Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé on his excellent speech. He has spoken eloquently about the issue. He has enlightened us on research and development and the consequences on the furniture industry in his riding.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of today's opposition day motion and hopes that the Conservative government will reinvest in science, research and innovation, all of which are pillars for a solid economy and job creators for the future.
I would like to point out the significant role the aerospace industry plays in the riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. Quebec's expertise in this economic sector is world-renowned. The aerospace industry is so important to Montreal's south shore that I am fond of calling it the aerospace region. I call it this because of the airport, the aerospace industry, the space agency and the aeronautics college. For us, Montreal's south shore, the aerospace region, is important.
The Saint-Hubert airport is the oldest civilian airport in Quebec and Canada and was, for some time, the largest. Across from Montreal, the south shore, particularly Saint-Hubert, is all about the airport and aerospace industry. Dozens of innovative small, medium-sized and large businesses based there and their subcontractors employ thousands of workers. These are companies like Héroux DevTech, Pratt & Whitney and Dev-Yhu, and organizations like the Canadian Space Agency. As I said earlier, Saint-Hubert is also home to the National Institute of Aeronautics, which is part of the Cégep Édouard-Montpetit and a leader in technical aeronautical training in Quebec.
Aerovision Quebec has also helped build our reputation in aeronautics. The foundation's president, Lucien Poirier, promotes Quebec's exceptional contribution to achievement in air travel and is dedicated to preserving our aeronautical heritage.
My colleague did such a great job of explaining why we need more support for research and development that I will skip some of the pages I prepared.
He also pointed out that Quebec has been left to its own devices.
If I may, I would also like to talk about research centres. When it comes to research conducted directly by the federal government, also known as intramural research, where the government makes its own decisions about allocating funds, Quebec receives only 19.4% of the funding, while Ontario receives 58.3%. In fact, the city of Ottawa alone receives $912 million—almost three times more than the $320 million spent in the entire province of Quebec.
There are 118 federal research centres, and only 16 of them—13.5%—are located in Quebec. Ontario has 50 centres. The government spends nearly a billion dollars—$960 million—on research and development in the national capital region. Of that, 95%—$912 million—goes to Ontario, and a mere 5%—just $48 million—goes to the Outaouais. The greater Ottawa area has 27 federal research centres. Every single one is located in Ontario.
Quebec should get its fair share of federal research and development funds. The federal government should relocate some of its own research centres from Ottawa to the Outaouais. That would only be fair.
A former Liberal industry minister used to say that the aerospace industry is to Quebec what the automobile industry is to Ontario. He was right and the Bloc Québécois has often repeated that. The Quebec aerospace industry represents 51% of jobs, 57% of salaries, 62% of sales volumes and 70% of R and D expenditures in the Canadian aerospace industry. Quebec is a world leader in this sector.
In the aerospace sector, competition exists not only among corporations, but also among governments. Indeed, because this sector generates significant economic and technological spinoffs and creates extremely high quality jobs, governments step up their efforts and their imagination in order to support their aerospace sectors better. The dispute between the United States and Europe regarding subsidies to Boeing and Airbus is an excellent example, not to mention Embraer.
Unfortunately, the federal government seems to have decided to take Canada out of play. Not only does it have no aerospace policy, but all of its actions serve only to weaken this pillar of our economy, either by incompetence or negligence—or both—or perhaps for some other reason.
I would like to quote an article by Alain Dubuc that appeared in the Friday, March 6 edition of La Presse:
That is the same logic, the same obscurantism, the same misunderstanding of the development of an advanced society that led the government to cut funding that allowed artists to tour internationally.
In the same column a few paragraphs later, Alain Dubuc writes:
In fact, the Conservative government is adopting the same approach to research as it did to arts and culture. We are seeing the same prejudices and the same notion of the settling of scores. It is pretty clear that the Conservatives are cutting the financial livelihood of a sector that it does not like...
This Conservative government has not announced any new measures to support industry. It has changed the repayment terms of its main R and D investment program, so that it no longer really shares the risk with businesses. It also carries out all of its military aerospace procurements abroad, thereby providing no spinoffs for the hub of Canada's aerospace industry, namely, Quebec.
It must be said that the Canadian and Quebec aerospace industries are different. Quebec has a real industry, with those who give the contracts surrounded by suppliers, whereas the Canadian industry is essentially made up of equipment manufacturers and suppliers.
By the way, Montreal is the only place in the world where an entire aircraft can be assembled within a radius of less than 50 kilometres.
So while the Canadian industry depends a great deal on the health of the American industry, because Canada provides the U.S. with equipment and parts, Quebec's industry is a centre in itself.
When the government makes military purchases abroad and lets Boeing choose the spinoffs, it is a safe bet that its Canadian suppliers will benefit, but not its Quebec competitors. While Canada can accommodate an aerospace policy designed in Washington because the Canadian industry is integrated into the American industry, Quebec cannot.
The aerospace industry has particular challenges that call for industry-specific tools. First, because the investments in research and development that are needed to launch a new aerospace product must be made over a very long time and are expensive and risky, the government must share the risk with the aerospace companies. Otherwise, they will develop their products elsewhere.
Second, because their products are very expensive and their clients, the airlines, are going through tough times because of competition from low-cost carriers and higher fuel prices, aerospace companies need ways of financing sales contracts. Otherwise, they will have a hard time finding buyers.
Third, because SMEs in the aerospace industry have to take part in developing products in order to create their own niche in the industry, but do not necessarily have the capital to do so, measures that apply specifically to SMEs, such as access to credit and working capital, are needed.
Lastly, because military purchases are excluded from trade agreements and mean good-quality contracts that lead to technological advances, the industry needs the government to adopt procurement policies that have attractive economic and technological spinoffs.
These four elements are the foundations of any aerospace policy. Such a policy is especially needed here as our domestic market is fairly limited and the government, which decided last year to renew its fleet of aircraft abroad at a cost of $13 billion, will not be making any purchases of a similar size for another generation or two.
The challenges facing the aerospace industry will not go away. The market will remain fragile, because fuel prices will remain high. The value of Canada's petrodollar will remain high as well, which will hurt manufacturing, including the aerospace industry.