Madam Speaker, you will probably notice that my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I have something in common. My speech will touch on the same topics. I also live in a region that is particularly affected by the forestry crisis.
That said, first I would like to take this wonderful opportunity to sincerely thank the voters in my riding of Laurentides—Labelle, who have elected me for a third time. I am keenly aware that they have once again put their trust in me, and I will say once more that I am committed to fully representing them, to defending their interests and to being their loyal spokesperson. I would also like to congratulate each member for their victory in the latest election and, in particular, my Bloc Québécois colleagues. It is both reassuring and exciting to see another large delegation of Bloc Québécois members in this new Parliament. Quebeckers rejected the Conservative ideology when they made their choice. In addition, they chose to elect a majority of Bloc Québécois members because they, meaning Quebeckers, firmly believe that the Bloc are effective in Ottawa.
We keep our promises to the Quebec nation and we will oppose this Speech from the Throne because it reflects an ideology that was rejected by 78% of Quebeckers during the election and does not reflect the consensus in Quebec.
I would also like to talk about the people this visionless Speech from the Throne has forgotten, the same people that the Conservatives have abandoned since their first mandate in 2006 and the same people it seems they are going to continue neglecting. I am thinking about the unemployed, women, the manufacturing and forestry industries, the environment, the homeless, the provinces and, in particular, Quebec and its regions.
It is extremely disappointing to see that the Prime Minister has not learned a single lesson from the election results in Quebec. On the contrary, he has remained completely insensitive to the growing concerns and worries of Quebeckers. In his Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister has not risen to the occasion and appears to be ready to ignore the situation as if everything were under control, even though things are far from being under control.
The situation is particularly disastrous in my region, which has been hit hard by the forestry crisis. In my region, residents of the RCM of Antoine-Labelle—a single-industry regional municipality—are very concerned about the Conservatives' inaction and neglect. They are concerned and uncertain because hundreds of people have lost their jobs over the past year. Hundreds of forestry industry workers have watched their mills and plants close one after the other. Many of them are too old to retrain and will have to choose between living on social assistance, or, worse still, leaving their region, their community, their town, their friends and their family. They will have to make the terrible choice to leave everything they worked so hard to acquire over the years. It is a shame that the government is bent on staying its disastrous course.
It will come as no surprise to you, Madam Speaker, to hear that during the most recent campaign in my riding, I saw no sign of the Conservative candidate on the ground. He hid out in his basement so that he would not have to answer for his government's irresponsible and inexcusable actions. He was too scared to face the disgruntled unemployed.
As always, the Bloc has taken responsible action in this area. We put forward concrete, intelligent solutions to this crisis. We asked the government to introduce a loan and loan guarantee program for the purchase of new production equipment for the forestry and manufacturing sectors; refundable tax credits for research and development; an income support program for older workers; and an enhanced employment insurance program. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not mention any of these things in his speech. At this point, I would like to quote my leader, who said the following in his reply to the Speech from the Throne:
It was the government's job to be clear about its desire to provide a workable plan to support businesses in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. That is a priority for Quebec and its regions. Instead, we got vague promises. Thousands of workers have already lost their jobs in the forestry sector, yet the government is bent on staying its disastrous course.
That sends a terrible message to thousands of workers, communities and regions that rely on the forestry industry: “You are on your own.” That is unacceptable.
What wonderful message of hope can the people in my region take from the throne speech? Nothing. They are being told to fend for themselves. This attitude is quite simply unacceptable. That terrible message has devastating consequences for the Upper Laurentians, and the people there have good reason to be angry with the federal government.
Showing drive and motivated by a strong desire to revive the economy in the Upper Laurentians, elected representatives and representatives of various socio-economic sectors rolled up their sleeves and set to work developing other niches, including tourism.
Mont Tremblant International Airport in La Macaza is one of the main sources of economic prosperity in my region. The government now has the duty to support the airport's plans to expand and upgrade its facilities and must settle once and for all the issue of imposing customs charges on regular flights.
All the elected representatives from the Laurentians region worked to have the airport considered on a par with the airports in Montreal and Quebec City. We all celebrated the unanimous adoption of a motion made by the Bloc Québécois. I myself led that fight in this House last June. Now, we want to take the next step. The government must reassure my community and allow the general manager of the airport to sign new commercial agreements without having to worry that customs charges will again be imposed.
We estimate that my region will lose $9 million in annual economic spinoffs if these new agreements are not signed. The government must act responsibly and take an open-minded approach to my region and all the regions of Quebec.
And it is not just the regions of Quebec that are suffering as a result of the Conservatives' ideological stubbornness. As the Bloc Québécois deputy critic for the status of women, I have to say, unfortunately, that women have been hit hard since the Conservatives came to power in January 2006. Judging by the content of the throne speech, things are not going to get much better.
Women have been hit hard these past two years with cuts to Status of Women and the women's program, the abolition of the court challenges program and the tabling of Bill C-484, which attempted to reopen the debate on criminalization of abortion. By the way, another similar bill is still on the Conservative horizon.
Yet, the Prime Minister promised in the 2006 election campaign and last October to not reopen the abortion debate. Women fought hard to have freedom of choice and there is a strong consensus in Quebec society that the issue has been debated and that it is no longer up for discussion.
What is disturbing is that there is no mention of this in the throne speech. What is even more striking is that the word “women” appears only a couple of times in this famous speech, and is used in a general context without making any commitment to them.
Even more disturbing about the Conservatives' intentions, is the adoption of a resolution concerning the status of the fetus at the recent Winnipeg convention. We cannot help but be very alarmed by this resolution because it comes from the militant grass roots of the Conservative Party.
My colleague from Laval and I demanded that the Prime Minister immediately lay to rest concerns raised by the adoption of such a proposal. Unfortunately, we have to face the fact that the government has no intention of doing so and the temptation is great within the Conservative caucus to reopen the debate.
What does the government plan on doing to clarify its intention of not reopening the debate on abortion? Nothing.
What does the government plan on doing to put a stop to violence against aboriginal women on reserves. Nothing.
What does the government plan on doing to end poverty, which affects twice as many women as it does men? Nothing.
The answer is clear: the Conservative government will do nothing for women, nothing for the unemployed, nothing for the manufacturing and forestry industries, nothing for culture, nothing for the environment and the homeless.
In closing, I would say that Quebec is still the most forgotten in the throne speech.