Mr. Speaker, I was wondering how I was going to get back to the subject of the budget as I began my speech, but the hon. member for Mississauga West has given me my cue, because he has asked us to look at the record of the Liberal Party as a whole, after 10 years in government. I am looking at it, that Liberal Party record after 10 years in government, and I am not sure that the hon. member will be as proud as he is now after I have listed what that record amounts to. It amounts to a series of scandals.
There was an employment insurance scandal, where the government systematically stole the $45 billion employment insurance fund surplus, money that comes from employers and employees, thereby ignoring nearly 60% of the people who would normally have been entitled to employment insurance.
There was also a scandal at Human Resources Development Canada. When the current health minister was minister of HRDC, many irregularities were never clarified.
There was the Auberge Grand-Mère scandal. There was the gun registry scandal. That program, which should have cost $60 million, has now cost nearly $2 billion.
There was the sponsorship scandal and the fiscal imbalance scandal, which has become the health scandal. What people have to understand is that the fiscal imbalance leads to problems in the health care system and a lack of resources for taking care of the sick.
I do not know whether, after hearing the list of all these scandals that have blemished Liberal mandates since 1993, my hon. friend from Mississauga West is still just as proud to be a Liberal. He will not be present in the election campaign, unfortunately, but others will take his place. We will make it our duty to remind them that such has been the Liberal administration since 1993.
Let us return to the health scandal. Far from having corrected the fiscal imbalance in the latest budget, the government has made it worse. It has interfered and has not increased transfer payments for health, even though there is a consensus not only in Quebec but all across Canada: the increase is zero.
When we look at the budget charts, we think it shameful that in the supplementary expenditures for 2003-04, there is the infamous $2 billion that has been announced five times or so, which had already been committed by the Prime Minister's predecessor, Jean Chrétien.
There is no money for health under the other two columns, for 2004-05 and 2005-06. It is not because the government does not have the means; my hon. colleague from Joliette sets the surplus at around $9 billion or $10 billion for the next fiscal year. Should we not have met the public's basic needs? The response from coast to coast is unanimous: additional expenditures in health are needed because the system is under pressure. Why is it under pressure? Simply because the needs are increasing as the population ages. Health expenditures are said to be increasing by 7% per year.
Two weeks ago, I read that, in Quebec, 10,000 women with breast cancer had launched a class action suit against the Quebec government because they had not received treatment in time. But the Quebec government is not responsible, the federal government is. The former finance minister, now Prime Minister, was the one who decided again this year not to do anything to respond to the top public priority.
When the current Prime Minister was finance minister, he liked to beat records. He chose to beat the record with regard to the debt to GDP ratio of his G-7 colleagues. This is his focus, and therein lies his ambition. The rest is not important.
I was saying that this budget, instead of correcting the fiscal imbalance, does not contain any direct transfer payments for health to help the sick. However, federal interferences in exclusive provincial and Quebec jurisdictions have continued.
An amount of $600 million was announced for a new Canada public health agency, and $500 million for a public health surveillance system in Canada. There are already structures in place across Canada with responsibilities similar to those of these two institutions; Quebec, in particular, has the Direction de la santé publique. Nevertheless, nearly $1 billion is being invested to create structures that duplicate ones already responsible for public health surveillance. As for the new public health agency, its role, as outlined in the budget, is identical to that of the Direction de la santé publique.
Many people have been left out of this budget, and that is disgraceful. As I said earlier, one of the scandals tarnishing this government's reputation is employment insurance. Come election time, this government will be held accountable.
Some 40% of people entitled to receive employment insurance benefits are actually receiving them. The other 60% are being excluded because of the former finance minister, the current Prime Minister. This has not been resolved. The eligibility criteria have not been relaxed—far from it. Seasonal workers have been ignored.
It is not just the workers, but the seasonal industry that is affected. Imagine what an impact this has on the regions. Year after year, they are in a situation where workers are denied employment insurance benefits. They go through a gap—as it is called—during which time they do not receive any income. That might work for a year or two or three. They come back to the seasonal industry, but eventually the seasonal industry will be short on manpower.
Do seasonal workers want to keep going through this gap situation for much longer? There is going to be a labour shortage and we are in the process of killing the regions that rely on seasonal industries.
The employment insurance scandal continues. Some $45 billion has already been stolen from the employment insurance fund. The government continues to help itself to the surpluses that come out of the pockets of employers and employees. The scandal continues.
There is also the softwood lumber issue. Workers and companies have been waiting for a long time—years. The current Minister of Health, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister responsible for Official Languages, who is very convincing in his speeches, sometimes departs dangerously from the truth in what he announces and says, particularly regarding equalization. I will come back to this later.
This minister has done nothing for them but deliver fine speeches. The softwood lumber industry has been left to fend for itself. Workers affected by this sector have been left to fend for themselves. The government has not so much as deigned to make the employment insurance rules more flexible to take into account a crisis that neither the industry or the workers have control over. They have been forgotten.
Social housing has also been forgotten. Sure, it looks good on camera for the Prime Minister, the former finance minister, who has never shown any concern for social housing, to be in the company of François Saillant of FRAPRU. The Prime Minister gave these people a lot of hope. This budget has dashed their hopes: there is nothing for social housing.
There is another scandal I neglected to mention earlier. This is my opportunity to return to it now. It is the guaranteed income supplement for seniors, which is intended for the low income seniors of Quebec and Canada. These are the least well off. It was kept from them for years that they were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement if their income came close to the poverty line. They were not informed.
When my Bloc Quebecois colleague from Champlain put his finger on the problem, revealing that the federal government was concealing this program so that the least well off seniors did not receive benefits, he began to tour Quebec to bring into the loop all the organizations working with seniors in any capacity. All my Bloc Quebecois colleagues were associated with that campaign to inform and support low income seniors, so that they might benefit from the GIS. This spurred the government to action.
It began to think it should start paying attention. After keeping this hidden for years, they now had to pay attention. Seniors, among the most disadvantaged, were fleeced out of $3 billion. In Quebec, 68,000 seniors were and still are eligible for the supplement. We contacted some of them through our actions the length and breadth of Quebec. We tried to contact all seniors, but were not wholly successful.
Was it not the responsibility of the government to help seniors, who are among the most disadvantaged, and to give them guidance so they receive up to $6,000 a year in supplemental income? That amount is the price of a magnificent bottle of wine, a Petrus or a Bordeaux Premier Grand Cru, such as Jean Lapierre says he shared with the people of Lafleur Communications of sponsorship scandal fame. He did remember drinking a Premier Grand Cru or a Petrus. That, I have said and repeat now, costs $5,000. With that kind of money, I would have helped a senior in my riding get out of poverty. This is shameful, particularly when that $5,000 bottle was the by-product of the sponsorship scandal. And Jean Lapierre boasts of it. That I find absolutely disgusting.
On the topic of aboriginal peoples, the government always wants to look good. There is never a throne speech without a reference to the first nations, respect for the first nations, respect for the treaties and respect for section 35 of the new Constitution of 1982, which recognizes aboriginal self-government and related rights. It looks good in speeches, and in the lovely Canadian mosaic.
But when it is time to take action, budget after budget, all there is left for the many problems facing the first nations of Canada is small change. For example, there is the housing problem. This year, 400 housing units will be built in Quebec and Labrador. To meet the urgent and dramatic needs of the first nations, 8,000 ought to be built. This makes no sense. There is no mention made of this in the budget.
Of course, there is a few tens of millions of dollars for education, and a little for health. It is clearly insufficient. First, funding has to increase to accelerate negotiations on first nations self-government. That is the only hope the people of the first nations, from east to west in Canada, have of one day getting out of poverty.
Instead of that, self-government agreements are signed once in a while. But there is never any political will to bring about what the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples asked for in 1998: to set the scene so that, in 20 years, all self-government problems would be solved. That is the only viable path to harmony of relations between the first nations and ourselves, and it would also be a way to provide them with development tools. There is nothing in here, just a mention and a few million dollars in order to look good.
With respect to day care, we can congratulate the government. They have put money into day care in the rest of Canada—$150 million. Since 1998, the year in which we established the $5 day care system, which has become $7 because of the lack of federal transfers, we have been demanding that the money that parents in Quebec have lost in income tax credits for day care be transferred to the Government of Quebec. This year, it will amount to $225 million. This would help finance $5 day care, which has become $7 day care.
Since 1998, this represents a $1 billion shortfall in federal tax credits. So, the amount of $150 million that the federal government is providing for childcare in the rest of Canada was funded by Quebec parents. It was funded by the Quebec government, because the federal government refused to negotiate anything in terms of fiscal flexibility or transferring the money lost by Quebec parents to the Quebec government, to help fund the $5 a day daycare program.
There is nothing either for education in this budget. There is, of course, the student loans program. However, an enhanced student loans program will make things more complicated with the loan and scholarship program that Quebec has had in place since the early sixties. In 1964, Lester B. Pearson and Jean Lesage met for constitutional talks, and Mr. Lesage put his foot down. Letting the federal government get involved in the student loan and scholarship area was out of the question. This is a Quebec jurisdiction.
We find ourselves in a situation where the Canada Student Loans Program is enhanced, but without any compensation for Quebec. It is always like that.
We could make a list of all the injustices done to Quebec. Quebec is penalized because it goes further and faster than the rest of Canada with its policies. This is the case with the $5 a day daycare program, which is the envy of all industrialized countries and serves as a model all over the world. But we are penalized because we act more quickly.
As regards equalization, is it not scandalous to read, in documents accompanying the budget, that the federal government has unilaterally decided to impose a new equalization formula for the next five years? The Minister of Health used to tell us tales when he was the Minister of Human Resources Development. When he was Minister for International Trade, he used to put his foot in his mouth regarding the softwood lumber issue. Now, this same minister has the nerve to tell us that this new equalization formula meets all the requirements of Minister Séguin, in Quebec.
We have heard Minister Séguin on television and on the radio, and we have read what he said in the newspapers. He said that this formula was unacceptable to Quebec. The Minister of Health continues to tell tales. He continues to talk through his hat. Actually, one wonders why that minister is still there.
Where municipalities are concerned, do they not realize that they have announced the same policy ten times already? There is nothing new in the budget. We already knew about the GST rebate for municipalities, but we expected more than that.
We were expecting the government to do something about the fiscal imbalance, because it is the only route to go. The federal government, led by the Prime Minister while he was finance minister, never acknowledged this problem of fiscal imbalance. Until the issue is resolved and until there is a new reallocation of taxation sectors between the federal government and the provinces, including Quebec, we will continue to have a problem.
The underfunding of municipalities stems from the underfunding of provincial governments, especially in Quebec. Once that issue is resolved, municipalities will get more money. I would advise the municipalities to join together and come here to protest against the federal government. That is a key part of the solution to deal with the underfunding for the immediate needs of the public.
I have a lot of respect for municipal officials, because they have to cope with members of their communities and provide all the services required. But when Ottawa cuts transfers, it creates problems for the provinces and Quebec in particular which prevent them from transferring taxation sectors to the municipalities or generating new sources of revenue. That is a concept they need to grasp.
My eighth point with regard to the budget is federal interference. Jacques Léonard, who was President of the Treasury Board for many years at the National Assembly, chaired a committee. My colleagues from Joliette, Drummond and Lotbinière—L'Érable and I worked on what was known as the Léonard committee report.
There was a chapter on excessive spending. In terms of bureaucratic and administrative expenditures, we realized that, under the former finance minister, now Prime Minister, departmental budgets had increased dramatically. This increase exceeded 300%. This defied logic. This was the case, for example, for Communication Canada polls and also for Justice. Bureaucratic expenditures soared.
There was a second part to this report. It was the analysis of the situation since Confederation. This had not been done since Confederation, and allowed us to examine the evolution of federal interferences in jurisdictions recognized by the Constitution and the precedents as exclusive to the governments of Quebec and the provinces.
It was no surprise to us that, for the most recent year available, 2002-03, the federal government had spent more in provincial and Quebec jurisdictions than in federal jurisdictions. That is how things stand. Other than an important portion that went to paying down the debt, federal interferences accounted for the majority of excess spending.
This has continued. We see this today in this budget. We see this with the creation of the public health agency and public surveillance system. Health is an exclusively provincial jurisdiction. The federal government is haphazardly creating foundations, new institutions, to duplicate services and multiply the number of stakeholders, when there are already institutions and systems in place in each of the provinces, particularly Quebec, to meet the needs behind the creation of these entities.
Under agriculture, approximately $900 million, which may seem like a lot of money for the cattle industry, has been allocated, but Quebec still needs to get a reasonable share. Quebec's share is about $65 million.
Cull cattle have been forgotten. The former agriculture minister, who is now the Minister of Finance, promised that in compensation for cutting the 1998 federal subsidy of $6.03 a hectolitre, which gave $120 million to dairy farmers, prices would be increased. This promise was not kept. If that $120 million had been available to the dairy industry, it could have coped with the mad cow crisis.
I will raise one last point. Earlier I was listening to my colleague from Mississauga West talking about what was available in this budget for his shoe shiner. He should have told him that there was indeed something, but nothing good. The Canadian tax system is one of the least progressive in the world, one of the least progressive in the G-7. Federal taxes start at 20% of average income, while elsewhere they start at 30%. In Quebec it is 30%.
Here the poor continue to pay taxes, low income earners trying to reach middle income status continue to pay taxes, yet corporate taxes have not been cleaned up.
I could mention Barbados and the ships owned by the current Prime Minister, but that is a whole other scandal. We will have an opportunity to come back to that.