Madam Speaker, I am very happy to take part in this debate. Of course, this debate is being held for reasons of crass political opportunism, as everybody realizes that the leader of the official opposition is a member of the party that signed a 60-year lease, in 1992.
Indeed, it is the Progressive Conservative Party which handed over the administration of all its lands, of all its airports, to a not for profit corporation, ADM, with the mandate to do the best job possible in the development of its two airports. This deal was initialed and it has legal standing.
Therefore, when the Leader of the Opposition says that he is going to pay a short visit, to hop over to Mirabel, and he decides he will repudiate the signature of the Conservative minister, Jean Corbeil, as well as the commitments of that government, I think this is crass opportunism.
Worse yet, he tries to raise false hopes in the public that things will not go as planned, and he knows he will not be delivering the goods. This is why I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, who announced that he would make a little pact with the Bloc Québécois, wants to try to have the people in Mirabel believe that his party and the Bloc Québécois will be in the driver's seat in this file. However, he is totally wrong.
I am very surprised that the leader of the progressive party, sorry, not progressive. I withdraw those words.
The leader of that party announced that he is going to make a pact with the Bloc Quebecois to renege on an agreement, a signed lease by Tory minister Jean Corbeil. It is just incredible. Those guys have no respect for the law.
Unlike the official opposition and the Bloc Québécois, we believe that Mirabel is an important airport for Montreal, Quebec and Canada. I am convinced that all options should be kept open. We absolutely must preserve the future.
This means that, in the meantime, we have to respect the authority in charge of managing this airport. It was the will of this Parliament to appoint a group known as ADM, or Aéroports de Montréal, to look after the future of the airport. It has been doing so since 1992, with a commitment until 2052. This agreement until 2052 was not signed by the Bloc Québécois or myself, but by the Conservatives. Later, they will have a little parade in Mirabel to look generous, when they are the ones who tied the government's hands with a 60-year lease. What hypocrisy.
I would like to put a more specific aspect of ADM's responsibilities into context. In 1988, 11,000 acres of airport reserve land, which were not being used for airport operation, were leased long term to local farmers. It is not true that the farmers do not live on their land. The fact of the matter is that 11,000 acres were leased to local farmers, and an agricultural renewal program was also offered to them.
Naturally, when the management of Mirabel airport was transferred to ADM, these leases were also transferred to ADM. That was part of the agreement. We are talking about 131 leases that the Conservative government at the time transferred to ADM. The fate of 131 farmers was put into the hands of ADM, not by the Liberals or the others, but by the Conservative government. These leases expire in 2010. Those concerned voluntarily signed leases expiring in 2010.
So, last year, when it reviewed its master plan, ADM looked at all this and proposed to extend the leases for an additional 13-year period. Many people are unaware of this, but there is currently an offer on the table to allow the people to continue living on these lands until November 2023.
There is no doubt that we want to protect the future. But at the same time, we want to respond to the immediate needs of these farmers. We are therefore convinced that this kind of long-term lease would help reduce uncertainty and foster development of these agricultural lands.
Unlike the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois, I am confident in Mirabel's future. I do not want to condemn Mirabel. In fact, Mirabel is more alive than ever. Here is what I think of the Conservative Party. We know that Mirabel is the ideal location to build the new Bombardier plant for the C series. We know what this party thinks of Bombardier and the aerospace industry. I think the Bloc Québécois is being drawn into a fools' pact. We know very well what the Conservative Party thinks of Bombardier and the development of the C series.
What I want to do is to create 2,500 jobs in Mirabel, thanks to the C series assembly plant. I do not understand why the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel does not realize that Mirabel's potential is extraordinary with the C series. Now is not the time to jeopardize the future of this airport. Now is not the time to give up and throw in the towel. I think we will create more jobs than ever in the Mirabel region. This is precisely what we want to do.
There is more: an extraordinary future is shaping up in the air cargo sector. Mirabel currently handles 110 tonnes of air cargo per year. I suppose that the leader of the Conservative Party would rather see this happening in Toronto or Calgary. Personally, I want to see it happening in Montreal, in Mirabel, and we want this volume to increase.
Since that airport can be in service 24 hours a day without disturbing the neighbourhood, without disturbing anyone, its potential is limitless in this regard. When I see that the Conservatives want to condemn Mirabel, I do not trust them, because their anti-Quebec tendency is well known. We have to be wary of all this sweet talking, because it is an illusion.
I want Mirabel to become a major industrial centre for the aviation sector. About 10 international companies are already there. I do not understand the Bloc Québécois. It wants to develop Mirabel, but at the same time it wants to deprive it of its assets. This is unbelievable. It looks like these people are advocating a scorched earth policy. They want to destroy everything. This is not what we want to do.
We have confidence in the future and we are convinced there will be a way to make Mirabel profitable. We are convinced there will be volume at Mirabel and there will be more jobs there than ever. We have confidence in Mirabel. We do not want to take a step back. We do not want to put the future at risk. We do want to put jobs at risk. However, that is what they are doing. They are trying to reopen old wounds out of sheer political opportunism, and it makes me sick.
For 30 years, year in year out, it has not been easy for these people, I agree. I would rather have 10 million, 20 million or 30 million passengers. However, that is not the case. We are realistic enough to come back and look at other options. As for the current number of jobs at Mirabel, it is absolutely extraordinary. In fact, four proposals have been submitted to ADM for the use of Mirabel's facilities. However, they know nothing about that.
The member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel knows nothing about this. He is prepared to put the future of Mirabel in danger without even considering the plans currently on the table at ADM. How irresponsible! I cannot believe it.
The transport critic asks, “what plans”? This just proves she knows nothing. She wants to condemn Mirabel without a thought to its future. ADM is responsible for development. They called for proposals and received eight, four of which require more detail. These proposals are currently on the table at ADM, in accordance with the ADM lease.
I do not understand the Bloc Québécois. They do not know what they are talking about and only want to gain cheap political points without even realizing that they are compromising the future of Mirabel and of job development in that region, which is totally irresponsible. I cannot believe it.
As for the proposals, the four bidders have until March 31, 2005, to present a detailed business case. Why would the Bloc Québécois not give a chance to the four bidders who want to participate in the economic development of the region and the development of this airport? Why are they shutting out the future? Unless they have inexplicable, or at least, unexplained, reasons. I look forward to hearing those.
There is one thing for certain: Mirabel's full potential has not been developed. We do, of course, have a responsibility to do everything in our power to make this absolutely extraordinary structure cost-effective. A few years down the road, I am sure that the members of this House who vote in favour of this motion will regret it bitterly. They will come to realize that we, with our confidence in the future of the new role of Mirabel, in the industrial future of Mirabel, will be proud of what we have accomplished.
This is the reason for our refusal to support such a short-sighted motion. The same members of the Bloc Québécois, the little buddies of the Conservatives, will be getting up shortly to vote in favour of the motion of the Conservatives, who want to have Mirabel as a hunting trophy, and then to develop elsewhere perhaps. These are the selfsame Conservative members who are opposed to assistance to Bombardier, yet the Bloc members will be backing them up on this one.
This will not hit them until tomorrow, or maybe today during Oral Questions, when they come asking for help for Bombardier to develop at Mirabel. They will be asking for subsidies for Bombardier to develop the C Series, so they will be voting out of both sides of their mouths. This is systematic hypocrisy.
I want to see Bombardier relocate to Mirabel to produce the C Series. I want those 2,500 jobs in Quebec. I want all our options kept open as far as the future of Mirabel is concerned, because it is going to be a significant pole of economic development, in the opinion of ADM. That is why we have four proposals on the table at the present time for the development of Mirabel and its present facilities.
So this is both ill-timed and sending a very wrong message. The people contemplating development are being sent the message that certain short-sighted members of this Parliament want to jeopardize their plans. In reaction to a little protest, they want to get back into people's favour. We have seen people like that before.
It is my impression that the Conservative Party's position is not based on principle, nor is it responsible. I cannot have any confidence in them as far as the future of Quebec is concerned. But the Bloc, of course—