Mr. Speaker, I will begin if I may with my thanks to all the people of Sherbrooke for showing their confidence in me for the fifth time in a row in this past election. I was re-elected because we have confidence in each other. May I also congratulate all of my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois. I am sure that they, too, continue that relationship of confidence with their fellow citizens, for they are the only ones who really represent the needs and aspirations of Quebec. I also congratulate all the other members, and you, Mr. Speaker, on your election, which means that we know that decorum will reign in this House. Moreover, yesterday we witnessed the Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole ensuring the respect for decorum as well.
That said, an election campaign has just come to an end, and not much has changed. A government has been sworn in, a government which sought to obtain a majority under false pretenses, with a platform which pointed to more of the same—that is a minority government.
Judging by the throne speech, many members of the government did not campaign according to the rules. Obviously, candidates campaign to get re-elected. But they also campaign to meet with people, companies, institutions and community, social and economic organizations. They campaign to talk with people and find out what they want, to acknowledge their needs and, above all, to be able to meet those needs.
When a government does not want to meet people's needs, the best way it can do that is to not acknowledge those needs. It is easier to say that the most pressing needs are high finance and its impact on the economy. It is easier to take that line and forget about all the other needs people have and what they are going through. So it is that the government decided to deal with the economy.
On reading the throne speech, we can also see that the Prime Minister has remained totally insensitive to how the crisis is affecting the people and the economy. The Prime Minister did not learn anything from the election results in Quebec. And as my leader so aptly put it, this throne speech is just like the most recent Conservative convention: ideological. Incidentally, the Conservative ideology is rooted in the western oil sands. To all intents and purposes, its sole concern is the oil industry.
The throne speech is very disappointing. The Prime Minister came up short. We were promised a throne speech that would focus on the economy, with none of the usual irritants, but what we got was just the opposite. Even though the forestry industry is in very dire straits, the government promises to carry on as if nothing were wrong. The speech contains no commitment to improve employment insurance or create a support program for older workers. There is not even one line about providing assistance for retirees affected by the financial crisis, which shows incredible insensitivity.
The many irritants in the throne speech prove that the Prime Minister still knows nothing about Quebec. He is maintaining the cuts to culture and to economic development organizations. He continues to want to impose a repressive young offenders law and dismantle the gun registry.
He persists in wanting to create a federal securities commission. He will not even say the word "Kyoto". He persists in wanting to reduce Quebec's political power. He promises to expand intrusions into areas under Quebec's jurisdiction such as healthcare and education. There is nothing about the fiscal imbalance, but he uses untruths about the education transfer and wants to cap equalization payments. He wants to support the nuclear power industry and continue with unbridled military spending. He is making the same promises about the federal spending power with a formula that has already been rejected by Quebec. This throne speech gives no thought at all to the Quebec nation or to the interests or values of Quebec.
The openness we were expecting is not there. The worst thing is this complete lack of sensitivity to the effects of the crisis on people and the economy. It is simple. We oppose this throne speech.
This statement of intent is fuzzy when it comes to what the government intends to do to support the economy. For one thing, the throne speech is virtually silent on the enormous problems in the manufacturing and forestry sectors, when entire communities are affected and are desperately waiting for the federal government to play its role in getting the economy going again and providing support for workers who have lost their jobs.
We expected the government to do something. When it called the election, it postponed accountability. And yet we knew what might happen to the economy. The government virtually abdicated responsibility, or really, perhaps, demonstrated that it was incapable of acting. Yes, the government should act, and most importantly, it has the resources to act. All that is missing is the will.
The Bloc Québécois proposed a three-part plan this week to get the economy going again and to help people, to help the public.
The government has a lot of leeway; it could have over $27.7 billion in two years. We could keep a reserve and still invest over $23 billion. It is easy to find $6 billion in bureaucratic spending, and to close the tax havens. Why are they called “tax havens”, in fact? What they are is tax hells for taxpayers in Quebec and Canada. They are being indirectly deprived of services. To my eyes, this is really tax evasion, and the government should fix it as quickly possible.
Of course there are still all the hand-outs to the oil companies, and that could amount to $5.9 billion over two years. And there is the possibility of using the CMHC surplus.
There are other approaches for fixing the situation that cost nothing too, to encourage our domestic businesses and provide more help for our people. There is preferential purchasing, of course. We could make regulations for forestry products to be used in federal construction projects. Another thing is to eliminate the employment insurance waiting period.
I am aware of the needs and aspirations of the people of Sherbrooke, and obviously in my last election campaign I was being told important things I already knew about when it comes to people's social and economic situations. Certainly we can talk about employment insurance, an issue that has still not been resolved. It is up to the government to ensure that people at least have decent living conditions. There is also the question of social housing. In the community of Sherbrooke there are more than 1,350 households and families in extreme need of housing.
You are signalling that I have to finish. That is unfortunate, since I could have gone on, because once again the government is not up to the job.