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House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was community.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties concerning today's scheduled debate on the motion to concur in the fourth report from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the debate on the motion from the Member for Calgary—Nose Hill be deemed to have taken place, the question put and a recorded division requested and deferred to the end of government orders on Wednesday, June 1.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalMinister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

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.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the minister. We have been working very hard on this bill to try to change and improve it. That being said, I would like the minister to provide me with an answer on one thing.

Currently, the existing economic development models in resource regions such as Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean must be reviewed. We must work on that. Until now, the government has undertaken, through a Quebec summit on regional economy, a reassessment of this whole approach to economic development. What we are hearing now deals with decentralization. We are talking about directly providing regions with financial means to take their destiny in their own hands.

Consequently, I would like the minister to tell me why he did not take advantage of this important bill — I know he has worked hard on this bill — to tour the regions and have consultations with the economic development leaders. I think this government missed a great opportunity.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, need I remind my hon. colleague that the people of the regions, themselves, will confirm my sustained and focussed presence in the regions ever since I was appointed to this position?

Ask the people of Chandler. Ask the people of Saguenay, in the member's region. Ask the people of Rimouski. Ask the people of the Eastern Townships. Ask the people of the Magdalen Islands. I have toured Quebec several times, precisely because I think that one cannot run a department like mine without being in touch with the everyday realities in the field. Be it in Quebec City, in Montreal or in the regions, I have consistently been just as welcome.

We have 14 regional offices, which are involved in all the recovery and revitalization committees wherever they are necessary. We have always shown our support unconditionally for projects from the regions. When I travelled to Saguenay, I had the pleasure of announcing the Aluminum Technologies Centre, which we know will, on the one hand, provide an incentive for young people to stay in the region and, on the other hand, promote the development of businesses for the secondary and tertiary processing of aluminum, among others. The same is being done for lumber.

We are there to provide support. We do not want to shirk our responsibilities by transferring funds without maintaining any control over how they are managed. The Government of Quebec is making the decisions, and that is fine. Therefore, once these funds have borne fruit, we will be there to support the projects that stemmed from them. That is the way in which we want to help. Once again, I am referring to the fact that we are consistent in ensuring the necessary complementarity in our actions.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, an information brief on the website of Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec states the following:

The bill does not make any changes to the agency’s role... Whether it is a government department or an agency, the minister faces the same obligations, responsibilities, powers and duties... The existing programs will remain in place. The act will have no impact on the agency’s present programs or clientele in the immediate future.

Based on what is written on department's own site, it is impossible to identify the purpose of this entity, unless it is once again to give someone keys to a limousine and subject the regions to propaganda, through departmental announcements. Since this bill does not change the agency's mission or clientele in any way, why is it before us at this time?

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will set out the reason for this bill, and its impact.

Its impact is not to change the vocation of federal intervention in regional economic development, but to ensure that, instead of decisions coming under the jurisdiction of another minister, the Minister of Industry, they will be made autonomously by Quebec, for Quebec and with Quebec.

I am not the one that politicized the debate. I brought in this bill as a technical bill. The Bloc Québécois seized on an opportunity to try to politicize the bill. The point of their interventions was to get us to transfer Economic Development Canada funds to Quebec, purely and simply, and to have no more to do with them.

I refuse to do that. I refuse to abdicate my responsibilities. They are the ones who have politicized the debate. What I find interesting in what was said is the reference to propagandizing the regions. I do not think they can give us any lectures on humility. They are, I think, always there when we make announcements. They never miss a photo op. It is bit silly, this business of the pot calling the kettle black.

As far as politicizing the debate is concerned, what I would have liked to have seen, and what three political parties understood in the same way, is that we were taking advantage of this welcome debate to progress further and to reflect together on the best way to help Quebec develop economically.

However, unlike the other three parties in this House, the Bloc got obsessed by the idea that the federal government should be out of it completely. They want no more federal presence. They want to use the back door to get what they did not manage to get at the front. That is all very fine, and it is their right, their privilege and prerogative, but I and my Liberal government also have the prerogative to say that we refuse to abdicate our responsibilities just because the Bloc would like us to.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the minister answered the question of our colleague from Jonquière—Alma. We clearly understood that he has been in touch with each of the regions. But what the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma asked was whether he had consulted the bone and sinew of each of these regions? Indeed, there is a difference between announcing one's plans to the public through the media and conducting consultations and actually asking the public what they think about these plans.

In that respect, I can testify that, in my riding and in neighbouring ridings, the minister's address was in fact made by the media. There has been no true consultation of the bone and sinew of the populations concerned.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that the member across the way may have put this question to please me.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Every time I travel to a region, I meet with the local stakeholders and local authorities. We have debates and discussions with them, and I listen much more than I speak. I listen to what they have to tell me about their concerns, their priorities, their goals, their dreams, and so on.

Ask the mayors of Chandler, Rimouski, Rivière-du-Loup, Baie-Comeau and Saguenay, and in the Magdalen Islands. Everywhere I go, regardless of whether or not I have an announcement to make, I take the time to listen carefully to the local authorities and stakeholders.

Whether in Sherbrooke or in Baie-Comeau, chambers of commerce are very important forums of reflection on economic development. Local authorities have a responsibility. They are the ones closest to the everyday reality. What they have to say is extremely important for me to understand what needs to be done. I do not go there to dictate what to do, but to listen to what people have to tell me.

I suggest that my hon. colleague do something very simple. He should just ask all these mayors and municipal councillors I have met with over the eight to ten months I have been in charge of this portfolio. They number literally in the hundreds. Clearly, the question I was just asked either completely ignores the reality of my work in the field, as confirmed by the local stakeholders, or it is pure demagoguery.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel a bit concerned, because I was the mayor of my municipality for 21 years. I was the reeve of the Bellechasse RCM for nearly three years, and I was very involved in issues affecting the Chaudière—Appalaches region, such as the development of the Massif du Sud regional park, the former Monk railway line and a bike path in Bellechasse.

The RCM, CLD and the CRE reached a consensus. Everyone agreed to develop these three areas. Obviously, the further south you go in the Chaudière—Appalaches region, the less likely it is that people will go into farming, given the physical geography. So, there was a potential market for recreational tourism.

I must say that the provincial government, both under the Parti Québécois and the Liberals, collaborated on all three areas. Since we cannot name names here, I have to say that, when I had to work with ministers, both Liberal and provincial, the federal government would not give us any more money.

Given this consensus, I want to know why the federal government has yet to make a commitment.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my colleague does not object, I ask the Chair's leave to table later today in this House a list of all the initiatives that Canada Economic Development has undertaken in the Chaudière—Appalaches region, and I think that my colleague will have to recant.

There is a difference between the projects that some people want supported and the mission of Canada Economic Development. It has a very specific framework, which is to support projects that fit the criteria set out our department's mandate. I must stress too that its initiatives build on regional strategic initiatives. All our initiatives in the Chaudière—Appalaches region, except in relation to the textile industry, which I could say more about, were developed with, for and by the local community. My colleague will be quite happy to hear—and I am surprised that he has not already—about all our initiatives.

So, I will table in the House before the end of the day an official written list of the initiatives that Canada Economic Development has undertaken in the Chaudière—Appalaches region.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate on behalf of my party in the debate on third reading of Bill C-9. This bill's short title is the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act, and all it does is create that agency from an Industry Canada portfolio program.

On November 5 last year, during the second reading debate on this bill, we spoke of putting the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec on equal legal footing with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, but this bill focuses primarily on cosmetic changes. As a result of this bill, no one will change their responsibilities or phone number. This bill is just about changing letterhead and business cards to signal a new legal status.

Our party also said that, as a matter of fact, changes provided for in the bill have already been implemented. For example, the minister responsible for this agency, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie was named July 20, 2004 nearly nine or ten months ago, and we still have not approved the creation of his department.

The Liberals' arrogance shows through, since they are presuming on the cooperation of a minority Parliament. Nonetheless, the Conservative Party is in favour of this bill because it agrees exactly with paragraph 33 of the Conservative Party of Canada's policy declaration, which reads:

The Conservative Party recognizes that regional development policies are an important part of any comprehensive strategy to assist the regions of Canada to meet the opportunities of the new global economy. Regional development agencies, like ACOA, WED, FEDNOR and CED-Q, must be depoliticized and focussed on attracting new private sector investments.

Since this bill deals generally with administrative changes, there is no reason to reject it. Besides, we have found some elements that deserve our support. First, it puts the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec more or less on a level playing field. Like our critic said on November 5, we are still aware of important differences in the goals of the four regional development agencies, but Bill C-9 is a step forward.

Moreover, as modified by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology Bill C-9 can serve as a model for other regional development agencies. For example, all Canadians want to take the politics out of regional development. All non-Liberal Canadians want to take the politics out of regional development.

One of the Conservative amendments at committee prohibits announcements during an election campaign. The new subclause 5(3) reads:

No grant or contribution shall be announced from the date that a federal election has been called until the day after voting day.

Preventing regional campaigning with regional development money during a federal election is simply the logical thing to do. It should not even need to be said but the behaviour of the Liberal government and in particular of the sponsorship scandal confirms the absolute necessity of depoliticizing at all times the spending of public money.

In this way the new subclause 5(3) that the Conservative member has proposed is a huge step forward and should serve as a model for the other regional development agencies.

Another clause of Bill C-9 that the Conservative MPs proposed and that should be extended to other regional development agencies is the new clause 10(2), which demands better cooperation between the Canadian and Quebec governments. This clause reads:

10(2) In carrying out its object, the Agency shall take such measures as will promote cooperation and complementarity with Quebec and communities in Quebec.

The new spirit of cooperation in clause 10(2) is found in various other amendments that the committee made to Bill C-9.

Of the various regional development agencies across Canada, only one, CED, is focused solely on one whole province.

In western Canada, the Department of Western Economic Diversification promotes the development and diversification of the economies of the four western provinces.

In the east, ACOA promotes the economic interests of the four provinces in Atlantic Canada. In both cases, these agencies have to work with four different provincial governments. By contrast, CED exists only in Quebec and its responsibilities are limited to Quebec's boundaries.

Given that the department's territorial responsibilities coincide exactly with those of Quebec's democratically elected government, there is a possibility of conflict between the goals of an agency filled with Ottawa appointed bureaucrats and the goals of the Government of Quebec. For this reason, it is particularly important to ensure compatibility between the department's actions and those of the Quebec government.

In fact, the record of turbulent relations between Ottawa and Quebec and the distrust which is the root of the impressive growth of the sovereignty movement confirms a sad reality; we must at all costs protect a Quebec provincial government, whatever its stripes, from unwarranted federal intrusion into areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Our Constitution divides powers between the federal and provincial governments. Sadly, the track record of past federal Liberal governments does not inspire confidence.

In fact, the fiscal imbalance is one of the main reasons why Quebeckers tolerate the existence of CED. As we all know, the federal government collects roughly two thirds of the taxes paid in Canada, while the provinces have to provide the most expensive services such as health care, welfare and education. The gap between provincial sources of revenue and the costs of meeting their obligations is the main reason for shared programs such as medicare.

While we must support the bill over the long term, we must address the root problem which is the fiscal imbalance. Until that situation is addressed, any regional development policy is really just a symbolic gesture. In fact, given that Bill C-9 does not require the spending of an additional dime in the development of Quebec's forest regions, it is important to underscore again that Bill C-9 is only a token gesture.

In a similar way, our support of Bill C-9 is a clear demonstration of the Conservative Party's strong desire to encourage a tighter and more productive cooperation between the federal government and the Government of Quebec. The new clauses proposed by Conservative MPs that demand a tighter and more productive cooperation between Ottawa and Quebec City with respect to Quebec's regional development are the main reasons why our party supports the bill. They are inspired by paragraph 14 of the Conservative Party's 2005 policy declaration which reads:

  1. A Conservative Government will work co-operatively with the provinces to improve the lives of Canadians while respecting the division of powers and responsibilities outlined in the Constitution.

We see these new clauses as a precedent to be enshrined in other bills. Thus Bill C-9 could help us to build a stronger and more united Canada.

Nonetheless, Bill C-9 is nothing more than an insufficient first step. A name change in itself does note create a single additional job or stimulate the economy of any the disadvantaged regions of Quebec.

We should not forget either that the Liberal government finds itself in a scandal without precedent in Canadian history. The sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister's relationship with Claude Boulay, his relationship with Earnscliffe, the government's contracts with his old company, CSL, reveal a government the depth of which true corruption is still unknown.

We have to replace the government and Quebeckers, more than any other Canadians, are cognizant of this fact.

While Quebeckers prepare for a federal election, I want to underscore that our support for Bill C-9 is based on three principles: first, our commitment to Quebec's regional development; second, our dedication to keeping politics out of regional development in Quebec and in all other regions of Canada; and third, our insistence that the federal government respect at all times the division of powers and responsibilities outlined in the Canadian Constitution. We offer them truly, for the first time in a decade, the possibility of a government that is honest, pan-Canadian and inclusive of Quebec's point of view. I invite them to consider it.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalMinister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, first, it would have been a surprise to see money being allocated in Bill C-9. This is not the purpose of this kind of legislation. Money is allocated through the budget, and let me remind you that, over the next five years, there is an increase, for Quebec alone, of 307 million dollars. I did say an increase of 307 million dollars. Regarding expenditures, to have an idea of the financial contribution of the Government of Canada in this respect, let us just say that we have a total budget equivalent to about $1 billion for the next three years. Obviously, the amounts are not specified in Bill C-9. They are in the budget bills. Bill C-9 defines the structure through which the money can be delivered.

Second, if I may, to answer my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse, I announced that I would table a document of interest to him. But it is even better than what I promised. I said that the document would be about the region while in fact, it is about his own riding. Investments by my department, Canada Economic Development, between April 1, 2004 and January 15, 2005, in the Lévis—Bellechasse riding alone, amount to $3,196,350. I have here the list of supported projects, which represent globally an investment of $10,196,000 in the region. I would like to table this document officially.

Third, in doing so I would remind you that Canada Economic Development works with members of Parliament who are willing to cooperate, in spite of those who are not very helpful.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am actually not the critic for the ministry. I am the critic for a parallel ministry, FedNor, which is an agency that provides economic development in Ontario.

Given that the minister's question really was not related to my comments, it is somewhat difficult for me to respond. He was carrying on an earlier conversation with a member from the Bloc Québécois.

However, I thought I might to talk a bit about the way in which the federal government, through its agencies, has politicized the spending of money. I want to give an example that actually occurred in my own backyard, in the beautiful counties of Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington and in other beautiful counties in eastern Ontario.

The very day before the last election there was an announcement of $10 million in development money for eastern Ontario, very welcomed money. It was given through a very effective and efficient model of distribution known as the Community Futures Development Corporations, a model that should be expanded upon and should become a greater proportion of regional economic development money in Canada. I think that would work in all parts of the country just as well as it does in the areas where it currently is in place.

It was very good that the money was given. What was interesting about the money and about the timing of the money was it came one day prior to the drop of the writ in an election where a number of Liberal held rural seats in eastern Ontario were very much at risk. These included seats held by Larry McCormick the Liberal MP who I ran against, Joe Jordan, the ex-Liberal MP for Leeds and Grenville, and several other seats, all of which were lost by the Liberals with one exception, the seat of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. It was striking.

Whereas in the prior election in 2000, when these seats were not seen as being at risk, although two of them were lost to the Canadian Alliance, there was no interest in giving out money. Nor was there in the 1997 election. What we saw was only when seats were in danger was the money forthcoming and then it was only forthcoming right before an election.

This is the pattern of politicization. Money is offered when it is seen as a way of buying seats that are at risk for the Liberals, whether this is happening in Ontario, in the west, in Quebec or in the Atlantic. That is a great shame. This is what we hope, through the amendments made by the Conservative MPs on the committee, to bring to an end, or at least to reduce as much as possible, in Canada's regional development activities. They should be focussed on improving the local economies, not at improving the prospects of Liberal candidates.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I said earlier did not mean that there have been no federal investments for specific projects in my riding and my region. What I meant is that there are some specific issues where there is consensus and even unanimity among regional stakeholders. That is why I question the role of the new department. If projects on which there is consensus are not eligible for funding by the department, I wonder if those which received funding were necessarily approved by elected officials and community representatives.

That was the thrust of my comments.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks of my colleague from the Bloc. I think that what he said could be the follow up of a conversation with the minister. His comments were sensible.

Seeing as that too is not really a question directed at me, I will return to the theme I was dwelling on of the politicization of these moneys.

I mentioned the case of the money for eastern Ontario, which is not a unique case. It is simply the one that happened to involve me most closely because it was my riding, among others. The announcement was forthcoming, but once it turned out that the Liberals had lost those seats, the money was not forthcoming and there were constant delays. All the moneys before Treasury Board needed approval, it was not meeting, it could not get it on the agenda. Month after month that went on and the money was not available.

Finally, in October I had my office called one of the corporations, the CFDC, to see ask what was happening. That was at 9 a.m. on Friday. I had instructed my office to say that I would be raising a question about it at 11 a.m. in question period. Almost immediately following the conversation between my staffer and the folks at the CFDC, an email announcement was put out by CFDC saying that the money would be forthcoming and that I would be asking a question about it.

The extent to which the politicization has gone on here and the extent to which money will only be given if it is something to the partisan benefit of the Liberals is extraordinary. With the amendments we have made, we hope to reduce that. Frankly, I think all members in the House should want to have the regional development money in Quebec, Ontario, wherever, be issued for the advantage and benefit of those who are in the regions and not for the advantage of Liberal contestants for public office.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what the hon. member thinks of the following. I find this government tendency a bit worrisome. In Quebec as in other provinces, but particularly in Quebec, there is a tendency to constantly add new levels of government, which costs a fortune. I do not know if the hon. member has any idea of the cost of that duplication. Apparently, the new department would have about fifteen offices in Quebec only.

Could the hon. member tell us how much that duplication would cost not only in terms of civil servants and administrative work in general, but also in terms of linkage and follow up between the different levels of government?

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, bureaucratization is a problem in all federal departments and economic development agencies. It is indeed a real problem.

I think these agencies need to have a number of offices. I do not know if 15 offices is the appropriate number for the regions of Quebec. However, there is a need for a large number of offices since this agency's purpose is to serve the regions of the vast province of Quebec.

As for the duplication of services provided by the Quebec government, which has a real interest in the development of its regions, it is possible to do some realignment within the department to reduce the number of bureaucrats and thus reduce the costs related to those bureaucrats, not those related to the beneficiaries of the services provided by the department.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I expect my speech will be interrupted for members' statements.

I would like first to salute the people of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, especially those who work for regional economic development, including the officials of Canada Economic Development and the volunteers and officials of the CFDCs and the CLDs. A lot of people are working very hard for regional economic development.

Quebec's resource regions face major problems, specifically such important crises as those of softwood lumber and mad cow disease and the closures of plants in a number of sectors, such as textiles and aluminum. The origins of this bill have to be understood. Past regional economic development models generated employment. Raw materials could be collected and processed at full throttle. However, today, they are obsolete and should be thoroughly reviewed.

With this bill, a fine opportunity to visit the regions of Quebec, consult people working in regional development and elected officials has been missed. The government has created a structure but neglected the most important aspect, that of looking to see if today's tools are effective and will carry us through to the future.

I would also like to say that we have worked very hard on this bill. We thought we could improve the fate of the regions and substantially change this bill to benefit Quebec and the regions. I would also remind the minister and the government that, at no point, did we obstruct parliamentary proceedings in order to delay this bill. I recall that, for a month, we even discussed with colleagues from the other parties in order to negotiate amendments and proposals. This shows a clear desire, which is important, to look after regional development properly.

I can only regret certain statements by colleagues, among others, those of the member for Gatineau. At one point she said that our voting against the bill meant we had no concern for regional development. I think that in this House it is possible to have debates, oppose bills or try to improve them, but never would I say to any of my colleagues that they oppose regional development.

Currently, especially in resource regions such as mine, hard hit by various crises, petty politics would be counter productive. I would not dare do it. There is too much at stake.

I must say that the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-9 today, for several reasons. One of those reasons is that the bill ignores some fundamental principles, such as respect for what is being done in terms of regional development, all across Quebec.

There is nothing to get excited about in this bill. It does nothing more than create a structure. I refer to the Department's own documents regarding the Economic Development Agency. When we ask what will be the impact of this bill on the environment, we are told that it does not make any changes to the agency’s role and places the emphasis on promotion, development and diversification. It is clearly stated that the bill will bring no change.

A little further in the same document, the question is asked in the following terms: will the agency act affect existing programs and, by extension, the clientele the agency serves? The answer is a clear no. The existing programs will remain in place and there will be no impact.

This means that even if the House does not pass this bill, there will continue to be some economic development. We as members and the regions will continue to get the money to which we are entitled. This money is in Ottawa. The agency may take credit for delivering it to regions, but it still is our money. It is money to which citizens are entitled and which must be returned to resource regions.

As we know, there has been much debate on this bill. Things have been said, work has been done. However, the important thing is that the Bloc Québécois has gained something. There is an important premise in the bill which is different than under the former agency, and it was essential we did not support it. It is the whole concept of designated areas. Let me explain.

Through an order in council, the minister could target a specific region by giving it priority because it is lagging behind in terms of employability, or at least economically. What does it mean, “the minister may, by order”? Does that mean that depending on his mood, whether he is politically sensitive to certain people or situations, he could target or prioritize one region over another?

We feel Canada Economic Development has to operate fairly. There has to be fair distribution of the money allocated and fair intervention methods in Quebec that are based on real needs. Where are these real needs? They are in the regions that are lagging behind in terms of employability, in regions that have lost many jobs or that have a high unemployment rate due to plant closures. Those are the true concerns. It absolutely should not have been left to the mood of this minister or this government. What is this, if not a lack of vision, or at least a flag waving extravaganza, or yet another attempt to buy Quebeckers with a rash of spending?

We are pleased because we fought the battle and won. In addition, all the witnesses agreed that this designated area concept was dangerous. You have to understand that there are many regions where balanced distribution of funding is needed. Abitibi cannot be chosen to the detriment of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, or Gaspé to the detriment of the North Shore, or Huntingdon, where they are in a crisis over the textile industry. There has to be a concern for fairness and loyalty toward these people who need it and who have contributed for years to creating this type of structure through the taxes they have paid.

Other points were raised in which we made gains. I want to commend the Conservative Party for working with us on this. We agreed that no spending should be announced during the election campaign. This kind of announcement left too much room for partisanship to the detriment of regional development. This issue was raised and agreed to. There will be no announcements during that period.

Officials in the regions need to have free reign in order to do their work without political obstruction.

Nestlé CanadaStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week the people of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry were devastated by the news that Nestlé Canada will close its factory in Chesterville, Ontario some time in mid 2006.

In one form or another the Nestlé plant has been at the centre of the economic community in Chesterville since it opened in 1918. The company's decision to close its doors will cost the people in my riding 300 quality jobs, but the net effect on the business community will be much larger.

As elected representatives of the Canadian people, we in the House must take a serious look at the challenges facing Canadian business so that we can find new ways to support our industries and curb the exodus of Canadian jobs abroad.

We in the Conservative Party believe that we can generate more wealth, create more jobs, further diversify our economy and create more opportunities for Canadians.

As the member of Parliament for Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry, I urge the government to do everything in its power to assist the Nestlé plant and its workers. I certainly will.

Community CareStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, Community Care is the best named organization in Peterborough. In the city and county its caring services include caregiver relief, the caremobile, diner's club, home help, home maintenance, income tax clinic, information and referral, in-home and telephone friendly visiting, intergenerational programs, meals on wheels, medical equipment loan registry, personal distress alarm, telephone reassurance, transportation, wellness and health clinics, workshops and seminars.

This is community care indeed. It has bases in Apsley, Chemung, Harvey, Havelock, Keene, Lakefield, Millbrook and Norwood as well as Peterborough.

Community Care has a dedicated staff who are supported by 800 volunteers. Thank you, Community Care Peterborough.

Screen Door ProductionsStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House of the notable success recently achieved by Screen Door, a film production company run by two of my constituents, Mary Young Leckie and Heather Haldane.

Screen Door, formerly known as Tapestry Pictures, won the Sprockets Audience Choice Award at the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children with its film Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story . The movie depicts the courageous campaign of Simon Jackson, a teenage boy from Vancouver, who embarks on a mission to save a rare white kermode bear known as Spirit Bear. Spirit Bear was the only Canadian film to win an award at this year's festival. It is the first Canadian film to win an audience choice award.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mary and Heather on their achievements and salute them for their contribution to Canadian culture by telling our stories.

City of LévisStatements By Members

May 20th, 2005 / 11 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the residents of the City of Lévis, which was named City of the Year at the Gala des Mercuriades. It received this award from the Quebec federation of chambers of commerce and the Revue Commerce magazine, on April 27.

The City of Lévis is a thriving tourism destination, and the various services that it provides allow its residents to enjoy quality recreational activities.

Lévis is a place where companies, industries and businesses operate in a personalized environment that promotes harmonious and sustainable development.

Lévis has community organizations that are close to the public, and that work to improve the quality of life of those who are not as well-off.

This recognition is testimony to the city's economic and social vibrancy. We thank the numerous stakeholders in Lévis, including its business people, its entrepreneurs and its community representatives.

The City of Lévis is a great place to live. Congratulations.

Diamond IndustryStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's rise to prominence in the diamond industry began in 1998. The industry currently provides an estimated 4,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada, with about 38% of the mines' workforce being aboriginals.

Diamond mine production in 2004 is estimated to be valued at $2.1 billion, making Canada the world's third largest diamond producer by value.

In addition to diamond mining, a small diamond cutting and polishing industry has grown in Yellowknife, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and in Matane, Quebec. These operations have an important training component.

Contrary to the trend observed in most other Canadian mineral and metal industries where production is falling, more diamond mines are scheduled to begin production in the coming years. These include the Jericho mine in Nunavut in 2006, the Snap Like mine in the Northwest Territories in 2007, and the Victor mine in Ontario in 2008.

These mines will help build a strong economy and a prosperous future for many regions, including aboriginal communities, and the--