Mr. Speaker, I am going to pick up on what I was saying the day after the budget was brought down, when we heard a number of Conservative MPs say that this budget was extraordinary and good for Canadians. Again, it may be good for Canadians, but it is not good for Quebeckers. We came to that conclusion after a rather careful analysis. There is practically nothing in the budget that corresponds to what the Bloc Québécois asked for before it was tabled by the Conservative government.
This Conservative government is showing us through its right-wing ideology that it is truly quite far removed from the interests and values of Quebec. With this budget we truly feel that the government did not meet the expectations expressed by the Bloc Québécois' with respect to its interests and values. Hon. members will recall that the day after the budget was tabled, the vast majority of the daily newspapers and media in Quebec gave their impression on this budget, and it was clearly unfavourable.
Mr. Dubuc's column in La Presse read:
This lack of vision can be explained by the conservative philosophy of the prime minister's government, which does not believe in the role of the state and avoids economic intervention like the plague. It is an outdated, dogmatic conservatism that is not found anywhere else in the west.
The Bloc Québécois made its requests a long time in advance and on many occasions. These requests focused on the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are currently dealing with an unprecedented crisis in Quebec. These requests have been completely swept aside and forgotten in this budget, as though they were not important.
This budget lacks vision. The Bloc Québécois will most certainly vote against the budget implementation bill we are currently discussing.
I come from a riding, Saint-Maurice—Champlain, where the problem in the forestry industry I was just talking about is extremely serious. Pulp and paper companies are closing one after the other. There is some doubt as to whether the ones that are still around will get through this crisis. The many sawmills in the north of the riding, in the La Tuque area, are closing one after the other, some temporarily, others permanently.
We had hoped that the Conservative government would truly hear and acknowledge the Bloc Québécois demands. It should provide much greater support to the manufacturing and forestry sectors to help them through the current crisis. But the only assistance to the manufacturing sector went to Ontario. That is truly deplorable. Quebec was quite obviously forgotten in this budget.
Earlier, I was speaking about the media. The members will recall that, the day after the budget was tabled, the Quebec Minister of Finance also said that the budget did not meet Quebec's expectations. She said:
I am disappointed because there was a $20 billion margin in the context of an economic slowdown. We were hoping the government would do more for older workers and for the manufacturing and forestry industries in Quebec.
Ms. Jérôme-Forget's comments were made the day after the budget was tabled. There was a surplus of $10.5 billion available. The government could have allocated a sizeable amount, as the Bloc Québécois has been recommending since last fall, to support businesses, plants and workers. It could have allocated $3 billion to debt repayment, which would have been reasonable in any case. But it has acted according to the Conservative ideology. The Conservatives did as they pleased and applied $10.5 billion to paying down the debt, which, in light of what is going on in Quebec, is unacceptable.
As I said earlier, considering these obvious facts and the positions taken in the budget that go against the interests of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois will certainly not vote in favour of implementing this budget. The 2008 budget does not meet any of the conditions set out by the Bloc Québécois. We stated our conditions for supporting the budget, but hardly any of them were met.
As I was saying before, this budget does not provide any direct and immediate assistance to the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are experiencing a major crisis, or to the workers and communities affected by this crisis. The biggest problem of the crisis is that individuals, the people in the cities, municipalities and regions, are the ones hardest hit by the crisis, in terms of their family, personal and community lives. They are the ones who have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month or who cannot pay back the bank drafts and loans they took out, often to purchase equipment in order to work. I am talking about self-employed forestry workers, for example, who must take on the cost of the required machinery themselves. The government has done nothing to help these people.
There is no assistance for workers and communities, except the $1 billion trust over three years, of which Quebec will see only a small part. We are talking about approximately 24%, which is not even representative of the size of the manufacturing and forestry industry relative to Canada. Quebec will have access to only a small amount, while the sectors that are not even affected by the manufacturing and forestry crisis—or barely—will receive a share of the $1 billion on a per capita basis. This is assistance they do not need because they already have an industrial structure to help them through such crises. This is not the case in Quebec.
There is another reason why the Bloc Québécois will not support this bill. It has to do with the whole issue of seniors. During the election campaign, the Conservative Party promised to give full retroactivity to people who had not received the guaranteed income supplement, which the Liberals clearly and deliberately kept quiet about. Thousands of seniors in Quebec do not receive the guaranteed income supplement. They were receiving their old age pension, but they did not know they were entitled to a supplement.
The Liberals did not tell them. The Conservatives, on the other hand, promised them full retroactivity. However, once in power, as soon as they formed the government, their memories failed them and now they forget. This situation once again penalizes our most vulnerable citizens, seniors. How could the Bloc Québécois support such a Conservative budget? We find it completely unacceptable.
There is another factor to consider and another reason why we will not support this budget: the environment. This budget continues to favour polluters in the regions that pollute the most. They are implementing systems that allow industries and businesses, particularly oil companies, to benefit from tax credits and continue to pollute even more. As we all know, since 1990, many communities and businesses in Quebec have taken steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Instead of being rewarded, these efforts by Quebec businesses are being penalized and more is being given to those who pollute the most.
This is absolutely unacceptable. Once again, it is part of what we call this right-wing ideology, which favours certain areas, such as natural resources, including the oil sector.
Another important element for the Bloc Québécois is culture. This budget does not contain any measures to promote cultural development in Quebec. The film industry is penalized, and funding has been cut once again. Yet the whole cultural, literary and artistic realm in Quebec is a flourishing industry. It needs substantial support from the federal government, which would give meaning to the whole question of the Quebec nation. Developing Quebec's culture would develop its distinctiveness, but the government is not interested.
Once again, a parallel can be drawn between a budget proposal such as this one and the recognition of the Quebec nation, which the government likes to boast about. Yet when the time comes to walk the talk, the government forgets all about it and does not take any real action. It just pays lip service to the idea.
There is another especially important element. I am talking about the government's will, as expressed in this budget. The Minister of Finance has announced that he intends to create a single securities commission, even though the whole financial community in Quebec is against this idea. This is absolutely unacceptable. Moreover, this issue has already been dealt with. This is one budget measure that is a huge stumbling block for us. It is a real source of conflict for us.
I could go back to all the elements in the budget. I was talking earlier about the manufacturing and forestry industries. Even after the vote on the budget had taken place, the Conservative members on the Standing Committee on Finance agreed to hear a series of people to really understand the extent of the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry industries.
What is happening in the manufacturing sector in Quebec and elsewhere, but particularly in Ontario and Quebec? The budget does not provide anything more for this sector, but right after the budget passed, the Conservatives and the other members on the Standing Committee on Finance approved a motion introduced by my Bloc Québécois colleague, the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance.
The committee agreed to hear witnesses. The motion read as follows:
That the Committee, in view of the serious challenges faced by the forestry and manufacturing sectors, engage in a study on direct assistance measures and fiscal environment consisting of no more than four consecutive meetings—
For four meetings, we heard from people who came to tell us what they thought the manufacturing and forestry sectors in Quebec, and Ontario too, needed to get through the crisis. There was consensus.
We heard from Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters; Claudette Carbonneau, president of the CSN; Pierre Laliberté, political advisor to the FTQ for the manufacturing sector; Avrim Lazar, president and CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada; Phil Vinet, mayor of Red Lake; Jean Laneville, an economist with the Quebec federation of chambers of commerce; Ms. Peterson, mayor of Thunder Bay; and Guy Chevrette, of the Forest Industry Council.
These people were nearly unanimous—nearly because they did not use the same words, but they all meant the same thing—in their assertion that the forestry and manufacturing sectors are going through such a serious crisis that the government must change its policy and its budget accordingly.
They also said that the government had to use part of its $10.5 billion surplus to help a dying sector. The witnesses all told us that the Conservative government is clearly taking the wrong approach with its budget and its plan, which offer no direct assistance to the industries in these sectors, and that it must change its approach.
Until now, we have not heard anything to suggest that it plans to change anything. We think that the Conservative government put forward a budget that favours oil companies because it offers corporate tax cuts. As we have said before, tax cuts for companies that are not making a profit are not really tax cuts. But when companies are making profits in the millions or billions, they do benefit from tax cuts. This brand of economic liberalism is hurting Quebec businesses that, as we know, for the most part, did not make a profit in the past year.
What to do? We could try to further analyze this budget and find some justification for it, but there is none. There is nothing in the budget, whether it is for the status of women—which garners just one paragraph, six lines, to improve the status of women—or for employment insurance, where the demands of the Bloc Québécois have been completely ignored.
With regard to aboriginal peoples, they have significant needs in terms of social housing in particular. But there is nothing for them.
That can be said about any area. However, the government has envelopes for defence. When you are in favour of increasing military action and you join forces with the American government to continue the war in Afghanistan, you will definitely put more money in those envelopes. However, what is important to Quebec citizens right now is the injection of additional dollars. More money could have been allocated to regional development so that the Government of Quebec, which is familiar with the needs of each region, could have taken much more targeted action to foster greater investment in regional development.
The budget has an impact on many areas. Unfortunately, it does not contain what the Bloc Québécois wanted, that is major investments in the manufacturing sector, as I mentioned earlier. For these reasons, it is quite understandable that the Bloc Québécois will not support the implementation of this budget.