Mr. Speaker, we are studying the budget implementation act. What is this really about? These are the legislative changes made necessary by the passage of the budget.
The budget passed thanks to Liberal support for the Conservative government. That is how the government got a majority to support a budget that is not at all in the interests of Quebec.
The proof is in the motion passed unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly asking for help for its manufacturing and forestry sectors, as well as for some other important things to help Quebec overcome the recession. The federal government just ignored this unanimous motion of the National Assembly. With the help of the Liberals, it decided to pass the budget anyway.
So we are dealing today with this legislation to implement the budget. It is important to understand there are all kinds of very different things in it. For example, there is a change to the Navigable Waters Protection Act to reduce the amount of time needed for environmental studies, especially when municipalities have projects they want to develop. The environmental groups that will come to testify before us will say whether this is satisfactory, but it strikes us as interesting. It is not sufficient, though, for us to vote in favour of the bill.
In regard to the changes to the Competition Act, the Bloc Québécois has long asked that the competition commissioner be given more power to intervene. The bill seems to go a long way in this direction and we are very pleased that they have finally listened to our recommendations.
As a whole, though, the bill still has a lot of problems, for example the personal income tax cuts. Everyone knows that what is needed now is a real plan to boost the economy and everyone agreed that tax cuts were not the best way to get a multiplier effect. The Conservatives are doing this for electoral reasons, even though it has nothing to do with the real needs.
In addition, some things that should be in the bill are missing. For example, the Customs Act should be amended to lift the tariffs on imported manufacturing equipment. However, if companies are not helped to buy this equipment, we will only be continuing to help those that are already profitable and can pay the taxes, while the forestry and manufacturing sectors in particular will not have the means to take advantage of this kind of measure, which seemed quite attractive at first.
With respect to changes to employment insurance, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé just mentioned that the government did not do anything about the waiting period. The day after the budget was tabled, I got an email from a young woman who works in tourism. She thought that increasing the number of weeks from 45 to 50 might be a good way to help people cope with the recession, but it does not help her because she works seasonally in tourism. Every year, she works between 20 and 25 weeks, depending on how business in the sector is doing. Year after year, she goes through two weeks without any income. The government could have improved the employment insurance system by eliminating the waiting period, or at least reducing it. That would have removed the penalty and increased spending power for people who need it badly. It would have been nice to see a measure like that in this budget.
The budget also includes the creation of a single securities regulator. That measure will just irritate Quebec. I do not understand why the Conservative government thought it had to include that measure in the budget and the budget implementation bill. Canada has one of the best securities systems in the world, according to the OECD. These days, we have to make sure that every economic development move we make packs a punch, that we are investing our time and energy in the right places. The government could not have made a more useless move than this one, which will mess up the securities system.
Purdy Crawford, the expert who dealt with the credit crunch at the root of the current financial crisis, said that replacing the current securities system with a single regulator would not improve things for Canada at all. This measure will only upset Quebec and the members from Quebec, prompting them to vote against this bill. We had hoped that the Liberal and Conservative members would share the Bloc Québécois' perspective on this issue and demand that it be removed from the bill.
As for equalization, Quebeckers are used to seeing the rules change constantly. It has always been that way. As a result, the governments of Quebec and the other provinces—we have seen this with what is happening in Newfoundland—are finding it hard to predict what will happen. They never know whether the federal government is going to keep its promises. In this case, the government is not keeping its promise.
If I were the Minister of Finance of Quebec, I would feel that things had changed a great deal in the past month or two. Even last fall, we knew these figures reflected reality. The leader of the Parti Québécois mentioned them during the provincial election campaign. Now, the Conservative government is going to carry on the sad tradition of playing with the amounts available for Quebec and the provinces. That is not the right way to do things.
This bill also amends the Investment Canada Act. Even though deregulation has proven to be an utter failure all over the world, the government is moving in that direction. The threshold for a foreign investment review is currently $250 million, but the government is going to increase it to $1 billion. We saw this in the case of Rio Tinto, a huge company that was covered by the process in any case. Secret agreements were even reached. The decision was made not to set any requirements in terms of a minimum number of jobs, and we can see the results today. In many regions of Quebec and Canada, thousands of jobs disappeared.
In this case, to avoid having to answer for this sort of situation in the future, the government has decided simply to raise the threshold. Instead of investigating the appropriateness of purchases of $250 million or more, the government is going to increase the figure to $1 billion. Many transactions will no longer be covered by the act. In a few years, we could have the same record as we do now on deregulation. The effect is the same. In a few years, many companies will have been purchased by foreign companies even though it was not necessarily a good idea. With this amendment, such purchases are made legal, with no checks or controls.
This budget implementation act falls short on a number of counts. It would also have been important to include more specific measures for access to credit. People in our ridings, including owners of car dealerships, have told us that although the Bank of Canada prime rate is very low, there is a gap between that rate and the bank lending rate. In short, car salesmen find the situation to be unacceptable because it contributes to the slowdown of the economy and the fuelling of people's worries. The government should have gone much further to ensure that credit is truly accessible and to stimulate economic activity.
Like the budget, this bill contains a number of components opposed by the Bloc Québécois, not just because we are in opposition but because they do not reflect Quebec's priorities. It does not contain what we hoped for in a federal budget that would serve as a tool for economic development. There are discrepancies with regard to assistance. It was evident in last week's egregious example. There is a great deal of assistance for the auto sector but not much for the aerospace industry, which is concentrated primarily in Quebec.
This budget really is not a budget that will stimulate the economy. It is a budget that responds to the unfortunate situation in which the Conservative government found itself last fall, when it was called on the carpet by this House. This time, it was able to take advantage of the Liberals' renewed soft stance on adopting the budget. However, the Bloc Québécois will not aid and abet this position in any way. To defend the interests of Quebec, it is important that we oppose this bill. We shall see, in committee, when witnesses are called, whether or not we will be able to have the government make a certain number of changes so that we can at least mitigate the negative effects of such a bill.