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House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should, as long called for by the Bloc Québécois and now called for by the Member for Beauce, end the so-called federal spending power in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, eliminate the federal programs that violate the division of powers, and transfer tax points to the provinces by: (a) eliminating all federal spending in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, unless express authorization is given by Quebec or the province; (b) providing a systematic right to opt out with full financial compensation and without condition of all existing and future programs, whether co-funded or not, that intrude into jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces; and (c) transferring, at the request of Quebec or a province, fiscal room in the form of tax points and/or GST to replace the amounts that the province would otherwise have received under the Canada Health Transfer, federal programs in its areas of jurisdiction and the transfer for social programs and post-secondary education indexed to 1994-1995 levels.

Mr. Speaker, in 1867, the people of Quebec were not consulted on whether or not they wished to join Confederation, but in order to make the pill go down, so to speak, it was promised a spoonful of sugar: that it would be sovereign in several areas, and that it could use that partial sovereignty to develop as a society. That is indeed what the use of the word “confederation” rather than “federation” implied. It was on this condition that Quebec became a part of Canada.

However, Ottawa does not hesitate to invade Quebec's exclusive fields of jurisdiction. Family policy, health, education and regional development are a few of the most striking examples of areas of federal interference. In 2008-09, the federal government spent more than $60 billion in areas that fall under Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdiction. This situation is patently intolerable.

We recall that the Conservative government committed to creating a framework for the so-called federal spending power in 2006, but so far it has not followed through. Last week the Conservative member for Beauce went further and proposed the pure and simple elimination of the so-called federal spending power as a solution to constitutional squabbles. This is what the Bloc Québécois is asking for today in this motion, and also what was proposed in the bill tabled in April by my colleague, the member for Saint-Lambert.

The motion focuses on three elements. First, it seeks the explicit elimination of Ottawa's self-given right to spend in areas outside its jurisdiction. Second, it calls for Quebec to be given a systematic right to opt out of programs, without conditions and with full compensation. Third, it seeks compensation in the form of tax points so that Ottawa cannot determine how much Quebec allocates to its various areas of responsibility.

The House of Commons finally recognized the Quebec nation. And recognizing a nation is more than just a symbolic gesture. Nations, like people, have fundamental rights, the most important being the right to control the social, economic and cultural development of its own society, in other words, the right to self-determination. You cannot, on one hand, recognize the Quebec nation and its right to make choices that are different from Canada's and, on the other, deny the nation the ability to assert that right by maintaining the federal spending power. Denying Quebec the power to spend undermines its very existence as a nation.

Let us consider the recent comments of the member for Beauce. It is a rare occasion when I agree with the member for Beauce, but I see that he has finally sided with the Bloc Québécois, and I hope that he can convince his party to support today's motion.

This is what the member for Beauce said on October 13. He himself was quoting Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The member for Beauce said that, in a speech to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec in 1871, Laurier made the following statement:

If the [federal] system is to avoid becoming a hollow concept, if it is to produce the results called for—this is Laurier speaking—, the legislatures must be independent, not just in the law, but also in fact. The local legislature must especially be completely sheltered from control by the federal legislature. If in any way the federal legislature exercises the slightest control over the local legislature, then the reality is no longer a federal union, but rather a legislative union in federal form.

That is the end of the quote by Sir Wilfrid Laurier cited by the member for Beauce.

The member for Beauce concluded:

Now, it’s obvious that what Laurier feared has unfortunately come true. Ottawa exercises a lot more than “the slightest control” over local legislatures. The federal government today intervenes massively in provincial jurisdictions, and in particular in health and education, two areas where it has no constitutional legitimacy whatsoever. This is not what the Fathers of Confederation had intended. The objective of the 1867 Act was not to subordinate provincial governments to a central authority. But rather to have sovereign provinces within the limits of their powers, dealing with local matters that directly affected citizens; and a sovereign federal government within the limits of its own powers, dealing with matters of general national interest.

The member for Beauce and the Bloc Québécois are not the only ones challenging the legitimacy and the very basis for the existence of the federal spending power; all governments of Quebec have done so, no matter what their political allegiance. Why? Because the federal spending that encroaches on provincial jurisdictions is in direct opposition to the division of powers in Canada. In principle, both orders of government in Canada are equal and equally sovereign in their respective areas. The division of jurisdictions is supposed to be watertight in order to prevent the majority nation, the Canadian nation, from imposing its views on the minority nation, the Quebec nation.

The division of powers that took place in 1867 between Ottawa and the provinces is quite simple if we look at it in the context of the 19th century. Matters that directly affected people and their way of organizing their society fell under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. This was the case for instance for the civil laws that codified the relationships between people and the organization of society through social programs, health, education, cultural matters, etc.

If, however, an issue did not directly affect people or the internal organization of their society, it could be placed under federal jurisdiction. This is the case for monetary policy, international trade, and the overall regulation of trade and industry. In 1867, Quebec was not really industrialized and that aspect did not affect people very much. Thus, Quebeckers believed they had acquired the autonomy they needed to allow them to organize their own society without external interference. And it was on that basis that Quebec agreed to enter into the Canadian federation in 1867.

However, the federal spending that encroaches upon areas of provincial jurisdiction calls into question this division of powers and Quebec's autonomy. In fact, this was the pact at the basis of the Canadian federation, which Canada is denying daily and has been denying for three generations by interfering freely with Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

Benoît Pelletier, the former Quebec Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs under Jean Charest, said the following:

I...have a great deal of difficulty in reconciling the values underlying the Canadian federation with the idea of a federal spending power that is in no way subject to the division of powers.

It is for that reason that the Séguin report in its turn expressed the opinion that:

The “federal spending power” displays a singular logic in that the federal government intervenes every time in a field falling under provincial jurisdiction without having to adopt a constitutional amendment.

We could add “without having to obtain the authorization of Quebec's National Assembly”. In short, the federal spending power is the way English Canada unilaterally put an end to the pact in which Quebec agreed to be a part of Canada. Through the spending power, it managed to unilaterally change the distribution of powers to its benefit without having to go through the cumbersome process of constitutional amendment.

There is now a consensus in Quebec. The spending power is illegitimate. Quebec has always felt that the federal spending power was nothing more than a power to implement, that is to say that in the final analysis, it is a power to impose policies.

That is why Quebec maintains that federal spending power should be limited to areas in which the federal Parliament has legislative jurisdiction. Regardless of the party in power, Quebec has consistently maintained that Ottawa simply does not have the power to spend money in whatever area it chooses, and that any federal intervention in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction is in direct violation of the Constitution.

Federal government interference in fact proves that the fiscal imbalance has not been resolved. The fiscal imbalance is due to the fact that Ottawa raises more in taxes than it needs to discharge its own responsibilities. And the result, in Quebec's case, is that Quebec no longer has the tax room it needs to fund its own activities independently.

As long as Ottawa has the authority to spend in areas under provincial jurisdiction, the fiscal imbalance cannot be resolved. Conservative members who claim that the fiscal imbalance is now resolved have not understood a thing. The fiscal imbalance cannot be resolved without putting an end to federal spending power in areas that encroach upon the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.

As the Séguin commission stated, and I quote:

...The problem of the federal spending power is closely tied to fiscal imbalance, and its use is underpinned by the surplus funds that the federal government controls.

That is what the commission found.

Quebec has no intention of being one of Ottawa's mere subcontractors. No, the fiscal imbalance has not been resolved and is, in fact, getting worse. More and more, as a result of the fiscal imbalance and its offshoot—spending power—the Quebec government is being relegated to the ranks of a federal government subcontractor. Through its interference and conditional transfers, Ottawa is imposing Canada's priorities and choices on Quebec.

The situation has gotten so bad that Quebec's own-source revenues hit an all-time low in 2009-10, when a quarter of Quebec's budget envelope was being controlled by the federal government. Now more than ever, it is time for the federal government to hand over the GST to Quebec, as well as a portion of individual income tax, so that Quebec is no longer at the mercy of federal transfer payments and Ottawa's whims.

In 2006, as I was saying earlier, the House of Commons finally recognized the existence of the Quebec nation. Recognizing the existence of a nation is more than just a symbolic act. Nations, like people, have fundamental rights, and the most fundamental among them is a nation's right to control its own social, economic and cultural development, that is to say, the right to self-determination.

One cannot, on the one hand, recognize that the Quebec nation exists and has the right to make choices that are different from those that Canada makes, which right is at the core of nationhood, and on the other hand, deny that right by maintaining the federal spending power. That spending power is in fact a negation of the Quebec nation.

The so-called framework mentioned in the 2007 Speech from the Throne, which was to set limits on the spending power, had indeed been the subject of official Conservative promises, and has continued to be the subject of such promises since; it is nothing but lip service.

I will now quote from the 2007 Speech from the Throne, which said:

...our government will introduce legislation to place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This legislation will allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.

It should be noted that the government's offer, its commitment in that text, is limited to new programs, even though it was already spending $62 billion in areas that do not fall under its jurisdiction. That is the figure from 2008-09. This amount is more or less equivalent to Quebec's entire budget, which was $65 billion for that year, and this is money Ottawa spent in areas that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The Speech from the Throne allows all of that to go on happening. Moreover, it only refers to new shared-cost programs, which are almost non-existent. For instance, as agriculture is an area of shared jurisdiction, the agriculture policy framework is not covered by the commitment in the throne speech. Moreover, insofar as the infrastructure Canada program is concerned, the throne speech changed nothing because Quebec already had the right to select its own projects.

So there was nothing, absolutely nothing in the Speech from the Throne aside from empty words. In fact it was a new version of the Jean Chrétien throne speech, which said approximately the same thing in 1996; and nothing was done following that one either, of course.

It is the same thing as the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville's social union, by virtue of which the Canadian provinces, with the exception of Quebec, agreed to allow Ottawa to take the lead in matters of social policy.

The bill that the Bloc Québécois already tabled is an offer of reasonable accommodation. We are aware that Canadians do not want to completely eliminate the federal power to interfere. When I say Canadians, I am obviously not talking about Quebeckers, but other Canadians, who generally want the central government to be able to set directions and priorities for the entire country in all areas. That is not in keeping with the promise made to Quebec 140 years ago. It is in keeping with Canadians' vision of Canada, though. In April 2010, to put an end to Ottawa's interference in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, the Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-507, which I just mentioned, on eliminating the federal spending power in Quebec's jurisdictions.

Today's motion, which is very much in line with our bill, proposes a compromise by saying that Ottawa should at least give Quebec a full right to opt out of any federal programs in areas that intrude into the provinces' jurisdictions. Canadians will be able to keep on denying the division of powers for themselves, but not for us in Quebec.

One Conservative Party member heard the Bloc Quebecois' call, and we can only be glad. Just a few months after we introduced our bill, the member for Beauce repeated the Bloc's demands almost word for word. He said:

However, several other programs, from family allowances to grants to universities and hospital insurance, were set up which clearly did not respect the constitutional division of powers...

This intrusion into provincial jurisdiction was accomplished by the so-called federal spending power.

No constitutional provision to legitimize this federal spending power was ever adopted. The Supreme Court of Canada has never explicitly recognized this power either. The federal government was certainly aware that the power to spend in areas of provincial jurisdiction does not exist in the Constitution...

Ending the federal spending power, eliminating the federal programs that violate the division of powers, and transferring tax points to the provinces would be the right thing to do from several perspectives.

We agree. Consequently, I invite the Conservative government to support our Bill C-507. I also invite the Conservative members and the members from all the other parties to support the motion I have put forward this morning.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech on the issue of the federal spending power.

The question I would like to ask my colleague is the following. For decades now, Quebec governments under both the Liberals and the Parti Québécois have been asking the federal government to limit its spending power, especially in areas under Quebec’s jurisdiction, such as education, health, and so forth.

We very much appreciated the initiative of the hon. member for Beauce and hope that all members of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, especially those from Quebec, will vote in favour of this motion.

How does he explain, though, the federal government's systematic refusal to give Quebec the power to manage its own areas of jurisdiction?

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, my answer is that, ultimately, it is just their lust for power. It is quite natural for people who have power to want more of it. That is the reason for the federal government’s constant intrusions into jurisdictions that are not its own.

To simplify and perhaps boil down this concept of the spending power, I want to give two examples. The Constitution assigns education to the provincial governments and the Government of Quebec. Therefore, the federal government does not have the right to, for example, build a university, hire professors and so forth. In actual fact, though, what it does is offer the universities money to organize education in a particular way. It does not pass any legislation. It does not say they have to because it has the power. It does not do that. It does not pass any laws ordering them to do anything in particular. It offers money, and if a university wants the cash, it has to accept the conditions. There is a conditional aspect, therefore, to the spending power, and that is how they force educators in Quebec, for example, to follow federal directives.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, our government is very proud of the financial support we provide to the province of Quebec in various areas.

I want to ask two questions, but first I would like to recall a few things, such as the millions of dollars to save jobs and help the unemployed and other people in need. There is more than $200 million for knowledge and innovation in Quebec and more than $1 billion to protect companies and communities during the global recession. I am very proud of the tens of millions of dollars we shared to help Quebec athletes prepare for the Olympic Games.

I have a question for the hon. member about that. I was so proud to be Canadian when our Canadian athletes filed into the House of Commons. The majority were from Quebec. I want to know why it was that when we encouraged and celebrated these athletes by singing the national anthem, which we love, the Bloc Québécois did not join in to encourage these athletes from Quebec? In addition, how are they going to finance these games for Olympic athletes from Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, what we just witnessed demonstrates how the federal government uses its spending power to meddle in areas that should fall under the Quebec government's jurisdiction.

For example, having a single Canadian team at the Olympic Games denies the existence of the Quebec nation. When they do that kind of thing and attempt to impose Canadian symbols, it should come as no surprise that the people who care about the rights and legitimacy of the Quebec nation do not support the symbols. Symbols should be cherished by the people promoting them, those who see themselves in them. We do not see ourselves in these symbols, which are symbols of interference in our affairs as a nation.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague referred to the Constitution, but one must always consider the current context, and I would like him to reflect on that. The fact is that, setting aside the territories for a moment, there are currently four provinces in Canada with fewer inhabitants than the city of Laval and six provinces with fewer inhabitants than the old city of Montreal. We understand that there are some provinces that need the federal government in order to make progress. However, colleagues in this House must understand that Quebec does not need the other provinces in order to flourish. Quebec is capable of creating its own systems, its own networks, and its own social development plan.

I would therefore like my colleague to compare the events of 1867 and what is occurring right now.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Quebec is big enough to develop as a nation, and it has the means, the land mass and a population comparable to that of a country such as Sweden, which is not considered a poor and underdeveloped nation—far from it. We certainly have the means to develop as a nation, and we have all the characteristics of a nation. Not only do we have our own language, but we also have our own history. All Quebeckers, whatever their origin may be, have the sense that they belong to a society that, as a nation, shares many national ideals and concerns.

That may not be the case for very small provinces that, in any case, have a lot in common with their neighbours. They may not have the same way of doing things. And that is what makes Quebec a nation—something the House of Commons has finally recognized.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, an issue we had in Newfoundland and Labrador recently was a devolution of labour market development from federal to provincial jurisdiction. One of the things the government did was to provide a lump-sum payment to the province to do this.

When they say opting out of federal programs and carrying on on their own, with compensation, are they talking about that one-time payment, or should the federal government compensate year over year for that program they opted out of and started their own?

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, everything comes down to tax fields. When the federal government spends money in areas outside of its jurisdiction, it will naturally levy taxes. But taxpayers, businesses and consumers have a limited capacity for paying taxes. When the federal government starts intruding in areas that are outside of its jurisdiction, it levies taxes. What happens then? If a province were to decide not to participate, not to accept these new federal plans, but wanted to tax its people, the federal government would have to back out of the tax field so that the province—Quebec, for example—could collect money for similar programs.

That is why we are calling on the government to transfer tax points, a certain percentage of taxes, or the ability to levy taxes, to Quebec.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for this opportunity to speak against, and let me emphasize against, today's motion from the Bloc Québécois. This is another very disappointing, thinly veiled attempt by Bloc members to desperately justify their presence here in Ottawa after 20 long years in perpetual opposition, which is where they will remain if they continue putting forward motions like this one, 20 long years in which the Bloc has obtained zero real results.

I know the Bloc will never admit it but in only five years our Conservative government and our Quebec Conservative MPs, such as the member for Beauce, have done more for their home province of Quebec than the Bloc ever can and ever will. More and more Quebeckers are realizing that as well.

The Bloc will not admit it but the member for Beauce, my former colleague on the finance committee, is doing a great job for his constituents here in Parliament. He is doing such a great job that in the last election a whopping 60% of the voters in Beauce supported him while the Bloc candidate received a mere 13%. Clearly, more Quebeckers are turning away from the Bloc and turning toward our Conservative government that delivers for them.

We delivered on economic leadership. We delivered on solving the fiscal imbalance. We delivered much more to benefit Quebeckers, in fact all Canadians.

First on that list of Conservative accomplishments was our strong action to solve the fiscal imbalance for Quebec and for all provinces and territories. The previous Liberal government gutted support for the provinces and territories by literally cutting tens of billions in transfer support for health care and social programs. Let us be clear, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin slashed transfers like never before and that created major problems in schools and hospitals from coast to coast to coast. It is not a good legacy.

I would hope that all Liberal members would be ashamed of that, but I ask them to reflect on what two former premiers once said on that matter. First, let me read to them what a former Ontario premier said:

When the federal [Liberal] government decided in its wisdom that it would cut back unilaterally, particularly in the area of social assistance, it had a major and devastating effect on the people of [Ontario].

Second, let me quote a former British Columbia premier, who said that the Chrétien-Martin federal surpluses were “accumulated over the backs of the provinces and territories in cuts to transfer payments”.

What is more, if Liberal MPs want to know more about their actual record, they should talk to those two premiers, and they do not have to go too far to do that, because that former Ontario premier is their Liberal caucus colleague, the member for Toronto Centre, and that former British Columbia premier is also their Liberal caucus colleague, the member for Vancouver South.

But if they do not believe them, they can talk to their former finance critic and Liberal colleague, the member for Markham—Unionville, who said only this year:

I think...the Chrétien government--even though I am a Liberal--cut perhaps too deeply, too much offloading, with the benefit of hindsight. And there were some negative effects.

But if they do not believe their former finance critic, they might consider talking to the current finance critic, the member for Kings—Hants. This is what he had to say:

The...[Liberal] government balanced its books by slashing transfers to the provinces by forcing the provinces...to face deficits, and health care systems and education systems in a crisis as a result of its inability and irresponsibility to actually tighten its own belt more significantly.

Without a doubt, the problem is not here today but it is what happened under the previous Liberal government. The Liberals' devastating legacy is still evident. In fact, every year during finance committee prebudget consultations we hear witness after witness speak to the devastation that the Liberals brought.

This is what the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations told the finance committee:

The federal government chose to cut investment in education in the mid-1990s to reduce the deficit. Due to these cuts, Canada faced a brain drain....

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities said:

...mistakes of [the] nineties when federal and provincial governments push deficits of balance sheets into the streets of cities and communities. The damage done to Canada's cities is still evident.

Making it worse, Liberal members denied, and more shockingly, mocked claims of a fiscal imbalance when they were in power. In fact, let me read a press release from the former Liberal intergovernmental affairs minister in which the government cavalierly scoffed at the concerns of Canada's provinces and territories:

Rather than fiscal imbalance, we need to talk about the collective responsibility of our governments.... [T]he slogan: the money is in Ottawa, the needs are in the provinces...does not reflect reality. There is no fiscal imbalance.

Shockingly and disappointingly for Quebeckers, the Bloc was helpless to do anything to stop the Liberal government and to fix the fiscal imbalance. Realizing that more and more Quebeckers started to reconsider their support for the tired and ineffective Bloc Québécois, I am happy to report that Quebeckers turned away from the Bloc and helped elect a strong group of Conservative MPs from the province, and in the process, a new Conservative government here in Ottawa.

I am happy to report that in two short years we took a major step to address the fiscal imbalance and significantly increase transfer payments to the provinces and territories. In fact, in 2006 our new Conservative government was the first in Canadian history to recognize and acknowledge there was a fiscal imbalance. Only a year later in budget 2007, we took steps to restore fiscal balance through a comprehensive plan that put federal support for provinces and territories on a long-term predictable and principle-based footing for the future, a plan that ensured all provinces and territories would receive more funding and transfers.

I note for the Bloc that the former Quebec finance minister, Yves Séguin, praised our action saying that it significantly redressed a long-time sore spot, the fiscal imbalance.

The well-respected La Presse economics writer, Claude Piché, echoed that praise when he said that it tackled the issue of federal-provincial transfers credibly and coherently.

Indeed, under our Conservative government, federal support for provinces and territories has remained strong. It is at an all-time high and it will continue to grow. For example, Quebec will receive increased support through major federal transfers in 2010-11 totalling $17.2 billion, an increase of $5.2 billion, or a 44% increase from under the old Liberal government. This includes $8.5 billion for equalization, an increase of over $3.7 billion, or 78% more than the Liberals were providing. It includes $6.1 billion through the Canada health transfer, an increase of $1 billion, or 21% above the Liberal level, and $2.6 billion through the Canada social transfer. This represents a $441 million, or a 21% increase since the Liberals were in power.

This long-term support helps ensure Quebec has the resources needed to provide the essential public services including health care, post-secondary education and other social services.

What is more, we have also said repeatedly that, unlike the previous Liberal government, we will not cut transfers to other levels of government as part of our efforts to balance the budget. This is a welcome and reassuring commitment that even Quebec Premier Jean Charest has applauded. He said, “The federal government has given reassurances.... We are satisfied...”.

While the Bloc Québécois brings forward motions like today's that are nothing more, as I say, than a thinly veiled political game, our Conservative government is focusing on what really matters to all Canadians, including Quebeckers, and that is the economy. We all recognize that the global economic recovery is fragile. Canada will be impacted by economic circumstances beyond our borders, especially those in the United States. That is why our government's main priority is the economy and implementing Canada's economic action plan to protect Canada's recovery.

Canada's economic action plan is clearly having a positive impact. We have over 23,000 job-creating projects under the plan that have committed funding, with close to 97% of those completed or under way across Canada.

Our economic action plan is getting positive results and is providing stability for our economy. We have helped create over 400,000 net new jobs since July 2009. We have lowered taxes for all Canadians. We have revitalized our infrastructure.

Indeed, despite the fragile global recovery, Canada's economy is in relatively good shape, so much so that the IMF and the OECD both are forecasting that Canada's growth will be at the head of the pack in the industrialized world this year and next. That does not happen by accident.

Our economic action plan is working and helping to put Canadians to work right across the country, including in Quebec. Let me recap only a few ways that budget 2010, year two of our Canada's economic action plan, is helping protect workers and families in Quebec through the economic conditions.

First and foremost, Canada's economic action plan is providing historic investments in infrastructure in Quebec. Examples of specific projects include projects at the port of Trois-Rivières, including site development to improve storage at the port and security upgrades at the new borders at the port. There is the expansion of the Monique Corriveau library in the city of Quebec, and refurbishments of an indoor pool and cultural centre in Beauceville.

Montreal area commuters will benefit from $50.5 million in new funding over the next two years for Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated. This funding will ensure that the corporation can make the capital expenditure required to maintain the safety of its bridges, which are among the busiest in Canada.

Remote communities will benefit from an investment of $18 million over the next two years to support the capital and operational requirements of Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc., which operates a passenger rail service throughout western Labrador and northeastern Quebec. Communities and businesses in Quebec will benefit from the $28 million provided to support the operations of ferry services in Atlantic Canada, including the route between Îles de la Madeleine, Quebec and Souris, Prince Edward Island.

Shockingly, the Bloc voted against Canada's economic action plans and all these job-creating projects to help these communities in Quebec.

As well, communities and businesses in Quebec are benefiting from the $14.6 million provided to the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, to increase the vitality of communities and help small and medium size businesses and communities enhance their competitiveness. Again the Bloc voted against supporting job growth.

Canada's economic action plan also affirms our government's commitment to work with sectors such as aerospace, to help put in place the conditions they need to succeed and build upon their role as an important economic contributor. Canada's aerospace industry is a critical economic engine. It is a cornerstone of the Canadian economy, providing thousands of skilled jobs across the country, employing some 83,000 skilled professionals in over 400 firms, including some 42,000 jobs in Quebec.

The Canadian aerospace industry is developing cutting-edge technologies that are enabling our companies to be major players on the global stage. Companies such as Bombardier Aerospace, CAE and Bell Helicopter together make up a key component of Canada's economy, and the economies of greater Montreal and the province of Quebec.

Through budget 2010, Canada's economic action plan continued to support the aerospace industry with nearly $500 million to support the RADARSAT Constellation mission, Canada's next generation of Earth observation satellites. Claude Lajeunesse, president and CEO of Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, applauded that move by stating:

This measure will stimulate the space sector and keep value-added jobs in Canada while serving government priorities.

I cannot believe the Bloc members voted against supporting high quality jobs in the aerospace industry, but sadly, they did.

There is so much more in the economic action plan to help put Canadians to work right across the country and in Quebec. Again, it is working. Indeed, in September, 15,000 net new jobs were created in Quebec alone, increasing the total to 130,000 in Quebec in the past 15 months. In the words of Quebec finance minister Raymond Bachand:

That's the best performance in [North] America. [The Quebec] economy is doing relatively well.

While the Bloc is concentrated on political gains and voting against the economic action plan, our Conservative government is concentrated on the economy and helping create jobs for Quebeckers. Moreover, when the Liberals denied the fiscal imbalance existed, the Bloc could not get anything done.

Our Conservative government took action and restored the fiscal balance for Quebec and all provinces. No wonder more and more Quebeckers are sending more Conservative MPs to Ottawa.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member started out with quotes from my party and others. I would like to start with a quote from one of his own. This goes back to the late 1990s, and it states:

[T]here is no reason to have Ottawa collect our revenue. Any incremental cost of collecting our own personal income tax would be far outweighed by the policy flexibility that Alberta would gain, as Quebec’s experience has shown. ...

Alberta should also argue that each province should raise its own revenue for health care—i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points as Quebec has argued for many years. ...

It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction.

Those words came from the right hon. Prime Minister, also echoed by the member for Beauce. If they are going to support this motion, why would the other members of his own party not?

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I chose not to bring out a stack of quotes that would reflect the positions taken by present and former Liberals, but they cannot duck the facts. I have spoken with many former and present finance ministers, in fact, members of my caucus, who were part of provincial governments and were challenged with balancing their budgets when the Liberals in the 1990s offloaded their deficit-cutting onto the provinces.

When I first came to the House, one of the most serious topics of debate was wait times in health care. We all know why that happened. It is because of the cuts in the 1990s by the Liberal government. To this day, I still cannot understand how they can stand proudly in the House and say they balanced a budget during the 1990s when all they did is offload a deficit onto the provinces and onto the backs of the most vulnerable Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague what his leader recently said about spending power, and I would like to hear what he has to say about this.

This is what his leader said:

I have said many times, even since the election of this new government, that I am opposed and our party is opposed to federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions. In my opinion, such spending power in the provinces' exclusive jurisdictions goes against the very spirit of federalism. Our government is clear that we do not intend to act in that way.

In light of this, why does the government continue to invest in regional development and to duplicate and intrude into Quebec's jurisdictions that are not set out in the Constitution? The Conservative party continues to invest in jurisdictions such as health, education and other sectors.

Is my colleague contradicting what his leader said, or does he agree with his leader and with the member for Beauce?

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think most of my colleagues on this side of the House know that I always respect what my leader says.

My leader has been very clear that we will not be intrusive to the provinces. There are defined jurisdictions in this country. It is not just about Quebec. We on this side of the House, and in fact, in other opposition parties, represent all regions of this country. That is our role, to represent all regions.

I cannot help but question if that hon. member is representing all of his constituents with the positions he is taking here today. Our role is not just to represent a few. Our role is not to represent an individual ideology. Our role is to represent all of our constituents and provide what we can, the best service to all of them. I will stand proudly and always do that.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a daily basis I see the members of Parliament from Quebec in our party working tirelessly to ensure that the province of Quebec and in particular the people they represent get their fair share of government programs, whether it be through Canada's economic action plan or whether it is to ensure that we make sure there is fairness in equalization.

I know the parliamentary secretary has taken great pains to go to every member of this House. As a matter of fact, I know he has travelled across this country consulting with Canadians to make sure that this government delivers what Canadians need and want.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary would comment on the actions not only of our members from the province of Quebec, but others in Canada who have wanted to make sure this federation gets stronger with every single Canadian in this great country of ours.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that question. It reflects the points I have been trying to make, that we are trying to help all Canadians.

In answer to that question, I will provide some figures that back up that fact. In budget 2010, in knowledge and innovation alone, just that one sector, not talking about what we have done in aerospace and infrastructure, there was $32 million for federal research granting councils in the province of Quebec, $8 million a year to support research in post-secondary institutions in Quebec, and $15 million per year to double the budget of the college and community innovation program.

That is the future of Quebec, educating the children of Quebec. What the Bloc wants to do here is impede that, stop that and say that what we have provided to the children, the young people and the educators in the Quebec is irrelevant. It is not.

I have an entire list that I would love to share and perhaps in questions and comments later on today we will share some more of the financial support that we have given to make sure that we as a Conservative government represent the people of Quebec.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question continues with the same theme. On October 29, 2007, following a statement from the member for Macleod's party leader concerning federal spending power, the Bloc Québécois moved a motion in the House of Commons, demanding that:

...the bill on federal spending power that the government will introduce should, at a minimum, provide for Quebec to have the right to opt out with no strings attached and with full financial compensation from any federal program, whether existing or not and cost-shared or not, which invades Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

After making such a statement, this leader—who in the election campaign and after the Speech from the Throne said he was in favour of eliminating federal spending power—voted against this motion. Can the member explain these contradictions and the government's hypocrisy?

The government is trying to make Quebeckers believe that it is against eliminating federal spending power in the areas of jurisdictions under the province and Quebec, but it continues to invest more than $62 billion in these areas of jurisdiction.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I still stand amazed at these questions. The members say we are intruding. They vote against every attempt we make to promote jobs, create jobs, or maintain jobs.

The work-sharing program that this government put in place was incredibly well accepted and the uptake was incredible in Quebec.

That hon. member stood in the House and voted against that. Now that hon. member is telling us to stay out of their business, that they are going to do better than we did, when we have created all these jobs. We have helped create all these jobs in Quebec. We are here for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie.

I am pleased to take part in debate today on the motion by the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. The motion, which I will refrain from reading, gives us the opportunity for a debate that will offer all Canadians a clear option and a clear choice as to the country where we want to live. The motion shows that the Bloc and the Conservatives are working to achieve common objectives, in a kind of coalition, in other words.

First, I would like to speak out against the opportunism exhibited by the Bloc Québécois, in submitting a motion to the House dealing with as important a subject as this. The spending power has been the subject of numerous political and constitutional discussions, particularly those leading up to the Meech Lake accord. The fiscal arrangements between the provinces and the federal government, which enable the Government of Canada to exercise its spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction, go back to the time of Confederation. At that time, the provinces received grants from the federal government to make up for the loss of certain taxing powers. Today, these arrangements allow us, among other things, to mould the economic and social environment of our country.

One well-known example of the federal spending power is very certainly the Canada Health and Social Transfer. There are also other institutions, like the Canada Foundation for Innovation, that allow for the federal spending power to be exercised in the provinces.

Some people consider the federal spending power to be interference by Ottawa in areas of provincial jurisdiction without first consulting the provinces, or without obtaining their consent. This situation has heightened some provinces’ desire for greater autonomy, particularly Quebec and Alberta.

The Bloc Québécois has leapt at the statement by the member for Beauce, a candidate for the Conservative leadership. But what is the member proposing? It is both simple and complex, and it would have serious consequences. He proposes to eliminate the federal spending power. He also talks about complete withdrawal by the federal government from funding of social programs such as health and education. We might guess that the member was in need of visibility and has found a goldmine in this proposal.

The candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, the member for Beauce, stated that federal health transfers must be eliminated because they violate the Constitution of Canada. He also said this is the opinion of the Conservative Party. Leaving aside the ambitions of the member for Beauce, we might wonder whether there is another motive for that statement. Yes, indeed there is another one. We are very well aware that the Government of Canada has to renegotiate the Canada Health and Social Transfer. That is the government’s real intention.

But can we trust the Conservative Party to negotiate that agreement? The answer is self-evident. Only the Liberal Party has proved to the Canadian public that it is worthy of their trust. It can be trusted to renegotiate the agreement before the expiry date, in 2014.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think you should send some pages to the other side with buckets of water, because some members are choking. It might help them cool down.

Despite what members opposite may say, we, the Liberals, are committed to protecting a public and universal health care system. However, the current Conservative Prime Minister said that each province should raise its own revenue for health care and that we should replace the Canada health and social transfer with tax points.

As for the Minister of Health, she said in the House, barely two days ago, that the government respects the Canada Health Act and that this same government supports a public and universal health care system. I have my doubts about the statement made by the Minister of Health.

When it comes to transparency, the Conservatives' record is rather opaque. Their memory is failing them, and they easily resort to deceit. Just think of the outrageous G8 and G20 expenses, the patronage in infrastructure projects, the control exerted by the Prime Minister on the government and on public organizations, the Conservatives' will to build megaprisons and the fact that they want to spend billions of dollars on fighter jets with no competitive bidding process.

Such statements on the part of the government worry Canadians and lead to bizarre and unfortunate speculation.

If the Prime Minister supports the Canada Health Act, why does he let his members promote policies that run against his government's position? Perhaps he supports the position of the member for Beauce. But where does that member's vision come from?

I am going to read an excerpt of a statement made by the Conservative Prime Minister. It was published in the January 26, 2001 issue of the National Post. The Prime Minister said:

Alberta should also argue that each province should raise its own revenue for health care—i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points as Quebec has argued for many years. Poorer provinces would continue to rely on Equalization to ensure they have adequate revenues.

So it is nothing new that the Conservative government is thinking of slashing health funding. Why? To finance its tax cuts for large companies, tax cuts that, like its record deficit, Canada can ill afford. Federalism like that is sounding the death knell for our health care system and our social safety net.

This is another choice that is bad for Canadians. It is another in a series of poor decisions that the spendthrift Conservative government has made. This government continues to forge ahead with its out-of-control spending after plunging Canada into deficit even before the current recession began. It is simple. What does the government want? It wants to slash spending, cut taxes for large companies and set a record deficit.

The Liberal finance critic has stated that the Conservatives' wasteful and excessive spending have put Canada into a deficit position. Now the Minister of Finance wants to slash health and education transfers at the same time as he provides large companies with tax breaks we cannot afford.

Perhaps the hon. member for Beauce is hiding his real intention, to create a private health care system and to remove the government's ability to enforce the Canada Health Act. How would that be done? By reducing all federal health and social transfers. That would mean $40 billion less in provincial budgets—yes, $40 billion.

The Bloc Québécois motion seeks to restrict the federal spending power in areas under provincial jurisdiction without the express consent of the provincial government. The motion also provides for an opting-out clause with full compensation and no strings attached.

We believe that the federal spending power is an extremely important tool with which the Government of Canada can exercise its responsibility to protect and strengthen Canada's solid and enduring political unity. That is the way in which Ottawa has made use of the federal spending power under Liberal governments. We have used this responsibility to establish Canada-wide programs like public health care, a program that we value and cherish.

The Liberal Party is committed to protecting the universality of public health care, investing in learning and in jobs and giving Canada back its international leadership role. It will come as no surprise that the Liberal Party is opposed to this motion. We will vote against it.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer will be voting against the Bloc Québécois motion. That does not surprise me since it is clear that the Liberals have made no progress since Confederation in 1867.

I would like to ask the hon. member who he votes for in Quebec. Whether we are talking about the Liberal Party of Quebec, Robert Bourassa or Jean-Jacques Bertrand, they all always asked for limitations on the federal spending power. Of course, all Parti Québécois governments have also demanded the same thing. But Quebec members of the Liberal Party of Canada have been opposed to the unanimous will of all Quebec governments for a number of decades.

Is this House another planet for them; do they have any direct link with Quebeckers? First and foremost, they represent Quebec in the House of Commons and they are elected by Quebeckers.

Could the hon. member explain further the position of the Liberal Party, which always goes against the will of Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Bloc member's reaction should not come as a surprise. I respect their way of doing things. But everyone, not only in the House but everywhere in Quebec and even across Canada, knows full well that their objective, their mantra, is to bring about the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada.

The separatists from the Bloc Québécois or the Parti Québécois have only one way of seeing things: complete separation from the rest of Canada. So we should not be surprised by the hon. member's attitude in his questions.

Now, when we talk about the right to spend, we must agree on one thing. What Quebec has been asking for a long time—and I understand it—is to prevent the Government of Canada from deciding, without consultations or negotiations, to spend money as it wishes on anything in the province. The hon. member obviously does not want us to encroach on his jurisdiction and promote Canada. That is not the Liberal Party's position.

Opposition Motion—Federal Spending PowerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has been in the House longer than I have. I will not get into the quantity of years as it sometimes can become quite embarrassing.

That being said, I would like to ask him about when he was referring back to the mid-nineties. The downloading of services during the time of fiscal prudence was discussed earlier by many members of the Conservative Party. Am I not correct in saying that at that time the roots of the Conservative Party, vested within Reform Party, Alliance Party and so on, actually called for greater cuts to the system so that we could get to the balanced budget at a much quicker rate?