government's child care program will just not work. Why does the government not trust Canadians to make their own choices about child care? Why does it have to create something that universally plugs everyone into the same solution? Why can we not let parents make their own choice, not “Here's your government day care. That is where you're sending your kids”, but “Here's more disposable income. Make your choice. Find out what works best for you and go ahead and do it”.

Instead of thinking about its own political future, let us have a government that would actually makes people's lives better. Let us think about what is fair.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4 p.m.


Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was quite happy to hear the member mention entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. It is something I know a little about having spent some 22 years as a small business entrepreneur.

What was devastating for entrepreneurship was the progressively increasing interest rates that small business people had to face as a result of growing debt loads and growing deficits during the previous Mulroney government. It was something that did not get written about a lot in newspapers because the devastation that small business and entrepreneurs faced was not something that hit the front pages.

Does the member understand the connection between increasing deficits, increasing debt and high interest rates, and what that did to entrepreneurship and small business people in Canada during the Mulroney years?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:05 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, there were many years that saw debt. We all know about the Trudeau years. We could play this game. Over the past decade we have had Liberal members bringing up ancient history. It has been about 12 years since the Mulroney government and Liberals will not take ownership for the problems they have created and the burdens they have placed on entrepreneurs.

The NDP in Saskatchewan is a perfect example of rising debt loads and excessive burdens, and problems created for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

We have had a finance minister who has increased the amount of taxes collected from small businesses and from ordinary Canadians. That is what this windfall is, that has not been talked about. It is not that the government has been so fiscally responsible or has trimmed spending in areas or eliminated waste. It is that Canadians are working harder. Small businesses are making more money and the government is reaping those extra revenues, and claiming it is so great at balancing the budget and eliminating debt. However, we all know the truth. It has been done on the backs of those small businesses and entrepreneurs.

We need the government to let businesses keep more of their own dollars. It should let entrepreneurs and businesses expand their companies, and get out of excessive regulations and excessive taxation to pay for increased spending in a myriad of different areas.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:05 p.m.


Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons that small businesses are able to pay taxes is because during the present regime they have been able to generate profits.

My business is a perfect example of that situation. We went through a very difficult period and because of the fiscal responsibility of our government, we were able to turn things around, as were thousands of small businesses. Small businesses, if they are profitable, do not mind paying their fair share of taxes.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:05 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think the key word there is a fair portion of taxes.

Did I hear the member say that this government has a record of fiscal responsibility? Does $2 billion on a gun registry count as fiscal responsibility? Is that responsible spending? Are the taxes that are collected to pay for that fair? Do Canadians and do small business owners mind? Is the hon. member saying they do not mind when they write their cheques to Revenue Canada and see billions go to a gun registry, the sponsorship programs and the HRDC boondoggle? Are those examples of Liberal fiscal responsibility?

I do not think so. I do not think Canadians are happy to pay taxes when, as the hon. member mentioned, the burden has gone up to 48%. Yes, businesses are able to make profits and the government makes a profit because it collects excessive amounts of dollars from businesses and ordinary Canadians. And then it goes into these wasteful programs.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:05 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle and I cannot help but believe that he is going to have a very difficult time following the record of his predecessor, the Hon. Lorne Nystrom. I hear him spewing the policies about telling everyone they are on their own and telling them they can sink or swim on their own. He says we should not worry about having modern, accountable government programs to back up our medicare system, our post-secondary education system, our environmental remediation, our child care needs and so on.

I want to ask a very specific question because I think it is important we talk about small business and the burden on small business, and what it takes for small businesses to thrive. Does he not recognize that small businesses, more than any other businesses, very much need the support that comes from a comprehensive health care system, from decent pharmacare programs and from comprehensive child care?

These are all things that many large businesses can negotiate in group plans and so on, but small businesses desperately need their families to have those kinds of supports because they cannot provide those kinds of benefits through private means, certainly not efficiently or effectively.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:05 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, unlike my predecessor I have actually worked in a small business prior to getting into politics. I have had experience working in that sort of realm.

It is always interesting listening to members from that party talk about small business. Saskatchewan has had first hand evidence of how an NDP government treated small businesses. Where are all of them? All of the traffic has been going out of Saskatchewan ever since the NDP government took power in that province.

NDP supporters in Saskatchewan have called for boycotts on small businesses. They have told people not to go to small businesses but rather boycott them because they did not fit in with NDP policies. I always find it very interesting listening to anyone on that side speak about small businesses.

We believe that the government does have to play a role in ensuring that people do not fall through the cracks. Individual Canadians should have the tools and resources they need to make their own choices in their lives.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:10 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg South Centre. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment.

The riding of Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor is not only rich in heritage but also rich in its people. Being in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, our cultural heritage dates back over some 500 years. In that 500 years we have cultivated a place that is so distinct that people from the world just marvel when they arrive. I am very proud to say that I am part of that rich cultural heritage.

The Speech from the Throne brought up several points to me that I felt were very endearing toward Newfoundlanders and ones that they accepted, which is why in the last election five out of seven seats went to the Liberal Party. For me one of the big issues that came out was health care. The federal government was able to reach a historic and truly significant deal that works to achieve better health care for Canadians. What is great about this deal is that it is a 10 year commitment to stable funding for the people who need it the most. I am very proud to say that I supported that and the people of Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor supported me on that as well.

I have a very rural riding. It consists of over 100 communities and the biggest community is a little over 10,000 people. For us primary health care and emergency services are a vital issue. The money that we are now seeing promised to the smaller communities will go a long way toward better health care, reducing our wait times and also toward something that is very vital to my province which is home care.

I campaigned on home care because to me that is in essence where we are going to be in the future. When we talk about home care, there is a tremendous amount of respect for our home care workers and now we are ready to back them up. I am very proud of that.

Regional economic development in my province has been very strategic in the past few years through an agency known as ACOA. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has been a tremendous vehicle for regional economic development in Newfoundland and Labrador, especially over the past three or four years. In that time we have managed to build something that is a true testament to what our cultural heritage is that I talked about earlier.

We are now celebrating our history in Bonavista and Port Union. ACOA has gone a long way in investing in this, to help support the people who want to invite the rest of the world to come and see what it is that we have to offer, and I am very proud of that. This past weekend I was in a town called Port Union which has a group called the Coaker Foundation. The town is celebrating the fact that Port Union is the only town in Canada built by a union from the vision of a man named Sir William Coaker. He built the town for his workers. He owned the company, but truly believed in the workers of his town. I am very proud to be a part of a riding that truly believes in that.

I truly appreciate the rightful respect that the throne speech gives to our municipalities. This is very important. In this past election, it was brought to my attention that only 8¢ out of the dollar goes back to municipalities. This does not give municipalities, large or small, the right to manoeuvre. It does not give them a lot of ability to plan. Now, finally, we have a government that truly respects the responsibility of a local government. I am extremely happy to be a part of that government.

This past weekend I was in Bonavista and I spoke to a town council. Council members spoke passionately about where they are going and where they want to be in the future. There is a town called Elliston and the mayor of that town told me that, “we know where we are going to be in the next four or five years and your government believes in that, and I believe in you”. That is one of the major reasons why we were successful and why I was successful in my riding.

I would also like to talk about communities in this sense. One of the things I said time and time again during the campaign was that as a member of Parliament I do not lead the parade down the street; I support the parade ahead of me. As members of Parliament, that is what we do. To me, local government is the most important government in one's life. As supporters of that, with this initiative and the gas tax we have put a commitment behind it. Just recently, rebates on the GST provided our communities a tremendous infusion of cash, which allowed them the manoeuvrability to make long term commitments. We are about to go even further.

The throne speech, under the environment, talks about protecting our fish stocks that straddle the 200 mile limit. Let me quote from the speech. These are words that were very endearing to me:

The Government will... move forward on its Ocean Action Plan by maximizing the use and development of oceans technology, establishing a network of marine protected areas, implementing integrated management plans, and enhancing the enforcement of rules governing oceans and fisheries, including rules governing straddling stocks.

Recently during a conversation between the Prime Minister and the leader of France, this very issue came up, which shows the commitment our Prime Minister has toward this issue, the conservation of a fish stock. More than that, it is the conservation of our future, so that our children can partake in an industry that we have been partaking of for the last 500 years.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I humbly stand before you today in this hon. chamber for the very first time to say that I am committed to the greatest resource that our province has shown to the world, and that is our children. Out-migration of our youth continues to be our greatest challenge in Newfoundland and Labrador. I want to give our youth the option to stay if they choose to do so and I believe the government believes in that, in regional economic development and sustainable living that will finally give our children the right to stay in Newfoundland and to make a living for them and their children if they choose to do so.

The government understands that our policies will help pave the way so that Newfoundland and Labrador will become the shining jewel of the north Atlantic.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:15 p.m.


Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been some five weeks now since the health accord was reached between the Prime Minister and the provincial and territorial leaders. The hon. member alluded to health care.

I would like to ask the hon. member if he has received feedback from his constituents with respect to the 10 year health accord. If so, what type of feedback has he received?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:15 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

Mr. Speaker, the feedback has been tremendous. It became the most important issue during the campaign. It also became the most important issue for me personally, on two levels. First, it is stable funding. Many in the health care sector approached me during the campaign and said they liked the idea that they were getting stable funding. Recently, because of the deal that was signed, once again they are saying that we have done what we said we were going to do. We set this out in the throne speech, we set it out in our campaign, and now we are going through with it.

The other issue was of course home care. There has been tremendous feedback about home care and how we plan to be sincere about this particular topic. As I mentioned during my speech, yes, we give respect to our patients, but also we give respect to our health care workers. To me, that is a tremendous goal.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:20 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating you, as have my colleagues, on your appointment to the Speaker's chair. You bring skill and indeed honour to the position. I congratulate you.

On June 28, the citizens of Winnipeg South Centre made the decision to once again have me represent them in this Parliament. I want to offer my very sincere thanks to the community for giving me the honour, for giving me the privilege, and for showing me their support once again.

Today I want to comment on the throne speech and I would like to focus my remarks on our commitment to the nation's cities. One may ask, how important is this? Canada's urban centres of more than 10,000 are now home to 80% of our population. I believe that the vitality of our cities and communities is critical to our advancement as a nation. That is why this government stated that we are committed to building communities and cities that balance economic opportunity, social well-being and environmental conservation.

This is not a new issue. If I can refer to another time and another country, perhaps John Kennedy said it best over 40 years ago in 1963 when he proposed a cabinet level urban affairs department. At that time he said, “We will neglect our cities at our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation”. I believe this statement is as true today as it was those many years ago.

That is why we have stated clearly that it is now time for transformative partnerships. The Prime Minister himself raised this issue in the House just last week when he spoke of the new deal for cities. He said:

This is an issue that needed to be brought to the national table. Canada's communities, large and urban, rural and small, face very different challenges and require very different solutions.

It is time for a new level of cooperative responsibility among federal, provincial and municipal governments. Our citizens deserve nothing less. Indeed, they expect nothing less. It is time for new legislation and new initiatives. It is time for a new agenda for a rapidly urbanizing population.

This new deal for cities calls for close cooperation and collaboration among the three levels of government. It respects Canada's division of constitutional powers and indeed will increase strength through the energy of the partnerships. Equally important, the speech also calls for cooperation among the private sector, the not for profit sector and the governments.

I am not speaking about anything radically new. In my own community of Winnipeg, we have three singular examples of how all levels of government and the private and the not for profit sectors have been working together in producing unique signature projects. Let me briefly outline each of these in order to illustrate.

Members will remember in the fall of 1996 the Red River Basin was wetter than normal. We had near record snowfalls and heavy precipitation in the spring. The result, of course, was the flood of 1997. As the flood waters moved northward from the United States, cities, towns and rural residents teamed with the largest deployment of Canadian troops to battle the flood waters. The Winnipeg floodway, an excavated channel constructed in the 1960s--some call it a ditch--moved the flood waters around Winnipeg and saved the city from devastation. Over 100,000 people were evacuated during the flood and the economic damage in the two countries approached nearly $5 billion U.S.

Winnipeg survived by inches from a catastrophe of historic proportions. Both countries realized something had to be done. One of the recommendations that came forward from the report “Living With the Red”, prepared by the International Joint Commission, was this one:

Public safety requires that the city, the province and Canadian federal government focus immediate attention on designing and implementing measures to further protect Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg floodway authority, supported by all three levels of government, will commence construction next summer of a wider, deeper and longer floodway channel around the city of Winnipeg. The three levels of government and the private sector worked together to address a critical and sustainable infrastructure need. The cooperative approach is working.

Another important initiative for my community is the urban development agreement for Winnipeg. Like the City of Vancouver, Winnipeg has a new, multi-faceted, tripartite agreement to better serve the citizens of the city. This new agreement is singular because it follows from a strong tradition of the three levels of government working together for over 20 years of tripartite cooperation in Winnipeg.

From 1981 to 2001, Canada, Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg have been partners in tri-level agreements that built on Winnipeg's strengths and addressed the challenging issues of downtown and neighbourhood revitalization, immigrant resettlement, affordable housing, early childhood development, and support to fledgling entrepreneurs.

This was done through two Winnipeg core area initiative agreements followed by the Winnipeg development agreement, all models that are now being studied worldwide.

Today Winnipeg is experiencing a growing aboriginal population, coupled with the continuing out-migration of young people, an aging workforce, a deteriorating infrastructure and an inner city population challenged by poverty. Today's response to these challenges is the urban development agreement, supported by the urban aboriginal strategy. It consists of four components, all interrelated and targeted to advance Winnipeg's development and Winnipeg's renewal.

All levels of government and many departments of each jurisdiction worked together to produce this agreement. The four core components are illustrative of what a cooperative approach can produce.

The first component is about aboriginal participation. Through the urban aboriginal strategy, Winnipeg's aboriginal communities will take a lead role in identifying social and economic programs to respond to the rapid growth of the city's aboriginal community.

The second component is based upon sustainable neighbourhoods. A cooperative, grassroots approach will assist communities, especially those in the inner core, to restore local areas through initiatives in housing and education.

The third component is downtown renewal. Again, this cooperative approach with all levels of government, private stakeholders and not for profit agencies is working toward the rebuilding of a vibrant, exciting downtown that will encourage and support downtown living, business, and entertainment and cultural activities. Our new multi-use downtown arena, scheduled to open in just a few weeks, is but another example.

I have much to tell you of, Mr. Speaker, but you are telling me that my time is limited. I want to speak of the national lab in Winnipeg. I want to speak of the Canadian museum for human rights, potentially one of the most exciting projects under development in Winnipeg, a project that brings communities together and showcases Canada's commitment to human rights around the world.

There is much ground to cover, but we are making progress. There are many fundamentals of this kind of redevelopment in cities and communities. We need leadership with vision. We need community organizations that are looking and working forward. That is why the speech addresses the not for profit corporations act.

We need long term plans. We need information and the ability to communicate and, quite clearly, we need resources, but the agenda is about more than just asking for funds. It is about being strategic and collaborative. It is about ensuring sustainable funding. It is about innovation. Obviously no one level of government has all the means to carry forward on its own.

In closing, I would say the Speech from the Throne as it relates to the cities agenda provides new opportunities. It is a time to move forward with an integrated approach to improving the quality of life for citizens today and in the future. If we choose to neglect our cities now, we will rightfully be accused of neglecting our nation.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:30 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario


Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what my colleague from Winnipeg had to say. She covered a great deal of ground.

First of all, I am delighted that progress is still being made to deal with the flood problems in Winnipeg. As hon. members know, there were serious floods in Peterborough this year. We are also looking at infrastructure to deal with them in the long term.

One of the things that I am pleased about in the Speech from the Throne is the commitment to aboriginal people and not just in words. Serious efforts are now being made to work with the first nations and Inuit people of Canada to improve their situation.

The hon. member mentioned the urban aboriginal population in Winnipeg. One of the things we are trying to do now, as I understand it, is to work with the first nations themselves and work with the reserves, but at the same time reaching out to the increasingly large aboriginal population.

I know this involves the federal government working with community colleges, the universities which have special native studies programs, aboriginal training institutes and so on. I would be grateful to hear my colleague's thoughts about how we are progressing with regard to helping urban aboriginal people in Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:30 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises an important issue and an important matter for the City of Winnipeg.

As we note in the Speech from the Throne the dollars allocated to the urban aboriginal strategy have been doubled. It is a complex issue. There are many jurisdictional issues that relate to aboriginal people living in the urban setting. As government, it is incumbent upon us to reduce some of the barriers that are in place. It is equally important that aboriginal peoples in the inner city take responsibility for the decision-making as to how the needs of their communities will be met.

It is most important for governments to work together. The jurisdictional barriers that frequently face aboriginal people in the cities are huge and need to be addressed.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:30 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, when I was in the provincial government of Manitoba, the federal Liberal government cut off the funding for health care for first nations people in Winnipeg. All off-reserve natives had previously been under the care of the federal government and the funding was cut off, and simply dumped onto the provincial government in a very short order. That created tremendous hardships in a place like Winnipeg.

I grew up in Winnipeg and I know what some of the concerns are. What I saw consistently when I was in the provincial government was a failure by this government to address that kind of concern.

I also saw the collapse of the reserve system in many places because it had not been getting the proper support from the federal government. I then saw the phenomena of native people leaving first nations communities in droves and going to Winnipeg. The federal government, of course, having cut off the province from any assistance, left the province in an incredibly difficult situation.

I am wondering whether the government will re-examine the idea that it, too, is responsible for first nations people, not just in the first nation community, not just on the reserve, but constitutionally. It is responsible for first nations people in our urban centres, even though they are not in first nations communities any more.

Does this member take the position that the Government of Canada is only responsible for first nations people who have chosen to stay on the reserve, in very deplorable conditions might I add?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:35 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, this member has taken the position for a long time, and has spoken out in many forums and on virtually every opportunity that the matter of aboriginal people living in the urban setting must be addressed by all levels of government.

I stated in response to an earlier question that there are frequently jurisdictional barriers in place. However, I want to point out to the member that during program review, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada was the only department not affected by program review. That is very important. I would also point out that the new health accord has allocated another $700 million to aboriginal health.

However, the member raises an important issue. There are jurisdictional barriers and a lack of congruency between governments in meeting the needs of aboriginal people. It is incumbent upon us at all jurisdictions of government to look at a cooperative and collaborative approach. No one can do it alone any more. It is important that we work together with aboriginal communities to make a difference in the lives of so many people that we all know.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Municipalities; the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas, Employment Insurance. As a result of the technical problems yesterday with the simultaneous interpretation, the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas will have additional time on the same subject.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:35 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is the usual practice in rising in reply to a throne speech to say a few words about our riding and what we will be focusing on in this session.

I have had numerous opportunities to speak in this House, but this is my first time as the member for Saint-Maurice, which if I remember correctly was represented for 42 years by a Liberal MP who was the Prime Minister of Canada for many years.

So it took a heck of a lot of courage to decide to run as the representative of Saint-Maurice. I must say I was helped by a population that had had enough and wanted a change, along with the rest of the population of Quebec.

There are 54 of us here for the Bloc Québécois. It is a source of great pride for us to be such a large group. The Liberals over there had predicted that we were going to disappear off the map. We have not, and Quebec is better represented here than it has ever been, and I do not think we are likely to disappear any time soon.

In the riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain, the people are of course used to inviting a Prime Minister to their various events, and now they will just get a regular MP. I have told Mrs. Landry, the mayor of Shawinigan—I take this opportunity to greet her—that we would definitely have a different approach. I am not going to turn up with my pockets full of money; however, I will be present and I will look after every file. I may not have pockets full of money, but if I do turn up with something substantial, it will not always be for the benefit of the same people in the riding.

A few million dollars, or a few hundred million, may be a good thing, but less of a good thing when one sees how it is distributed. I have never been able to handle patronage, even as a member of a majority government, on the René Lévesque team from 1976 to 1985. He was as allergic as I am to patronage, so I never learned how to do it.

I work with my constituents regardless of their politics. That is how I intend to work in the riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain, and the people there will notice a big difference as a result.

I have forgotten to say that I am splitting my time with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

That is how it happened. If I succeeded in getting myself elected in this riding, it was, because, as I said earlier, I had help from many people. I would like to thank everyone who supported me; some of them had to travel a long way to do so.

I do not have any family in Mauricie, so when I became a candidate I could not count on hundreds of sure votes. Still, I have relatives near Montreal, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Knowing that it would probably be the last time I ran—because at a certain age, you have to pull back—my family members made the trip to support me, and I salute them. It was a great help to me.

Of course, there were the people in the riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain, from the Parti Québécois and the two provincial members, Mr. Pinard and the member from Champlain in the National Assembly. Everyone worked together, and we had a very successful campaign. I am proud of my team and thank them very much.

The riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain is immense. As an indication, during the campaign I travelled over 13,000 kms. Comparing my riding to that of Trois-Rivières, for example, or to the ridings in Montreal where one can walk all around them in a day, or maybe half a day. It is difficult to imagine but my riding covers thousands of kilometres.

For example, if the riding of Champlain were 4,000 km larger, it would be the size of Switzerland. In addition to being large, there are people living pretty well everywhere. So it means a lot of travelling.

The first nations aboriginal population is quite significant. The Attikamek are located 125 km from La Tuque, which is quite far from the river. Going from Trois-Rivières to visit the Attikamek in Weymontachie, you are not always guaranteed of reaching your destination. These people have the same needs, however.

If I want to visit people in Parent, I am not always guaranteed of getting there. Two weeks ago, on Thanksgiving Day, I had to go to Weymontachie. Unfortunately, after a three-hour flight, we noticed we could not land and we had to go back to Trois-Rivières.

That is how we work in such a riding. That is the difference between a prime minister and a regular MP who has the time to make several attempts to go back and see the people. These remote and vast ridings should receive a little special attention. I cannot administer this riding the same way a smaller riding is administered.

There are, across Canada, ridings that are even bigger than mine, still, we deserve special attention. For example, we need budgets to help provide services to the entire population since everyone has the same rights.

Parent is 250 km from La Tuque. The only link the municipality of Parent has to other municipalities—the town of La Tuque in particular—is a dirt road and an airport with a dirt runway. Imagine what it is like to be stranded in Parent, when you have an emergency and you cannot leave in inclement weather because planes cannot land. Pilots can only make visual landings.

That gives you some idea of how complex things are in a riding as large as mine. But the constituents do have to be served. I hope that the Minister of Transport, to whom I have spoken about the situation in the municipality of Parent, will take its isolation into consideration. They have refused to pave a landing strip in Parent, and I find that unacceptable. They refused because it did not comply with the standards. Of course, if the criterion for paving it is that the runway has to be near a major centre, then we will be out of luck. These are the kinds of things that I will be focussing on in my riding.

I would also like to say a few words about another issue that has been dear to my heart for some time, that of seniors. This is one of the things that brought me back to politics. I want to try to do more for seniors.

The government promises in the throne speech to increase and adjust the guaranteed income supplement. This is pretty unbelievable, as well as somewhat scandalous in my opinion. Some $3.2 billion have been stolen from seniors. This is the same government that stole $3.2 billion from them by depriving many of them of the guaranteed income supplement.

If the throne speech had even mentioned paying seniors what they are owed, I would accept an increase to the GIS. Indeed, we will put a lot of energy into demanding it. They must get this money back. Then the throne speech will be able to boast of adjusting the supplement.

I will have an opportunity to address the issues in my riding on other occasions. I would have liked, for instance, to have touched on softwood lumber, which is a major issue where I come from. The ministers never wanted to do what we suggested in order to save jobs. Unfortunately, when we win the war, there will be no more soldiers left. The plants will all have shut down. There are several other similar issues in Saint-Maurice—Champlain, and I will have the pleasure of discussing them again.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:45 p.m.


Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the remarks of my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice--Champlain. He is extremely involved in his riding. He did a lot for seniors by bringing to light the scandal involving the guaranteed income supplement program. This program was announced in secret. If I am not mistaken, it was available for a limited time, only on the Internet site. Seniors would have difficulty accessing it. It was not what could be called marketing. I appreciated my colleague's remarks.

I have to say, quite humbly, that I used his work in the latest election campaign in speaking of the dignity of older persons. The member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain helped craft the Bloc Québécois' platform on seniors. Mr. Gagnon excels in speaking of dignity and the respect of dignity, a talent we can bank on. This issue is an important one for most people.

As regards my question—

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I would simply point out that, as you already know, you must not refer to members of the House of Commons by name, but rather by riding.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:45 p.m.


Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can now consider the member for Saint-Maurice--Champlain a friend. I apologize for my transgression. It will be my first and last time, I hope.

I would like to hear the member for Saint-Maurice--Champlain on the almost systematic infringements contained in the throne speech. I heard the member opposite speak earlier of Winnipeg, her riding. She spoke of the flowery throne speech. She referred to communities, municipalities, housing, child care, all of which are under Quebec's jurisdiction. The throne speech seems to be full of these references

I wanted to know whether the member for Saint-Maurice--Champlain, from his viewpoint and with his vast experience, thinks it is right for the government to appear more interested in what is not within its jurisdiction and to be unable to handle what is.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:50 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

I would just like to correct one little fact. The information on the guaranteed income supplement was not available only on the Internet, but not enough effort was made to find the people that were hard to find. That meant that a great many older people, including the most vulnerable, did not have access, because they did not know they were entitled. One of the people I met was a woman who had lived all her old age with $6,000 per year. When she died at age 88, she was owed $90,000. That gives you an idea.

I am always shocked to hear the federal government make promises in fields of provincial jurisdiction. During the election my opponent told me they were fed up with fighting. I told him that we were, too. It is very simple not to get into a fight: let the federal government stay home and look after its own affairs.

Here are some examples of fields that are actually under federal jurisdiction: pollution in the St. Lawrence River, whose banks are being destroyed; or pollution caused by the Canadian Army in Lac Saint-Pierre where there are some 300,000 artillery shells, 10,000 in dangerous condition. These come under federal jurisdiction.

Then there is the problem of fisheries. My colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou has talked about that. We are emptying the oceans. Someone said that we need to pay down the debt so as not to leave it for our children. I agree. On the other hand we will be leaving them such pollution that whole countries will be devastated. We are emptying the oceans. Oceans come under federal jurisdiction. Why not each take care of our own affairs and put money into provincial jurisdictions so that the provinces can manage their own issues?

We were talking about health, a field that is the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces. We were talking about education; the same applies. Let us each take care of our own affairs and there will be no fights.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:50 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. As you know, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment to the amendment and the Conservative Party of Canada proposed an amendment and both were unanimously adopted by the House. Therefore, the Speech from the Throne has the unanimous approval of this House.

I am very proud of the amendment by the Bloc Québécois. I am going to read it now, because it will clarify the rest of my statement.

and we ask Your Excellency's advisors to ensure that all measures brought forward to implement the Speech from the Throne, including those referred to above, fully respect the provinces' areas of jurisdiction and that the financial pressures some call the fiscal imbalance be alleviated.

This amendment to the amendment is very important. Like my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, I was listening to the hon. Liberal member making his speech and other Liberal colleagues in this House boasting about the new deal for municipalities and saying they must be helped.

I have been a witness to all that has happened with Quebec's municipalities, because I was active for years in the municipal arena. I was president of the Union des municipalités du Québec from 1997 to 2000 and I had been active in that organization for 10 years before that. I have seen what the stress and fiscal imbalance caused by the federal government did to Quebec's municipalities.

Beginning when the current Prime Minister became Minister of Finance, the Government of Quebec had to impose two major reforms on municipalities because of cuts in the transfer payments to provinces. For those working in the municipal domain, the first was the Ryan reform, which cost the cities and towns of Quebec $250 million, and then there was the Trudel reform.

I will say this and I will name the ministers—one was Liberal and the other from the PQ—but the premiers and ministers of municipal affairs were not exactly happy when they went to ask the cities for more money.

With the Ryan reform, the vast majority of roads that had been maintained by the province became the responsibility of municipalities in Quebec. This means that cities had to maintain additional infrastructures. All the municipalities had to help pay the bill for the Quebec provincial police. Over time, costs increased for each community. In fact, so much pressure was exerted to have the QPP and other police forces provide increasingly more services to cities, that some of them did away with their police force, turned to the QPP and paid the bill.

With the Trudel reform, something unprecedented in North America occurred. Cities wrote cheques to the Quebec government to help it pay off its debts. Such is the reality. Later on, a tax deal, negotiated by Lucien Bouchard, gave a bit of money back to the cities. But the fact remains that, ever since the current Prime Minister took over the Department of Finance, Quebec cities have only received bills.

Why? Because cities come under the jurisdiction of the provinces, as provided under the Canadian Constitution. Of course, when the federal government cuts in health transfers and in transfers to the provinces, the latter have no choice but to tell cities, “Look, we also have to cut”.

So, Quebec reduced services to cities and school boards. This led to a school tax increase and, for many, to a municipal tax increase. Everyone had to assume their share of the burden.

I find it appalling that Liberal members, including the Prime Minister, would come and tell us today that they will help the cities. It is the Prime Minister who put them in dire straits. He has to use the technique that he employed at the time. If he made cuts in transfers to the provinces, which in turn had to make cuts to their transfers to cities, then he must give money back to the provinces. This is what we are saying. The Liberals want to help cities? Then let them give money to the provinces, and the provinces will help the cities.

Take my word. There is not a single provincial minister or premier who does not like to have his picture taken with the mayor of a municipality, whether small, medium or large, while he is handing out a cheque and offering his help to buy equipment and maintain infrastructures.

Unfortunately, when the current Prime Minister was the finance minister, many years ago, he cut transfers to the provinces, and the cities have not been investing in infrastructure. They have not had the money. Any money they had went to helping the province soften the impact of the cuts to health, transfers to the provinces, social services and so on. That is what we have had to deal with.

Almost 12 years later, we have impoverished cities that have not invested in infrastructure because they have had to help the provinces deal with the federal cuts. And now the federal government wants to tour Canada and give money directly to the cities.

I lay some of the blame on my former mayor colleagues and the city councillors who buy into this, saying, “The federal government is going to give us money.” In any event, it is not the federal government that adopts policies for the cities, it is the provinces that adopt policies for water, sewers, waterworks, and transportation. Everything is under provincial jurisdiction. Anything municipal is under provincial jurisdiction. Such is the reality.

Consequently, the provinces need help. They need more money in order to help the cities. That was the meaning of the Bloc Québécois amendment to the amendment—to respect the jurisdictions entrusted to each government by the Canadian Constitution. Municipal governments come under the authority of the provinces, which have their own jurisdictions. Often cities are a good example. Once the federal government has made a mess, it wants to help directly. We see this with many organizations. It is prepared to go to the universities and hospitals and help them directly with money it took away from the provinces. That is what it has done. In an attempt to give itself some capital, it cut provincial transfers. Such is the reality.

When the Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, the feds. were footing 25% of the health bill, and then the figure was cut to 12.5%. Now they are in the process of raising it, and everyone is calling for a return to 25%. But doing that is bringing it back to the level the federal government was paying when the Prime Minister was in finance. That is the reality. In the meantime, people in the provinces absorbed all these sums. Cuts could not be made at all levels, so everyone in Quebec society had to make an effort, the cities and the school boards too. Today, of course they are getting some help.

We feel that a new deal with the municipalities is indeed necessary. Each community, whether small, medium or large, will have to receive federal assistance, which will be transferred to the provinces under a nice agreement, respectful of the various jurisdictions, to provide funding to the municipalities. Yes, it is high time, because since the PM has been finance minister, the municipal level has been under some very considerable pressure. The municipalities have had to pay a pretty heavy price to help out the provinces.

Once again, that is one of the things that brought me here. I wanted, in a way, to follow the problem to its source. I did not go to the provincial level; that is not where it originated. The source of the problem is here, in this House. The Liberal members do not get it. It is as simple as that. They have never got it. That is, in fact, why there are fewer of them than last time I was here. The next time, there will likely be still fewer, because they just do not get it. Some will, of course, say that this is a kind of sickness. I would say that being Liberal is a sickness in itself. Of course the way out can still be seen. What the municipalities are experiencing is far from funny. All my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois can see that the municipalities in all regions of Quebec are most definitely in need of help.

I was pleased to accept my party leader's request to take the lead in the infrastructure and community file. Yes, it is time that the governments negotiated a deal with municipalities, but with the greatest respect for provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, it must truly be the province that obtains an agreement with the federal government in order to be able to help the cities, simply because the ones who pay the taxes, in the end, are the citizens. Whether it is for school boards, municipal, provincial or federal governments, the same taxpayer always pays. Therefore we must be able to agree.

Just now, I heard the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain say that we must make certain that this happens without quarrelling. That is true. My colleague was correct in saying that to his opponent. Yes, we are ready to do this, as long as each respects the other's jurisdiction. And that is not so difficult. The worst thing is that this country has a document that tells it what to do. Once again, the Liberal members cannot even read it. Therein lies the tragedy. That will always be the tragedy in this House: they cannot read the document they created for their country. Naturally, that causes problems for Quebec.

We, the men and women of Quebec who sit in the House of Commons, are here to defend the interests of Quebeckers, to prevent the others from doing whatever they want and from again pillaging the money from provincial coffers to build up a big treasure chest here at the federal level. What we want is just the opposite: take the big federal treasure chest and pay out where the needs are, that is, in the provinces and in the cities, for the well-being of all Quebeckers.