moved that Bill C-9, an act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise again to speak on Bill C-9, which is a legislative measure of great importance to fulfilling the mandate of my department. Since July 2004, in fact, I have been responsible for this department, the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, more commonly called Economic Development Canada.
Numerous debates here and in the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology have made it possible to amend the wording of this bill, to make it clearer and better. After months of work, we now have a bill in our hands that is not only better, and better adapted to the situation and needs of today's Quebec, but also and above all the best possible synthesis of the views of the various parties in this House. I say best possible because, as Picasso said, if there were only one truth, it wouldn't be possible to paint 100 variations on the same theme.
I would therefore like to express my very warm thanks to all those who have been a part of this debate and have enriched it with their respective points of view.
The bill we are being called upon to adopt is more inclusive. The concept of social economy enterprise is now included in the concept of small- and medium-sized enterprises which was the terminology in the first version of Bill C-9. This amendment to the bill and to the mission of the agency is a recognition of the constantly growing role played by the social economy in Canada, and in the communities of Quebec in particular.
Social economy enterprises will thus find partners for their own development and for the revitalization of their communities in Canada Economic Development, its programs and its services.
I add that this amendment appears especially important given that Quebec constitutes one of the primary promoters of the social economy in Canada.
A few weeks ago, when I was visiting the Carrefour de l'économie sociale Angus to announce two major contributions by my department, I had the privilege of meeting a group of promoters and workers in the social economy, who spoke eloquently of what the social economy had done for their communities. I would very much have liked for members to share this magic moment with me. I wish as well that members could have seen the light in their eyes and feel the enthusiasm they exuded.
The bill we are being asked to pass is encouraging for regions in Quebec experiencing difficulty and for vulnerable communities. It confirms, in the object, powers and duties of Canada Economic Development the importance of supporting regions where slow economic growth is prevalent and where opportunities for productive employment are inadequate. This is an essential component of my department's mandate.
Because economic diversification is still in its early stages, many of these regions remain too dependent on a single resource or product, which fluctuates beyond our control in the context of globalization. With an eye to fairness and to the fight against regional disparity, Canada Economic Development partners regions having difficulty adjusting to the global context.
The recent budget provides for an increase of $800 million in funding for regional economic development agencies for Canada. We have to be clear. For Quebec, it means a budget increase of more than $300 million over five years. We will use these funds to support vulnerable communities and single industry communities, as we do now, for example, in Huntingdon and Asbestos. The increase is of course dependent on the passage of the budget.
In another vein, passage of Bill C-9 will also mean that the agency will work to promote ever closer cooperation with the Government of Quebec and the communities of Quebec under its object, powers and duties.
Cooperation does not mean subordination. It serves to increase the complementarity of federal and provincial interventions. Complementarity does not mean subordination, either. Let me give you an example of cooperation and complementarity.
A few weeks ago, following the Government of Quebec's decision to restructure forest management, a very courageous decision I might add, I made a commitment to allocate roughly $30 million a year to alleviate the impact of this decision on the communities affected. In addition, I eagerly agreed with Quebec's finance minister, Michel Audet, to include Canada Economic Development in a coordinating committee for our mitigation plans. That is cooperation and a respectful complementarity of our respective obligations. It is an effective complementarity.
We all know that such cooperation between the federal government and the provincial government is continual and productive.
The development of support measures for social economy enterprises, for example, has given both governments the opportunity to work together to ensure the complementarity of their programs.
To give you another example, on January 27, I went to Chandler, where my colleagues from the Government of Quebec and I made a joint announcement of various measures to promote the economic diversification of that Gaspé community.
The $1.15 million boost from Canada Economic Development will go toward a development strategy and the implementation of the promotional tools needed to attract new businesses to Chandler or to encourage existing businesses to stay. The Government of Quebec issued an action plan for the transportation, tourist accommodation, health and social services sectors.
In the wake of this cooperation with Quebec, and within the framework of the bill we are talking about today, the minister responsible for Canada Economic Development will be able to conclude cooperation and sectoral agreements with his Quebec counterparts or with one of the agencies.
This provision in Bill C-9 fully meets the wish expressed by a number of witnesses who appeared before the standing committee. I am thinking in particular of Mr. Raymond Giguère, who is the director general of the CEGEP in Rimouski. He said, and I quote:
It would be necessary to maintain the capacity to foster a collaborative approach with stakeholders from other orders of government.
While the approach used by the Economic Development Agency of Canada promotes complementarity and a better synergy of initiatives, it also seeks to promote joint planning between the various levels of government and the community's movers and shakers. This approach is primarily based on the regional intervention strategies developed by the agency in each of Quebec's regions, through an interconnecting relationship with the community. These strategies are developed with and for the community. They are based on the regions' economic strengths, their industrial and institutional structures, their competitive advantages, and their areas of excellence.
Ms. Manon Laporte, the president and chief executive officer of Enviro-Access, in Sherbrooke, made this comment when she appeared before the committee:
The presence of the regional offices of the Economic Development Agency of Canada ... allows for networking amongst the partners in the community. It also means that particular needs can be supported rather quickly.
It was also before the Standing Committee on Industry that Ms. Randa Napky, the director general of Tourisme Abitibi-Témiscamingue, described in those terms the close relations of its organization with the agency:
We decide here in the region on the priorities and development themes we want to adopt, in concert with a major partner such as CED. Its role in our community is not confined to project funding, which is of course necessary, but extends to its presence and participation in a multitude of activities, its expertise and knowledge of the region's dynamics and characteristics, its solidarity, and its desire to develop the regions and guide them in their development.
The Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, which is present in every region of the province with its 14 business offices, is close to the residents of those regions. This proximity, this sensitivity, this intimate knowledge of local and regional issues, makes a real difference when it comes to regional development.
The role of this department, which I have the honour of managing, was already enshrined in the 1982 Constitution. Indeed, section 36.1 is very clear regarding the Government of Canada's responsibility to fight regional disparities. Now, this responsibility is reaffirmed in Bill C-9.
Beyond the statistics and even beyond the political aspect of all this, what really counts is the pride of a woman who wants to start a business and has our confidence. It is a young researcher in Rimouski or in Sherbrooke who speaks passionately about his professional future in his native region. It is the head of a social economy enterprise who introduces her staff, a swarm of busy bees who have found dignity through work. It is Montreal, a city that sparkles, that vibrates and that plays host to the rest of the planet.
That is what I am working to achieve with my officials at Canada Economic Development, and I must say they are an extraordinary group of people. Therefore, I invite all members of the House to vote in favour of Bill C-9.
I will conclude my remarks with a message to the members of this House. The Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats support this bill.
I want to invite the Bloc Quebecois to show its commitment to Quebec's economic development, to agree to change its position, to stop opposing this bill, to put the economic interests of the regions of Quebec before its own dogmatic interests and to vote in favour of this bill.