Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to say a few words on the Bloc Québécois Motion No. 288. The other day I spoke briefly on another motion from the Bloc and I was not in favour of it. Today, however, I am extremely proud to support the Bloc motion. The motion reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should reconsider its decision to eliminate the funding channelled through the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec to non-profit bodies active in the economic development sector, and reinstate their funding.
I am not from Quebec, but from New Brunswick, its neighbour. The Conservative government has a habit of cutting funding and acting without any consideration toward the agencies for the promotion and economic development of the regions of Canada. I am in favour of this motion because the Conservative government has done a lot of damage to Canada's economic development agencies, and more specifically, as this motion says, the agency for the regions of Quebec.
The hon. minister of state has recently announced that the Economic Development Agency would be reinstating the funding to these bodies, but this is not true. Let us be clear and precise about this. The things that the government has done to that agency are unjust and do not respect the goals of promoting this country's economic development agencies. I must point out something: the same goes for my Atlantic region.
For example, in the region of Atlantic Canada, by the change to the method by which transfers were made to the province of New Brunswick, the province of New Brunswick will receive this year $29 million less than it would have received had a Liberal government been re-elected in the election of 2006. This is happening across the country.
What is really telling is that in this case, the cuts to the agency we are speaking of in particular have been continuous and without replacement. There has been a 45% decrease in the funding to this agency in the province of Quebec.
As I said before, I stand in unison with my friends from the beautiful province de Quebec, not because it is a Quebec issue, but because it is a national issue. It is an issue that affects all regional economic development agencies, but in particular, we are speaking about this agency.
In my view, the Conservative government does not believe in regional development. There is a quote from the Prime Minister, which I would like to share with the House. It is quite instructive on why this step has taken place, why we, as opposition members, should be against its vision of Canada and Quebec and why we should be in support of this motion. The quote is from Global News, February 24, 2002:
We have in this country a federal government that increasingly is engaged in trying to determine which business, which regions, which industries will succeed, which will not through a whole range of economic development, regional development corporate subsidization programs. I believe that in the next election we got to propose a radical departure from this...
If this were a debate about language policy or how the Prime Minister truly feels about Atlantic Canadians or bilingualism, as I mentioned, we could go back to the famous speech in Montreal of 1997, but on this side, we do not like to go back and harp on past sayings and past personal statements of leaders. This is only in 2002 and it is specifically about regional development agencies. It is very clear that from the top, down, the Prime Minister had it in mind to make cuts, such as were visited upon this agency, from the day he was elected by minority vote in 2006.
The dramatic change in application requests is clearly a sign that the Conservative government has changed the rules and made it much more difficult to obtain financial assistance. The Conservatives have proven they cannot make government work on their own when we need it. They have a mere 4% success rate when it comes to the delivery of their own programs. Not only are they, in this very instance, cutting the very core funding to programs and cutting the very existence of the agency in question, they are making the agencies less effective as they stand. It is almost as if they wish for all of these agencies to disappear, which was, I think, what the prime minister-in-waiting, the leader of the opposition in 2002, really wanted to happen in the first place.
The guts of the motion is to reinstate the 2005-06 levels of funding, and that would be up to the level of $400 million. The government has cut funding to regional development and made it more difficult for organizations.
The second point in my short speech is with respect to the not-for profit agencies, which are in many cases cultural in nature. It goes to the very core value of the Conservative government with respect to cultural agencies.
Despite all of the rhetoric from the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the fact is the government stands against the idea of cultural agencies. I believe it feels that culture and the support for cultural agencies and institutions should come from the private sector.
If we look back on previous comments of groups such as the National Citizens Coalition and the Fraser Institute, I think the bedrock of Conservative ideology, the ideology that should be apparent not in the words but in the actions of the other side, is this private sector support for cultural agencies and not-for-profits. The Conservatives believe that with respect to child care. They believe that with respect to broadcasting, with their non-support of CBC's request for bridge financing. However, of late, in an attempt to appear perhaps a little more, shall we say, liberal in their approach to not-for-profits and cultural agencies, they have not been as explicit in their hard core Conservative ideology against regional agencies, cultural agencies and institutions.
The motion and the debate around it serves to re-establish the debate about what is left, what is right and what is centre.
It is important for Canadians and Quebeckers to know that a debate is going on at this time concerning cultural issues and the support to this country's economic development agencies.
A debate is taking place with respect to whether Canadians believe in things such as bilingualism, support for culture and the arts and support for regional development. I cannot say that the report card for the government is very good with respect to the latter, which is precisely what this motion is about.
I suspect from reading the cards here, when most of the elected politicians in the province of Quebec support this motion, which challenges the government's decision to leave to its own devices the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions in the province of Quebec, it is very clear to me that the debate has been lost by the Conservatives, particularly those Conservatives from Quebec who should realize their time has come and that the majority of people who represent the province of Quebec will not support a government that cuts aid to regional development agencies.