House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.


7 p.m.

Macleod Alberta


Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to respond to the question put by the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup on the federal spending power.

I would first like to remind the hon. member that on November 22, 2006, the Prime Minister affirmed that the Québécois form a nation within Canada. Certainly, that was an unprecedented and historic step on the part of a Canadian Prime Minister. It was also consistent with the government's unprecedented efforts to restoring fiscal balance.

Our government committed to working together with our provincial and territorial partners to build a better future for our country, and that is exactly what we are doing. For Quebeckers this means unprecedented support from the federal government of over $16.7 billion in 2008-09, an increase of $1.6 billion from last year and over $4.5 billion since 2005-06.

Quebec will see $8 billion in 2008-09 in equalization, an increase of over 67% from 2005-06. Payments to Quebec under equalization have increased by almost $870 million or 12.1% from 2007-08. Quebec will also receive $5.5 billion through the Canada health transfer and $2.5 billion through the Canada social transfer.

After more than a decade of uncertainty caused by the previous Liberal government, this Conservative government answered the call from the provinces and territories, and has provided long term predictable funding. In fact, budget 2007, which dealt with the fiscal balance, was very well received in the province of Quebec.

Former Quebec finance minister Yves Séguin called it prudent, realistic and “a big step forward”. He said that it significantly redressed a long time sore spot, the fiscal imbalance.

More recently, budget 2008 ended the millennium scholarships and replaced them by a bigger student grant program and streamlined the loan system. This gets Ottawa out of a provincial jurisdiction. Quebec will be able to opt out of the grant system with full compensation and it should be more useful to more students. A Montreal Gazette editorial stated:

Quebec will welcome this. It's no wonder [the Liberal leader] quickly said he would not vote against this budget.

Similarly, a new crown corporation to set employment insurance rates on a break even basis meets another longstanding demand of Quebec. Clearly, this government is fulfilling its long standing commitment to respect jurisdiction.

However, the Bloc Québécois voted against budget 2008 and Quebeckers have taken notice that the Bloc's rhetoric does not match its actions. In the spirit of open federalism, budget 2008 and the Speech from the Throne committed to formerly limiting the federal spending power through legislation.

7 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his response, my colleague provided the important element—the Quebec nation was recognized because of pressure from the Bloc Québécois, which moved a motion to which the Prime Minister reacted.

We now have a resolution—the Canadian state recognizes the Quebec nation. However, in December 2005, the Prime Minister committed to introducing a bill about spending power, which would ensure an unconditional right to opt out, with full financial compensation, of any new or existing federal program, whether cost-shared or not, which interferes in our areas of jurisdiction.

It is a permanent decision. A bill of this kind would ensure that Quebeckers are safe from federal government excesses. We are still waiting for the Prime Minister to follow through. Why will he not introduce this bill so that we can vote quickly? It would be a concrete way to keep a promise and fix another part of the fiscal imbalance, which has yet to be fixed.

7:05 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I might remind the House that the previous Liberal government denied that a fiscal imbalance even existed. This Conservative government is different, however.

Under our fiscal balance plan, we have committed to respecting roles and responsibilities among governments. Budget 2007 clarified and strengthened fiscal arrangements with provinces and territories. In the spirit of open federalism, our 2007 Speech from the Throne committed to formally limiting the federal spending power through legislation.

As the hon. member knows, this takes time, but I can assure the hon. member that we are moving forward to meet this commitment.

7:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:06 p.m.)