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House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was election.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Madam Speaker, I can state what we have been doing for first nations communities in respect of health.

I mentioned in my speech that in this budget we invested $240 million to increase the non-insured health benefits for first nations people and Inuit. That covers dental care, vision care, medical transportation and a number of drugs that are not covered by other programs. At the same time, we have also invested $65 million to ensure nursing services are available 24/7 in remote first nations and Inuit communities. Also, a month ago it was my pleasure to announce $135 million to improve the infrastructure of health facilities in a number of first nations communities across the country.

The member asked those questions, but she voted against all those initiatives. These initiatives are going to assist first nations people. I am working very closely with the Manitoba chiefs and chiefs across our country in dealing with the health care services they need.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to a motion of non-confidence we have proposed against the Conservative government. It is easy. The matter is clear. Parliament has lost confidence in the Conservative Party. Before we say we have lost confidence, as a matter of principle and to play fair and ensure it has a chance, we offer it the opportunity to show what it is capable of and what it can really do for the people. It cannot say that it will help one group of people and decide not to help another, that it will set one group against another.

At some point, we have to look at the facts. To give them a chance, we look at the facts. We look to see whether they have tried to make things better for the people, not only for those it represents, but for all Canadians.

Before I forget, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vancouver Centre.

First we have to look to see if the government passes the test. Good management of the country's public finances was in place. The Conservatives inherited a $14 billion surplus. Such surpluses were unthinkable in the time of the preceding government, before 1993. That government was a Conservative one as well. The Liberals put the finances in order. They made sure they made the people proud of their government. What happened? The Conservatives presented a budget in the spring of 2009 saying there would be a deficit of $34 billion because of the economic crisis. That does not necessarily mean assistance in the amount of $34 billion to the public. Part of it was due to bad management on their part and then part of it was set aside to help the public. The government and the Minister of Finance are supposed to ensure they deliver the goods and the figures. In March, the figure was $34 billion. Oddly enough, in June the figure had jumped to $50 billion, and in September, it was $56 billion. This is a record deficit for Canada. The first test has been failed.

My second point concerns help to the forestry industry. Forests are the natural wealth of the riding I represent. Most employees there work directly or indirectly in the area of forestry.

What did the Conservatives do to pass the test? In 2005, we, the Liberal government, announced help for the forestry industry in the amount of $1.5 billion, even before the major crisis hit us. It was a preventive measure taken proactively. It was $1.5 billion. Whom was it for? It was for the workers and their families. It was to ensure that, in the event of a crisis—as I mentioned—we could lessen the impact and be ready to move to another stage, as needed.

What did the Conservatives do after their election in January 2006? They totally eliminated the announced $1.5 billion. What else did they do for forestry when it came time to help the industry and the pulp and paper sector? During the crisis with the American government over red liquor and black liquor, what did they do? Absolutely nothing. They set up rules and conditions few paper companies could meet. If they could not meet them, it meant that employees could not work and families could not get the help they needed. In terms of the forestry industry, the government has failed.

As for employment insurance, that is an issue that I have been working on since I was elected in 2004 to ensure that the people I represent, and those represented by other members of Parliament, have a fair chance of getting the help they need to ensure that their families have food on the table, enough money to pay the power bill to heat their houses, the rent, the mortgage and the car payments if they live in a rural community so that they can get themselves to work once they find new jobs.

The Conservatives allowed the system to degenerate. People had to wait up to 55 days to receive their first employment insurance cheques, their cheques for one week's worth of benefits. Imagine a family getting no help from the federal government for two months, help that they paid for when they contributed to the employment insurance fund. When it comes to employment insurance, the Conservative government failed the test.

Now the Conservatives are telling us that they are going to come up with new rules, a new employment insurance system. With whose help? With the complicity of the NDP. When the Conservative government gives us its new definition of employment insurance and tries to convince us that it will benefit all Canadians, the important thing is to figure out who it will really help. Who will be entitled to benefits under the new system?

I want to talk first about the comments the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalismmade last Monday, when she said the people who will get employment insurance benefits are those who deserve them.

The people who deserve these benefits are all the workers who paid into employment insurance. In the eyes of the parliamentary secretary and her government, however, seasonal workers, people in the tourism industry, in construction, in roads, in the fisheries, in forestry, and so forth are not entitled to any additional weeks.

Why did the Conservative government turn its back on these people? Why did it not give everyone the tools that are needed?

Long-tenured workers can be just as much seasonal workers as factory workers. Seasonal workers may have worked 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years not just in the same industry but for the same company. They are long-tenured, but they are not going to get the help they need. Why do the Conservatives decide who will be helped and who will not? The Conservative government was a failure here. It flunked the test.

If we look at the entire economy and all our economic development, it is terrible to see how many companies all over the country have had to shut down. The workers in these companies lost their jobs—people who were the bread winners for their families. At first I told myself this happens to other people. We thought we were fortunate in Madawaska—Restigouche, but all of a sudden, we too were caught up. There were companies like Shermag, Fraser, AbitibiBowater, Atlantic Yarns, WHK Woven Labels Ltd. and so forth, just to mention a few of the names.

When it came to economic development, the Conservative government did nothing at all for these companies. It did nothing to help the workers in these plants. It did nothing at all for the families of these workers. If we look at what was actually done for economic development and assistance for industry, the Conservative government was simply a failure. It flunked the test.

I know I am quickly running out of time. Looking at just these few things, how can we have confidence in the Conservative government who said that people from the Atlantic region are defeatist? How can we still have confidence in a government that was given a chance to provide some rules, justice for the most vulnerable, and a system to get us out of the crisis? Instead of that, they did only one thing: fail.

You indicate I have one minute left. I still want to mention economic development and infrastructure.

It is all very well to announce infrastructure projects all over the country, but when Conservative members come to make announcements in a town and two months later no agreement has been received duly signed by the government to issue a call for tenders, it is terrible. It means that not one person can go to work because there is the two-month wait to receive the government documents and then there is the engineering assessment and the call for tenders. We are already in October, for heaven’s sake.

Winter is around the corner. There will certainly not be any work done on water and sewer infrastructure in November, December, January or February. That is only one example. The government has obviously failed as well when it comes to infrastructure. For that reason, it must—

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

Questions and comments. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I listened to what the member had to say. He was all over the road with his comments. He was talking about things that were not even related.

Let us talk about something which I think the member should be concerned about. Let us talk about why he should be concerned about the position he is putting forward. His constituents want the government to focus on fighting a global economic recession and to show leadership at a time when it is desperately needed. The Prime Minister is doing exactly that. The member wants to fight the recovery. He is joining his leader in fighting the recovery that Canadians want to see.

Today, the IMF said exactly what our Prime Minister has been saying for months, that Canada was the last country to enter the recession and Canada will be the first country to emerge from it. That is what the IMF said. It said Canada--

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

An hon. member

They are lying.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. I ask members, if they have nothing better to do than to heckle when somebody is speaking to please leave the House.

The hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, the OECD also said that Canada's unemployment rate will reach 10%.

The Parliamentary Secretary should be ashamed. In order to restore the confidence of the Canadian people, the first thing to do is to not pick and choose who will be eligible for additional weeks of benefits. His colleague, the parliamentary secretary, said that those who deserve benefits will have them and those who do not will not.

Why are the seasonal workers of this country not entitled to even one additional week? It is because of the Conservative government and the NDP. That is the reality. Before leading us on about the economic recovery, this government should ensure that all employees, all Canadian citizens, have what they deserve and are treated fairly. That is not what is happening in this country right now.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to reassure our colleague that the Bloc will vote with them on this confidence motion, which is quite justified. Our colleague spoke about some of the reasons why this motion is warranted.

His strongest argument is the extent to which the employment insurance plan has deteriorated. He knows all about it because it was his party that destroyed it.

I will ask my colleague a question. I know that he has worked hard on the issue of 360 hours, even though we do not know if he still stands by it. I would like to hear what he has to say about older workers who lose their jobs. We know that they are most at risk. Does he agree that an income support program should be reintroduced for older workers who lose their jobs?

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I will repeat my request that members in the House please abstain from heckling each other and talking when they have not been recognized. That includes the parliamentary secretary.

The hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank you for calling the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage to order. I had to speak louder to make sure that people could hear what I had to say about what was being said across the way.

To come back to what my Bloc Québécois colleague was saying, the reality of employment insurance also affects our older workers, those who are around 55. The way the Conservatives are managing the economic crisis, people who have recently lost their jobs are not eligible for additional assistance.

I want to come back to the additional 20 weeks of employment insurance. When someone loses their job, it is important that they are eligible for additional assistance. Older workers who lose their jobs do not necessarily meet the conditions and criteria that the Conservatives have included in their new bill. In many cases, they are not entitled. Many have temporary part time work and do not qualify under the new rules and conditions set by the Conservative government.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to this important motion, a motion with which I agree.

This has been probably the worst economic depression in Canada since the Great Depression. Many young people have lost their jobs. Some 1.6 million Canadians have no jobs and half of them have no access to any kind of unemployment benefits. We are facing a recession. We have been told by the Minister of Finance that the deficit is $56 billion and the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that it could be over $125 billion within the next five years. We are living in a very bad time. Jobs are being lost. Many important businesses in the manufacturing and forestry sectors are facing a kind of recession from which they will never recover.

It was in that environment the Liberal opposition decided that we would support the Conservative government when it came out, kicking and screaming, with an economic stimulus package in January. While we did not think the package was perfect, we supported it, albeit reluctantly. We had hoped it would provide the stimulus needed for jobs and that it would assist Canadian businesses, workers and their families in these desperate times.

Before even seeing the stimulus package, the New Democratic Party decided to vote against it, and it did so 79 times in six months. How quickly those members cast aside their principles this week.

We gave the Conservative government three chances. We put it on probation in March, June and September to see whether or not its stimulus package would provide results, whether it would work, whether the money would be out there for Canadians, and whether it would meet the desired outcome of jobs and economic stability.

The Liberal opposition has, after that period of time, lost confidence in the present government on many counts, but I will only mention four. The first one is the broken promises by the government. The second one is the government's continual misrepresentation of facts to Canadians. The third one is the government's lack of fiscal responsibility, accountability and its plain incompetence. The fourth one is the government's failing its citizens by picking and choosing which are worthy of its support.

Let me speak about broken promises.

About 114,000 unemployed construction workers have been waiting since February for infrastructure money to flow. Saying that the wheels of government move very slowly is not a good answer. It is rather cavalier. Families cannot hang on for six months without paying their rent, without having any access to food and clothing for their children. They are finding it hard to make ends meet.

Construction work is seasonal and many of the workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Many are on welfare. The majority of workers in this country do not wish to go on welfare. Welfare rates have doubled in this country. People want to work.

The government vowed never to raise taxes. That is another broken promise. Last week there was a stealthy little grab of $13 billion in payroll taxes. That was a cruel thing to do. Small and medium size businesses actually create 80% of the jobs in this country and they are having a difficult time with credit. Retail sales are down. Many people are losing their jobs. The domino effect of lower sales and not supporting small and medium size businesses is high. To add a payroll tax at this point in time is cruel. It certainly will not help to create jobs.

Another broken promise involves the pine beetle and the fires in B.C. In 2006, $200 million was promised and $200 million was promised in 2007, but none of that money has flowed to any of the communities. In fact, they have only seen $80 million of it. Everyone predicted the raging forest fires. Money was needed for research for new employment opportunities and for dealing with the fires.

The government also broke its promise to aboriginal people. Not too long ago there was a moving apology in the House to the aboriginal people where the government across the way cried tears of apology. Today we see that the health, education and housing of aboriginal people has worsened.

The second thing concerns the misrepresentation of facts. The Minister of Finance reportedly said, “We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror”.

In December 2008, the Minister of Finance said that there was a surplus. Earlier this year, he said that there was a paper recession only, then that there was a $34 billion shortfall, and then that there is a $56 billion deficit. As I said earlier, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is predicting a $156 billion deficit over the next five years. That is the first misrepresentation of facts.

The second misrepresentation of facts is brazenly taking credit for the Canadian banking system being so stable when the government knows who made it so.

I also want to talk about misspending. The Privy Council Office, which serves the Prime Minister, spent an extra $20 million this year. The government spent $84.1 million in advertising this year. We saw that the federal cabinet expansion in the fall cost taxpayers another $3.9 million in salaries for ministers and their staff. The Privy Council has said that the professional policy advisors for the Prime Minister and ministers will cost $124 million this year. We have a government that promised to tighten its belt and a finance minister who said that the government was directing government ministers and deputy ministers from every department and agency of the government to reign in their spending. This is unacceptable. Canadians are tightening their belts. They are doing without but the government does not know how to do that.

Since it came in, the government has spent 30% more than any other government in the history of this country. That is extremely unacceptable, irresponsible and lacking in accountability. It also shows incompetence and mismanagement of fiscal affairs.

Another case of unaccountability, mismanagement and incompetence that I want to talk about is H1N1. When the Department of Health sent body bags to the aboriginal communities, which, because of overcrowding, poor housing and poor water, had high incidents of H1N1, the minister said that she would investigate it. The minister is supposed to know what is going on in her department. Nothing should go out of her department unless she is briefed first and accepts it. To investigate it after the fact is unacceptable. The minister did not know what was going on and to say that she was not going to accept responsibility and investigate what was going on is a joke.

Finally, I have one last piece. The government has been failing citizens by picking and choosing who are worthy. Bill C-50, which was just recently introduced in the House, is a fine example of that. Seventy-two percent of single parent Canadians cannot afford to miss a paycheque. We were just told this by the Canadian Payroll Association. Many people are two paycheques away from bankruptcy. Seventy percent of those Canadians are in the age group of under 36. These are the people with the lowest wages because they are at the beginning of their careers. These are the people with very small children. These are the people who just bought a house and are facing a huge mortgage. These are the people who will be laid off first and yet this bill does nothing for them. It does not even recognize their plight.

The bill also said that it was for long-tenured workers. Forestry workers will not benefit from the bill. In British Columbia, where the forestry sector has been going down, people have been losing their jobs on and off for the last four to five years. They do not qualify for employment insurance because they have been collecting unemployment insurance over the last four years. People need to have been paying 30% of the maximum premiums and been working for 12 to 15 years to qualify. That rules out a whole lot of people, especially contract workers, women, seasonal workers and workers in the IT sector who are now working on contract and are losing their jobs.

Nothing has been done for our youth who have a 20% unemployment rate, the second highest since 1977. Two hundred and ten thousand youth had no summer jobs and they do not know how they will pay for school. Seventy-five percent of skills training for youth has gone to Conservative ridings.

We have no confidence in the government. It has shown itself to be utterly unworthy of the trust of Canadians as well.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, what an interesting conversation my colleague was having across the way. I am trying to understand the confidence of the Liberals because right now I do not think they have the confidence of the whole party within the motion that is before us.

One of the things the Liberals do not seem to understand is that the Conservative government, quite honestly, has been the only Parliament and the only government that has reached out and built partnerships.

The member made quite a good statement at the start when she recognized that this is one of the worst recessions since World War II.

The duration of unemployment in Canada right now is 15 weeks. During pre-recession it was 14 weeks. In 1991, which was not a global recession, under the Liberal watch the duration of unemployment was 20 weeks. Why is that? It is actually because during its term, and we listened earlier to the leader, it was about how to pay down the debt. It did all those things by putting it on the backs of everybody else. The Liberals unloaded it onto the provinces and the municipalities. They cut our military, our agriculture and our health transfers.

What we have now is a partnership. We have been recognized globally as a leader going into this recession and a leader coming out, so now we have a--

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I must interrupt the hon. member to give the member for Vancouver Centre a chance to respond. There is only a five minute question and answer period.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member should look at his facts.

In 1991 there was a Conservative government at the time, so his facts about 1991 do not pertain to the Liberals at all.

Second, speaking about partnerships, changing the social union agreement allowed for the federal government, under the Liberal government of the day, to begin to forge strong partnerships with the provinces. In fact, the national child care program came about as a $6 billion partnership. The Kelowna accord came about as a $5 billion partnership. These are the partnerships we forged. We worked with the provinces to make things happen because we knew that in many instances the federal government was the glue that held this country together.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I compliment my colleague on raising a variety of issues but there is one in particular I would ask about.

She was first elected in 1993 and was here when we had to deal with the $42 billion deficit that was left by the previous Conservative government. One of the major concerns we have is the need in the future to have sufficient funds for health care, an aging population and so on.

I am very concerned with how we will deal with what we know is probably close to a $60 billion deficit that is being left by the current Conservative government, hence the reason we do not have any confidence in it to continue in power.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague just what the mood was around here when her government had to make the kinds of cuts that were required at the time when she first came into office.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, the old saying that Tory times are tough times could not be any truer than it is today. At that time, as my first colleague mentioned, it was not a global recession. It was a national recession, which means that it was brought about by the government of the day through bad management, and we are seeing it again. The deficit was $43 billion, youth unemployment was at 24% and mortgages were at 18%. I do not know if people remember that.

We, as a government, tightened our belt and became lean. We actually cut the things that the present government does not know how to cut. The government has bloated its spending this year during a recession.

We had to face tough choices but we knew that the most important thing was not to have a jobless recovery so we focused on jobs, jobs, jobs. In three years, we got rid of that deficit and started to pay down the debt. Canada moved from a developing country status to number one in the world in terms of economic development. We left a surplus for the present government to squander.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. We have about 15 minutes left before question period starts. I hope it will not be too heated in the House and that everyone will remain calm.

Today, we are debating a Liberal motion that asks whether we still have confidence in the Conservative government, the government in power. Before I answer that question, I must say that the Bloc Québécois has analyzed all of the Conservatives' actions and decisions since their election. We concluded that the Bloc Québécois no longer has confidence in the government and that it will support the Liberals' motion for a number of reasons.

We asked ourselves two questions: do we have confidence in how the government deals with Quebec and the needs of Quebec? For example, what actions has the government taken to support the manufacturing and forestry industries? We know that since 2005 these sectors have been pressuring the government for assistance. The forestry and manufacturing industries were sacrificed during the economic crisis, but since 2005, these industries have been losing ground even more quickly, and we should have helped them through the crisis. In Quebec, plants have been closed and people have been laid off. Some people have been temporarily laid off and some are permanently unemployed. We need only think of AbitibiBowater in Portneuf, and in Beaupré, where this week, 400 workers were temporarily put out of work, knowing that perhaps this company would not be saved in time for them to return. Some workers will be sacrificed.

Another question we asked ourselves had to do with employment insurance. For years, the Bloc has been calling for a real reform of the employment insurance program. We have witnessed the pillaging of the EI fund. The Bloc Québécois condemned the Liberals for taking money from the EI fund, putting it in the consolidated revenue fund and using it to pay government expenses. The workers and employers who paid into the fund should have had a say in how the money in that fund was distributed.

One might have thought the Conservative government would have appreciated the urgent need for action to help certain workers make it through the crisis. Moreover, the OECD made two requests, one of which was to not let workers down. A good way to not let workers down when jobs are being lost or people are being laid off temporarily is to make sure that they receive employment insurance so that they can get through the crisis. We also learned that unemployment in Canada would reach 10%. That, too, should have sounded the alarm for the Conservative Party.

But the Conservative Party has never believed in the economic crisis. I remember the debates we had in the Quebec City area during the election campaign. The Conservative Party said that there was no economic crisis and that everything was rosy. It wanted people to believe that that was self-evident. Meanwhile, the United States was entering an economic slowdown. When 85% of our exports go to the United States, we should be worried about whether American consumers will consume as much and buy Canadian products. It did not take a master's degree in economics to see that there would be an economic slowdown in Canada. Yet the Conservatives kept mum and remained passive about the economic crisis.

How can we believe that they are taking the economic crisis in Canada and in Quebec seriously, or that they will help the aerospace sector and the manufacturing industries that are also suffering from the crisis?

The Conservatives were elected, but since voters did not quite believe them, they only gave them a minority government. The Conservatives then came up with a budget in 2009. Everyone was worried and we expected them to shake things up and to show that they were taking the situation seriously. What they did instead was to introduce an ideological plan. They forgot all about a plan to recover from the economic crisis.

Instead, the Conservatives proposed an ideological type of plan, because they wanted to first target political financing, but not for just any party. Indeed, under that plan the Bloc Québécois would no longer be eligible for political funding. This shows how the Conservatives engaged in petty politics, this at a time when the public was expecting the government to deal with the economic crisis.

The Conservatives forgot about the crisis and engaged further in petty politics by eliminating the court challenges program. As members know, francophones outside Quebec would often rely on that program to be represented before the courts, when they were overlooked regarding certain requests, or when they were being ostracized. Women also used that program for the same reasons.

Why did the Conservatives make that decision? Because the program bothered them and they did not want to pay for people who were challenging them. That is some kid of openness on the part of a government and a political party that are supposed to make sound use of the power delegated to them by voters through a democratic process.

I believe the Bloc Québécois is an opposition party that is well represented here, because, over the years, Quebeckers have consistently elected a majority of Bloc members. Members opposite should ask themselves why Bloc Québécois members get elected, despite what the minister from the Quebec City region said this morning, namely that the Bloc's presence here is a paradox. I told her that the real paradox is that she is a minister.

So, our study provided us with a number of examples which showed the direction taken by the government in various areas, whether social, such as employment insurance, cultural or economic, and which also showed that this government has not met Quebec's needs.

Why was $10 billion injected so quickly into Ontario's auto industry? We are told that this saved hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of jobs. However, jobs have also been lost in the forestry industry and manufacturing industry in Quebec. Yet Quebec was given only $70 million. One can understand why Quebeckers feel abandoned by the Conservative government. That is just one example among many. I could give other examples besides employment insurance.

To prevent more jobs from being lost, instead of introducing Bill C-50, which excludes workers laid off temporarily because they file too many claims for employment insurance, what was really needed was a complete overhaul of the system, taking into account those who are excluded from employment insurance.

The Conservative government says it is acknowledging long-tenured workers. That is great. I have nothing against that. However, they have forgotten seasonal workers, for example, who are having difficulty getting their jobs back, because their industries are working at a much slower pace. They have also forgotten people who work in the tourism, construction and manufacturing sectors, just to name a few.

We would have liked to see the employment insurance system completely overhauled and to have it looked at very seriously. But the opposite is happening. We are facing exactly the opposite situation. It should therefore come as no surprise that the Bloc Québécois will be voting with the Liberal Party, because the Conservatives have not fulfilled their duty to Quebec.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague's speech was quite thorough and touched on many subjects.

I found there were many similarities in that speech with my home region on the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in three areas, which I would like her to discuss: first, seasonal employment; second, cultural spending and cultural promotion; and third, the forestry industry.

This is very important to those of us on Canada's east coast, in Newfoundland and Labrador.

At this time when we talk about seasonal employment, there really has been a degrading of the status of someone involved in seasonal employment. Bill C-50 is actually a good illustration of how that works.

What I mean by that is the bill was supposed to focus on someone who is a long-tenured worker unless one is in the seasonal industry. Therefore, the aspect of being a long-tenured worker is no longer eligible. Over a five year period if one qualifies for more than 36 weeks of benefits, one does not qualify for this particular extension, coupled with the fact that many of the mill workers during shutdown times, perhaps the mill had too much inventory or the like, also qualify for EI benefits. Therefore, they would have about seven weeks or perhaps more.

The second issue I would like her to discuss is with regard to culture. What we have heard in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is that there does not seem to be a lot to promote culture outside of Canada.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague to comment on those issues.

Opposition Motion--Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, that is a huge question, and I have only about a minute to respond.

With respect to the employment insurance program, the government should have launched a pilot project, not introduced a bill. We are in the middle of an economic crisis, so it would have been much easier to get immediate consensus for a pilot project, and then to have gone ahead with the necessary funding. Instead, the government chose to introduce a bill, which takes time. The Conservatives also turned down the Bloc Québécois' offer to send the bill to committee right away. We could have heard from witnesses about the impact of Bill C-50. They would have told us about how the program left them out.

Instead, here we are asking questions in the House and never getting good answers even though the minister thinks she is giving people answers. They say that 190,000 workers will have access to these benefits, but we looked at the numbers, and we do not understand how 190,000 workers are supposed to benefit. For that to happen, 85% of claimants would have to reach the end of their benefit period, but only some 25% do. Most people will not be eligible for the five to 20 additional weeks because they never reach the end of their benefit period.

Once again, the Conservative government is failing to meet the expectations of thousands of Canadian workers, both in Quebec and elsewhere, who are unemployed today and dealing with poverty as a result.

The government refused to eliminate the two-week waiting period. People who lose their jobs have to go without income for two weeks. Instead, the Conservatives brought in measures that do not kick in until the end of the benefit period. Why? Because periodically unemployed workers never reach the end of the benefit period. They stop collecting benefits before that. They will therefore never be entitled to the extra weeks of benefits. The government is just trying to save money with these measures.

Firearms RegistryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, when the Liberals first proposed the federal long gun registry, they claimed that it would cost taxpayers $2 million, but the real price tag has been $2 billion. They claimed it would fight crime, but it has really only penalized law-abiding hunters, farmers and ranchers, since everyone knows criminals do not and will not register their guns.

The registry has failed to save a single life and it has been an abysmal failure. It has diverted resources from law enforcement efforts that would keep Canadians safe from real criminals.

Our Conservative government has made several attempts to abolish the registry only to have opposition parties stand in the way at every turn.

Now is the time for members opposite to admit their error, to stand up for law-abiding firearms owners, and to do the right thing by supporting Bill C-391 sponsored by my Conservative colleague from Portage—Lisgar to finally abolish the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

Persons CaseStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to recognize the six recipients of Governor General awards to commemorate the Persons Case. The Persons Day award recognizes outstanding individuals who have contributed to the advancement of women's equality in their communities in Canada and throughout the world. The award was instituted in 1979 to honour the 50th anniversary of the Persons Case.

Recipients this year include: Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell, the newly elected president of NWAC; Daphne Dumont; Bev LeFrancois; Karen Messing; Pauline Fogarty; and a dear friend, Mary Scott, who is at the heart of the equality seeking movement in Winnipeg.

Their contributions to women's equality include: LEAF, UNIFEM, community crisis centres, workplace equity, rights for aboriginal women, and mental health advocacy.

May their dedication and achievements serve as an inspiration to those who continue to work for women's equality and justice worldwide.

Le Détour de Notre-Dame-du-Lac Cheese FactoryStatements By Members

October 1st, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, Le Détour de Notre-Dame-du-Lac cheese factory just won first prize in the Caseus Quebec contest, with its Citadelle cheese.

This cheese factory keeps on winning awards. In May of this year, it also distinguished itself by taking first prize in the “soft-ripened cheese” category, with Le Marquis de Témiscouata, at the sixth Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. That cheese is made with milk from a herd of Jersey cows on the Marquis farm, in Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, in the Témiscouata region.

The Le Détour cheese factory also did well at the most prestigious North American cheese competition, held in Chicago in July 2008, where it won three prizes.

Congratulations to co-owners Ginette Bégin and Mario Quirion for their excellent work.

Mental Health StrategyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, on the eve of Mental Health Awareness Week let us agree that nothing short of a national mental health strategy is required.

The report, “Out of the Shadows At Last”, and the establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada under the direction of Senator Kirby have given mental health issues a national focus. Now it is time to turn this focus into a national policy, a federally funded program, working hand-in-glove with our provincial and territorial governments and our first nations, Inuit and Métis partners.

Now is the time for a national housing strategy that my colleague from Vancouver East initiated and was passed by the House yesterday, a strategy to overcome barriers that force people living with mental illness into deplorable housing situations or out of housing altogether.

Now is the time to implement Roy Romanow's recommendation to have mental health case management, intervention services, and coverage for medication management included in the scope of medically necessary services under the Canada Health Act.

For the 20% of Canadians who experience mental health illnesses over their lifetime, and aboriginal youth who are six times more likely to commit suicide, and on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Canada Health Act, that is the least we can do.

ChinaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, today marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

In Canada, there are many individuals and families of Chinese heritage who proudly call Canada their home. Chinese Canadians have played a significant role in shaping Canada into the nation we are so proud of today, from the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway to serving in the Canadian armed forces.

In my riding of Richmond, over half the population is of ethnic Chinese descent. Both China and Canada have worked hard on strengthening ties through trade, business and cultural exchanges. These ties become stronger each year. Both imports and exports have quadrupled over the past decade emphasizing the importance of the Asia-Pacific gateway strategy.

We look forward to continuing this mutually beneficial relationship. On behalf of the constituents in Richmond, I would like to say:

[Member spoke in Chinese and provided the following translation:]

Happy Birthday to the People's Republic of China.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the week of August 17, I and seven other members of the House were embedded in the operation maple defender at the Canadian Manoeuvre Centre in Wainwright, Alberta. As elected representatives of the House of Commons, our shared goal was to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences and conditions of our troops, as they undergo training for combat.

This is a 620 square kilometre site, where full-time soldiers and army reservists prepare for the theatre in which they are about to do battle. Units from across Canada and the U.S. come here to properly integrate with each other before they are deployed.

This important experience has given us deeper insight into the courage and professionalism of the Canadian Forces, the conditions in which they train and fight and, ultimately, the sacrifices they make in the name of our country.

I ask my colleagues in the House to join me in expressing our support for the men and women of our Canadian Forces and supporting our troops before they leave, while they are overseas and especially when they return home.