Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to address the House today in response to the speech throne.
First, I would like to tell you I will be sharing my time with my new colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska.
I have examined among other things the section of the speech dealing with the environment, on pages 13 and 14. It is the only part of the speech I will comment on. The least I can say, after examining this section, is that the government lacks imagination. And not only that. It has also gone back to its old and what it considers legitimate ways of meddling slowly but relentlessly in provincial jurisdictions.
Here is an example I found on page 12:
The Government will work to get its own house in order. It will consolidate federal environmental assessments and will work with the provinces and territories toward aunified and more effective assessment process for Canada.
I would like to remind you that, in the past in Quebec, even under the Robert Bourassa government, this sort of approach was strictly forbidden, so that Ottawa would be prevented from invading provincial jurisdictions, more particularly as concerns environmental assessments.
I recall, among others, letters by Pierre Paradis, then Minister for the Environment. As early as 1990 he had written a number of letters to his colleague René de Cotret reminding him that the environmental assessment process Ottawa wanted to put in place was totally unacceptable.
Later, the Supreme Court ruled that environmental assessment came in part under federal jurisdiction. But in the following months, a report was released and a Supreme Court ruling handed down, namely in the Oldman case, reaffirming the jurisdiction of the federal government in the matter. The Quebec National Assembly unanimously denounced this attempt by the federal government to put in place a parallel environmental assessment process.
In March 1992, under the government of Robert Bourassa the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution that said:
That the National Assembly strongly disapproves of the federal government bill--an Act to establish a federal environmental assessment process--because it is contrary to the higher interest of Quebec, and opposes its passage by the federal government.
On March 18, 1992, the National Assembly, with the support of every party, opposed this first attempt by the federal government to encroach on an area of shared jurisdiction. The Court is not a uniquely federal institution; it too is shared.
We would have hoped not to go back to square one with this proposal by the federal government to put in place one assessment process. I recall that the Quebec government of the day, as well as the ensuing ones, including those of the Parti Quebecois, hesitated a long time before signing an environmental assessment harmonization agreement with Ottawa. The hesitation was precisely because we feared then that Ottawa might use it as an excuse to put in place not a parallel process, but one for the whole country.
In May 2004, the Charest government decided to sign the harmonization agreement. Today, only a few months later, we are told that there will be only one environmental assessment process. How can we accept Ottawa's will to have only one process when ours is working quite well? In Quebec, the BAPE is responsible for environmental assessments. It is a transparent and consultative process recognized by all in Canada. It is the envy of some provinces.
But now, we are told that a unified assessment system will be introduced, which will be controlled by Ottawa. That is why environmental groups, which are not used to endless constitutional disputes, reacted the same day the throne speech was read, saying, “Environmentalists foresee constitutional dispute”.
Why? Because, like them, we believe, as we did in the past in debating bills like Bill C-19, that such interference was unacceptable and distorted the transparency efforts made by the federal government at the time.
I hope that the government, which is looking for asymmetry, will respect the harmonization accord signed in May 2004 and revert to a process allowing Quebec to have its own rules. I can assure the government today that, as this throne speech suggests, it dares go ahead and introduce a bill to officially establish a unified assessment process for all of Canada , we on this side of House will never support such an initiative, because it is contrary to Quebec's proven approach.
A second point raised in the throne speech concerns the Kyoto protocol. The government appears to be reverting to the good old approach of consulting with the people. The Speech from the Throne states that the government plans to implement the Kyoto principles “in a way that produces long-term and enduring results”.
I do not understand. Why mention the obligation of producing enduring results when the the time by which Canada has to have reduced its greenhouse gases is clearly indicated in the Kyoto protocol?
There is no mention of a long-term strategy in the Kyoto protocol. Canada must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6% between 2008 and 2012. Why was the government not able to incorporate its time constraints into the throne speech, stating instead some vague intentions for the long term?
It is clear that what this government has tried to do is to yield to the pressures of western Canada, whose greenhouse gas emissions increased by 30%, while Quebec managed to reduce its own emissions to 4% and Ontario had an 11% increase. The government was quick to give in to the representations made by western Canada, even though that region has a huge energy potential and has not really implemented a greenhouse gas reduction strategy, as Quebec did in the nineties. Had Canada developed a real strategy, we would be in a position to achieve the objectives of the Kyoto protocol.
There is another aspect of the constitutional plan regarding which the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs refused to answer my question yesterday. Considering that the provinces have a role to play in a cooperative process, how does the government explain the following statement on page 12 of the Speech from the Throne:
It will do so by refining and implementing an equitable national plan, in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders.
I remind the hon. member for Outremont, who has just arrived in this House, that, in the French version, they no longer refer to provinces, but to “administrations provinciales”. It is strange that, in the throne speech, there is no mention at all of an “administration fédérale”. Rather, they refer to the government, the federal government or Canada. However, they implicitly reduce the status of Quebec to that of a mere administration.
How can they do this? How can they present to us now, given this spirit of cooperation and the context of asymmetric federalism, a throne speech that reduces the provinces to mere administrations. This is totally unacceptable.
What is more, not only does this paragraph refer to provinces as mere “administrations”, but it makes no mention of a possible bilateral accord with Quebec for implementing the Kyoto protocol. There is not a single line on what is fundamental to us here in this House.
Indeed, in a sectoral strategy and approach, the federal government concludes agreements with the oil and petroleum industries, the basis of western Canada's economy. In a written agreement, they are told by the Prime Minister that they will be able to limit their reductions to 13%.
While the automobile sector is being told it will be exempt from the Kyoto protocol—the basis of Quebec's economy—nothing is being done for the manufacturing sector. No one is sitting down with Quebec to sign a bilateral accord. Quebec's environmental and economic interests are being compromised yet again. When you are the last one to negotiate, you are often forced to take whatever is left after the other provinces have had their say.
Their is no political will to sit down with Quebec to sign a bilateral accord, which we having been asking the federal government to do for three years now. Quebec's Minister of the Environment at the time, André Boisclair, had proposed this initiative to the federal government. The federal government is still having a hard time sitting down with the Government of Quebec. Rest assured, we will be vigilant in this matter—