Mr. Speaker, I was surprised at the speech the parliamentary secretary gave earlier. I had the feeling I was in another world or on another planet.
It was the sort of speech I would expect from someone who had no idea what the regions are going through or what has been happening in this country for the past 50 or 60 years. I am talking not just about Quebec, but about the whole country. It was the sort of speech I would expect from someone who had not visited the regions across the country and did not understand that the populations of these regions are dwindling.
Earlier, the member mentioned Newfoundland. If there is one place that has a problem with depopulation and the loss of its young people, it is Newfoundland. Across the province, the population—especially the youth population—is declining at an alarming rate. This points to what I would call the old myths about the regions. As these myths would have it, larger centres support the so-called outlying, remote or resource regions—they have been called by so many names over the years that it is confusing. This is absolutely false. The opposite is true. These regions are called resource regions because they provide products and natural resources that allow industry and commerce in larger centres to prosper. We talk about resource regions, but we could also talk about the human resources the regions have provided for larger centres. This assistance is extremely important. Often, the regions lose their most skilled, best trained young people, who leave to train in larger centres and are working there today. They are the lifeblood of the larger centres. There is a myth about the regions.
There is another myth. I regularly hear that there is less entrepreneurship in the regions. This is also absolutely false. That is why my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord introduced this bill. It is absolutely not true that there is less entrepreneurship in the regions. The opposite is true, relatively speaking. All the studies that have been conducted over the years by the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec prove it.
I would just like to invite the parliamentary secretary, if she ever has the time, to read a Senate report released in December 2006, entitled “Understanding Freefall: The Challenge of the Rural Poor”. It talks about the entire country.
The report shows what is happening right now. It is an excellent snapshot, published in December 2006, and I read it during the holiday break. I was very happy to have read it, because it confirmed exactly what I already knew. It confirms exactly what is happening in the regions of this country. In fact, the regions are becoming less populated. The population is aging. The population decline is both increasing and accelerating in the regions. For a country, as much for Quebec as for Canada, this is extremely dangerous, because our territory must be populated. It must be populated wisely. It must be populated while supporting rural communities and all communities of the regions.
But how do we support them? Of course, the bill introduced by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is step in the right direction. It has been quite successful in Quebec. Quebec is not only area to experiment with such a measure. It was also tried internationally, in some European countries. And it has produced results. In fact, to suggest that there is no evidence of a lack of qualified labourers in the regions is to ignore the facts at all cost.
Consider this example concerning health care. At present, there is a desperate shortage of qualified personnel in the regions, to the point that it is becoming nearly impossible to offer all services in all regions. This is happening not only in Gaspésie and the Bas-Saint-Laurent, but also in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and all rural regions of the country.
There is more. The declining population of the regions and the departure of young people mean that, as the population ages, there is constantly growing pressure to increase services.
Another phenomenon has to do with the services that should be offered by all governments. Sometimes the cost of these services increase and then the services are dropped. Rural roads and transportation services are being dropped. That is what is happening where I come from.
This afternoon, during question period, I asked a question. I had a good example and I asked a question about the Mont-Joli airport. This is a very concrete example of a region that is being penalized because the transportation system has been abandoned. The transportation system has been privatized and now the government is washing its hands of it.
My region has a major company that is well known by everyone. I do not want to advertise, but I am talking about the Telus head office. The head office of this company is currently threatening to leave Rimouski, which is right next to Mont-Joli, because the plane that arrives from Vancouver—carrying the big bosses—can no longer land in Mont-Joli. It is as simple as this: the airport no longer has the necessary instruments. If there is bad weather, they land in Quebec City. People are currently threatening to leave the region. This head office is extremely important. I am not talking about a head office that employs 20 or 30 people. I am talking about an very large head office. That is an example of what the federal government can do, and an example of what the federal government did not do.
I can give another example cited by my colleague for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine recently, and that is rail transportation. Establishing companies in an area where there is no longer any rail transportation and where roads are inadequate is a challenge. Yet that is what regions are asked to do. Today, regions are asked to make that effort. They are asked to be even more creative than major centres, and to get by with the little they are given. If we wish to build a country such as Quebec, people must live in the regions, our land must be populated, there must be quality of life, people must have services. For example, a young pregnant woman from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts must have access to a gynecologist. This is a good example of specialized employment in the health field. If the individual has to travel 200 km because her pregnancy is high risk, I do not think that she will stay in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts for long. We must help her, we must help these young people return to the regions. Jobs are available. It is not a waste of time for the regions. It is not a waste of time provided that measures such as those presented by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord are implemented. We must realize that the federal government must assume a role like the one presently taken by the Government of Quebec. That is not the case. We must realize that the federal government must support regional development measures proposed by the Government of Quebec and by other provincial governments. It is extremely important because if the federal government does not support these measures, that means that we are paying taxes for absolutely no reason, and I am more and more convinced of that.
You know to which party I belong. I hope that Quebec will become sovereign so that we can truly go ahead with regional development in our area, so that young people can return and so that we can build a country throughout the territory, for the well-being of all those living in Quebec.