Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for her very interesting speech.
I will be following a certain chronological order. It is important to remind this House that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals acknowledged the existence of the fiscal imbalance. In fact, they have yet to acknowledge it. It does not exist for them.
As a result of the work of the Parti Québécois since 1998—April 17, 1998 to be exact—the fiscal imbalance was discovered. The Séguin commission did indeed identify that there was a fiscal imbalance in Quebec.
Since then, the Bloc Québécois has taken on the challenge, in this House, of defending the existence of the fiscal imbalance, because it was absolutely necessary for the government to be aware of it and to understand that it existed in Quebec. At that time we were dealing with a Liberal government; now we have a Conservative government.
Having said that, after the election of the Conservative government, there was recognition finally that the fiscal imbalance existed in Quebec and solutions were put forward.
There are some good things in this budget and, as we have said, we will vote for it. We will not turn down money for Quebec, which really needs it. I will provide some glaring examples.
In the health field alone our needs are great. Our hospitals are overflowing and emergency departments cannot cope. How many Quebeckers cannot find a family doctor?
There is a danger: the creation of a two tier health care system. We do not want that in Quebec or in Canada. We are fighting as hard as we can to avoid that. What is needed is for our tax money, which is sent to Ottawa, to be returned to us.
Health is an area that is wholly and entirely under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The administrative decisions are therefore up to us. The needs are truly great.
My son works at the hospital in Saint-Jérôme; this is a regional hospital serving a regional population. I can say that there is no shortage of work there. But there are shortages in many other areas, including hospital staff, nurses, doctors and emergency department space. As I said, there is a shortage of family physicians.
My riding is the one that has undergone the highest population growth. I have just received this information from my riding office. In barely five years the riding's population has increased by some 11,000 residents. The Laurentians is the region with the highest growth in Quebec.
And the health needs follow. This means that we need more pediatricians. Young families often come and settle in our region. That is why we need the money.
It would be great, of course, to get something back in certain areas, but it should also be done on a permanent basis. It is not right to keep playing this kind of give and take game in areas as important as heath and education. The fact is that there is not much in here for post-secondary education.
I would have a great deal to say on the matter. It is very important that measures be put in place to really help students. I can tell the hon. members about my daughter, who is currently a student. I have calculated how much my daughter's education will cost from the CEGEP to the master's degree and, without her mother's help, she would rack up a major debt.
There is talk about a scholarship program but we are not sure what it will look like, whereas we already have our own bursary system in place. You may not have been here at the time, Mr. Speaker, but you probably remember that we doggedly opposed the millennium scholarships because the program, in our opinion, overlapped one we already had in Quebec.
Send Quebec the money, but make it something permanent. We will manage it based on our own needs, those of our students, to ensure that they get a good education and a higher education.
I know hundreds of young university students who must drop out of school because they do not have the means to pay. Or else the students go into debt and spend 10 years after graduation paying off their debts. This is unacceptable. A student will not necessarily find a well-paid job right after graduating from university. First they have to prove themselves. All of this must be taken into consideration. So, I think we must get our priorities right in the areas of health and education.
I would also like to talk about what is missing from this budget. It is good that we were given a little something to spend. Hopefully this will be done under a Parti Québécois government, which will likely be elected next Monday, and which has very good policies for Quebec.
I want to talk about what was left out. For a long time, we have been asking for an independent employment insurance fund. There are enormous surpluses in this fund. We could reinvest in employment, reduce the number of hours required and increase income. Instead of being 50%, we could increase the income to 55% or 60%, depending on the surpluses generated by the employment insurance fund. These surpluses should be reinvested in the employment insurance fund to serve the unemployed, or be reinvested in training programs. This could be done in different ways. But this is not what is going on now. Surpluses from the employment insurance fund are spent wherever. The unemployed do not benefit like they should. It is too bad this was not in the budget.
There is also the whole matter of the textile, furniture and aerospace industries. In Quebec, there have been an incredible number of closures. These companies will never reopen, some are closed for good. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. We have to take care of these people. Often, entire villages shut down because it was the companies that were sustaining them. When a company closes its doors, workers are left with nothing. They are the forgotten ones. That is why we asked for a program for the older workers, like POWA—which existed under the Liberal government—to help older workers take their retirement a little sooner. If a company closed, they could have some money to carry them through until their retirement. Unfortunately, there is nothing for our older workers. It is truly a shame.
There is also the social housing issue. Social housing is something I have already defended here in this House. I have been here for 13 years and I have been a critic for a number of files. In Quebec, there is a social housing crisis. It is important to recognize it in a region such as my riding with a population growth as a great as I mentioned. In five years, receiving 12,000 new people in a single riding is quite significant. This also means more housing. Not all of these people require social housing, of course, but the need is there. In Saint-Jérôme, the regional capital of my riding, the need is greatest. Low-income earners need social housing. Often it is single women and single older women who need this type of housing.
In closing, we will vote in favour of the budget, even though there is still a lot of work to be done. The voters can count on the Bloc. We will never stop fighting for what is rightfully ours, rightfully Quebec's. We are not beggars and we know full well that the money is here and that it comes from our taxes. We will get back what is rightfully ours in order to live better, in order to live well in Quebec, and to live in health and happiness in our Quebec.