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.