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.