Mr. Speaker, it would be impossible to list in just 10 minutes all the concerns that have been raised by the Speech from the Throne.
But in the next 10 minutes—and I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Laurentides—I would like to concentrate my remarks on three subjects: health, government ethics and aboriginal affairs.
In the throne speech, the government has not mentioned any plan for additional funding for the future, nor any stability in the transfer payments to Quebec and the provinces for health financing. And yet health is the highest priority, not only in Quebec but in Canada as well.
The Minister of Finance, echoing the Prime Minister who said it through the throne speech, has repeatedly told us that public finances are tight. He can only honour a two-year-old promise that a one-time payment of $2 billion would be transferred—a promise his predecessor made. But for the rest, the public purse is too strained and he will not be able to free up any money.
This Prime Minister, once the minister of finance, still has the same tendency to hide the true picture of public finances from the people. This year there will be a surplus of at least $6 or $7 billion. The minister is going to great lengths to show us that it will be difficult, that there may be only $2 or $3 billion, but there will be $6 or $7 billion, and my estimate is conservative.
He already has $6 or $7 billion he could use to plan an additional transfer to the provinces to fulfil one of the recommendations in the report by Mr. Romanow, who is not a sovereignist, namely, that the federal government ought to increase its contribution from 16% to 25% of health costs.
The second suggestion we could make to the Minister of Finance is one he knows well, because he designed these measures. The large number of foundations he created while he was finance minister are completely ineffective. These foundations are still holding $7 billion. Why does the federal government not take back the billions of dollars lying dormant in those foundations in order to do something about people's real priorities, which are health and education?
Education was neglected, due to the systematic cuts initiated by the former finance minister, now Prime Minister. He is responsible for the health care crisis. He is also responsible for the precarious situation in education, because he slashed transfer payments to these two essential services.
Let us talk about ethics. The Minister of Finance repeated it following the throne speech: they want to redo or examine the tax system to see if it could be made more equitable, ensure equal treatment for all, and eliminate any tax loopholes. It is a disgrace.
It is disgraceful that this is what the government wants to do when we are now faced with the situation created by the former finance minister, now Prime Minister, with regard to a bill he introduced himself for the first time in 1996, Bill C-69, and a second time, through his parliamentary secretary in 1998. This bill, Bill C-28, granted Canada Steamship Lines International, headquartered in Barbados, undue benefits in terms of tax treatments and also protection from legal proceedings, for example, if it were in violation of environmental standards or minimum workings standards.
The throne speech refers to ethics, and we have before us a Prime Minister who himself initiated highly questionable legislation that is in his own interests and the interests of his company, to the tune of $100 million per year.
When I let the cat out of the bag in 1998, everyone was skeptical, so much so that, at one point, we wondered about the contents of Bill C-28. However, on verification, following numerous analyses, after getting outside experts to look at these analyses and debating with the former finance minister and the former prime minister, who protected him because he was unable to defend himself—he was unable to defend the indefensible—we realized that Bill C-28 was totally unacceptable.
It was almost like helping himself to the public purse, since the $100 million he has not paid in tax over the past five years is being paid by others. By those earning minimum wage. Families are suffering because of him. These families pay tax, but he does not.
Today, he is trying to defend the indefensible.
As for the ethics issue, I was listening to Mr. Jean Lapierre, who just joined the Liberal Party of Canada and said that the Bloc Quebecois was outdated. However, if the Bloc Quebecois is outdated, on the ethics level, the Liberal Party is in an advanced state of decomposition. This new Prime Minister has solved nothing.
Let us take the example of Gagliano, of the sponsorship contracts. He had promised that there would be a more serious inquiry. He did not mention this at all in the Speech from the Throne. Yet, this is a very serious issue. It is the very integrity of the government that is in question. And he, as the successor in this Liberal government, should be concerned about this. But he is not.
I think that the Prime Minister is missing a great opportunity to correct the ethics situation. And if he does not have the political will to do so, it means that he thinks ethics is not an important value.
We see this in the actions on Bill C-28. We also see this in the nonsense uttered by his Minister of Finance, who says that Bill C-28 did not affect CSL, while even the vice-president of CSL told us that changes were made since 1995 to international holdings, to comply with changes made to the Canadian Income Tax Act. And it was at the same time that this act was being framed, that the current Prime Minister, the then Minister of Finance, was framing the act.
Consequently, these changes were made especially for CSL International, to ensure that the current Prime Minister, the former finance minister and ship owner could save $100 million in taxes. These changes were also made so that he would be protected against Canadian environmental laws if he caused disasters with his ships in international waters. Moreover, these changes were made so that he could be protected against Canadian laws on minimal labour standards. Indeed, he hires Filipino workers for $10 a day.
If CSL International were not now deemed a foreign company because of Bill C-28, which he introduced in this House himself, he would be charged for his antisocial acts. He may claim to work for the less fortunate in society, but he is exploiting people through CSL International. Filipino workers paid $10 a day for working in atrocious conditions is not exactly helping the less fortunate. Do as I say, not as I do. My colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the Leader of the Bloc Quebecois, was right.
My third point concerns aboriginals. They must be sick of hearing in every Speech from the Throne how aboriginal children have health and substance abuse problems and how aboriginals have problems with governance, yet nothing is ever done to resolve the aboriginal issue. They must be sick of being studies in anthropology.
Indeed, they are fed up. While the Minister of Finance was part of cabinet, while he dithers about speeding up negotiations for self-government, aboriginal nations are dying. Aboriginal children are committing suicide. Aboriginal children have multiple addictions. Entire communities are living in conditions that are reprehensible for a country that is supposed to be one of the most advanced in the world. There is a limit on using aboriginals to make the throne speech look good.
Do you know how long it has been since the Erasmus-Dussault report was tabled? Almost 7 years. Contrary to the recommendation by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, there has been no acceleration in negotiations to make aboriginal communities independent, to respect their inherent right to self-government, to give them the tools they need to take charge of their own development, bearing in mind the fact that they are nations within the United Nations definition.
Seven years have been wasted with this government and time will continue to be wasted. The events at Kanesatake should be a wake-up call. To go to aboriginal communities and see the incredible poverty, unemployment rates of 80%, young aboriginals with no hope for the future; is this not a breeding ground for organized crime? That is what is happening.
As for events such as those that occurred at Kanesatake in 1990 and recently, there are hundreds of communities in danger of facing the same fate because the government is not thinking about speeding up negotiations for self-government and not thinking about resolving this issue once and for all.