Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.
I am pleased to join the debate here today on the budget, although we are unhappy that, with this budget, the Conservative government passed up an opportunity to help the manufacturing and forestry sectors. Here are some figures.
Since January 1, 2003, Quebec has lost 151,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. In Quebec, in 2007 alone, the manufacturing sector lost 49,000 jobs. In November 2007 alone, that is, one month after the Minister of Finance's economic statement, 11,700 jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector, which represents 71% of jobs lost in this sector in all of Canada in November 2007. In 2007, 90,000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector in Canada, of which over half were lost in Quebec.
Must I remind the House that Quebec will receive only a meagre 22% of the assistance offered by the Conservatives' aid package? Quebec represents 28% of all jobs in the manufacturing and forestry sectors in Canada. This amounts to 51%, if we take the job losses, and therefore the needs, into account. This demonstrates how much this major crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors is affecting us. In short, of the 51,000 manufacturing jobs lost in nearly five years in Quebec, most of them, 56%, have been lost since the Conservatives came to power only 21 months ago.
Indeed, since the Conservatives came to power, one in every seven manufacturing jobs has been lost in Quebec. Since April 2005, including related activities such as logging and transportation, the forestry industry has lost 21,000 jobs in Quebec. The wood products manufacturing sector alone lost 12,700 jobs last year, including 5,800 in the paper subsector. It was just as bad in 2006. In fact, the situation is only getting worse and worse. According to industry analysts, this year is shaping up to be even worse than previous years.
The forestry industry is extremely important to Quebec. Quebec has 88,000 jobs in forestry, sawmills and pulp and paper plants; 230 cities and towns depend primarily on the forestry industry, and 160 cities and towns depend exclusively on it. Nearly half the forest communities in Canada are in Quebec. The forestry industry is a key reason for settlement patterns in Quebec.
To our way of thinking, the budget was supposed to make up for the many weaknesses in the Conservative aid package. I would remind hon. members that Quebec will receive $216 million over three years, which is clearly not enough to meet industry needs.
For all these reasons, the budget was an opportunity for the federal government to recognize this major crisis in the manufacturing and forestry industries and demonstrate its sensitivity to the workers and all the communities affected. But this government's laissez-faire attitude and ideological obstinacy are undermining Quebec's whole industrial base. That is why the Bloc Québécois will vote against this budget.
The Bloc Québécois is certainly not alone in voicing these criticisms, which are the criticisms of Quebeckers. We have only one purpose: to defend Quebec's interests. Quebeckers have unanimously spoken out against the Conservative budget. Nothing for Quebec, lots for Ontario and the rest to the debt: those are the three pillars on which this budget is based.
Here are some reactions from Quebec to the Conservative budget. Jean-Luc Trahan, CEO of the Quebec manufacturers and exporters association, had this to say:
We said that these measures [the throne speech, the October economic statement and the aid package] were not enough, and we still feel that way...The budget shows that manufacturers and exporters are not among the [federal] government's priorities.
Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said this:
The forest products industry is facing the worst economic conditions it has seen in many decades...[the federal government ] is not doing its part.
Marta Morgan, vice-president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said this about extending the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for three years:
This is clearly not enough. We were hoping for more aggressive tax measures.
The Quebec federation of chambers of commerce said:
Not only did it [the government] not answer the call, but the financial aid sharing formula is still based on the provinces' demographic weight. This hurts Quebec, because the economic weight of its manufacturing sector is more significant. It is also very disappointing to see that the [government] is providing $250 million for an innovation fund for the automotive industry, which is primarily present in Ontario, while not giving one penny to other manufacturing and forestry industries in Quebec.
Guy Chevrette, the president and CEO of the Quebec Forest Industry Council said:
—the [Conservative] government has just thrown in the towel and wants market forces to clean up the forestry industry—
Quebec's Minister of Finance, Monique Jérôme-Forget, said:
Despite this very problematic environment for economic growth, you will understand that, of course, I am very envious of the federal government's $20 billion margin, over three years .... Because ... I find myself with a $200 million margin, perhaps a little more, if I include the one time [payment] of $216 million that it made to the manufacturing sector.
She also said that she was hoping to get more money for older workers because, in her opinion, the current aid is inadequate. And then Radio-Canada added this:
It is the same thing regarding the forestry and manufacturing sectors, since the moneys allocated are those that had already been announced by the Harper government in January. And [according to the minister], Quebec was expecting to get more.
The Bloc Québécois had made a number of demands. We asked that a loan and loan guarantee program be created to help businesses modernize their production equipment. We asked that the accelerated capital cost allowance for production equipment be extended. We asked that the research and development tax credit be made refundable, so that all businesses could take advantage of it, even if they are at the development stage or are experiencing problems, and are not yet turning a profit. We wanted the government to reinstate the Technology Partnerships Canada program, through which it invests in industrial research and development. Finally, we wanted the government to increase the budget of the program focused on small and medium businesses.
The Bloc Québécois also asked for the establishment of a program to support energy and ethanol production with forest waste, which is a state of the art technology. We also wanted an income support program for older workers, and we asked that the employment insurance program be improved.
Now let us take a look at what is in the budget. In its unanimous report submitted in February 2007, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology asked the government to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for production equipment and rolling stock. This is the only one of the many recommendations that the committee included in its voluminous, unanimously adopted report that the government chose to follow. Yet even this measure's effectiveness is limited. It is a tax cut, so it will help only those companies whose financial health is good enough to pay taxes. The capital cost allowance was announced last year for a two-year period, so the measure was already in place for 2008-09. The budget announcement will not come into effect until next year. This year, we get nothing.
I would also note that the government is introducing a new accelerated capital cost allowance measure for oil companies. This accelerated capital cost allowance measure applies to oil companies that invest in carbon capture and storage.
The government announced the end of the accelerated capital cost allowance for the tar sands, then turned around and reintroduced it for oil companies that invest in carbon capture and storage, and that is in addition to the $250 million in subsidies for carbon capture and storage projects. Instead of putting an end to these kinds of gifts for oil companies, as the Bloc wanted, Ottawa is introducing new ones.
The budget provides $250 million in subsidies over five years for investment in research and development, but only for the auto industry. There is nothing at all for Quebec's leading sectors even though the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology asked the government to support research and development in leading sectors. Several industrial sectors are concentrated in Quebec, including environmental technologies, the pharmaceutical industry, reproduction technologies, advanced transportation and new materials. All of these businesses would have benefited from renewed federal investment in research and development.
Ottawa decided to support just one: Ontario's auto industry. We think that is an outright insult.
The government has also made minor changes to tax credits for research and development, which is not a bad thing, but it is not much. It is a kind of administrative fine-tuning, not a brand new measure.
I see that my time has expired. In short, this failure to do anything for the manufacturing and forestry sectors is a tragedy. This budget does not give us our fair share—