Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that 20 minutes is not much time to put the Conservative government on trial for mismanagement. I will have to content myself with summarizing the grievances that we and the entire Quebec nation have against this government. I am certain that when the next election is held, Quebeckers will return a majority of Bloc members to this House, as they did in 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2006.
The motion is simple, and I will read it for the people who are watching: “That this House has lost confidence in the government.” I would add that the Bloc's position is also simple. We no longer have confidence in this Conservative government and therefore will vote in favour of the Liberal Party non-confidence motion. That goes without saying.
How can we have confidence in a government that, less than a year ago, said there would be no recession in Canada, when the whole world was going through a major financial crisis and signs of an economic slowdown were not only on the horizon, but already in evidence to the south of us?
How could Canada have avoided this economic slowdown, knowing that our main trading partner, the United States, which accounts for 85% of our exports, was already going through an economic slowdown? The government tried to deceive the people, but they could not fool Quebeckers, which is why, once again, as I mentioned earlier, Quebec rejected the Conservative Party and returned a majority of Bloc Québécois members to this House.
How can we have confidence in a party that, not even a year ago—if memory serves it was on November 24, 2008—tabled an economic statement that should have addressed the economic crisis that was already obvious, not only around the world, but in Canada as well?
The government tabled an economic statement that was actually an ideological statement that sparked a major political crisis in this House. The government attacked democracy by trying to abolish political party financing; it attacked women's rights by trying to prohibit them from going to court on pay equity issues; and it attacked federal employees' bargaining rights.
So how can we have confidence in a government that should have assumed its responsibilities long before November 24? It refused to do so on November 24, 2008, and instead preferred to flex its muscles to try to impress the opposition parties, but instead was caught out at its own game. That forced the Prime Minister to go see the Governor General and ask that the House be prorogued, thereby delaying all the measures that could have been taken to stimulate the economy.
I would remind the House that, long before November 24, the Bloc Québécois had proposed a series of measures with that goal in mind. Furthermore, we reiterated our proposals in April, but this government ignored the Bloc Québécois' proposals every time. As some government members have said several times, the Liberal Party did not contribute many proposals. In fact, they brought none forward, which is a little worrisome for a party that is supposed to be the official opposition.
How can we have confidence in a party whose economic, social, environmental and cultural choices are diametrically opposed to the values and interests of the Quebec nation? How can we have confidence in that party? Of course that is impossible, not only for the Bloc Québécois, but for the entire Quebec nation and all Quebeckers, and this is evident in the polls we have seen in recent months.
I would like to come back to exactly how these economic, social, environmental and cultural choices go against the interests of Quebec and against the interests and values of the Quebec nation. I hope I have enough time to go through the entire spectrum of Conservative horrors.
Consider the economic question. I am referring to the so-called economic action plan, or the third report. I would point out that that report is completely confusing and, upon reading it, the reader quickly realizes that the numbers presented do not represent what was really spent. The numbers are promises.
We are being told 90%. I would note that it was 80% in June. It is still somewhat disturbing that the increase has been only 10 percentage points, but again, that absolutely does not reflect the reality of the actual commitments made by the federal government regarding the measures that were announced, which were in fact totally inadequate and inequitable for Quebec.
That also explains why the Bloc Québécois opposed the budget speech.
I am looking at page 127 of this third report to Canadians. At the top, under the heading “Support for Industries”, and more specifically “Support for the auto sector”, in the column “2009-2010 Stimulus Value”, the amount shown is $9.718 billion. I note that from what we see in the “Stimulus Committed” column, 100% of the funds have been committed in the case of support for the auto sector. Again, that does not mean a lot, but I am reading what the Minister of Finance has presented to us.
Now let us look at forestry, an industry that has been in crisis since 2005, well before the global economic slowdown and the effects it has had on the economy of Quebec and Canada. There is not even any mention of support, which the industry has been calling for since 2005, and which it needs. It needed support yesterday, it needs it today, and if things continue the way they are it will not need it tomorrow because there will no longer be a forestry industry in Quebec. In terms of stimulus value, under “Forestry marketing and innovation”, we see $70 million for the whole of Canada, or about $25 million for Quebec, and we see that not all of the money has been committed.
This inequity is the perfect illustration of the fact that the Conservative government is acting in Canada’s interests at the expense of Quebec’s. We have absolutely nothing against support being given to the auto industry, which is concentrated in Ontario. That industry needs support. What we do not understand is why the government can commit nearly $10 billion to support the auto industry, which is concentrated in Ontario, and cannot commit an equivalent amount for the forestry industry, which is extremely important to Quebec.
I will give one small illustration. That $10 billion is going to help save 30,000 jobs in the auto industry, which is concentrated in southern Ontario. Again, we agree with that. The forestry industry in Quebec represents 88,000 jobs, and barely $28 million has been spent, $100 million for the whole of Canada. By way of comparison, for each job saved in the auto industry, the Conservative government is prepared to spend $325,000, or nearly a half-million dollars per job, while for the forestry industry we have barely $318 per job that could be saved. Again, this support is not only inequitable, it is inadequate and ineffective.
What the forestry industry needs are loan guarantees and loans, because it is currently facing liquidity problems, and a number of companies will not survive the crisis if the Conservative government does not wake up and release funds providing some liquidity for this industry. This is one illustration of the fact that the Conservatives have abandoned Quebec. I point out once again that we have no problem with the assistance given the Ontario sector.
The Bloc has put forward proposals. The industry too has submitted proposals to the government, as have the unions and municipal representatives. Here are a few examples. A proposal was made to establish a credit facility to allow forestry companies to obtain loans and loan guarantees so they might get the funding they need to deal with the crisis. As I mentioned, a number have gone bankrupt, such as AbitibiBowater, or are verging on bankruptcy, such as Tembec. A refundable tax credit for investment was proposed to help businesses modernize. There is a tax credit for research and development already, but it is not refundable. When there are no profits, there is no benefit from such a measure. If the credit were refundable, a company such as Tembec, which invests nearly $80 million in research and development annually, could be refunded $80 million on its investment through a tax credit.
I would like to point out that, each time I hear the Conservative MPs from Quebec, I feel for them, but I feel more for the people who put their trust in them. They say they have lowered taxes on profits. That is of no help to the sectors in difficulty. When there are no profits, there are no taxes to be paid on profits. So this is what the Conservative government has put in place—reductions in taxes that have benefited primarily the oil companies, the companies operating in the tar sands. We have not been fooled by what has gone on in the past months and years.
We also sought $50 million to fund research on biofuels from forestry waste. The aim is to reduce Quebec's dependence on petroleum.
This is an industrial strategy the Bloc formulated nearly two years ago now. We also introduced a bill, which, just as the Government of Quebec wants to do—a coalition has been established in Quebec—aims to promote the use of wood in the construction or renovation of public buildings. Finally, we called for the establishment of a real carbon exchange in Montreal—there is one, as we know—but without absolute reduction targets, without 1990 as the reference year and without a territorial approach, the exchange will never get off the ground.
More than just the forestry industry in Quebec has been ignored by the Conservative government. There is also the aerospace industry, which is extremely important and an industry of the future for Quebec. This very morning, we learned, unfortunately, that Pratt & Whitney will be laying off 410 people. This illustrates the difficulties in this sector. Bombardier too had to lay employees off. The government totally ignored the problems of the aerospace sector, as if they did not exist. They probably do not exist in the minds of the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance because this sector is concentrated in the greater Montreal area. If it exists in Quebec, it must not really exist in the rest of Canada.
I believe that, because we pay taxes to Ottawa, we are entitled to industrial policies that meet the needs of our sectors of the future, such as aerospace. The government should immediately develop a real aerospace policy. The Bloc Québécois will continue to insist on this. My colleagues, and especially the hon. members for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher and Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, will continue to demand an industrial policy on aerospace.
There were also the research cuts, which did a lot of harm to Quebec. We saw it once again this morning. There was an announcement that the Minister of State (Science and Technology) had tried to intervene and induce a scientific research council not to support a conference because the minister and the government thought it did not have the right ideology.
I also remember the very restrictive program they instituted in the last budget for business research grants. Later I will read a few excerpts from a column by Alain Dubuc, who is far from being a sovereignist or progressive, but who still realizes we have a government that is totally regressive in the area of research and development. These cuts to research and development and these ideological approaches have done great harm to a number of research sectors in Quebec. I am thinking, for example, of Abitibi—Témiscamingue or the Université du Québec à Rimouski, which had to abandon its research programs.
This region also suffered cuts to the Coriolis II, the only university oceanographic research ship in Rimouski. I might add in passing that this Conservative government has virtually no regard for the Lower St. Lawrence region. It has no regard as well for its own members and ministers. We even had cuts to the Mont-Mégantic Observatory, in the riding of the Minister of Public Works, who found out about them in the newspapers. That goes to show how much influence he has in his caucus.
The Conservative government has been negligent and unfair in such future sectors as research, aeronautics and other sectors that are important for the regions of Quebec, such as the forestry sector, including pulp and paper. The government deserves to be punished.
In regard to the research issue, Alain Dubuc wrote the following in La Presse, “It is so stupid I could laugh. It is as if the [Conservative] government were showing off a caricature of itself. Unfortunately, though, it is very serious. It is the same logic, the same obscurantism, the same inability to understand how advanced societies develop that led it to cut the grants to artists for international tours”. That was Alain Dubuc writing in La Presse, a paper that is far from sovereignist, who said this because it is just common sense.
I have not had a chance to say this yet, but I want to point out that Canada is lagging behind in research and development.
In 2006, Canada spent 1.06% on research and development. The OECD average was 1.56%. We were among the lowest-ranking G8 and G7 countries, behind France, the United States, Japan, Germany and Great Britain. We should not be neglecting this sector. We are already behind. We are the least advanced of all western economies, and this government is making things even worse.
Quebec is not satisfied with these economic choices. Quebec's future economic development is being jeopardized.
There are two other economic issues I want to talk about: public finances and the economy and the environment. Once again, the Conservative government's choices have compromised Quebec's future.
With respect to public finances, the fiscal imbalance still has not been resolved. People in Quebec—including Jean Charest's government, which is anything but sovereignist—are all too aware of this. The Parti Québécois, the ADQ and people in the business community are aware of it too. Everybody knows that even though the health transfers have come through, we are a long way from eliminating the fiscal imbalance.
Among other things, Quebec is still waiting for $850 million in post-secondary education transfers just to bring funding levels back to where they were in 1994-95 before Paul Martin unilaterally slashed transfers for post-secondary education and in a number of other sectors.
But it is not enough just to increase transfer payments. We would like that and we supported a Conservative government budget in the past because it included a significant transfer to Quebec. However, to truly resolve the fiscal imbalance we need to negotiate the transfer of a portion of the federal tax base to the Government of Quebec, which was done under Pearson and even in the 1970s when René Lévesque was Premier of Quebec.
There are other problems besides the fiscal imbalance. There is a series of disputes between Ottawa and Quebec. Allow me to name a few because they will make anyone's hair stand on end. The Government of Quebec is looking for money. It is waiting for its due. I am talking about at least $8 billion. There is the $2.6 billion for harmonizing taxes. We know that Quebec was the first jurisdiction to harmonize its sales tax with the GST, as the federal government of the day, under Mr. Mulroney, asked us to do. Our taxes have been harmonized since 1992. We have never been compensated. That represents $2.6 billion. Ontario will be compensated and so will British Columbia, just like the Atlantic provinces were before them. In the economic statement, the Minister of Finance told us that all the other provinces that harmonize their sales tax with the GST will be compensated—except Quebec.
There is the issue of equalization, of course. The Conservative government's Prime Minister and Minister of Finance went back on their promise. Equalization has been capped, which means that Quebec loses out on $1.25 billion a year.
There is the issue of funding for infrastructure, namely $1.3 billion. There is social assistance. By the way, this issue was not mentioned much in the last budget, but we are mentioning it today. A certain number of criteria were changed for transfer payments related to social assistance, which leaves Quebec with a $600 million shortfall. Half a billion dollars is not insignificant in the current economic climate. There is also the matter of $60 million for health transfers and the $850 million I mentioned earlier for post-secondary education.
There is $421 million, dating back to the ice storm in the mid-1990s. That is still unresolved. And that was during the time of the Liberals, who are no better than the Conservatives. I must add $416 million for the Pacte pour l'emploi Plus and $127 million for the income stabilization program, which also dates back to the 1990s when the Liberals were in power. Add to that $284 million for the Canada assistance plan, $53 million for improving northern airports, and $220 million for the CHUM and Sainte-Justine hospitals.
These claims add up to more than $8 billion, and they would be resolved if the federal government respected Quebec. If it were open to negotiating in good faith with Quebec. If it led by example with its so-called open federalism.
That is not the case. The government is being petty, as evidenced yesterday in the Prime Minister's response, when he said that Quebec would be compensated if it did exactly what the others had done and let the federal government collect the QST, even though since 1992, Quebec has collected not only the QST, but also the federal GST.
As I said, I am running out of time. I would have liked to discuss a very important topic, but I am sure that the member for Chambly—Borduas will ask a question about employment insurance, which is a thorn in the side of the Conservative government. There is also the issue of the government's completely outdated notions about the environment.
If I had the unanimous consent of the House, I could take five more minutes to cover these topics and to finish my comments about the Conservative government and its mismanagement. Could you seek the consent of the House? If not, I will conclude.