Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.
I usually say that it is a pleasure to address the House. Today, I will add that it is a pleasure to address the House on this motion presented by the Bloc. However, I would say that it is really unfortunate that we have to do it. The reason why we have to do it is that the Conservative government, which is now in power, has not done anything in this regard.
For the benefit of those who are listening, I will first read the Bloc Québécois motion, since the debate was interrupted for question period. To refresh our memories, here is the motion again:
That the House denounce the laisser-faire attitude of the government that prevailed in its negotiations with Boeing, regret the fact that Quebec did not get its fair share of the economic spin-offs of this contract given the significance of its aeronautics industry, nearly 60%, and call on the government to provide fair regional distribution of economic spin-offs for all future contracts.
I feel it is essential at this point to describe the context in which this motion was presented.
First, Public Works and Government Services Canada recently awarded a $3.5 billion contract to Boeing without any call for tenders and without even demanding or negotiating with this giant American company specific conditions regarding regional economic benefits in Canada and, incidentally, in Quebec.
Second, Public Works and Government Services Canada is preparing once again, at the request of the Department of National Defence, to purchase 16 Chinook helicopters for $2.7 billion and 17 Hercules transport aircraft, this time for $5 billion, but still without any tender call and without any conditions regarding regional economic benefits.
What is both unacceptable and incomprehensible is that, once again in just the last few weeks, the Conservative government will not intervene to protect the interests of Canadian and Quebec companies. Although this government had an opportunity and will have another one in the near future, it will not do anything to ensure regional economic benefits in Canada.
We should look at this a little more closely. These contracts, the one given to Boeing for $3.5 billion and the ones that soon will be awarded for the princely sum of $7.7 billion, did not use the well-known, transparent, very fair method known as a tender call.
As I said during the debate on the motion of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on the use of tender calls when major buildings are being purchased, it is a matter of great concern when the government fails to proceed in this way.
Why is it troubling? The government is responsible for ensuring the best cost-benefit ratio. It is responsible for guaranteeing taxpayers that it is providing the best possible financial management of public funds. It is responsible for showing citizens that it is optimizing the use of every tax dollar taken from the pockets of the people to whom it is accountable and must report.
This means that the government must have a way of doing things, an approach to governance, that follows best practices, not just in theory but also in practice, in order to move from the realm of ideas to a reality of transparency, honesty and accountability.
This is all the more important in that Public Works and Government Services Canada manages purchasing and the provision of goods and services on behalf of its clients, the departments and agencies, and it is therefore nothing less than the fiduciary of the government’s spending power.
Now that I have sketched out my views on the government’s responsibilities and obligations in regard to what should be transparent, healthy, responsible governance—and we should remember that this was the government that wanted to bring forward the accountability act—I want to move on to the Bloc motion and regional economic benefits.
I had the opportunity to ask the following question of the minister, Michael Fortier, when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates just a few days ago, on February 15. My question was as follows, “For what reason did you not require that there be economic benefits throughout Canada, and in particular in Quebec? ...Does this mean that in all future contracts, regardless of their nature, the current Conservative minority government will no longer ensure that the regions benefit fully from the economic spinoffs of these transactions?” The answer was, and I quote, “That is correct”. Minister Fortier added, “With respect to regional spinoffs, Boeing or the other countries that get contracts will negotiate contracts privately with Canadian suppliers”.
So this minister has no intention of doing anything differently. That means that this Minister of Public Works and Government Services, like his colleague, moreover, the Minister of Industry, has no intention of acting in the interest of Canadian or Quebec companies. We know, though, that Quebec accounts for 60% of the aerospace industry in Canada.
It is this shameful laissez-faire that the Bloc Québécois is criticizing, and it is not alone, because the Liberal minister from Quebec, Raymond Bachand, has also stated that Quebec should have its fair share, and that, “It is not up to Boeing to dictate the economic spinoffs, the federal government has a responsibility”.
Representatives of the Quebec aeronautics industry, along with the workers’ unions, used similar language. How horrible that the Minister of Industry and the Conservative government should hide their inaction behind the mask of non-interference. We are talking here about public funds, billions of dollars. A responsible government, concerned about economic growth, the redistribution of wealth and its citizens, should become involved and dictate conditions concerning regional economic spinoffs on its territory.
The Minister of Industry has the nerve to say that he is organizing trade fairs with Boeing and Lockheed Martin, among others, to provide an incentive to Canadian and Quebec companies to find out about business opportunities that are opening up for them. That means they would go and advertise themselves, as if they needed to do this when we know how well known they are in Quebec. It is quite simply insulting. Although Minister Fortier and his colleague, the Minister of Industry, truly have the opportunity and the power to watch over the country’s economic interests, in this case, Quebec's interests,our people's interests, they think it is enough to talk to us about trade fairs. It is absolutely ludicrous.
Moreover, the American companies have 20 years to reinvest the economic benefits in Canada or in Quebec. How will the government monitor this? Most of us will no longer be here in 20 years. Quebec accounts for almost 60% of the Canadian aerospace industry and deserves the same level of economic benefits, not the 30% Boeing offers, which the current minority Conservative government is willing to accept.
In closing, the fact that the Canadian industrial policy only requires that the foreign companies make a commitment that is commensurate with the value of the initial contract in terms of economic benefits is far from sufficient. The industrial policy must set specific targets for regional economic benefits. In the case of Quebec, it is 60%, nothing less.