Mr. Speaker, I hope that the people of Quebec heard the previous member's speech. If they did, they would realize that they are being well served by members of the Bloc Québécois, who are smart enough to see past the narrow partisan interests that, as we have just seen, are the Conservatives' stock in trade. That was made very clear just now.
The truth is that things are not going well in Quebec's manufacturing sector or in Ontario's. Instead of pretending this is not happening—my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska suggested that the Conservatives take off their rose-coloured glasses—they should take a good look at the numbers, which do not lie. The manufacturing sector lost over 100,000 jobs between 2002 and 2006, many of them—65,000—since the Conservatives came to power in 2006. Even though jobs have been created in the manufacturing sector, jobs have also been lost. Job losses have been increasing over the past few months because of the combined effects of the surging Canadian dollar and rising energy prices.
Jobs have been created in sectors that depend on the wealth created by the manufacturing sector. This can all be found in the government's economic statement. I do not understand why the Conservatives refuse to read their own document. Page 30 clearly shows that all manufacturing sectors, except oil and coal, have seen a decrease in their real gross domestic product since 2005, including the following industries: machinery, paper, plastic, food and beverage, primary metals, textile, clothing, leather, wood, furniture and automobile. All those sectors have experienced negative growth since 2005. The Conservatives really are turning a blind eye on this reality by refusing to acknowledge the figures they give in their own document.
I forget to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.
Even the Conservatives admit, in their document, that there is a crisis in the manufacturing sector. They are hiding—just as the Minister of Finance hid during question period today—behind the fact that we have seen a net increase in job creation. Yes, we saw a net increase in job creation, but in what sectors? This information can be found in that same government document. I doubt the Conservatives will dispute the value of the their own document and the information therein.
Basically, jobs have been created in the public sector, construction and retail. However, those sectors cannot function on their own. When someone has a house built, they can do so because they have an income to pay for the house. Those who do not have a job cannot afford to buy a house. Furthermore, one of the current effects of the manufacturing crisis is a decrease in the number of construction projects in Quebec.
Insofar as commerce is concerned, if there are no consumers because people are not working, business will necessarily tail off. In my riding, or more specifically in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, two factories closed at the same time in August 2006. These were Louisiana Pacific factories. Management in the U.S. decided to close them. Two hundred and fifty good jobs were lost. People are trying to find someone to take over these factories, but it will be hard under a Conservative government that has not announced any measures to come to the assistance of the manufacturing sector.
When these 250 people lost their jobs, it was their livelihoods that they lost. They do not even get employment insurance any more. Some of them get social assistance. It is obvious and all the merchants in Saint-Michel-des-Saints will say that they have suffered steep declines in sales. Retailers cannot survive on their own.
The Conservatives have this magic thinking and are not concerned about manufacturing. This was true of the former industry minister in particular, who is now the foreign affairs minister. He obviously has not improved very much in view of the answer he gave today to a very important question about tortured Afghan prisoners. He gave a lackadaisical answer, a bit like the other member did a little while ago with his stupid attacks on the Bloc Québécois.
It is the same thing in the public sector. If jobs are to be created here, we need people first who have jobs and can pay taxes so that people can be hired. In places where there is some economic growth and increased employment, it is all in sectors that depend on other sectors, especially manufacturing. That is without counting all the services that depend on the manufacturing sector and are affected, the so-called corporate services such as engineering and consulting firms.
Closing our eyes to reality, as the Conservatives do, will just take us closer toward a catastrophe, which is already looking very serious. There is a slowdown in the United States—things are not going well—but they prefer just to close their eyes. As a Créditiste said some years ago, the Liberals led us to the edge of the precipice, the Conservatives will have us take one more step, and we will fall in for sure.
It is therefore important to recognize that reality and, as my hon. colleague said, if the people in the Conservative government took off their rose-coloured glasses, if they could shed that ideological bias which is more than conservative and is indeed ultra-conservative, they would see that measures are necessary and that state intervention is required. This is especially important since the bulk of our exports, to the U.S. in particular, are in the manufacturing sector. It represents between 80% and 85% of our exports. That is why, with the decline of the manufacturing sector, Quebec, which had a positive balance of trade in 2000, 2001 and 2002, has been having negative ones since 2003. In 2003, the value of our imports exceeded that of our exports by $2.2 billion. By 2004, the balance had dropped to minus $4.9 billion, and in 2005 and 2006, it was approximately minus $8.4 billion. Do not come and tell us that all is well; it is not. Because of the Conservatives' lack of action, Quebec is getting poorer.
We can clearly understand why the Conservative government is not particularly interested in helping the manufacturing sector. Its economic development strategy is entirely built on Alberta tar sands and on oil and gas development. Anytime this government announces new measures, they benefit the big oil companies first. The tax cut announced in the economic statement will essentially benefit those who make profits and, as I demonstrated, on average the manufacturing industry—not every company, but the industry on average—is running deficits and, being in the red, does not pay tax. Naturally, one industry stands out: the oil industry. The measure announced by the Conservative government will allow the country's five biggest oil companies to save, within five years, half a billion dollars a year in taxes. They will benefit from that measure, while all the other companies which are in difficulty will not.
We are making an appeal, and the motion brought forward by the member for Trois-Rivières is very clear. There are solutions, but people must open their eyes, end their magical thinking, and forget about laissez-faire. That is not the case; as I have just said: they have a strategy essentially based on hydrocarbons and petroleum. This is harmful to Quebec and also part of Ontario. This strategy is causing extreme harm to the manufacturing sector, as well as to Quebec and its regions. In Montreal and in Quebec City as well, small and medium-sized businesses are now in trouble and they need a great deal more support. I spoke about “magical thinking” and that is exactly how the former Minister of Industry—now the Minister of Foreign Affairs—is thinking when, for example, the government buys aircraft from Boeing and it does not require the company to ensure that the benefits for Quebec will be proportional in terms of Quebec's jobs and production in the Canadian aerospace industry—between 50% and 60% depending on the criteria used—saying that Quebec will eventually feel the benefits some day. The problem is that Boeing is located in Seattle; all the sub-contractors are in the Canadian west. Without action by this government to ensure benefits for Quebec, there will be practically none.
That is what is going on at present. They have caused harm to Quebec with this laissez-faire policy. In her motion, my colleague proposes a series of measures that are absolutely necessary and being called for by manufacturing associations. On the weekend, I listened again to Daniel Charron, the former managing director of the Quebec export manufacturers association, who was calling on the governments to intervene, to come to the aid of the manufacturing sector—in particular, the forestry sector—through support programs, investment and tax measures, but tax measures that help companies that are in trouble, not those who are making profits like the large oil companies, who are assured of being well served with this government, which is not the case for the regions of Quebec and the manufacturing sector.
It is fortunate that the Bloc is here to speak on behalf of the regions, the manufacturing sector, and the workers who make their living there.