Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor today. As this House is aware, the Bloc Québécois will vote against the throne speech. We have said so from the start. We had five official requests, which were not out of the ordinary. They are five essential, reasonable priorities. As usual, the government did not want to listen to us. As usual, it had its own agenda. The government places a great deal of emphasis on militarization, and it is going to invest a lot of money in that.
I will start by talking a bit about Afghanistan. Why is it that we are sending soldiers to Afghanistan and yet we have no information here? We never have any reports about what is happening there. We know nothing. We do not know how many soldiers have been wounded, what is happening or whether our troops are in good condition. We have no information. Even the Standing Committee on National Defence gets information in dribs and drabs. This House has not sat for five months. As parliamentarians, we should at least be able to know what is happening to our soldiers in Afghanistan.
I read in a newspaper that 15% of Canadian and Quebec soldiers returning from Afghanistan suffer from mental illnesses. That is a very high number, and it might be even higher than that. So why is it that we in the House have heard nothing about this? Why is it that we have to read about this in the papers? Why has neither the Minister of National Defence nor the Prime Minister told us anything about this? This is very troubling.
We talked about withdrawing the troops by 2009, and we were going about it responsibly. We said that we had to meet with the UN to discuss readying troops from other countries to go to Afghanistan. We did our part and we have to bring our soldiers home. But in the Speech from the Throne, the government said that it wanted to prolong the mission until 2011. It even wants to put together a committee that would pay someone $1,400 per day to study this issue even though we know that the decision has already been made. That is outrageous.
For those of you who do not know, tonight is homelessness awareness night in Quebec. People in 22 municipalities will be sleeping outside tonight. Members of a number of organizations and homeless people will spend the night out in the cold, trying to keep warm as best they can. What does the throne speech have to offer these people? Absolutely nothing. The employment insurance fund has a $54 billion surplus, yet the throne speech promised nothing for these people and nothing for the POWA that people have been demanding for so long.
I know that my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry has some problems in her riding. Some of her constituents have even committed suicide. It is unbelievable to think that people can be driven to suicide after having depleted all of their resources. This is unacceptable at a time when the government itself is running a surplus and the employment insurance fund is overflowing to the tune of $54 billion.
We have always asked the Conservative government and all of its predecessors for an independent employment insurance fund. Such a fund could be used to help the homeless. It could be used to increase employment insurance benefits or even to increase the number of weeks people can receive benefits. It could also help businesses by reducing their employment insurance premiums. Fifty-four billion dollars is more than a hill of beans. That is a lot of money.
What is the government doing with that money? It is helping itself to it. Where does it use it for? We have just learned from the throne speech that this money will be spent on military equipment for the Arctic. I have nothing against the Arctic, but these are billions of dollars not being spent where the need is the deepest.
Because of all that, we remain committed to fighting to protect the environment. In my riding, the Centre for Electric Vehicle Experimentation in Quebec, or CEVEQ, is conducting studies on electric automobiles and buses. It is doing a fantastic job. It is barely self-sustaining.
Help could be provided to the centre to enable it to expand its research and make faster progress, but no. The government would rather kiss Kyoto goodbye and follow China's lead. It is shameful to think that Canada could be comparable to China where the environment is concerned. How far back is this taking us? It makes no sense.
Immediate measures are required, but they are not being put forward. There is nothing planned in this regard. We have heard about some air pollution reduction effort, but in my book and that of ordinary people, that does not mean much. Real efforts are needed, but there is nothing planned right now—no measures and no intention to revert even the slightest to Kyoto. That is extremely serious.
Quebec is being penalized because it has made enormous efforts to achieve the Kyoto objectives. Because of the federal government and because of Alberta, among others, with its tar sands which create five times more pollution that any other pollutant, we in Quebec will be penalized. That is absolutely unacceptable.
Everyone has heard about the crisis in the forest industry, everyone knows it is a reality, and yet no measure is proposed in the throne speech to deal with it. It is all just nice words and rhetoric, and it is totally meaningless. There is no concrete commitment. It is old stuff. This is not my first throne speech. I have been here 14 years and I have seen quite a few. This is extremely disappointing.
The federal spending power is a very important issue for Quebec. We are told that the government is committed to negotiating and reaching an agreement on the spending power, but that is utterly false. This government does not want to eliminate the spending power: it wants to control it. In any case, there are hardly any joint Quebec-Canada initiatives left, because over time we have managed to set up our own programs.
Everything that we are told in the throne speech about the spending power is absolutely false. They will create programs that we will probably not need, that we will not want, or that will not be useful to Quebec, because we do things differently. We will be stuck with those programs, and we will again be fighting with the federal government, rather than try to work and move things forward.
A large number of us have been here for many years. We defend Quebec and a number of major issues. One issue that is very dear to us involves women. However, the throne speech is totally silent on this issue. In fact, the term “women” is not even mentioned. That is really terrible.
In my riding, all the women's centres, which we so desperately need, are located in one large town. The female staff in these centres does an extraordinary job with young women and other women in need. These people are doing their utmost to fund their facilities. Yet, the throne speech does not provide a single penny to these people. This is extremely disappointing, and this is why we will definitely vote against the Speech from the Throne.