Mr. Speaker, several reasons have led me to take part in this debate on the motion tabled in the House by the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, calling on the government to remove two measures contained in the latest budget.
I would first challenge the relevance of this motion, the wording of which is perfectly unintelligible. The budget was passed democratically by this House. Yet the Bloc Québécois—which is never lacking in imagination—is now calling on the House to revisit that debate and remove certain aspects that it believes ill serves Quebec's interests, which it purports to defend tooth and nail, hand on heart.
I do not believe that the Bloc's attitude, as reflected in this motion, serves anyone's interests. Quebecers, like all Canadians, are pleased with the passage of our government's economic action plan. And like all Canadians, they understand all too well how the current economic situation impels the Government of Canada to take strong, targeted measures in response. And that is exactly what we have done.
What is more, we have done so in a spirit of consultation and cooperation. We have consulted extensively with Canadians, governments, municipalities and First Nations. Contacts have been established and meetings have taken place with all governments. The opposition parties have also been a part of that process.
On December 17, the Minister Finance met with his provincial and territorial colleagues in Saskatoon. I would point out that the provinces were informed at that meeting of the changes to the equalization formula. On January 16, our Prime Minister met with the premiers and territorial leaders to reach agreement on measures to stimulate the Canadian economy.
At that meeting, the country's political leaders agreed to work on carrying out a number of those measures with the main objective of strengthening the domestic economy and making new, substantial investments to ensure ongoing access to credit and protect Canadians' pension plans. For workers and job seekers, they agreed to change two aspects of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), thus enhancing labour mobility. On infrastructure, they agreed to take immediate measures to get projects up and running and to fast-track funding for projects starting in the 2009 and 2010 construction season.
The economic action plan tabled by the Minister of Finance reflects the intentions expressed by the premiers and territorial leaders on January 16, notably by making new, substantial investments in the budget to support the economy in the short term and also prepare it for longer-term challenges. Through that budget presented by the Minister of Finance, our government is firmly committed to the path of economic recovery, and we hope that our partners will be as well, in light of the results obtained at the meeting with the premiers and territorial leaders.
That was the spirit in which the budget was designed and prepared. So I am astonished that the motion by the honourable member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain talks about, for example, an unacceptable intrusion into Quebec's fields of jurisdiction, in the case of a national securities commission. What does that mean, exactly?
The budget clearly states that the government will first set up an office to plan the transition towards the new system. In addition, it will consult participating authorities on tabling a securities bill later this year. Moreover, the government is working with willing provinces and territories to establish a more efficient, streamlined system for regulating securities, reflecting regional expertise and interests.
You will note that I referred only to the provinces and territories “willing” to take part in this process. Those that are unwilling will not have to do so, as they are invited on a voluntary basis. And a voluntary basis in no way means an unacceptable intrusion into a field of provincial jurisdiction.
I hasten to point out our Prime Minister's renewed commitment to respect provincial fields of jurisdiction, which has always been a cornerstone of our government's relations with the provinces. So much for the first part of the motion.
The second pertains specifically to equalization. Equalization payments have increased by 56% since 2003-04, and they were already increasing at an unsustainable pace, given the recent volatility of natural resources markets. The government is acting to ensure that increases in equalization payments are more in line with economic growth, so as to ensure the viability of the program and protect the provinces against any overall decrease in equalization payments.
Transfers will continue to increase, at a rate of 6% a year for the Canada health transfer and 3% for the Canada social transfer. Equalization payments will continue to increase at the same pace as the economy. Total assistance to the provinces by the Government of Canada, including for infrastructure, will reach a record $60 billion in 2009-10.
Under this budget, Quebec will continue to receive substantial federal transfers in 2009-10, to the tune of $17.6 billion, up $700 million over last year and roughly $5.2 billion more compared with 2005-06. That longer-term support is increasing. And that means that Quebec has the resources it needs to provide key public services and contribute towards common national objectives, including in the fields of health care, post-secondary education and other key components of Canada's social safety net. With respect to equalization, Quebec will receive over $8.3 billion in 2009-10, an increase of $3.5 billion, or 74%, since 2005-06.
One of the criticisms in this motion regarding the equalization calculation suggests that Quebec would be treated unfairly with respect to Hydro-Québec dividends. The difference is that Hydro-Québec, unlike Hydro One, which is mentioned in the motion, is a corporation that produces hydroelectricity. That is why it is included in the natural resources revenue base.
With respect to the Canada health transfer, Quebec will receive $5.8 billion, $279 million more than it did last year. Quebec's share of the Canada social transfer amounts to $2.5 billion, up by more than $373 million, or 17.4%, since 2005-06.
I could talk at length about the support that the Minister of Finance's budget provides Quebec in other spheres of activity. Quebec will receive $1.9 billion for skills upgrading, $1.9 billion more in employment insurance benefits and $4.5 billion to keep down employment insurance contributions in 2009-10 forecast at the national level.
The province will obtain its fair share of the $4.5 billion. That is a lot.