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House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I say again that our government has put in place a series of measures as part of Canada's economic action plan in order to support all segments of Canadian and Quebec society. Quebec is certainly getting its fair share this regard. I am certainly not ashamed of the last budget that provides new programs, especially for seniors, or adds money to programs for seniors in Trois-Rivières and everywhere else in Quebec. Just think of the New Horizons program, which provides up to $25,000 to help volunteers who become involved in their communities. I sincerely feel that our government is doing its job and is doing it very well.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the opposition motion moved by the hon. member for Joliette on the employment assistance measures announced recently to help Quebec and Canadian workers and the less fortunate in Quebec in particular. We support forestry workers.

Last summer, the governments of Canada and Quebec joined forces to invest an additional $34.7 million in silviculture and in improving multi-use pathways that cross Quebec's wildlife territory. We have also invested in a chain-of-custody certification program for wood products.

In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, we have invested $61 million to give hope to the communities and workers who are going through tough times because of the forest fires that have devastated the region. Our government has worked hard to help Canadian workers and their families. One year ago, we launched our economic action plan when Canada was gripped by the global recession. One year later, Canada in general and Quebec in particular are coming out of it rather well. The unemployment rate in Quebec has dropped below the national average. Quebec has recorded significant gains in employment since the dark days of the recession.

However, our government knows that many Quebec and Canadian workers have experienced financial difficulties over the past year. That is why it wasted no time in implementing targeted employment insurance measures to support the unemployed. The economic action plan has extended the five additional weeks of employment insurance benefits across the country. This measure used to be offered only in specific regions where the unemployment rate was high. What is more, in those regions, the maximum duration of employment insurance benefits has gone from 45 weeks to 50 weeks.

Canada's economic action plan also provides additional support for long-tenured workers who have been permanently laid off in ailing industries. We wanted to help Canadians who had worked for many years and who had not often relied on the employment insurance program. We also provided support to them through the career transition assistance initiative. This helped them retrain to get new jobs in totally different sectors. In some cases, the duration of EI regular benefits for long-tenured workers were extended for up to two years to allow these workers to get long-term training. Our government also paid an additional $1 billion, over two years, to the provinces and territories, under existing labour market development agreements, to provide additional skills training for laid-off workers.

Moreover, in April of last year, we signed an agreement with Quebec. Under this initiative, more than $700 million are going to be invested over a six-year period to support training and skills development programs. This will ensure that a larger number of Quebeckers will have access to skills development programs that will help them get good jobs and build a better future for them and their families. These temporary measures are in addition to other initiatives implemented under Canada's economic action plan to help workers. We are helping Canadians from all walks of life, including people who are at risk of being laid off, young people, older workers, newcomers and aboriginal people. We are helping Canadian workers prepare to get the jobs of the future. We are giving thousands of Canadians opportunities to develop their skills or to retrain in preparation for a new career.

I want to say a few words on work-sharing, which is a federal initiative under the EI program designed to help protect jobs. It allows employees who might otherwise be laid-off to continue to work a reduced week, while collecting employment insurance benefits for those days when they are not working.

Under Canada's economic action plan, our government has amended the work-sharing program so as to maximize its benefits during these difficult times. Now, this program gives more flexibility to the employer's recovery plan, while extending by 14 weeks the agreements' maximum duration.

As of March 7, 2010, 140,000 Canadians were benefiting from 5,500 work-sharing agreements across the country. In Quebec, over 33,000 workers were taking advantage of more than 1,100 agreements.

Sometimes, despite all these efforts, businesses fall apart. When an employer goes bankrupt, workers have good reason to worry about the money owed to them. Our wage-earner protection program guarantees that the salary, the severance pay and the vacation pay unpaid by an employer who is bankrupt and unable to fulfill his obligations will be quickly paid to eligible workers. Since January 27, 2009, the wage-earner protection program has given back $17 million in salaries to 8,000 Canadians who did not get a pay to which they were entitled from a bankrupt employer.

We know how difficult it is for young people to embark on a career when they have little or no experience. There are two measures in the economic action plan to help youth in that situation.

Funding for our Canada summer jobs program is being increased by $20 million over the next two years. Consequently, this year we have been able to sign 22,000 agreements to support the creation of almost 40,000 jobs for students, who will obtain valuable and interesting work experience. We have finalized a $15 million agreement with the YMCA and YWCA to implement the new grants for youth internship program across Canada. Under this program, up to 1,000 young people will gain work experience through internships with not-for-profit and community service organizations, with a focus on environmental projects.

In today's environment, we realize how important it is for Canadians to acquire the skills they need to participate and succeed in the job market.

Under the economic action plan, we are also increasing support for people at the other end of the demographic spectrum. An additional $60 million over three years will be invested in the targeted initiative for older workers. This initiative enables people 55 to 64 years of age to get the skills upgrading and work experience they need to make the transition to new jobs.

We are expending this initiative's reach to make it accessible to older workers in large communities affected by significant employee reductions or by closures, as well as in smaller towns.

Our government cares about Canadians' and Quebeckers' lives and today that is why I am proud, first of all, to be a Quebecker and to be working to ensure that Canadians and Quebeckers have a better future.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Conservative member opposite mentioned employment insurance. It seems that the Conservatives are trying to take over the file, but it still remains a problem. Whenever they talk about it, they try to take the credit, but, on the flip side, it is necessary to consider the drawbacks they created.

We know that the Conservatives introduced a bill that was passed. It was under their economic action plan, as they say. For instance, a long tenured worker could receive up to 20 additional weeks of EI benefits. But who does not have access to that? Seasonal workers.

So I have a simple question for the member opposite. Why does she not consider seasonal workers, who have worked in the same industry for the same employer for 30 years, to be long tenured workers?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned employment insurance. For the first time, self-employed workers will be eligible for employment insurance; they can now receive EI benefits, and women will also have access to maternity leave. It is important for seasonal workers to have access to employment insurance. We are still working on that in good faith.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite spoke about employment insurance in her speech, but there is one thing she decided not to mention. I can understand why. When the Liberals were dipping freely into the employment insurance fund, taking over $54 billion to pay down the deficit, the Conservatives were outraged. However, their own government has explicitly said that starting next year, it will take $19 billion from the employment insurance fund to pay down the deficit. They seem to think that it is fine for them to do it, and that we should not talk about it.

Instead of taking money from the employment insurance fund to pay down the deficit, why does the government not listen to some of the recommendations made by the Bloc Québécois, such as making the wealthiest members of society pay, by imposing a surtax on individuals who earn over $150,000 per year, by eliminating tax havens and by taking money from the oil companies that the government subsidizes without any hesitation?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to my friend from the Bloc. On this side of the House, we see the glass half full and not half empty, unlike the Bloc members who only complaint and criticize. We do act. We are into action, we make decisions and invest in Quebec's workers.

I have an innocent question for the Bloc. Since it has been here, how much money did it get to make Quebec work? How much new funds did it get to keep Quebec economy moving?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about forestry policy. In my region and many other regions of this country, there are hundreds of families who have worked for Abitibi and built the wealth of Abitibi and yet their pensions are now in crisis. Abitibi is on the verge of bankruptcy. If it slips into bankruptcy, the pensions will be lost.

We have been pushing the government for action on pensions and we have had nothing back from it. I would like to ask the hon. member if she would be willing to move quickly to save the pensions of Abitibi workers, of Nortel workers, and of all the other workers who are losing pensions despite having paid into those pension systems over the years, by making the necessary change to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to secure those pensions before the companies slip into bankruptcy and the pensions are lost.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the NDP said, pensions were at the heart of all discussions and that is why we will meet with all people who have access to pensions to work with them and find real and long term solutions.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, The Environment; the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, Government Expenditures.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Sherbrooke.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Québec.

The comments by the last two Conservative colleagues who spoke confirm what we have thought all along: the Speech from the Throne and the budget are not very generous. The vision in the Speech from the Throne and the budget is completely disconnected from Quebec's reality.

While the Conservatives were on holidays to try to recalibrate and come up with innovative ideas for the Speech from the Throne and for the budget, the Bloc Québécois did a tour of Quebec with its finance critic. That hon. member went to my riding and to all the regions of Quebec. This was a comprehensive and skilful exercise.

The hon. members from the Bloc Québécois and all of their regional representatives worked hard. They addressed the public and consulted agencies and civil society. The conclusion was clear and any Conservative or Liberal MP with the nerve to do the same consultation would have learned about the needs and aspirations of the people, industries and community organizations in Quebec.

The throne speech and the budget speech are empty and do not offer much that is new. Nature abhors a vacuum and so do electors. The government's disapproval rate is roughly 73%. In Quebec, the Conservatives have a 17% standing in the polls. People are getting the Conservative government's message and the Conservatives are getting punished for it.

The last time I noticed that electors abhor a vacuum was in 1993, when the Conservatives had a record deficit of $42 billion. Today, their deficit is roughly $50 billion. History is repeating itself. I feel like I am watching an old movie that will have the same ending.

In 1993, the government was tired and exhausted, as is the current government, which does not have the ability to innovate and put forward policies that truly meet the needs of people.

We have heard a number of MPs accuse the government of not doing anything for women. Women have to negotiate and fight for pay equity. The 1993 election was the only occasion when women achieved equity under the Conservatives. Just two Conservative members were elected in all of Canada—a man, Jean Charest, and a woman, Ms. Wayne.

For the first time, there was equity in the Conservative party. I am afraid that this could happen; I almost hope it does.

As I was saying, following its consultations, the Bloc submitted proposals to the government, proposals that actually originated from the people and that also reflected the desire for sound management of Canadian taxpayers' money as well as Quebec's money. In fact, we contribute our share as well.

For all practical purposes, today's motion shows that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec. Take, for example, the $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing its taxes, or the unfair treatment of the forestry industry, which only received $170 million compared to the $9 billion doled out to the automotive industry. That is what we are talking about. There is practically nothing to support the aerospace industry, nothing to meet Quebeckers' environmental expectations, and nothing for proposed program improvements to help the disadvantaged.

Besides those crucial factors, there are also needs. In the Bloc's proposals, there were some requests. Some may say we are constantly asking for things, but we are doing so for our population. These requests could very well have been filled, as there were specific proposals to go and get the money where it can be found. It is to be found in the gifts made to the oil companies. We all know that a lot of money is spent there. A lot of money also goes to the banks which made close do $5 billion in profits in the last quarter. Finally, there are the tax havens and all those who earn large salaries.

We suggested, for example, a 1% tax on those who earn $150,000 or more yearly, in order to go and get the funds that are necessary to meet the needs of the population. The needs of the Quebec population that we are attempting to meet are by and large the same as those of the Canadian population. Thus, the Bloc Québécois never works against Canada, but it always works for Quebec.

And that is how, finally, we will always act: we will protect the interests of Quebec, since the Quebec members of the party in power work rather for that party and its specific interests. As far as the environment is concerned, we all know that there is nothing to satisfy Quebec. To reduce greenhouse gases, the government is planning to invest in nuclear power in order to produce even more oil. However, if we want to reduce greenhouse gases, we have to do so by taking actual consumption into account, and not only production.

Large sums of money are also being spent on carbon capture. We have to find ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, continuing to produce as much while trying to capture gases is like suddenly abandoning recycling and composting in order to continue with the status quo by burying waste and solving nothing insofar as the environment is concerned.

The same thing, more or less, is being done with greenhouse gases by saying that we will capture them and put them in the ground. We don't even know what effect this could have down the road. The best way to reduce greenhouse gases is of course to produce less of them, as little as possible. Quebec, for its part, wants to become self-sufficient by using other fuels than oil and wants to become independent with regard to oil.

l will conclude by saying quite simply that a lot of people have been forgotten, among others the elderly in connection with the guaranteed income supplement the government refused to increase. Insofar as employment insurance is concerned, a lot of people will be hurt, both the employers and the employees who contribute to the program, since the government will be recovering $19 billion in the next five years to finance what it is not doing.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this opposition day, I am following my colleague to debate the motion from the Bloc which reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government demonstrated in its Speech from the Throne and its Budget that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec, as there were no commitments to allocate $2.2 billion to Quebec for harmonizing the QST and GST, to provide the forestry industry with an assistance plan equivalent to that given to the automobile industry, to offer stimulus measures to the aeronautics industry, to meet Quebeckers’ expectations regarding the environment, and to enhance programs to assist the less fortunate in Quebec.

We see that the budget does not meet the expectations of Quebeckers. Before the budget tabling in the House, we had prebudgetary consultations, like we do every time a budget is tabled in the House and presented to Canadians. Witnesses from all parts of Quebec came to tell us what their needs were. Forest industry, people expecting EI, support groups for people who have lost their job, researchers from the aerospace industry all came to discuss with the Bloc members on the finance committee and express their demands. We see clearly that the Conservatives remained untouched by the repeated demands of the Bloc.

Even the Quebec City area, the capital of the province, did not get its fair share in the Speech from the Throne and in the budget that followed. I will give you a few examples.

First, there is the saga of the Quebec City armoury that hangs like a millstone around the neck of the Quebec lieutenant for the Conservative Party. We have no idea what is happening. She was supposed to announce what was going to happen with the reconstruction of the armoury. And contrary to what the media was told after the budget was tabled, no new money was promised for the armoury. There is a sum of $2 million, but it is to pay for studies and calls for tender. It is simple recycling. This is the same $2 million that was already announced and earmarked for feasibility studies and consultations. The government is still studying these consultation reports. As I said before, nothing was announced and, from what we can see on page 230 of the budget, no amount has been set aside for rebuilding the armoury this year. It is a project that will cost approximately $100 million. When the government truly wants to rebuild it, the funding will be announced.

As I said, we are far from having the first shovel in the ground for the reconstruction of the armoury. It is just like PEPS. There were a lot of press conferences and many announcements.

Remember the three calls for tender for the Estimauville building that were thrown out because the criteria was vague? No one knew what to do next. If it had not been for the pressure from the public, the local businesspeople and the Québec City community, we might still be in the call for tender process.

It is the same thing with the Québec City bridge. There is nothing about rehabilitation work on the Québec City bridge, but funding was announced for bridges in Ontario, in the Ottawa-Gatineau region and in the Montreal region. The federal government is hiding behind the argument that it does not own the bridge and therefore does not need to invest in it; meanwhile, the bridge continues to rust and will cost twice as much to repair. It is very much like the tune that the Liberals were singing with the former Liberal minister of transportation. They put it to lawyers. They said it was a disagreement with CN. And it has been more than a decade since rehabilitation work has been done on that bridge.

So the government is hiding behind the argument that it does not own the bridge to justify its refusal to invest in the restoration of the Quebec City bridge. It even suggested to CN that it should regain ownership. The government needs to regain ownership of the bridge once and for all or restore it and get CN to pay for it.

Once again, the government is dragging its feet. There was no money in the budget for the restoration of the Quebec City bridge.

The issue of contaminated water in Shannon is quite a scandal. There has been a class action suit against the federal government for several years now. The Department of National Defence contaminated the soil, which has led to very serious consequences, including some deaths. A definite link can now be made between drinking contaminated water and cancer.

No money has been earmarked to clean up the sites contaminated with TCE in Shannon. This is very serious. This is a problem in the Quebec City area that the federal government is responsible for. The Conservatives are doing the same as the Liberals before them. They are spewing the same rhetoric.

The contamination was caused by DND's use of industrial degreasers containing TCE. The budget has earmarked $153 million to that end, including $16 million that will be allocated to DND to clean up certain sites.

Yet nothing is being provided to compensate the victims. They prefer to point out that the case is before the courts. They are dragging their feet and refusing to take responsibility. They are treating the issue of contaminated water in Shannon the same way as the Quebec City Armoury and the Quebec City bridge.

In the greater Quebec City region, the forestry industry has been hard hit. Five years ago, we told the Conservatives that this industry was losing momentum, that it needed credit and loan guarantees and that certain equipment needed to be converted in order to use pulp and paper in other ways.

The AbitibiBowater plant in Donnacona has closed and White Birch Paper, in Quebec City, is on the chopping block. More than a third of jobs lost in Canada between January 2003 and January 2008 were lost in Quebec. In the meantime, the Conservative government found money during the economic crisis to the tune of $9 billion to help the automobile industry and a measly $170 million for an industry that deserved to be taken seriously with all the closures it had to endure.

These are entire communities that are without jobs and resources. The employment insurance problem is going to be addressed, but the improvements we asked for have been rejected. There has been an adjustment, but for long tenured workers. That meets the needs of the automobile industry. It is certainly an industry where people worked quite consistently.

In the past five years, the forestry industry has slowed down and there have been more part-time jobs. The forestry industry can no longer sustain long tenured workers.

Like the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the Bloc Québécois is calling for loans and loan guarantees, such as those made available by Investissement Québec, which the Prime Minister promised in 2005. Furthermore, we are calling for a comprehensive policy to support and modernize the forestry industry which would include a policy to use wood in the construction of federal buildings. This would provide new market opportunities for private wood producers.

The Bloc Québécois is also asking that a support program be brought back to help diversify the regional economies that have been hit hard by the downturn in the forest industry with additional funds for private woodlots.

The Bloc Québécois is also calling on the federal government to invest $75 million over five years in an economic diversification and modernization program and to include a separate envelope for private woodlots.

Quebec's expectations have not been met.

The Speech from the Throne and the budget put forward no marine policy to help MIL Davie shipyards, which has been under the protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act since last February. This industry has not been responsibly managed; it has been left to fend for itself. In 2010, MIL Davie shipyards announced yet again that it was being put under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

What has been happening in the Quebec City area is very serious. It is fair to say that the government is not meeting the expectations of Quebeckers. I talked about the Quebec City area because the federal government's unwillingness to support the people of Quebec is especially devastating there. They decided to help wealthy people, the oil companies and those who can benefit from tax breaks.

This government's behaviour has been quite appalling.

It recognized the Quebec nation, but refuses to recognize how we do things or, above all, what we need.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have difficulty supporting this motion, saying that federalism does not work, because I am a proud British Columbian and a proud Canadian. The intent of this motion is all about saying that federalism does not work. There might be issues with the Conservative government and this Prime Minister not fulfilling Quebec's needs. That can be understood.

I would like to ask this hon. member, why would the Bloc attack federalism instead of attacking this government for not fulfilling its obligations?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, in terms of federalism, we saw how the Liberals behaved towards Quebec when they were in power. Quebec was often neglected then, especially the Quebec City area. Regarding some investments, this government is still dragging its feet on the same files.

I mentioned federalism because the Conservative Party also said it would practice open federalism. They recognized the Quebec nation, but it is obvious that it did not mean anything, given that walking the talk was very difficult for the Liberals when they were in power and is also very difficult for the Conservatives.

They would have us believe that they are fulfilling the expectations of Quebec, but in reality, when we look at what is really happening and at the lack of numbers in this speech, there is no political will to provide greater assistance and support to Quebec.

Only sovereignty will allow Quebec to fully develop.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, not surprisingly, on May 18, 1991, Lucien Bouchard said this about the Bloc: “The shorter our stay, the most successful our mission will have been.”

It is clear, however, that over time the Bloc's motto has become: “The longer we stay, the better our pensions will be.”

The member opposite has just demonstrated in pathetic fashion her lack of vision for the greater Québec—Chaudière—Appalaches area.

She really has blinders on, or I should say sunglasses so dark that she is not noticing that civil servants are being relocated to Estimauville, that Parks Canada has undertaken extensive fortification restoration work, that at the Quebec City airport—should she fly to Quebec City—investments have been made like never before during the 17 years of the Liberal-Bloc regime. There is also the congress centre in Lévis and the Super PEPS. There is clearly a long list of achievements, not to mention the tax cuts that leave more money in the pockets of taxpayers in the greater Quebec City area and across Canada.

Aside from being a professional criticizer, does the member have any positive measures to propose, instead of coming to Ottawa and lecture the government, when we are making investments and working for the people of Quebec City and Chaudières—Appalaches?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the member thinks all I do is criticize, then I could accuse him of being the ultimate phony in this House. He can say anything to people and be a demagogue. We see him on television. He is able to talk out of both sides of his mouth.

He talks about his government, but he says the opposite of what his government is doing.

I was perhaps rude towards the Conservative Party, but I think that other people are able to observe and analyze the impact Conservatives have in the Quebec City area. They are slipping in recent polls. If people were so happy with the Conservative Party, it would not be losing credibility like this.

The member for Lévis—Bellechasse says that he does not like polls, but he likes them when they work in his favour.

He mentioned that we were supposed to be here short term. It is clear that this party shows a lack of democracy and has a lack of respect for the public. We are elected. I have been elected since 1993. If I did not do my job, the voters of Quebec City and my riding would not like me. They would no longer vote for me. People vote for the Bloc Québécois because it makes them feel secure.

It is true that the role of the opposition is to observe what the government does and to see the impact, for example, of the budgets, the throne speech, and the policies that are presented here.

We know that the Conservatives do not understand this. We can see the criticisms in the newspapers. I am not the only one saying these things. It is quite clear that although the Conservatives promised us transparency from the beginning, what they want is to control information.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I see we have created a stir in the past five minutes. It is almost to the point where, even though it is my turn to speak in the debate, I was almost engaged in being a spectator, given the level of debate that is going on between my colleagues from Quebec. Nonetheless, I do want to discuss the issues at hand.

I would like to speak to the Bloc opposition day motion today in the House. Since I am the final speaker of the day, I would like to read it to the House, just in case members have not seen it. It is merely a situation where I would just like to gently remind my hon. colleagues where the motion is going. I suggest, given the fact that it is coming from the Bloc, they may want to brace themselves for what is about to ensue. It reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government demonstrated in its Speech from the Throne and its Budget that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec, as there were no commitments to allocate $2.2 billion to Quebec for harmonizing the QST and GST, to provide the forestry industry--

I will talk about the forestry with a great deal of enthusiasm in just a moment. It continues:

--with an assistance plan equivalent to that given to the automobile industry, to offer stimulus measures to the aeronautics industry, to meet Quebeckers' expectations regarding the environment, and to enhance programs to assist the less fortunate in Quebec.

Let me just speak in general about the situation that is put forward. Some of the issues that hon. members bring up in this debate today regarding the Bloc Québécois are legitimate, certainly, when it comes to sector by sector analysis, and certainly for the forestry, which is something that I can understand, being from central Newfoundland.

We recently had a mill that shut its doors in Grand Falls-Windsor, owned by AbitibiBowater. We have another mill that shut its doors, also owned by AbitibiBowater, some time ago from the riding of my hon. colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's, and now we have an industry in decline to the point where the one remaining mill in Newfoundland and Labrador is certainly in trouble. That mill produces newsprint. We are in an industry of newsprint and it is certainly a drastic situation. Because of the market prices, the demand is low. On top of all that we have had a recession all over the world, which took a bite out of just about every industry, certainly, including, as the Bloc points out, the automobile industry.

Some of the things members of the Bloc brought out in the debate deserve merit in the sense that Quebec was really the only jurisdiction that directly provided the assistance to this particular industry, that I speak of, in the form of $100 million loan guarantee.

I did not hear anything from members of the federal government side, whether they agree with it or not. The only other gesture really came from Newfoundland and Labrador when there was an expropriation issue, which was for the benefit of the people for the sake of the timber rights as well as the rights to produce electricity off the river, the Exploits River primarily. However, an interesting thing cropped up from that. I do not know if the House has discussed this issue yet, but we now find ourselves in the midst of a NAFTA challenge by AbitibiBowater, being from the United States.

Why NAFTA? It is the North American Free Trade Agreement, as members know, and a chapter 11 issue that involves the situation where the company wants to get back the money it feels it deserves. Now we find ourselves, and this is the odd part, in a battle essentially between the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and AbitibiBowater, but in essence it is now set out between AbitibiBowater and the federal government. It is funny how things take a certain turn in this world of politics.

One of the questions I would like to ask the government is this. What is the situation with that at this point? Has the government looked at this issue solidly, because some of the issues go beyond just indirect subsidies, just the community assistance that it keeps talking about in the forestry industry, or some of the subsidies in the way of making new energy. One example of course is the burning of biomass, the burning of the extra wood that is left over from the cutting of logs. We burn that to create the energy to produce the next log that comes through. It is a very simple concept and the subsidies are there to be availed of.

However, there is also an environmental situation. What we have here is possibly a massive environmental cleanup that will affect this situation vis-à-vis the private-public interaction.

I go back to my example of the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor. This mill has been around for 100 years. Back then environmental practises were not under the microscope as they are today. Obviously, our standards today are much higher when it comes to environmental remediation, more so than what they were back in the early part of the last century. What is in that mill and surrounding land that has to be cleaned up? I am not talking about a small parcel of land; this is a major piece of land.

Who is responsible when, God forbid, these mills collapse? Right now it is the province, principally. When issues such as health care, pensions, education, crowd us out, who is on the hook for an environmental cleanup?

The situation in Newfoundland and Labrador is very interesting. As a result of the expropriation, it is now a question of responsibility. I would humbly suggest that the mill is facing off against the provincial government. The federal government could get involved with its own program. It could put a line item in the budget talking about an environmental cleanup in that area.

There is a disaster in Buchans in Grand Falls-Windsor because of the high amounts of lead in the ground. The property is privately owned. Does the federal government play a role in this? I would like to think so.

There are so many facets of the forestry industry that we are not discussing. The Bloc Québécois, quite rightly, has brought up some of them. Those members seem to have delved into this issue to quite an extent.

I applaud the automobile industry, the aeronautics industry, the airline industry in particular, for their work over the years. But there too we have seen some severe layoffs over the past little while involving companies like Bell Helicopter, Pratt & Whitney and Bombardier. Thousands of jobs have been lost. The airline industry itself has taken a great hit. The balance sheets of United Airlines, Continental, even Air Canada right now are not looking as healthy as what they would like. Perhaps that is just a mild understatement. Air France and British Airways are massive corporations that have basically been the pillars of the economies of their nations. Their timbers have been shaken as one would say, certainly my colleague would say.

Very little attention has been paid to this particular industry. The Bloc does have a valid point because the automobile industry certainly did receive a lot of attention, more than the industries the Bloc has pointed out.

Are we looking at a new way of doing politics, a new way of weaving through the latest recession, which is a tapestry of investments here and there, direct or indirect? Are we singling out one industry? Do we pick winners and losers here? We have heard many times in the House the forestry sector referred to as a sunset industry. Maybe not so much.

There is one industry that is so large we cannot miss it and that is the fishery. The pillar of Newfoundland and Labrador and for a lot of communities on the east coast has been the fishery, which brings me to my next point. This is where I diverge from the opinion of the Bloc Québécois. Where is the fishery?

On the east coast of Quebec, primarily in the area we call the gulf, around Îles de la Madeleine, or the Maggies as some people like to call it, sealing is a tremendous tradition.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

An hon. member

Where are the fish?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

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

Exactly. Where are the fish? Some people would say the seals are eating them but that is a subject for another day.

When it comes to the sealing industry, right now there is very little ice. The minister has already proclaimed that this season may not even open, but there is still time as the season does not open until the end of March.

The way it looks right now this is going to be a tremendously difficult year for sealers on the east coast, primarily those around Îles de la Madeleine, but I do not see this mentioned in these documents, and that is a shame.

The government is singling out the industries that mean the most to it. In a roundabout way, the Bloc members accuse the Conservatives of picking out industries that are pet to them to the exclusion of others when in fact they have done the same thing. Therefore, the logic of that really escapes me at this point. I am very disappointed it is not in there.

I was with my colleague from Îles de la Madeleine in Europe several years ago, where we both argued to defend sealers, their way of life, their traditions and their customs, as well as the commercial industry itself. He did a darn fine good job, I thought. However, here is a situation where it is not even mentioned.

Let us talk about cultural industries. As a member of the Standing Committee on Heritage, I have a vested interest in this issue. Quebec made a major issue out of our cultural industries in the last election, and for good reasons. Again, the Conservatives went back to singling out what they did not believe in and away they went. They will justify it in ways such as the program has run out, although there is also a question of ideology that I would have to question in some of these cases as well with the Bloc. However, the cultural industry is not mentioned in here, which is unfortunate.

I guess, in retrospect, members of the Bloc have a fundamentally good message about the particular industries they have singled out, but the problem is they have only followed suit of what happened across the way. They pick what they believe is good to them but what may not necessarily be to another one of their colleagues.

Let us go back to the very beginning. The other issue, based on our own history, is that in the opinion of the House the government has demonstrated in the Speech from the Throne and the budget that federalism does not fulfill the goals and requirements of Quebec.

Just over 50 years ago, Newfoundland and Labrador made a fundamental decision to join a nation, to join Canada. In that year, when we decided that we would join Newfoundland, it was a tough battle and it was a close battle. After two referendums, we decided that we would be a part of a greater combination. In other words, we became a part of the synergy of a greater nation that we felt we contributed to and we contributed from. As we talk about this, I would take issue for one simple reason, and I will give an example.

Federalism has worked for Quebec, but federalism has worked for Canada because of Quebec. Two days ago, I gave a speech on pensions, CPP and QPP. Some of the major positives coming out of the Canada pension plan in the mid-1960s, through Lester Pearson, came from the provincial government of Quebec, through negotiations between the two provinces. Yes, health care was brought to the House, part and parcel by Saskatchewan, a place you are quite familiar with, Mr. Speaker.

We also had a situation where other social reforms came in vis-à-vis examples from other provinces, but that is where the Canada pension plan became what it is today. It became the jewel in the crown of the 1960 social policy, at least in my opinion. During the final days of negotiations, when they went through the process of dealing with the provincial government in Quebec to hammer out a CPP-QPP combination, the Quebec government made it happen. It was the last piece in the puzzle, so the contribution from Quebec went through the rest of the country.

If members of the House feel that federalism has let them down, I can honestly say from Newfoundland and Labrador, their entry into federalism certainly did not let me down. A lot of people in my riding take advantage of Canada's public pensions, CPP, OAS, the guaranteed income supplement, for reasons that are obvious. These measures made their way through Parliament, through input from other provinces. Therefore, I vote against this motion. It is fundamentally flawed in two areas.

However, I go back to my original point. Some of the points that have made are quite clear, certainly well thought out and brought to the House with the best intentions of each individual here and for the constituents who we represent, so on that front I congratulate him.

On the environment, the members of the Bloc certainly bring up some valid points as well. When it comes to the environment over the past little while, I have seen it float from a made in Canada policy that has morphed into what seems to be in lockstep with the United States of America.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Why do you hate Barack Obama?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

My colleague, the Minister of Transport, mentions blaming Barack Obama. Is the man worth picking on that much in the House that we have to invoke his name in this? How does Barack Obama factor into a made in Canada solution, which the member brought to the House originally? I do not understand. I respect him greatly, but seriously.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion--Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.