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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

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, funds, such as the medical equipment fund, are very important. They reflect on the specific needs of certain areas. In a lot of places, they simply cannot afford that kind of equipment, so it makes sense to have it.

Shortly after that, the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin established the Public Health Agency of Canada, which came about sort of as a result of SARS and other issues because epidemics and problems like that do not have borders and are not jurisdictional issues. If the provinces and the feds can work together to determine what the needs are, solutions can be found that will benefit all people.

That is the kind of flexibility we need in our arrangements, federally and provincially, with everybody at the table with their own points of view being represented.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, one of the agencies that has been so successful in our region is, of course, ACOA. ACOA has delivered some great programs for economic development that allowed people not only to maintain their communities, but they have also managed to be on the leading edge of many of the industries that allowed them to plug into commerce around the world.

Interestingly enough, there is also an agency that exists in Quebec, of similar fashion and similar form, that also has been a great contributor to the Quebec economy.

I wonder if the member could comment on that. This resolution would basically mean, in my opinion, the dismantling of these economic agencies.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague was here when I spoke about the importance of ACOA. The beauty of ACOA was that it recognized that there were a couple of distinct gaps in Atlantic Canada. One was that the venture capital funding to support commercialization was not there to get products through the development stage and marketed. The Atlantic innovation fund was very successful in that.

On the other hand, a program that came to be known as SCIF, the strategic community infrastructure fund, was very important in ridings like Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor because it recognized that communities do not have the funding and cannot even match funding in some cases. They need more support. It is the role of the federal government to go in and assist in those areas.

The agency for the regions of Quebec had a similar kind of role in Quebec and I think it performs a vital service for this country.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this opposition day. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

To ensure that those who just tuned in via CPAC, our fellow citizens who have been so faithfully following our proceedings this session, who enjoy so much listening in, hearing us debate and go about our business day in and day out in this House, have a clear understanding of the subject matter of today's debate, I will read again the very important motion introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. It states:

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; 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 postsecondary education indexed to 1994-1995 levels.

In short, 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.

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.

However, there is consensus in Quebec: federal spending power is not legitimate if it affects Quebec's own spending responsibilities.

Quebec has always felt that spending power is nothing more than a power to implement. This is why Quebec maintains that the federal spending power is limited to the areas in which the federal Parliament has legislative authority.

That is why, regardless of the party in power, Quebec has consistently maintained that Ottawa simply does not have this 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 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. As a result, 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 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.

The Séguin commission made the following statement:

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.

Quebec is not Ottawa's subcontractor. 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 2009-2010, 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.

Where does the Quebec nation stand in all this? In 2006, 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. One 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.

The commitment made in the Speech from the Throne means absolutely nothing. The Conservative government's promise to limit federal spending power since the 2007 throne speech was just empty rhetoric. As a matter of fact, all we have been hearing since then is empty rhetoric.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Health Act has five principles: universality, public funding, comprehensiveness, accessibility, and portability. The only way for the government to enforce the provisions of the Canada Health Act is to have the ability to withhold funding where those principles are not respected.

Without the Canada Health Act, a province like Quebec that would opt out would clearly have to expand into the realm of the private sector delivery of health care, which is more expensive and which would cater mostly to those who have the money to pay for those health care services.

Does the member not think that that kind of action would be irresponsible, since it would jeopardize the health and well-being of all of the citizens of Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, everywhere across Canada, private clinics are opening their doors. Just because the federal government is interfering in provincial jurisdiction does not mean that the private sector should take its place.

The federal government should take care of its own responsibilities, such as soldiers, veterans and Aboriginals. It is barely doing its job and it does so very poorly, as we can see. Rather than taking care of its own responsibilities, it tries to take on the responsibilities of others, but it is not very successful in doing so.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that the member has responded to the fundamental fact that to shift to a system which uses, and that finds it acceptable to use, private sector medical services means that professionals would be drawn out of the public system. It would jeopardize the health of the public health care system in Canada.

What would the member suggest be done when Quebeckers travel to the rest of Canada? How would their health care costs be covered? They would not be covered under the publicly provided system in the other provinces.

What about people who travel to Quebec and get ill in Quebec and are forced to pay for additional health care services?

All of a sudden the inefficiency of that kind of configuration makes it totally unviable. I wonder if the member would care to respond specifically to those concerns, not only for Quebeckers but for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec has one of the best health care systems in the world, even though it has shortcomings and gaps, like a number of other systems.

I believe it would be possible to enter into agreements, as is the case in all areas. At present, we have agreements with other countries. If we are able to sign agreements with countries that are thousands of kilometres away from here, I do not see why we could not sign an agreement with Quebec, which is not even 10 kilometres away from Ontario. I do not see where the problem is. I think the hon. member is seeing problems where there are none.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stop the Liberal member from asking the same question all the time, a question to which he always receives an adequate answer, I believe.

It is obvious that health care is Quebec's responsibility and Quebec can exercise its sovereignty in this area as it does in other areas under its jurisdiction. Is the fact that the federal government monopolizes this spending power not proof that it is trying more and more to reduce Quebec's sovereignty as a nation?

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals were in power, they constantly did it. The Conservative government, at least the Conservative Prime Minister, is trying to make us believe that it wants to act differently. But his MPs told us this morning that they did not want to act differently, while the member for Beauce did the opposite. If the member for Beauce were Prime Minister, perhaps he would be prepared to limit the spending power. Who knows. We will see.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank my colleague for leaving me time to speak about this motion, and I want to congratulate her on her speech.

This extremely important motion has been introduced several times by the Bloc Québécois. Now, the member for Beauce, to our great surprise, has decided to defend this position; he is supporting it and is defending it. We hope that he will be able to explain to his colleagues in the Conservative Party, the governing party, Quebec's position on this issue. The Quebec National Assembly and the Bloc Québécois have been calling for this for a long time.

Over the years, Ottawa has been throwing money into areas outside of its jurisdiction. As my colleague explained, in 1867, at the time of Confederation, the provinces were given their own jurisdictions. That agreement has not been modified since. But what money has the federal government been spending in jurisdictions exclusive to the provinces? It has been spending the money that it has collected over the years from our taxes. It collected money that it is using to spend in provincial areas of jurisdiction.

In 2001, Quebec Premier Bernard Landry established the Séguin commission in order to try to understand what was happening and why the federal government was spending so much or interfering so much in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. It was determined that there was a fiscal imbalance. There was so much money in Ottawa and the provinces needed so much money that, quite often, they were tempted to accept interference from the federal government in their areas of jurisdiction.

The federal government spends money on three kinds of transfer payments. The first is conditional transfers, in which Ottawa gives money to Quebec and the provinces on condition that they respect federal priorities in their own areas of jurisdiction, which is disgraceful. Mr. Speaker, this is just as though I, as a member, tell you where to live, tell you what kind of house to have and that I will give you $500 as long as you paint your walls a certain colour. I will give you $500, but in return, you have to accept my decision, my ideas.

The federal government also spends money providing direct services to the population in areas that are in no way, in absolutely no way, part of federal jurisdiction.

Earlier, I listened to a Liberal member ask my colleague a question about health. Health is a provincial jurisdiction. Why would we agree to let the federal government put money into or transfer money into a provincial jurisdiction?

The third type of spending is related to corporate subsidies and cheques for people, once again, in fields that are outside federal jurisdiction.

It is obvious that when the federal has too much money and is trying to grab power beyond its limits, it spends. It has the federal spending power and it assumes more powers. This works against the provinces. We now know that this federal spending power has no constitutional basis.

There has always been a consensus on this in Quebec. Every government has consistently taken the position that the so-called federal power to spend in all areas simply does not exist. Federal intrusions into Quebec's jurisdictions are unconstitutional and were condemned by Jean Lesage, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, Robert Bourassa, René Lévesque, Lucien Bouchard and Benoît Pelletier, as my colleague said earlier. Benoît Pelletier was the intergovernmental affairs minister in the famous federalist government of Mr. Charest in Quebec.

In October 2007, the Bloc Québécois put forward a motion in the House of Commons asking that the bill the government was going to introduce on the federal spending power at least allow Quebec to opt out without condition. What does that mean? It means that since the federal government should not be spending in our jurisdictions but has money and insists on introducing Canada-wide programs, Quebec wants to opt out of these programs. Quebec wants to decide what sort of program to put in place for Quebeckers. What Quebec wants is not to have to go with the federal program. But even though it wants to opt out, it wants to receive the money for the program.

Take Quebec's child care system, for example. Quebec decided to set up this system, which is the envy of Canadian women and families. The federal government wants to introduce a Canada-wide child care system, but Quebec already has its own system. We are not saying that the government should not set up a Canada-wide system, but the system we have in Quebec is right for us. What we want is to be able to opt out of the federal system and have the money. If the government creates a Canada-wide child care system, it will give the money to all the provinces that use that system. At that point it should also give Quebec some money. Since we have our own child care system, we want to be able to have the money so that we can improve that system. But the federal government does not want to do that. It is intruding into Quebec's jurisdictions.

Every time the Bloc Québécois moved this motion it did it with Quebec's interests in mind, with the support of the Quebec National Assembly. This is what Quebec wants. The Conservatives are trying to argue against the Bloc Québécois and prove that we are wrong. Since they are masters at misleading the public, in December 2005, they promised to eliminate the fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces. In budget 2007, the government also indicated that it wanted to limit the so-called federal spending power. In budget 2008, it confirmed its plan to honour its commitment, but so far it still has not done anything. One Conservative member said the government must stop spending in areas of Quebec jurisdiction. That member, who is from Quebec, understands. Why is it that the other Conservative members do not understand? Will that member have enough power, clout and character to tell his government and his colleagues that they need to limit the federal spending power and let Quebec opt out of programs with full compensation?

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Beauce is advocating for private health care. This would mean eliminating the federal government's health and social transfers, which constitute a $40 billion transfer to provincial budgets, and removing the government's ability to enforce the Canada Health Act. That is a broad brush of the health impacts.

When we start talking about matters to do with separation, the problem is always how it could be done without having people fall through the cracks.

As an example, and I would like the member to comment, what do we do about first nations persons who live in Quebec, whose health care cost is entirely dealt with by the Government of Canada and not by the provinces? How would we provide health care to first nations?

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I appreciate it all the more as I am well aware of his altruistic nature. This gives me the opportunity to point out that this is not the first time we have heard a Conservative member endorse private health care. This government's ideology favours the private sector. Social issues are not its forte.

Quebec has always been able to provide services and care for all of its citizens, and particularly first nations. Federalist Canadian governments have failed in that regard. We were able to negotiate the Paix des Braves. The people of Quebec are a nation. Quebec is therefore able to negotiate with other nations, including the Canadian nation and aboriginal nations. We are able to reach agreements for the benefit of all.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech. I would like to go back to a point she raised. She stated that the Conservative member for Beauce seems to agree with what we are saying about the spending power. However, in December 2006, the future prime minister said that he would respect jurisdictions. A little later, he said that he would ensure that the spending power is eliminated.

We may be acting precipitously by congratulating the member for Beauce. The Conservatives say things to mollify us and then they do the complete opposite. The member for Beauce comes from the Montreal Economic Institute, which does not tend to do things without a reason.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good comment. If my memory serves me well, the member for Beauce flirted somewhat with Quebec sovereignty. I think he worked in the office of a Quebec minister or MNA.

Without necessarily congratulating him, I think that he has finally understood that respect for a nation is important. Respect for a nation starts with respect for its economic independence. That is what the Bloc is pushing for and what the Quebec nation wants. It wants respect and to be allowed to decide what to do with its money and what authority it will exercise with that money.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to this misguided motion that the Bloc has put forward today.

I want to be clear. Our Conservative government has always supported an open federalism, and that will not change. We have maintained that stance since we were first elected and brought it to the House in 2006. We support an open federalism that respects provincial jurisdiction. But this federalism rests on a core of federal jurisdiction. It works with the provinces, not against them. Our approach has translated into some important pragmatic initiatives for Quebec that have kept Canada united, even more than it was in the past.

The Prime Minister, seconded by the leader of the government and the minister of democratic reform at the time, put a motion forward that this House almost unanimously agreed to. There were a few nays that came from members of the Liberal Party of the day. The vast majority supported this motion. I want to put on the record the support that this government has for Quebec. The motion says: “That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada”.

That motion received tremendous support in the House, including support from our Quebec friends in the Bloc. Their support indicated that they also believe Quebec to be a nation of people, but within a united Canada. Canada has a responsibility to every province, and that includes Quebec.

We have also given Quebec a seat at UNESCO, the first time any government has done that. That increases Quebec's voice as a nation within a nation, the voice of Québécois within a united Canada. It gives them a voice on the international stage, which they did not have in the past.

Let me be upfront. Our government has cut taxes for all Canadians, regardless of which province they live in, and that includes Canadians who live in Quebec. They are Canadians first.

I have been on two or three trips overseas with my Quebec colleagues in the Bloc. They were as proud as I was to show their Canadian passport to enter and leave those countries and get back to Canada.

I was on one trip across Canada with the finance committee. A committee member who is no longer on the committee but is still a member of the House, a Bloc member, was anxious to get his picture taken every place we went. He was so proud to be Canadian. Those members should be proud to be Canadian, as all of us in the House should be.

Perhaps most important, our Conservative government recognized that there was a fiscal imbalance in this country between the provinces and the federal government, and we fixed it. We fixed it in conjunction with the provinces. A formula was developed, a formula that had not been touched for many years. That formula was brought forward to all the provinces for them to sign. It was a new formula that better reflected the economic situation across the country. Quebec signed on. We fixed that fiscal imbalance. The previous Liberal government did not even acknowledge that a fiscal imbalance existed. We took action because we knew it was the right thing to do for Canada.

We have taken action to restore the fiscal balance by setting up transfers in a principled, transparent manner. This agreement greatly benefited all provinces, and transfers are now at historic levels.

I want to make sure people understand this. The transfers are $54 billion. The government spends approximately $250 billion a year, maybe slightly more, depending on what happens in a year. Of that, $50 billion goes to pay the debt. That comes right off the top.

With $200 billion left, a quarter of it automatically goes to the provinces, whether it is the health transfer, the social transfer or the equalization payment. There are actually three fundamental payments and a variety of others on top of that. Therefore, of the $54 billion, about $26 billion of that are in the health transfer that goes to the province.

A significant amount of money that we collect as a national government is redistributed to the provinces to help them service Canadians in a manner that we think they deserve based on the taxes they have to pay for that service. This represents a 30% increase from the previous government, showcasing our commitment to open federalism that works for all provinces, including Quebec.

Not only are those transfers at historic highs, but they continue to grow. Health transfers will grow at 6% and the social transfers at 3%. I knew I would be speaking today so I asked what it meant in real dollars that we have committed to the 6% over the next number of years, up to, I believe, 2014. It would mean that what we are providing to the provinces, which includes Quebec which gets its 6% of that increase, would go to 26.9% and then, based on population, it will go to 28.5% and then to 30.3%. That translates to $26.9 billion, $28.5 billion and $30.3 billion.

If the federal government were not involved in that 6% and there were a 2% increase based on inflation, the provinces would get $25.9 billion, $26.4 billion and $27 billion, as much as $3 billion less than what the provinces would be able to raise on their own based on straight inflation. Our commitment to the provinces for health care for the people of Canada is to provide a 6% increase every year and Quebec is benefiting from that increase.

We need to keep our commitments on these transfers. I was a city councillor in the city of Burlington during the 1990s when the federal government cut transfers to the provinces. What did the provinces do? They cut back on what they were funding municipalities. I can say that as a municipal councillor for 13 years in Burlington and the region of Halton, the cutbacks were felt every budget year.

This government is committed to continuing the transfers at the levels they are at. We have gone through a very tough recession and are moving out of it cautiously but we are moving forward as a country. We are seeing positive growth but we do not know whether that growth will continue at the robust pace it was. Economists are saying that it should slow down a bit. However, we are not going to penalize the provinces, including Quebec, by reducing our transfer payments to them at a time when they need the money to provide the services to all Canadians, including Quebeckers, which happened in the past under the previous Liberal government. We are committing not to do this.

I want to provide a few quotes regarding our commitment not to touch transfers, which has been well received across this country. The Manitoba finance minister, Rosann Wowchuk, praised our government by saying:

The major part of our budget is that [they have] indicated that they are going to keep the level of payments to the province at the same level they committed earlier.

She when on to say that it was good news for them.

The Canadian Healthcare Association also welcomed our government's reassuring commitment to transfer payments. Its president and CEO stated:

To provide any kinds of services to Canadians we needed to know that there's some predictability to the funding coming across to the provinces and territories, so that's a major positive.

Finally, Quebec's own premier, Jean Charest, also praised our government for its commitment to protect equalization payments so that Quebeckers could continue to rely on social services they pay into with their taxes saying, “Quebec is receiving more money in equalization transfers this year than they did in previous years”.

This shows that the provinces and territories continue to rely on the federal government, on our government, to practise open federalism that respects provincial jurisdiction and provides resources necessary their duties.

I want to point out that I have a list of about 15 private members' bills. I have six of them here that all ask the taxpayer of Canada to pay more to support programs. These six bills were brought forward by the Bloc.

Bill C-301, for example, which was improvements to the employment insurance system, would have cost billions and billions of dollars. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report indicating how many more billions it would cost. I have not heard the Bloc Québécois members on the finance committee, which I belong to, say that they do not want that money because it is federal money or that they do not want the government getting involved.

At prebudget meetings that we are having at this time every day of the week, we have people, including organizations from Quebec, coming to the committee and asking for more funding for whatever project they are here for today.

The student unions representing the students of Quebec were at the committee today asking for a national student's charter. A national student's legislation would help to ensure that the money transferred in the social services envelope would be earmarked for post-secondary education. They were not there asking us as the federal government to get out of their way and stay out of Quebec's business. They were asking for federal involvement.

Another bill asks for the removal of the waiting period and family leave costs. Another good one is one in which the Bloc is looking for a tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions.

We heard from witnesses today at the finance committee that the province of Quebec has such a tax credit and they said that 1,500 people have taken advantage of it. However, they were not there asking us to get out of their way. They were not asking us not to be involved. They were asking the federal government to support Bill C-228. They wanted us to be more involved in Quebec's jurisdiction as presented by the Bloc. They were asking for more money and more support.

I find it very ironic that the previous speakers talked about their right to opt out, that we should not be involved in their business and that it is provincial jurisdiction, but week after week they bring private members' bills to the House that ask for more money from the federal jurisdiction.

That is why I am not in favour of today's motion. Today's motion gives us an opportunity to at least chat about these things honestly.

I have been here four and a half years. When I was first elected, I found it somewhat strange that I would come to the House of Commons, our national government that is here for all Canadians, and see a party here that was looking to end that coalition that we have as provinces and as a country from coast to coast to coast and that they wanted to separate.

Being from Ontario and not having been closely involved with federal politics, I did not understand. However, after I arrived here I got a new realization. I realized that Bloc members wanted their cake and to eat it too. They are not really here about separation. They are not here for what is best for Quebec because they are not able to deliver for Quebec. Their leader in the last election said that he was not interested in being prime minister. They are not here for the good of Canada and cannot point to one thing that they have delivered for their province.

The members of the Bloc are here and they are certainly entitled to their opinion. They are duly elected, and I respect that, but where I lose a little respect is on their principles. With the principle they are trying to portray in this motion, which is that the province should run its own business and the federal government should get out of it, then they should not be introducing bill after bill asking for more from the federal government. They also should not be at committee supporting other people's private members' bills that do not respect that principle. It makes it very difficult for me to understand what the purpose of the Bloc is here.

I will conclude with a few things and I will be frank. After 20 years in opposition, the Bloc members really have no results. If they can show me what results they have accomplished, I would be happy to hear about them. I would say that our Quebec members on our side in the government have done more in the four and a half years for Quebec than the Bloc has done in 20 years.

Our government will continue to deliver for all Canadians, including Quebec. We have fixed the fiscal imbalance by increasing transfers to provinces to historic levels. We have promised that we will not balance the books on the backs of the provinces like other previous governments have. We have delivered for Quebec with the increased transfer payments so that they can invest in their social system, and we did it all within five years while the Bloc has delivered nothing in 20 years.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning the member and I were at the finance committee meeting hearing from about 17 witnesses. We heard a lot of very similar issues about how important some of the federal initiatives were and how they would help hold the Federation together while we deal with the deficit. Many of the members' comments were about the fragility of a national government of the Canadian system and that a lot of investment has gone into it. There is a lot of important things, synergies and efficiencies in the system that probably would be lost if we start to chip away at those foundational blocks: the charter, the Constitution and some of the programs under agreement with the provinces.

I am sure the member has heard this several times already but I will read it into the record. It is a quotation in the National Post by the current Prime Minister dated January 24, 2001, in which he stated:

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.

I wonder if the member agrees with the Prime Minister's view that we should support the Bloc motion today.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister does not agree to support the Bloc motion today. The question does not make any sense because that is not the case.

I would remind the member of two things. He has been on the finance committee since we have been back, which has been about four weeks, and we have heard over and over again organizations from Quebec asking the federal government to be involved, to help them out and to provide assistance.

Under today's current fiscal economic problems and the fact that we are trying to get back to balanced budgets, we will not be able to help everybody who comes to see us. However, I have been on the finance committee for four years and every year we have 400 to 500 people asking us for more money. It is nothing new but we need to make some choices.

However, the facts are that we hear over and over again that they want to be part of Canada. They think Canada and the federal government should be helping not just them, but all provinces, and we will continue to do that. That is why we will not be supporting the motion before us today.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, in view of the member for Burlington's statement that the Conservative members from Quebec have done more than the Bloc has done in 20 years, I would like to know what exactly have they done.

For 20 years, the Bloc Québécois has been an example of the democratic expression of a people. That means something because, as we have known for some time, the Conservatives have not embraced the principle of democracy in the House.

When he says that Conservative members from Quebec have supposedly accomplished more than the Bloc Québécois ever will, is he referring to the political contributions collected by Quebec members, including the Minister of Natural Resources, for the Conservative Party.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I respect the voters of Quebec and all of Canada for making the choices they have.

I am honoured to be a Canadian. I am proud that Canadians can go to the polls and vote for who they wish to represent them, whether it is municipally, provincially or federally, without fear or repercussion. I respect the voters of Quebec for choosing Bloc Québécois members.

However, this is a little lesson on government. Those in government bring forward legislation that becomes law, which can and will change the fabric of the country. Our Quebec colleagues on the government side have had input to every piece of legislation that goes before the House, as cabinet ministers and as members of the backbench, and on where we should go as a country. We look for their input. They have made a tremendous difference in the quality of life that Canadians are experiencing today which they would not have experienced under the Bloc Québécois.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague from the Bloc that I was elected in my riding to replace someone from his party. I sincerely think the people in my riding elected me entirely democratically. I would also like to remind him that Quebeckers refused sovereignty, not once, but twice, with the Parti Québécois, whom the Bloc represents here. He has no lesson to teach me about democracy.

That being said, I have a question for my colleague. A lot has been said about health today. I would like him to explain what our government has decided to do with regard to health transfers to Quebec.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do like numbers. That is why I am on the finance committee.

There has been an increase. Quebec will receive an increase in support of major federal transfers in 2010-11 totalling $17.2 billion, an increase of $5.2 billion or 44% more than it received under the Liberal government, and $6.1 billion through the Canadian health transfer increase of $1 billion.

We understand that all provinces, including Quebec, need support to provide the health care that Canadians expect and deserve. We as a government will continue to provide that support today and tomorrow for the proper health of all Canadians, including our Quebeckers.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, in Quebec, expressed himself by asking his colleague from Burlington a question. He talked about democracy and referred to the referendums. He may be right about 1980, but 1995 was another kettle of fish. Was that really democracy? We know very well that the whole thing was rigged by the federal government. I wonder where he was at the time.

I nonetheless have a question for the hon. member for Burlington. He referred to what the government has given us by adopting the motion on the nation of Quebec within a united Canada. It is in this “united Canada” that we still see the federal spending power lurking about. The federal government wants to control everything, including the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.

That is what is going on now, and that is what the Conservatives want to continue to do, even though in December 2005 they said they would respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. If they respected the jurisdictions, then they would send transfer payments for programs.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the government are willing to, have and continue to work with every premier and province across the country. Today the Prime Minister is talking about an announcement with the premier of Newfoundland. I quoted earlier the premier of Quebec who congratulated us on the work we were doing.

We are willing to work with every province and premier to make our country a better place for all Canadians to live.

Opposition Motion—Federal spending powerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, Human Rights; the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, G8 and G20 Summits.