Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise after the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane, who put the debate in its proper context.
We are dealing with a government and a party whose vision of the regions is not compatible with the one that Quebeckers want to develop. The trademark of this throne speech is that it does not recognize that Quebeckers form a nation that is neither worse nor better than the Canadian nation, but that is different and that needs its own aspirations and challenges.
If this is not recognized, it follows that, by denying this reality, all the policies and proposals found in the throne speech become obstacles to Quebec's development.
As I just mentioned, the idea is not to say that Quebeckers form a nation that is more or less interesting than the Canadian nation. Ours is exactly the same situation as that of the Canadian nation in relation to the American or, rather, the US nation. Canadians truly value their differences; they feel that they have their own challenges and they do not think they are superior or inferior to Americans.
It is exactly the same thing for Quebeckers. However, since we are in the Canadian federation, we unfortunately have neither the political and fiscal tools, nor the authority to be part of the decision making process at the international level to express our concerns and propose our solutions.
The major thrust of the whole throne speech presented to us by the new Prime Minister is a negation of Quebec's distinctiveness. This speech perpetuates the Trudeau and Chrétien approach. It is a departure from the federalism as conceived, for example, by Robert Bourassa or by Claude Ryan, who left us a few days ago.
As we know, the hon. member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, who is the Minister of Health and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, was once Mr. Ryan's chief of staff. When he was interviewed, he said that under the new Prime Minister Ottawa would adopt the middle ground position that Mr. Ryan epitomized. We keep searching and looking in the throne speech, but we cannot find anything that remotely looks like Claude Ryan's vision of Canadian federalism, that is a federalism respectful of the Quebec nation and of its distinctiveness. In this sense, we should not be duped.
Whether in Quebec or in Ottawa, the debate among federalists is over. Trudeau has won. Canadians have the legitimate right to build their nation as they want to. However, if in doing so they not only ignore the distinct character of Quebec but also hamper its development, the Bloc Quebecois, as a political party but also as the champion of Quebec's interest, will have no other choice but to rise and say it is unacceptable.
According to the hegemonic vision of federalists, Canada is made up of one nation, the Canadian nation, governed by one central government in Ottawa. Provinces are large regional boards that make a number of decisions based on the resources they are given, very little at a time. For instance, they get to choose the wall colours, but it is not up to them to decide if the building itself will be built or not. Such is the vision of the government, of the Liberal Party of Canada, which, as I mentioned earlier, seems to be shared by a lot of Canadians.
I have no trouble with Canada doing some nation building and promoting one central state run out of Ottawa. However, if, by doing so, they ignore the distinct character of Quebec and impede its development, as I said before, sovereignty will be the only option left to the Quebec people, the Quebec nation.
It is interesting to see how things have changed throughout the years. For example, in 1995, and even in 1980, in the last referendums in Quebec, there were three schools of thoughts. There was the sovereign movement of which the Bloc Quebec was part. There was a more nationalist movement, whose members thought federalism was a more interesting option that the sovereignty of Quebec. As I said earlier, Mr. Bourassa seemed to support that option, just like Mr. Allaire and Mario Dumont, who is now the leader of the ADQ.
There was also this third trend that was represented here, in Ottawa, by Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Chrétien. We must recognize that this trend has now prevailed among federalists. We see this when reading the Speech from the Throne presented by the new Prime Minister.
Consequently, the option open to Quebeckers is to agree to conform to the Canadian model, that is to refuse to meet our challenges in Quebec, or to choose the road to Quebec's sovereignty.
I believe it has been demonstrated once again through the Speech from the Throne that the only option open to the Quebec people and the Quebec nation is Quebec's sovereignty.
I will give a number of examples. One of the very important challenges for Quebec is its population challenge, that is the demographic challenge.
In Quebec, as in many Western countries, the population is aging and there is a demographic decline. In some regions, we can talk about this decline, even though, generally speaking, the population is growing in Quebec. This would lead us to have a population policy that would be integrated with mainly three aspects, that is a family policy that would encourage young families, an integration and immigration policy and also a policy for the elderly.
What is the government offering to in place of this integrated policy? It is offering a new choice of compassionate benefits. I find the principle quite interesting. Indeed, when natural caregivers have to help a family member who is experiencing health problems, it is a definite advantage for them to be able to withdraw from the labour market. However, the way the program has been devised by the Liberals is extremely bureaucratic and even inhumane. This person is required to present a medical certificate to confirm that the person he or she wants to take care of is likely to die in the next 26 weeks.
I am sure that we have all seen one of those cartoons depicting a doctor visiting a patient and saying “I have good news and bad news. The good news is your wife is entitled to compassionate benefits, and the bad news—” We get the drift.
This is not at all the way this program should have been introduced. This might not have been the first priority for Quebeckers, who would have preferred to see parental leave, currently financed through the EI fund. This is a bad parental leave program.
Quebec has long been asking, whether it is under the Parti Quebecois or the Quebec Liberal Party, to be given back the part of the employment insurance fund that is used for parental leave, so that we can have a true parental leave that is integrated to a family policy. But the federal government says no. Instead, it comes up with something called “compassionate benefit” that does not meet the needs of caregivers. In my opinion, this is a good example of the denial of Quebec's right to make its own choices.
Here is another example. We set up a daycare program at a cost of $5 per day for users, but that cost has now increased to $7, because of the fiscal imbalance, because the federal government is not transferring enough of our tax money to Quebec, thus penalizing Quebec families.
We devised a system that is recognized not only in the rest of Canada, but in the whole western world. Here is an example. Quebec families are losing between $200 million and $300 million in tax deductions because the federal government does not recognize them.
So, the federal government saved money on the backs of Quebec families. This example has to do with the family policy. I could provide others that relate to immigration.
There is the fact that 50% of the immigration flow is controlled by the federal government, which uses its own standards. Unfortunately, this morning again, we saw that immigration is used by the federal government and the Liberal Party as if it were an election issue. There is a headline in today's edition of the daily La Presse which reads “Access to citizenship: Expedited process a few months before a general election”.
And the government makes no bones about it. The Liberals want to deliver Canadian citizenship certificates to get potential voters. Why not do it on a year round basis and allow these people to participate in our social and political life at all times, and not just a few weeks or months before an election?
I could go on and also talk about the status of regions, but I will end on this note. The only thing that the government is proposing is to create conflicts in the regions by trying to fund municipalities, particularly large ones, directly, at the expense of the needs of all the regions.
Because of all this, the Bloc Quebecois will have no choice but to condemn this throne speech and continue to work even harder to promote Quebec's sovereignty.