Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments about Bill C-28. As usual, my comments will focus on how this affects the people of my riding.
Practical items that concern me the most for the people in my region have to do with the lack of serious speeches and measures from the Conservative government on Bill C-28.
I am thinking about an economic sector that is vital in my region, in particular, but also in a number of regions in Quebec and Canada, and that is the forestry sector. This sector is going through a crisis and its workers are affected by it more so than workers in other sectors. Unfortunately, there is a crisis in many other manufacturing sectors as well.
We all know that circumstantial factors contributed to making an already difficult situation even worse. In light of these circumstances and this crisis, we expected the government, which has the means to provide informed and dynamic governance, to help the people. After all, the role of government is to redistribute wealth and to be fair to all its citizens, whom it is meant to serve.
While we expected measures to help these sectors, both businesses and workers, we have seen in official documents just a small sentence, as though this were not as important—the Leader of the New Democratic Party was just talking about this a few minutes ago—as the oil sectors, the banks and high finance. Nonetheless, when it comes to sectors that are vital to the people in our regions, there are just a few words that leave a whole lot to be desired in the economic statement.
I am not speaking only about workers and what could be very legitimate expectations regarding employment insurance. I am speaking of course for workers who have been laid off, in particular. I am thinking of employability measures that will keep our forestry workers on the job, as well as our businesses.
We all know that in our various communities, our towns, municipalities and regions, thousands of jobs are being lost. We now know that, in many cases, there have been temporary closures in the forestry sector, but we also know that, quite often, they will unfortunately not be temporary. Some closures could be permanent. Given the lack of timely support and vision, municipalities and towns are being put at risk of devitalization, for which the people will pay the price.
While firm action was needed to allow these businesses in the forestry sector, among others, to reposition themselves, modernize, diversify and become more competitive, absolutely nothing has been done. This is unacceptable for everyone involved, since the possibilities were and are significant.
What is the government doing? As I said earlier, with one short sentence, it thinks it will console someone or that perhaps no one will even see it. The Conservative government—and this has already been clearly and eloquently stated—is nevertheless offering considerable tax cuts for businesses that are already thriving.
Clearly, in the provinces and sectors affected by this measure—let us be honest, there are more of them in the west than in the east—businesses and employees will benefit from it.
This is an easy solution. It is certainly not a sign of a government possessed of the vision and the will to use the means available to it to provide enlightened governance by demonstrating that it is concerned about all sectors of the economy, does not play favourites, is not in league with anyone and is fair to everyone. What I find striking, as I just said, is the degree to which these tax cuts will benefit companies that are doing well and making a profit, including, above all, oil companies.
To switch gears, I would like to talk about something I care deeply about, as do many of my colleagues, I am sure. The government failed to take the opportunity to help thousands of people who make up an entire demographic: our seniors. Unfortunately, I am talking about poor seniors. I am talking about seniors who are on fixed incomes because for various reasons, they were unable to put any money aside for retirement even though they worked hard. These people live on their old age pension and their guaranteed income supplement. They receive about $1,100 a month, which places them well below the poverty line.
Here is one example from my riding. Given the cost of living and the poverty line in the Rimouski region, our seniors' annual income is about $4,000 or $5,000 below the poverty line. To add insult to injury, they found out too late, because they were not informed, that they were entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement. To top it off, the previous government, the party that is now the official opposition, granted them just 11 months of retroactivity.
The new government—the adjective “new” has been used for some time by the other side of the House—had the chance to do something, to make an important decision for our seniors everywhere in Canada. There is nothing partisan or sovereignist about it—I am bringing this forward on behalf of everyone. This government had the opportunity to do something. However, once again, absolutely nothing was done.
In February, I will have the opportunity to table a motion in this House. I hope that this will spur a large number of my colleagues to reflect on the appalling situation of our mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers, in short, our seniors. They are the ones who built this society and who are largely responsible for who we are and what we have today. At the very least, out of respect for them, we could provide an income that is above the poverty line.
I see that some colleagues have such an interest in this matter that they have been overcome by laughter.
Before I conclude, I would like to suggest to my colleagues in this House that they read a few pages from a very revealing book. It may prove to be a way of learning French but it is also a way to broaden almost everyone's horizons. This book was written by the well known author, Riccardo Petrella. He has just written a new book, Pour une nouvelle narration du monde. Just before these holidays, I believe that the members of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the other parties, as well as the three independents, would benefit from broadening their horizons and realizing that we can look at our world from a different perspective. We can believe in solidarity and sharing, and not just in globalization, competition and in market forces that are completely out of control.