Mr. Speaker, I have been in the House for several months now. Anyone who has heard me speak knows my tendency to defend widows and orphans, and the interests of Quebec and Quebeckers. So, a bill like this, which will force us once again to beg and negotiate for what was our rightful share in the first place, makes me a little mad. Obviously, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I will not be voting in favour of this bill.
I was listening to my colleague from Beaches—East York talk about how important this bill is for seniors, since each couple will receive an additional $700 per year, by the end of 2007.
Everyone says that seniors are extremely important to our society, and this is true. In my municipality, 38% of seniors aged 65 and over are over 75 years of age. This represents about 20,000 people in Laval. That is a lot of people.
Seniors over 75 did not learn to ask for anything; they got used to making do with what they had. They lived through the depression, the second world war and some even lived through the first world war. They raised their children without any help from anyone. They were very poor, but got by nonetheless. They learned what was meant by social solidarity. Now these people do not know how to ask for anything. They never did and they are too proud to do it now.
The government says it will give them $700 a month per couple. A couple means two people. Often, unfortunately, the man in the relationship dies much sooner than the woman. As a result, a woman remains alone and is much poorer than a man alone, yet she raised the family and gave them everything. She nourished her children physically, emotionally and spiritually. She took care of her children and grandchildren, whom she still often looks after. The government thinks they will be pleased with that amount of money and that it will be enough to let them end their days in dignity and respect. That scares me.
We were talking about caregivers. These are not just people who take care of sick or disabled children. Far too often these caregivers are seniors and they are women. Quite often, by the time they are 75, they have already been providing care to their spouse for five years or more. They are entitled to tax credits, which will now be increased to $5,000 at the most. What good does that do for someone not earning a living or receiving an income? How do they benefit from a $5,000 tax credit? That is not what they need.
Seniors who are caregivers need services and money to provide services, including respite care. That is what they need. According to Hélène Thibault, director general of the Alzheimer Society of Quebec, they do not need tax credits, but money to buy assistive devices or hire someone who will provide respite care.
And we have not even talked about the seniors from ethnocultural minorities yet. Getting services is even more difficult for them since they cannot speak English, or French. They were often brought to this country by their own children to take care of their grandchildren while the parents try to further their career. They are the ones who raised their grandchildren, and because they had to stay home, they did not develop a social network. Today, they are very old.
When the children cannot take care of their parents anymore, they find a residence or an apartment for seniors where all services are supposed to be provided. But in reality, this is not the case, because the children are still busy with their career or their business and the parents are left alone without services.
We should also not forget seniors with a mental handicap. Instead of spending ever more money on the creation of departments or the development of structures, such as the Secretariat for Seniors, which will cost $13 million, should we not use this money to help our seniors? Would this money not be better spent if we gave it to provinces and territories so they could meet the needs of their citizens? This is what should be done in fact.
I will now turn my attention to compassionate leave. I am talking, once again, about seniors, but there are so many other areas that this department wants to take control of. I do not understand. The compassionate care leave program was put in place in January 2004. This program is so far from meeting people's needs that, until now, only 5% of allocated funds have been distributed. The CBC did a story on May 8 in which it was mentioned that, in order to qualify for this compassionate leave, the person receiving the care must be either a father, mother, child or spouse. Moreover, the caregiver must have accumulated 600 hours of work in the last year, and he or she must have a medical certificate proving that the sick person will die within six months. This is quite something.
As a society, we are constantly moving backwards. We really are a society that only cares about its own individualistic needs. The caregiver must prove that the sick person will die within six months.
I had breast cancer five years ago. I had no one helping me. I did not ask for anyone's help. Even if I had been certain of dying within six months, believe me I would not have told anyone. These are not things we like to talk about or revel in. We do not like to appear weak to our children and parents. People from my generation are proud. We like to be able to do things. We are part of the so-called sandwich generation. We look after our parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren. However, when we get sick, things get complicated. We are definitely not going to tell our children or grandchildren to take a compassionate leave because we are going to die within six months. Sometimes, even doctors cannot say how long it might take.
It is no wonder that only $8 million was distributed out of the $190 million that is available annually. This means that $182 million stayed in a fund, instead of being transferred to Quebec and the provinces, which will again have to beg and negotiate to get this money.
Considering that its programs are so ill-suited, it is clear that this government does not understand the issue.
Now for the social economy. The government keeps telling everyone who will listen that it wants to work in conjunction with the other parties, that it wants things to work for the sake of the public. Yet when the opportunity to prove it comes along, it does not take advantage of it.
My colleague from Ahuntsic has toured to discuss the social economy and she heads a round table. Although it is not a parliamentary committee, she invited no one from the opposition to take part in these exchanges. Yet she is well aware that a number of us have a good grasp of the social economy because we have worked in it for a number of years. Quebec alone has 7,000 businesses in the social economy sector, which represent about 125,000 jobs.
These Quebec businesses generate yearly sales figures of $17.2 billion on top of their contribution to the social development of their communities. These businesses operate in a wide variety of areas: recycling, child care, home care and so forth.
I myself worked in that sector for over nine years as the assistant director of a home care agency, the Coopérative de soutien à domicile de Laval. This social economy enterprise helps seniors remain in their homes with respect and dignity. It has just celebrated its tenth year in operation and already has more than 100 employees and annual business of over $1 million.
I believe we are managing quite well as far as the social economy is concerned, and still wonder why we need to negotiate constantly with this government in order to receive our entitlement in order to help our economy advance.
Getting back to the subject of child care, my Quebec colleague spoke about this for some time last week in connection with this bill. The hon. member for Laval—Les Îles spoke of the importance of our children, of how they are the most important resource we have.
At the present time, more than one million children in Canada are not getting enough to eat. And the reason for that is that there are more than one million parents who are also not getting enough to eat because they do not have access to employment insurance.
When I see the EI statistics, I cannot help but laugh. They claim that Canada has the lowest unemployment rate. Understandably, because only 50% of contributors are entitled to benefits. We have a low unemployment rate because of the low entitlement rate.
The member for Laval—Les Îles should attend the next meeting of her Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. She needs to support, as the committee has, a decent EI fund, which is to say an independent one.
As for the guaranteed income supplement, I will not address it since my colleague will do so later. This is a topic particularly near and dear to his heart, for which he has been fighting tirelessly.
In addition, with respect to child care, in the last election campaign, the federal government promised to invest $5 billion over five years toward a Canada-wide system meeting national standards imposed by the federal government. This, when the central government does not even have the authority to make decisions about what is going on in the provinces and territories. It is having enough difficulty as it is assuming its responsibilities in its own jurisdictions.
Earlier, my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour touched on the veterans' program. This program, which is new this year, does not include those who, throughout the war, supported the people who fought, without asking for anything in return because they did not want to be a burden on society. Today, they are older and their spouses have passed away, but they are not entitled to this supposedly generous assistance provided to veterans and their spouses.
Before meddling in other governments' business in their fields of jurisdiction, the federal government should be taking care of its own business in its own fields of jurisdiction. Things would work much better.
Among other election promises, the government said it would provide Quebec with funding for child care with no strings attached. We have all heard the social development minister say that time and time again.
The tune has changed now. but the fact is that Quebec's child care system is used as a model because it is the best in the world, as recognized by the OECD. Inspiration is drawn from Quebec's system to develop others across Canada. Afraid of losing a crucial vote, the Liberal government gave the other provinces money on the spot in an attempt to buy votes. That is its way of ensuring that those members on its side of the House will vote with the government on the crucial day. That is despicable. I am ashamed for the government.
In the meantime, we, in Quebec the recognized leader in this area, continue to beg and negotiate. We keep coming back to that. The provinces and territories are having to beg the central government and negotiate with it in areas that belong to them and for which they should be getting funding in order to meet their responsibilities to their citizens. This is terrible. It is unheard of. It is getting worse and worse. Things are not working out.
Happily, I am very proud to be a Bloc member and to represent the interests of Quebeckers. My colleagues are doing the same thing in all areas. This arrangement helps limit government infringement and lack of inhibition.
The introduction of a pan-Canadian day care system is of no use to Quebec, on the contrary.
Seniors were mentioned earlier. Last week, my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie, whom I listened to, because I like him, aligned himself with the Bloc's position. Like us, he had realized just how bad the bill could be. He said that, after contributing throughout their life to improving things for their family and their community, seniors deserved nothing less than respect and to be allowed to live their remaining days with dignity.
For this to happen, there has to be social housing, well structured systems and a health care system that meets the needs of seniors. It is incorrect to say that seniors are the reason our health care system is in such bad shape. It has been shown that only 5% of seniors use the health care system.
We must not forget that, in terms of health, we were obliged to beg and negotiate once again, to obtain the funds required to carry out our responsibilities. It is always this way.
I hope that the hon. members in this House have seen enough and understood the way the government works to reject this bill. Who in this House can assure me that promises made will be kept and will be properly acted on? No one can, because not one promise made has been kept. Only in the two weeks prior to the crucial vote I referred to earlier were promises kept.
There must be no illusions. the government does not seem to be there to help people. It seems to be there to cling to office in every way possible and imaginable. I will not give it the opportunity to do so with my constituents' money. I will thus oppose this bill.