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House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, my request will not come as a surprise. I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 31 consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties with respect to the recorded divisions that are scheduled for later this day and I believe you would find consent for the following:

That the previous question motion moved by the member for Kitchener Centre affecting the motion by the member for Nunavut concerning the third report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development be deemed carried on division.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House that the motion on the previous question be carried on division?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed from June 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, an act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to address members of the House in regard to this important legislation. By virtue of the legislation the department will have subscribed to its legal status. The bill exemplifies the ways in which the government is working to strengthen Canada's social foundations and in so doing ensure that the best possible level of service is provided to all Canadians.

I support the bill because it means Canadians will benefit from a stronger social foundation. By introducing the bill in the House of Commons, it will demonstrate its commitment to serving Canadians in a fair, inclusive and efficient manner.

I am proud to stand here in support of Bill C-22 and I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting the bill which represents so much for Canadians.

For seniors, the bill clearly states the Government of Canada's commitment to the provision of necessary support for seniors. this will help to ensure that they live with dignity. Budget 2005 provides $13 million over five years to establish a national seniors secretariat. The secretariat would work with several federal departments that have seniors' related policies and programs as well as other levels of government and key partners to address the challenges of an aging population.

The federal government must prepare for a growing and diverse seniors population while continuing to address the issues facing current seniors in Canada. At present, several departments are involved in seniors' issues. As the lead department for seniors, Social Development Canada will be home to the secretariat and will coordinate efforts in partnership with provincial and territorial governments as well as other stakeholders. They will develop approaches to respond to the needs of seniors.

Fundamentally, the department will enhance the knowledge of seniors' needs and issues and it will establish partnerships with governments, academics, seniors' organizations and individuals. This will ensure that there are future initiatives to address the challenges and needs of all ages for current and future seniors.

Voting in favour of Bill C-22 is a vote in favour of our nation's children. Investing in children and families is one of the best ways we can enhance the social and economic fabric of the country, now and into the future. To this end, the Government of Canada has put in place a comprehensive set of initiatives that reflect and support the range of families, choices and circumstances, from tax measures to joint initiatives with the provinces and territories to improve programs and support services.

While these initiatives have been put forward, more work needs to be done. The majority of the families do not have access to the kind of quality early learning and child care programs that can help set their young children on the path of success. Indeed, even children who are cared for primarily by parents at home can benefit from taking part in nursery school program for a few hours each week.

With the introduction of Bill C-22, the Government of Canada believes that the time has come to develop early learning and child care in Canada. In the 2005 federal budget the government announced $5 billion over five years to fund an early learning and child care initiative in collaboration with the provinces and territories. These initiatives will be guided by what is known as the quad principles: quality, universal inclusiveness, accessibility and development.

This new initiative builds on the success of the 2003 multilateral framework of early learning and child care and the 2000 early childhood agreement. Recently the government has been working with each province and territory to develop and announce bilateral agreements in principle. In the past few weeks the Government of Canada has signed agreements in principle with the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia that will support the development of quality early learning child care in these provinces.

The agreements in principle are based on a national vision which would build in the best practice and ensure reports on progress to Canadians. Canadians will be kept informed of the differences these new investments are making in the lives of children and families.

This will not be a one size fits all approach. We recognize that early learning and child care within each province and territory is at different stages of development and that the needs and circumstances vary. This is why provincial and territorial governments will have the flexibility to enhance early learning and child care support in the way that best meets the needs of their communities.

The mandate of Social Development Canada is straightforward. Its objective is to strengthen Canada's social foundation by supporting the well-being of individuals, families and communities through citizen focused policies, programs and services. Social Development Canada is the point of convergence for social policies and programs for children, families and caregivers, persons with disabilities and seniors. This department will also play a leading role in driving the social economy through programs such as voluntary sector initiative.

Essentially, Social Development Canada represents $53 billion at work for Canadians. Most of the money represents income support for Canadians themselves, especially seniors and people with disabilities as well as children.

The new department is working in a number of ways to ensure key social goals are met. Some of these goals are set up to ensure that an effective income security system is in place for seniors, that we help people with disabilities to participate fully in Canadian society, that we focus on the needs and interests of families and children in a cohesive way and that the role and activities of the non-profit and community-based sector in our society are identified, recognized and supported.

Ultimately, by bringing together these social programs for seniors, families and children and persons with disabilities under one roof, the department is providing a focal point for social policy at the federal level. This is our commitment to delivering the programs and services that Canadians have come to expect from the Government of Canada. It is what they need and it is what they deserve. I encourage all members to support the bill.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to raise a question or two for the member on the government side.

To put my question in context, I am more than a bit interested that we are dealing with a bill that creates the Department of Social Development. My first job after I graduated from social work was to work for the department of social development provincially in the province of Nova Scotia.

The member who has expressed an interest in having a focal point for social policy in the federal government will know that again today in question period I raised a question, probably for the 25th time in my almost decade here in the House, about the complete failure of the government to deliver on the 1989 unanimous motion approved in Parliament to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.

The member represents a riding in Toronto. I am sure the member is aware that in numerical terms there are probably more poor children in downtown Toronto than any other city in Canada. There are appalling concentrations of poor children in many other communities, particularly first nations communities, in outlying regions and in the north of the country as well.

He talked about a new focus. Would it be his view that a number one priority to be tackled by the government should be the unmet commitment to move on the elimination of child poverty? Instead of having eliminated child poverty by the year 2000, under the government's watch and under the policies of the former finance minister now the Prime Minister, child poverty in numerical terms has increased to over one million children in that period since the 1989 parliamentary consensus that this should be the number one priority.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, this is an issue with which I am familiar. I have been involved for a number of years with it. I served on the board of the Canadian Feed the Children for 10 years and we dealt with poverty issues, both locally and internationally.

Eliminating child poverty has to be a goal. Whether it will ever be attainable is a difficult question. However, to see children suffering and living in poverty is appalling to all of us.

The issue of poverty varies from province to province. In some provinces such as Ontario the rate of poverty is lower than the national average. This is also the case when compared to other countries in Europe. It is an issue that needs focus and attention. We have introduced a series of measures, including the national tax credit benefit. We have put in place moneys in our budget for parental leave.

My colleagues and the parliamentary secretary responsible for this portfolio have been putting forward the notion about the importance of a social economy and the building blocks of that. The measures that we have taken as government, both through the budget and through this initiative to set up this department, have put the building blocks in place so we can do our best to reduce poverty in our country.

I state once again that poverty is appalling, specifically child poverty. We must do everything possible to address this issue. I believe that the government has taken some serious measures to address it.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat worried by the answer of the member for Davenport. He said that while eliminating child poverty is a goal, and I do not know that he used the word laudable goal but I think that was the intent in what he said, it was questionable whether it could be attained.

This is exactly the mentality that has created the failure of the government to make progress in the elimination of poverty domestically. It continues to be the appalling position of the government with respect to its failure to commit to making poverty history, globally.

The reality is, in the absence of having serious targets and timetables and serious strategies to eliminate poverty, we will not do it. Post-1989 the government committed to the eradication of child poverty. At that time, and I hope I am correct, child poverty was at 16%. What happened under the watch of the finance minister, it went to 18% by the year 2000, the year it was supposed to be eliminated.

During the exact same time period, the government of Sweden, among others, set a serious goal of eliminating child poverty and put in place targets, timetables and a specific plan for implementing it. It reduced a child poverty level roughly equivalent to Canada's, maybe a little less, down to 2%.

Would the member not agree that in addition to the kind of building block approach that he talks about, we cannot be taken seriously and we will not make serious progress in eliminating child poverty unless we set clear targets and adopt a comprehensive, multi-faceted strategy for eradicating child poverty?

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I have looked at the analysis of what some of the European countries have proposed and put forward in their efforts to eradicate poverty and child poverty. It is always comparing apples to oranges. We cannot always say that it is the same situation in every country. There is a unique situation in Canada where we also have to deal with provinces. A lot of European countries do not have provincial legislation to deal with it.

Also it is a vast country where poverty measures differ in different situations. Where the poverty is very high, particularly child poverty, is in areas in our country where there are seasonal workers. Those are the issues that also need to be addressed. In areas where there is very high unemployment, there will be high rates of child poverty. In areas of the country where there is very low unemployment, there is a low rate of child poverty.

It is not comparing apples to apples. It is really apples to orange when we talk about what is going on in different countries throughout the world. However, I know the government has dealt with this issue quite effectively and has put in these measures. The poverty rates are lower in provinces such as Ontario, which is run by a Liberal government, than in the province of Manitoba, which is run by the NDP.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question regarding gender-based analysis.

The parliamentary committee on the status of women heard from various departments when we were considering the impact of many policies and legislation on women. We found that often when policy and legislation is implemented there are unintended consequences for women and children as a result.

Is the member aware of any plans to integrate gender-based analysis within this new department in a fashion that would be meaningful and result in perhaps some report to Parliament just like the immigration department has done?

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, this issue is certainly very important to our caucus. I have attended many meetings of the women's caucus and they have spoken quite strongly in support of this. There is an all-party group as well that is dealing with the issue. We are working to ensure that it is in fact the goal.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak to this bill on social development.

I am very concerned as a citizen and even more so, as you can appreciate, in my duty to respond on behalf of the constituents of Lévis—Bellechasse.

Should the Bloc Québécois support the creation of a department whose mandate would interfere in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces? That is the question.

There is consensus in Quebec that social development is part of Quebec's jurisdiction, just like health, education, municipal affairs and so forth.

The Liberal government's attitude proves once again that its true goal is to interfere in the governance of Quebec and the provinces in order to gain even more power for itself. Need I remind hon. members that this is done to the detriment of everyone's well-being? It goes without saying that the Bloc Québécois cannot support such an abuse of power, especially since this area affects the public so directly. In any case, need I remind this House that Quebec never supported the 1999 framework agreement on social union?

As we all know by now, the Department of Social Development is the result of the split of the former Department of Human Resources. Its role will be to put in place a system that will ensure the elderly, handicapped, families and children have an adequate income.

Despite the fact that 97% of the funds from this department will be allocated for seniors, the fact remains that this jurisdiction should never have been given up by the provinces. The federal government inadvertently appropriated it and we regret that. By giving it up, the provinces opened the door to federal intrusions in social development and shot themselves in the foot.

Besides the worthy goal of protecting and possibly improving Canada's social foundation, how can we be sure we are not witnessing another violation of our jurisdictions? Judging from past experience, it is not hard to predict what will happen.

As you know, Quebec has expertise in most of these areas. The Department of Social Development has the mission to support the well-being of individuals, families and communities through a whole series of adapted measures. So, once again, we will obviously see a duplication of costs as a result of the creation of this department. In view of the lack of will to consult, vital to success in the area and in the context, we can already assume that the results will be hit and miss and cobbled together.

It will take 12,000 public servants to run this new department. That represents a great deal of time, energy and, above all, money, when such duplication could be avoided. If there is $53 billion for our social foundation, just think how much more we would have from all the direct and indirect costs of such duplication. Imagine how much more we could achieve. But, it takes humility to respect our jurisdictions and recognize the expertise and know-how of others.

The plan is to allocate 97% of this $53 billion in the Canada pension plan and the old age security program.

Duplication must be avoided at all cost.

The Auditor General has validated the Bloc's concerns. For years she has pointed at the fact that some expenses, such as the Canada child tax benefit, can be found under tax spending but not under the department's expenditures. There is an obvious lack of transparency.

In order to create this new department, some legislation will have to be amended or simply repealed so that there can be new rules, such as those addressing protection of and access to personal information other than what is governed by codes found in the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act.

There is therefore an additional problem with this new approach, one that is likely to complicate case assessment still further. It is far from a simple problem.

The Bloc Québécois has had a position on reimbursement of the guaranteed income supplement for some years now. We have demanded considerable sums for a number of Quebeckers and Canadians who were deprived, if not cheated, of the GIS because they were not properly informed of the eligibility criteria.

In Quebec alone, the amount that did not go to eligible recipients since 1993 is in excess of $800 million. In Canada, this amount is $3.2 billion.

How can anyone dare ask the most disadvantaged in society to pay the debt of a country? Mind you, not much this government can do surprises me anymore.

The ruling party continues to deny entitled recipients full retroactive payment of all that is owed to them. We are opposed to any deadlines or cut-off dates. The money has to be paid back to whom it belongs, period. The government should implement Bill C-301 introduced by the bloc Québécois; we would be on the same side for once. As for the rest, accept once and for all that Quebec run its own business, as it does so well. That will save everyone time and money, and credit will be given where credit is due.

To avoid any confusion or interpretation, no one is in a better position than the Government of Quebec to do this properly.

Let us talk about the Canada-wide child care services. Need I remind members that this plan was already a federal election issue back in 1993? And it is still in its infancy, barely taking baby steps.

Quebeckers are served by one of the best day care systems in the world. So says, not Canada, but the OECD. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development states in its report that relations with the grassroots—that is, early childhood professionals—are essential not only to implement but also to develop appropriate policy.

It is even suggested that, in Canada, exchanging with Quebec planners, administrators and stakeholders would be most useful, if we really want to have a system that is centred on the development of the child. That sounds like a clear message to me.

Quebec's experience shows beyond all doubt that we have state-of-the-art child care. We definitely do not need more federal interference that might even be a nuisance, given the level of performance of our own system.

No elected representative in Quebec, particularly in that field, will accept federal interference without any assurances about the possibility to opt out with full compensation, and neither will the public.

Members will remember that the federal government committed to it in its 2004 throne speech, by approving the Bloc Québécois' amendment to an amendment providing that provincial jurisdictions would be fully respected and that financial pressure, called fiscal imbalance, would be reduced.

The Prime Minister made a commitment to that effect and promised that the Quebec government would receive the money unconditionally and would not be penalized because it is further ahead as regards this issue.

Let us now look at social development and vibrant communities. A few programs, such as the social development partnerships program, are particularly accessible to non-profit organizations. The voluntary sector initiative promotes the improvement of relations with volunteers, while the new horizons program is designed to meet more specifically the needs of seniors. It is true that these measures make life easier for their target groups. However, it is difficult to imagine that another level of government that is even more remote can manage things more effectively and come up with a policy that is better suited to the public's needs.

Quebec is already very familiar with the existing approach. We also feel that more interference is looming through the national child benefit. This is a program which guarantees financial support to low-income families with children by promoting a national threshold whereby payments would be calculated on the basis of income and expenses through the Canadian child benefit program. Unfortunately, this initiative is, again, resulting in political and economic interference.

This federal intervention falls under the agreement on the social union. If the federal government wants to continue acting unilaterally, it should at least have the decency to compensate Quebec, which already has well-adapted, successful programs in that area, as is generally recognized.

In order to circumvent that kind of problem, the Bloc Québécois is advocating a refundable tax credit for all families with dependent children, regardless of the family's income. This approach would be much fairer and would be more in keeping with the circumstances of Quebec families.

Social economy is, of course, an integral part of any society, and its importance cannot be underestimated. All areas of human activity are affected, which is why it makes a significant contribution to regional development.

In order to be efficient, all the levels of intervention must absolutely operate in a concerted fashion. This means that the federal government should adjust assistance programs to the realities of our businesses.

We advocate a refocus of the philosophy that applies to non-profit organizations. Indeed, we are proposing to eliminate the possibility for a single person to create such an organization. Why? Because we want to promote the principle of collective mobilization to achieve a common goal. In our view, the granting of partial funding goes against social goals, since it could compromise the independence of the organizations with regard to private businesses. This is why we are asking that this option be amended.

We also want to avoid having two categories of non-profit organizations in Quebec. However, this will certainly happen, given the possibility of incorporating under the federal act alone, without pursuing objectives outside Quebec borders.

We want Quebec's specific characteristics to be respected for the greater good of community life throughout Quebec. To this end, we will defend Quebec's progressive model.

Let us talk about manpower. We know how workers are important in any decent society. They are the cornerstone of society. How can we not recognize the need for them to receive the best training possible? For this, we need money.

Who has the money that is needed? The federal government. Why? Because these same workers feed it with taxes. However, my colleagues opposite will say that enormous amounts of money are being reinvested on behalf of these people.

Must we remind the House that there is a now-famous fiscal imbalance between the federal government and the provinces? This fiscal imbalance has been recognized by all the provinces. It has been denounced by Quebec and the Bloc Québécois members for many years.

We are not talking about a centipede or a millipede; we are talking about a billion dollar beast. We are talking about the evidence that the federal government is not giving back what is owed to the citizens. On top of that, this government is asking us to approve a major intrusion in sectors that are outside its jurisdiction. Why are they outside its jurisdiction? For at least two reasons.

The first one is that education falls exclusively under provincial jurisdiction. Exclusively! This is a word that the government should examine carefully. The dictionary provides a very good definition of it.

The second reason is that the people in the field are the most capable of examining, understanding and defining the situation and the needs, and of making recommendations accordingly, while ensuring the management of education per se.

Whether the measures are for young people, the disabled, older workers or immigrants, Quebec and the provinces are the best placed for efficiency and optimum effect.

The government has the funds, but acts in very bad faith when it comes to putting them in the right place. Its confidence in the abilities of Quebec and the provinces is severely lacking. But should we question whether its existence is justified? Canada exists because there is a federation of provinces. Theirs is the level with jurisdiction over education, health, family matters and so on.

We are fully entitled to demand the funds that are in federal hands, whether their source is taxation or employment insurance contributions.

As for health, which is also completely under Quebec jurisdiction, the federal government must respect the agreement on asymmetry and stop demanding accountability.

As for the environment, Quebeckers have been aware of its importance for ages, and did not wait for federal action before they made changes. Proof of this: the BAPE has most certainly proven itself in Quebec.

Quebec's efforts to implement the Kyoto protocol have proven their worth. The funds that are to be invested in order to meet Canada's commitment when the protocol was ratified should be distributed fairly among the provinces. This means that Quebec will not be penalized, because it is already polluting less and is often in the forefront.

Quebec is the authority in municipal infrastructures. In city projects, it is in charge of setting priorities and distributing funds. We are very much aware that cities have to update their structures and improve their land use plans and we insist that Quebec remain in control at all times, because it is best at assessing the effort required of each municipality, without favouring some over others for any sort of consideration.

Over the years, the Government of Quebec has established enviable policies for itself, both locally and internationally. It needs no advice. The government knows this full well, because it blithely copies Quebec's social development measures.

Quebec's jurisdiction is recognized and unanimously supported in Quebec. The system works, because the structure and the institutions linking the public, the organizations and the government make it possible to understand the needs and to act accordingly, whether by creating effective instruments or investing the necessary money to permit stable and long term funding.

You know what we are lacking. So acknowledge it: it is sufficient room to manoeuvre because of the fiscal imbalance.

You have the power to remedy this injustice. We demand you do it. The people of Quebec refuse to accept the federal government abusing its prerogatives to withdraw and keep funds that belong to them and are rightly theirs.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse for that magnificent presentation on the need for the federal government to respect Quebec's jurisdictions at all times, as set out in the Constitution. The Liberal Party decides all too often not to respect the Constitution. They are masters at not respecting their own Constitution.

My colleague indicated that this new department would employ 12,000 public servants. Furthermore, it would be responsible for seniors. Our critic in the House has often stressed the importance of retroactivity. We have been able to shine some light on the Liberal Party's terrible approach, which has yet to be corrected, with regard to the guaranteed income supplement. Although there will be 12,000 public servants in this new department—and probably more than 40,000 in the current department—the feds have not yet managed to find a way to automatically provide seniors with their guaranteed income supplement. It seems that the federal government can always find us when we owe it money. But, it is probably the only government that cannot find seniors entitled to the GIS.

So, not only are they denied that right—in other words, they have to fill out a form—but also, unfortunately, a number of seniors are not getting their GIS, still are not getting it or have received it but are not entitled to retroactive payments for all the years they were entitled to it. So, this is how the Liberal Party treats seniors.

I want my colleague to give me an idea of how the 12,000 employees of this department could give seniors what they are owed, in other words, all the GIS payments the federal government owes them.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I imagine that his riding has the same problems as mine with this. It is really unacceptable to contemplate creating a new department and an additional twelve thousand jobs. It is not objectionable in itself, but we all, regardless of region, are confronted with the problem of seniors entitled to guaranteed income supplement retroactivity who cannot get what they are entitled to.

I think it would be desirable, at the very least, for the first task of these new employees to be to locate all those who have been penalized by the system. This would at least provide proof of good faith, in that the government could then say “This new entity is addressing a very specific task and will be providing eligible people with their entitlement”.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague for Lévis—Bellechasse on his speech.

This bill speaks to me, because I heard a number of women victims of poverty—I use the word “victims” advisedly—during the numerous sessions of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. This is indeed a scourge and solutions must be found.

I am certain that the solutions best adapted to the needs of the population are developed by front-line agencies where the problems are clearly understood, and certainly not by 12,000 public servants issuing rules and monitoring the situation. All the money that ought to be going back to the people will get lost in the bureaucracy.

My colleague outlined a couple of solutions in his speech, including a refundable tax credit. I would like to hear some detail from him on how that money could be refunded. The problem of the fiscal imbalance is this: what is lacking is neither ideas nor solutions, but money. The money needs to be as close to the community as possible. This idea of introducing a refundable tax credit may be a new approach requiring less administration and will certainly be a bit more efficient.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I imagine that she is in somewhat the same situation I am. There is a city in my riding where 3,000 jobs used to be available in the shipyard. And then, one day, they all disappeared. This of course created a depression in our economy.

When we talk about a child tax credit, we first have to assume that people have to pay taxes. Then, I think that together we can find a fair formula for everybody.

The difficulty lies with the poor and the families who cannot even afford to pay taxes. Their revenue is so low that they do not even have the privilege of doing their share for the country by paying taxes. This is when non profit and social organizations become so important in our areas. The Bloc Québécois members are always in contact with those organizations. They do everything they can to alleviate day to day human misery. I know full well that in my riding, these are front-line organizations. There is only one problem though. We are lacking funds.

Instead of creating a new government body that could very well gobble up billions of dollars, we would be much better off using this money to help those organizations that are already established and known for their efficiency.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I too would like to congratulate my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse for his speech. He did mention the main points, but more importantly, he mentioned the problems.

My colleague is a former mayor and reeve. He is not the only one with municipal government experience in the Bloc. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel also has experience at the municipal level.

We know that the government wants to introduce a new deal concerning gasolilne. Since my colleague is a former mayor and, as such, an expert in municipal affairs, I will ask him the following question. With which level of government is it more efficient for a municipality to conclude contracts and agreements? During his years as mayor, with which level of government could he best manage Quebec's affairs and interests?

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, again, I thank my colleague for his question and for mentioning that our colleague and I have been active at the municipal level for a number of years.

What we can confirm is that the greatest accomplishments of municipalities are negotiated with the Quebec government. During my 21 years at the municipal level I saw very few central government initiatives that were really useful. In fact, all files are examined and supervised by representatives of the provincial government and that is the best guarantee we have that our projects will be carried out successfully.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, Sponsorship Program; the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, Pay Equity; the hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, Fisheries.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-22, concerning the creation of the Department of Social Development.

First of all, there is always a need to establish a premise when dealing with legislation coming from the federal government. At the same time, one has to lay out the Bloc's stance, which is very clear and always inspired—as my colleague mentioned a while ago—by the defence of the interests of Quebec and that always involves the areas of jurisdiction.

Currently, of all federal parties, the Bloc Québécois is the only one that always defends its jurisdictions and guards them jealously. It always defends the regions and the economy of each riding.

The Bloc definitely, categorically and unequivocally condemns the systematic interference by the Liberal government. It is indeed a bad habit that has been going on for a long time. Suffice it to look at the context. It is a constant habit in regard to new legislation. The previous few bills are still getting one foot in the door and trying to pry it open, in terms of Quebec's jurisdictions.

This department, just like the others, has a mandate to interfere in the jurisdictions of Quebec and of provinces in general. There is an absolute need to denounce the creation of such a department, as much for the reasons of operations and effectiveness we outlined earlier, as for reasons having to do with interference.

A structure like the one being proposed, no matter how it is defined, does not achieve the desired effectiveness if there is not the political will to resolve the problems. That is what is lacking in the government.

Earlier my colleague spoke of poverty among women, seniors and children. It exists in Canada. The statistics are quite clear. In fact, the government is criticized for not having the will to do anything about it. So, it does not matter what structure is implemented, if there is no will to resolve the problems and defend the interests of the people, it will not work.

If the Canadian government put as much effort into defending Quebec's interests as it does into interfering in its jurisdictions, things would be much better and many problems would be resolved.

This government has a reputation that precedes it when it comes to interference. My colleague gave a number of examples earlier. Even though the government would have us believe that it wants to respect federal jurisdictions, as well as those of Quebec and the provinces, we in the Bloc are quite skeptical. We do not believe this government in the least, quite simply because it wants to cross the line, yet again, and grab powers that belong to Quebec.

There is no shortage of examples of encroachment. It happens regularly. Just look at labour force training—I will come back to this later—health, municipalities, or the millennium scholarships that caused so many problems. There is also child care, which my colleague mentioned, the environment, the community sector, volunteerism, social housing, education. The list goes on. The fact is that these problems have not been solved and the solutions provided do not necessarily correspond to the interests of Quebeckers.

Take health for example, for which the vision is quite centralist. The government talks about plans. It is going to make the governments of Quebec and the provinces accountable. It will require certain indicators and evidence-based benchmarks pretty much everywhere. All that to implement a pan-Canadian system, which is what it has done in other sectors.

It is unfortunate, but the pan-Canadian system, whether for health or other areas, does not always correspond to the interests and desires of Quebeckers. That is true for health. These problems are practically insurmountable because the real needs are not being met.

It is the same thing with the labour force. The federal government talks about an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces, but what kind of agreement is it?

If they say that it covers duplications, what about opting out? This is always done unilaterally. They do not know what they want to do with regard to the kinds of customers and the labour force. Indeed, once again, this is a Canada-wide idea, which is not necessarily relevant to Quebec's reality.

And so, from one bill to the next, the encroachment is systematic. We learn something new every day. Again, not too long ago, the Prime Minister announced that the municipalities would have other responsibilities. There was a vote on a bill designed to add cities to provinces. There is always this bad habit of systematically encroaching on Quebec's plans.

The same thing goes for the environment. The Kyoto Protocol is not a success. It is a failure for the minister. None of the efforts made by Quebec were acknowledged. The government gives the large polluters the freedom to pollute or to expand. It is very easy. None of the efforts made by Quebec were taken into account in that context. What they are doing for the environment is setting up some sort of environmental assessment process which, once again, does not meet the needs.

By nibbling away at Quebec's authority and jurisdiction, the government is drifting further and further away from Quebec's interests and the cure for its problems.

There are other examples. However, I will stick to municipalities. My colleague provided answers earlier. That is important. The proposed new agreement on transferring the gasoline tax is one more systematic intrusion. In my opinion, it is bad for Quebec, Canada and democracy. When a minority government arrogantly meddles in the powers of Quebec and the provinces, a dead end is reached at some point. The price must be paid.

Let us come back specifically to Bill C-22. Here again, the government talks of social development, which is not the federal government's prerogative. It is in fact under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction. Quebec developed social development. The federal government cannot, just like that, give itself powers and jurisdictions over health and education.

The Bloc cannot support this bill, because this would support the fact that the federal government has always played a role in social development. That is mistaken. We cannot ratify a bill that is erroneous.

If, for example, the Bloc agreed to the creation of this department—my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse mentioned it earlier—it would open the way to consolidation of federal intrusions in social development in the future. This is a field that it has, however, ignored.

Over time, this would also mean accepting the waste that will occur. This was mentioned several times. In fact, my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has mentioned this in his question earlier. How will we be able to control this waste of money?

I said at the beginning of my speech that this is not about explaining a structure and putting public servants into it; the government must have the political will to solve the problems. Otherwise, this is totally useless.

We cannot approve this. It is unfortunate because, in the beginning, we had come to some agreements and the federal government had made commitments. Indeed, the government and the Prime Minister had said that they would respect Quebec's jurisdictions. They did exactly the opposite.

For example, they had accepted the Bloc Québécois subamendment that required the government to fully respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, while promising more money for social programs. This was not followed through. We cannot rely on this government in any level of intervention, whether it is political, social or economic. It does the opposite of what it must do, or it does not respond. It avoids the problems.

We were also supposed to sign agreements on parental leave. We are constantly asking questions to know where we are on this. We have seen judgments. In this regard, Quebec's jurisdiction is extremely important.

We talked about exclusivity. This is very significant.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended, and still defends, the interests of Quebeckers and, as I mentioned earlier, the interests of the regions. The jurisdictions must be respected. We, Bloc Québécois members, are not the only ones defending them. There is consensus at the National Assembly, where this principle is well recognized. We are very protective of our jurisdictions.

It is important to point out that these areas come under the jurisdiction of the Quebec government, which is often close to the public, which knows the structures well, which monitors the institutions effectively, and which maintains a very close relation with the organizations. This means the Quebec government has the expertise and the tools necessary to develop relevant policies and to provide, based on needs and following consultations, the funds required to implement these policies.

The federal government must recognize once and for all that Quebec—and the provinces—although its leeway has been considerably reduced by the fiscal imbalance—and we could talk about this at length—has nevertheless managed to implement internationally renowned quality programs. It has succeeded in establishing ties with international stakeholders, and in creating valuable models. We set an example. I will not talk about child care, because it was mentioned earlier. But it is not just child care. We are also a world model, we have an influence at the international level as regards business operations. Quebec manages to do that by fully exercising its authority in its own jurisdictions.

The Bloc Québécois will never agree to the creation of a department that has the mandate to duplicate and copy Quebec's avant-garde policies, to use them and to fiddle with them for its own purposes. Moreover, this also prevents Quebec from fully developing its own potential. Agreeing to the creation of such a department would be going against the interests of Quebec and against its development. This is not about visibility, but about respect for the integrity, security and health of all individuals.

Department of Social Development ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague for Mégantic—L'Érable on his learned remarks. Our colleague was formerly a member of the National Assembly of Quebec. Therefore, I think this House could benefit from his experience.

All Canadians and Quebeckers who are watching this debate must understand that the situation in Quebec is different. I am always amazed when provincial governments make requests of the Government of Canada, whether it be to address the issue of child care or any other matter. What they want are pan-Canadian standards.

The problem is that in Quebec no one ever asks anything of the Government of Canada. Why? Because we deal with the Government of Quebec.

I think that, regarding child care, we should draw on the experience of my colleague, who was a member of the National Assembly. We never think of asking the federal government to deal with the issue of day care in Quebec. For Quebeckers, the government is the Government of Quebec. It is the one which solves all real life problems: health, education, day care, social issues. This is the job of that government.

Let us look at what is going on elsewhere in Canada. I do not want to be critical, but at least six Canadian provinces have a population under 1 million. I can understand that they feel incapable of acting on their own and therefore ask for federal government's help. In Quebec, however, requests are made to the Government of Quebec.

I would like my colleague for Mégantic—L'Érable to explain, based on his experience, how the child care issue is being dealt with. As a matter of fact, requests were forwarded to Quebec. He was in the middle of the action. How was the issue dealt with? What negotiations were held with the Government of Quebec on day care?