Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, who interrupted her passionate discourse to give me a little time to speak. I am sure that she would have had no trouble using up all of the allotted time.
In our motion, we are asking the government to drop two measures. My colleague and I agreed that she would talk about the Canada-wide securities commission, and I, the Conservative government's unilateral amendments to the equalization formula. In a letter to the Premier of Quebec dated March 19, 2007, the Prime Minister promised that transfers to the provinces would be predictable and long term. In respect of calculating equalization, he should also agree to the Government of Quebec's request to treat revenue generated by Hydro-Québec's transmission and distribution activities the same way Hydro One's revenues are treated.
It is clear from the positions taken by other parties in this House that the only members who are standing up to protect the interests of Quebeckers are the Bloc Québécois members. There is a reason that, in election after election, we win a vast majority of the seats in this House: when the time comes to stand up for Quebec's interests, we are the only ones who represent the Quebec nation.
Members of other political parties in Quebec will vote against this motion. Today, I am asking the government not to make changes to equalization, but this is not a Bloc Québécois request; it is a unanimous National Assembly of Quebec demand. I would be happy to explain. We have the support of Quebec's finance minister, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, who wrote a letter to Canada's Minister of Finance asking for what we are asking for today. She did not write the letter 10 years ago. She wrote it on January 21, 2009, and I will speak about that later.
Everyone knows that Ms. Jérôme-Forget's political allegiance is not the same as ours, and that nobody on our side voted for her party during the last election. Even though we are not supposed to say for whom we voted, we can say that because everyone knows it.
That is the reality. Why? Because equalization is part of the very foundation of a federation. Canada is not the only federation that shares its resources among its various constituent communities, which are called provinces here. Germany, Switzerland, Australia, India, Pakistan and South Africa have equalization systems similar to ours. The United Kingdom also has an equalization system that reflects the needs of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Equalization is not unique to Canada, but can be found in other federations as well.
The big question is whether Canada is a true federation. We can always discuss this, but the fact is that the equalization system is in place so that people will have access to public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation. The purpose of equalization is to try to distribute wealth more proportionally throughout the federation.
Do you think Quebeckers like getting equalization? They do not, because it is a sign of poverty. Quebec is less wealthy than certain other provinces, even though other provinces also receive equalization payments. But other provinces like Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta are wealthier. We can break all that down.
As for the aid given to the auto industry, the wealth this industry generates does not even benefit Quebec. We had an auto manufacturing plant, but it closed a decade ago. Obviously, we are very happy to have some suppliers, but the auto manufacturing companies are all in Ontario.
The good jobs are therefore in Ontario, and household incomes there are higher than in Quebec. That is why we receive equalization. But it is a myth that Quebec is the spoiled child within Canada.
When we look at the provinces that receive equalization, we see that Quebec gets more. Why? Because its population is larger. But Quebec gets the least money per capita, with $1,037 in 2008-09. Nova Scotia receives $1,679 per capita; Manitoba receives $1,732; Newfoundland receives $1,781; New Brunswick receives $2,111 and Prince Edward Island receives $2,310 per capita.
The total amount Quebec receives is higher, but it is not true that people are treated equitably on a per capita basis. Obviously, the provinces and the Government of Canada debate this.
As for the division of the equalization formula, there seemed to be agreement. We were all aware of that. The Prime Minister had written to the premier of Quebec in 2007 to tell him that, at last, he had decided to review the formula for calculating equalization payments, within the framework of addressing the fiscal imbalance. We even voted in favour of the 2007 budget, and that is no secret. There was unanimity in Quebec. All political parties were in agreement. The decision was made to give the government a chance. Yet the government was the source of the problem. It has reduced equalization because it has a reduced revenue. It has a reduced revenue because it has reduced the GST. That is the Conservative reality. Now they are trying to scrape up a little money here, a little there, and once again are picking on equalization, which is a revenue calculated into the budget of the province of Quebec. They are saying all manner of things on this subject. The Minister of Finance says the provinces were aware of the new method for calculating equalization, that it was not done unilaterally.
I will read the opening paragraph in the letter that Quebec finance minister Jérôme-Forget wrote to the federal Minister of Finance. It says:
In recent days, federal government authorities, yourself and other representatives of your government included, have affirmed that all pertinent information on the changes you are contemplating to equalization was shared at the federal-provincial meeting of finance ministers held last November 3 in Toronto.
That is incorrect. Allow me to rectify this.
These are not my words. It is a letter from the Quebec finance minister to the federal Minister of Finance in Ottawa. Let all those who have come here saying there was an agreement know, it is not true. And that includes all the Quebec Conservative members who have gone and told Quebec and their fellow MNAs that it was not their fault, that there was an agreement. There was no agreement. The Quebec Conservatives need to wake up. There was no agreement. Period. She wrote that letter and I have a copy.
Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, would you give me permission to table in this House a copy of the letter written by Minister Jérôme-Forget to the Minister of Finance on January 21, 2009?
Do I have leave of the House to do so?