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.


Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure today to make this statement alongside a woman with whom I have been privileged to sit. The member for Richmond taught entrepreneurship at a technical school in British Columbia. It is women like my colleague who build stronger provinces within a stronger Canada.

I am pleased to comment on another frivolous Bloc Québécois motion. After years in Ottawa, every motion that the Bloc brings forward is sillier than the last. This one is no exception in either form or content.

We saw it earlier: to the Bloc, anyone who does not think like them is a fool or an idiot, which is unfortunate. According to the Bloc Bible, there are a lot of fools and idiots in Quebec.

I will start with the people from the forestry sector, who wonder if the Canadian government is doing what Quebec needs to get through these tough economic times. Are any of the members here willing to stand up for Quebec and do what is necessary when it is time to approve budgets and take concrete measures?

We make judgments based on results, but when we talk about ourselves, we are a little biased. Therefore, let us hear from others, including the Forest Products Association of Canada:

From a forest industry perspective, the government has its priorities right: investing in green jobs of tomorrow, stimulating the economy through clean energy technologies, and inviting investment by changing the accelerated capital cost allowance, will give Canada the edge it needs to move into the new bio-economy.

People are talking about the bio-economy and biofertilizers. Just two weeks ago, I was in Varennes to announce an investment of almost $80 million in a local business producing ethanol from corn. It is a technological leader. These people are working hard in cooperation with Quebec institutions, and they are developing a new generation of biofuel made from vegetable fibre, called cellulosic ethanol.

I wish them luck and want them to know that our government supports them and will continue to support efforts in that field.

Forestry producers are saying that the Government of Canada's budget 2010 has some good measures. The Government of Quebec says it is negotiating to harmonize taxes, but most of all, it is pleased to be receiving more transfers than ever before: Canada is transferring $19.3 billion to Quebec for health, education, social transfers and equalization.

We live in a federation that believes in equality and is distributing Canada's wealth, from which Quebec is benefiting. When the time comes to vote, I will rise in this House and support these measures.

That is what the forestry industry is saying. My Bloc Québécois colleagues seem to be saying that agricultural producers are also idiots or fools because they said the federal government had made a good decision in granting $25 million to plants that slaughter livestock over 30 months of age, for urgent action was needed.

What is our government doing? It is implementing measures to help beef producers, farmers and cattle cull producers in every region of the country. Furthermore, the Fédération des producteurs de bovins du Québec is satisfied with budget 2010 and wants the members from Quebec to vote for it. The Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec also supports the budget.

The people of my riding and the many dairy farmers in my riding can count on budget 2010 and on the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse to support this measure, which will provide assistance to plants that slaughter livestock over 30 months of age.

As we know, the Bloc sees things only through the prism of its separatist ideology here in Ottawa. Personally, I feel pretty good here in the House of Commons. I can express myself in my mother tongue, French, and I work for the people of my riding, which includes several municipalities. People need drinking water, a waste water treatment system and roads to get to work or school, and seniors need roads to get around.

The Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités covers more than 85% of Quebec, or nearly 1,000 municipalities. We know that the president of the FQM, Bernard Généreux, was re-elected on March 11. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him. Mr. Généreux, who is also the mayor of Saint Prime in the RCM of Domaine-du-Roi, said:

The investment of several billion dollars has already allowed the municipalities to play a vital role in tackling the economic crisis by creating thousands of jobs [in Quebec] while responding to real needs in terms of infrastructure standards.

This statement is supported by two vice-presidents from other regions in Quebec. I am referring to Serge Fortin, who is the reeve of Témiscouata and, closer to Lévis—Bellechasse/Les Etchemins, we have Reeve Richard Lehoux, who is the mayor of Saint Elzéar, a magnificent municipality in the hon. member for Beauce's riding, which is often referred to as the little Switzerland of Quebec. The reeve of Nouvelle-Beauce says that year two of the Canadian government's economic action plan allows them to continue to invest in infrastructure. Which hon. members from Quebec will rise in the House to support these measures?

I have other names here. We are talking about municipalities, but we are also talking about a city that includes many Quebeckers. It is called the City of Montreal, Quebec's metropolis. What are people from the City of Montreal saying? They say that the federal government is also maintaining funding for affordable housing [we have never seen so much money allocated to affordable housing], full reimbursement of the goods and services tax (GST) for cities and is thereby in sync with the priorities of our administration”. The different levels of government are working to provide services to the people on the ground.

It is the same thing for the Union des municipalités du Québec, which commended the announcement of an additional $14.6 million a year for Canada Economic Development to support the long-term economic development of the regions of Quebec. All these people, all these representatives cover 85% of Quebec, the City of Montreal, the forestry industry, the agricultural sector, and I have more quotes here. We have made a strategic investment in what is needed to develop our knowledge industry in our colleges and universities.

Michel Belley, an excellent professor of science and financial sciences who is also chairman of the board and president of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, told us, “Given the current financial situation in Canada, we appreciate that Canada continues to invest in university research and innovation in order to create jobs and build the economy of tomorrow”.

Does the Bloc think that people like this are foolish and crazy? I think that these are very smart people who are helping to move Quebec forward so that it can continue to develop and so that it can emerge from this economic crisis.

I have said it once, and I will say it again: this budget will have a positive impact on Quebec. For example, there are the jobs that have been created since July 2009. On Monday, I was at a smelting plant in Sainte-Claire de Bellechasse. We know that manufacturing companies are facing tough competition from Chinese companies, for example, which have lower production costs. These businesses are working on cutting their production costs. Who can they count on this year? They can count on the Canadian government, which is extending the work sharing program. We must support our manufacturing sector, because this industry is creating wealth.

We are also thinking about our families with the home renovation tax credit established last year, which stimulated the construction industry. This year, there are tax breaks, such as the first time homebuyers tax credit and the home renovation tax credit. These concrete measures show that we are working. The results speak for themselves, and it is clear that this budget is good for Quebec.

As a member from Quebec, it makes complete sense for me to support this budget. It makes even less sense for me to vote against it. There are perhaps some reasons for that. If I take time to think about the reasons for voting against the budget, I have a hard time understanding them.

The Bloc said that with respect to harmonization, it does not look at what is done, but what remains to be done. The Canadian government will not negotiate with an opposition party. That is clear. It will negotiate with the Government of Quebec. It is clear that our government is willing to negotiate. However, that is no reason to deprive Quebec of $19.3 billion in transfers.

I would like to continue with another example, specifically the environment. It is an area of great concern to Quebeckers and Canadians. In the last budget, $400 million were allocated for developing the entire biomass sector. This is about producing energy from biomass. Projects are currently starting up in all the regions of Quebec.

The job of elected representatives is to make sure that our organizations, our forestry co-operatives, our institutions that, for example, have oil-fired heating systems, can benefit from subsidies provided by the Canadian federal government to make the transition from systems using non-renewable hydrocarbons to biomass, which is a renewable source and is creating jobs for us.

Biomass is one thing, but there is also the development of value-added wood products. We know that Quebec is a leader in what we call sawn timber and in the techniques of productively recovering every small log. These funds are available through Natural Resources Canada and are provided to Quebec companies.

These are two contradictory views. They are truly irreconcilable. I have a quote here from Michel Gauthier who said in 1996, well before the hon. member for Hochelaga arrived in this House: “The Bloc was supposedly a transient party that should no longer exist by now. We decided to stay. So we must write, we must produce materials.“

They must produce motions, a bit like the one before the House today, frivolous and ridiculous motions that, as I said, are not helping Quebec move forward. Meanwhile, Quebec stays on the opposition benches. Fortunately, there are Conservative members from Quebec, such as the hon. member for Richmond, who are committed to securing Quebec's success in the face of these difficult economic times.

We are in the second year of our economic action plan. We had promising results in the first year. We are continuing in the same direction.

I can say that I am very proud to be sitting next to my colleagues, like the hon. member for Richmond and my other colleagues, in order to continue helping Quebec move forward within the Canadian confederation.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, earlier, my colleague went to talk to you about some rather derogatory comments made here about him. I did not quite hear the comments, but I guess they were related to some positions he has taken with his party.

I have a question for the member since he did not talk to the motion per se. It is a fundamental question, it relates to culture and identity and it concerns language.

Twice in this House, the Bloc has introduced a motion to ask that employees of Canadian institutions working in Quebec be subject to the Quebec Charter of the French Language. The member voted against it, which means that he voted against his mother's language.

Can he explain why a man would vote against the language of his mother if for no other reason than to grovel to a country that does not understand anything about the Quebec nation?

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his question. I am perfectly at ease expressing myself in my native tongue, even though I am of Irish descent. For that matter, I should mention to the member that tomorrow, March 17, is the celebration of the Irish. That is a fine example of the ability of Quebec's and Canada's societies to integrate and accommodate immigrants.

I am the proud descendant of immigrants, and I am proud to be in the House to promote linguistic duality both in Quebec and across Canada. I want to invite the member to come to Saint-Malachie, which has a vibrant Irish community. Special activities will take place on the weekend. There will also be a St. Patrick's Day parade in Quebec City.

We see that the French language is very much alive and is being protected. Just look to the agreements that our government has signed with the Quebec government with respect to immigration, so that Quebec can continue to flourish and serve as a beacon for the French language across the continent.

I am very proud of all the current government's efforts. It brings to mind the government of Brian Mulroney, who was a champion of the French language. This is a large national party that is helping to build a strong Quebec within a united Canada.

I would like to raise another point with the member. We are talking about la Francophonie. Haiti, a francophone community, was severely hit by an earthquake. How was the Canadian government able to help this francophone Haitian community that was so badly hit? As soon as they came to power, the Conservatives addressed equipment deficiencies and acquired C-17s.

We are all very proud to know that the first airplane to land on the tarmac in Port-au-Prince was a C-17 from Canada, with the Disaster Assistance Response Team, known as DART, aboard. The member opposite said that it was unnecessary and opposed the purchase of the airplanes. Canada continues to protect itself, because even more precious than the French language is life.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, just like my colleague, I would also like to take this opportunity to talk about Haiti, because I have strong feelings I want to share with the House.

I have in my riding an important Haitian community. I have to deal with a lot of immigration and family reunification cases. I have people crying in my office. A lady in my constituency left for Haiti to try and bring her husband back with her, but she was not allowed to enter Canada with her husband even if she is sponsoring him.

This government tells us it is doing a lot for Haiti, but it is not true. In real life, there are people waiting and waiting to come to Canada. Women, children, men, and seniors stand under the hot sun, waiting to be allowed to leave for Canada. These are sponsored immigrants who can get a visa, but we cannot seem to speed up processing of their applications.

Will the hon. member talk to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to urge him to show a more human face to Haitians?

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her question.

The Haitian community is still reeling from the shock of the tragedy that has occurred. During this crisis, it came to realize that it could count on humanitarian aid. I mentioned the first aircraft that landed on the tarmac. The Haitian community was also able to count on the support of my hon. colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who organized an international conference to rebuild Haiti on a sound footing. Canadian frigates were able to bring humanitarian aid to Jacmel. There was also the Governor General’s visit of a few weeks ago and other measures. Equally important was the generosity of Canadians.

Last weekend, in Saint-Damien de Bellechasse, the Knights of Columbus organized a fund-raising event in order to help the people of Haiti. Measures were also taken by my colleague, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, to deal with the very special situation the Haitian community is in and to find ways to get back to normal.

My office also gets many requests. I want to take this opportunity to salute the work done by the Canadian ambassador to Haiti, who acted in this crisis as a true Quebec and Canadian hero. He was obviously supported by Immigration Canada's officials who, in some specific cases, are still processing applications as fast as possible in order to help those who want to bring a family member to Canada or to sort everything out.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

My colleagues in the Bloc and I have repeatedly demonstrated in the House that the forestry sector in Quebec is currently experiencing one of the most difficult periods in its history.

I think this situation is now understood and accepted by everyone. A person would have to be acting in bad faith to say otherwise, but that is precisely where the problem lies. In spite of the fact that this government is aware of the problems the forestry industry is going through, it has consciously decided to abandon the workers in that industry.

While the Conservatives persist in refusing to invest in the forestry industry, they are throwing billions of dollars at the auto industry, and they keep handing out tax presents to their friends the banks and oil companies.

We have no choice but to conclude that there is no longer any place for Quebec in Canada. All of Quebec is calling for investment in that industry, the industry that developed our regions and thus forged the Quebec we know today. It is that industry that helped to put bread and butter on our great-grandparents’ tables and that still does so today for over 80,000 Quebeckers.

To us, in Quebec, the forestry industry represents the survival of nearly 230 towns and villages that depend largely on that industry. In addition, 160 of those towns and villages depend entirely on that industry. The shutdowns and job losses that are happening today have a significant social and economic impact on those communities. People are leaving their families. The schools are closing and the communities are breaking down. In a nutshell, the forestry industry is central to the occupation of the land in Quebec and to the history of its people.

I understand that people in Ontario want to preserve the auto industry that has contributed so much to developing and defining their economy over the last century. I would also point out that we are not opposed to the aid that has been given to the auto industry; quite the opposite. But just as the nation of Canada wants to protect its auto industry, it is legitimate for the Quebec people to do the same for its forestry industry. The National Assembly of Quebec would have taken action long ago if Quebec were master of its destiny. Unfortunately, because we are still at the mercy of the Canadian federation, our industry is dying a little more every day.

As long as Quebec taxpayers are paying taxes in Canada, this government must take Quebec into account. Of course, looking at the long term, we need to modernize the forestry industry—we are not against that either—to ensure its prosperity.

However, before it can prosper, the forestry industry first has to survive the current crisis. On that issue, Bernard Généreux, president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, said:

We can no longer afford to speculate. If something is not done, we could see a real downward spiral. Layoffs and plant closures will only increase. And politicians will have to suffer the consequences of their decisions.

This statement is unequivocal. Action is needed right now, before it is too late. As members of Parliament from the Quebec nation, it is our duty to act. So today I am asking all government members from Quebec, who are happy to be the Prime Minister's puppets, to finally show some backbone, stand up for the people of Quebec and, with us, call on their government to respect the Quebec nation and invest as much money in the forestry industry as was given to the auto industry. That is what we call equality.

Now I would like to explain what we mean by “modernize the forestry industry”.

Major structural adjustments are needed, and these cannot be achieved without financial assistance from the government. These changes must lay the groundwork for recovery and a revival within this industry. The adjustments I am talking about will come through research and development in order to foster innovation, which will allow the industry to return to prosperity, efficiency and sustainability for the benefit of all communities in Quebec.

The companies that transform the resource must find ways to optimize their production lines in order to become more flexible, so they can respond quickly to market fluctuations. We must also continue conducting industrial research in order to develop new market niches for our industry and capitalize on the green shift, which appears to be the key to economic success. We must become a leader in terms of technological innovation in order to be able to produce and export high value-added products and find increasingly efficient ways to reuse forestry waste. In that regard, biorefining could rapidly generate a great deal of supplementary income for companies that exploit those resources.

However, the current economic crisis and the resulting cash shortage are forcing businesses to cut back on their activities. That is why research, which is lucrative in the long term, but requires immediate expenditures, is an expense that can be quickly eliminated in times of economic crisis.

It is clear that the only way that forestry companies can hope to prosper in the future is through innovation and the development of new products and markets. The current economic crisis should not be a pretense for mortgaging the long-term prosperity of our economy, our towns and our nation in Quebec.

This is why the Bloc Québécois is proposing an enhanced scientific research and experimental development tax credit. It would create opportunity out of crisis and would allow companies to develop new markets and new products so that they will emerge from this crisis stronger.

The Bloc Québécois is proposing that the research tax credit be refundable. We absolutely must continue to invest in research and development. The Bloc Québécois is also proposing that the refund occur on a quarterly basis so that companies would receive the cash needed to continue on with the activities that gave them the credit in the first place.

The Conservatives can make themselves feel better by knowing that they are not the only ones in this House to have left this industry out in the cold. By supporting the previous Conservative budgets, or by using strategies that ensured that the budgets would pass, the Liberals have become accomplices in the Prime Minister's “all for Ontario” government. They once again showed their insensitivity towards Quebec's forestry industry.

I will conclude by asking the people of the forestry industry to continue to rally together. We need to continue to pull together and show our determination, as Quebeckers, to save an industry that has done so much to define us a people. Rest assured that my colleagues and I, unlike the Conservative members from Quebec, will never give up and will continue to proudly represent the people and the nation of Quebec here in this House.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques on his speech. I know he works tirelessly for his constituents and for those who lose their jobs.

One of our colleagues, Paul Crête, the former member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, fought to make the temporary measures permanent. We know that there are two areas, one in Quebec and the other in New Brunswick, where people receive additional benefits on top of EI because of what is called the “black hole”, or seasonal job losses.

The new member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, being a Conservative, started by saying that this measure was no longer necessary for his riding. When people told him that he was not representing them very well, he said that the measure might be maintained for another year.

I would like the member to tell us what the expectations and the needs are in that riding, since the Conservative member is not doing a very good job, and to tell us about the measure that should be made permanent.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and comments.

I have the opportunity to vigorously defend the interests of my riding and of the Lower St. Lawrence, where I am from, as I have been doing for the past 15 years or so as a trade unionist with the Union des producteurs agricoles.

I am pleased that my colleague has brought up the transitional measures and some recent and very surprising statements by our colleague across the way on this topic.

Members know that in the 2000s, the government established transitional measures so that a region like ours, the Lower St. Lawrence and the North Shore, could be equipped to face the realities of the labour market. In our region in eastern Quebec, there is seasonal work. There are seasonal workers who are very qualified and very good, but unfortunately for them, the work is seasonal.

In the 2000s, after some negotiations—my colleague mentioned Paul Crête—and as a result of all the times Mr. Crête took a stand on this issue, the government established transitional measures that help our region make it through. These measures ensure that our workers do not fall into a black hole and that they have enough income from employment insurance and their work to make it through. That is very important.

I want to point out that these transitional measures for the Lower St. Lawrence cost the EI fund an additional $25 million per year, and that this fund brings in $18 billion. Workers and employers are the ones who contributed to this fund; not the government.

In reality, $25 million out of $18 billion is a very insignificant amount, but It makes a world of difference to workers and seasonal workers.

This $25 million of additional benefits for our region makes all the difference, and we want the measure to be extended. The Bloc Québécois wants this to become a permanent measure, so that we do not have to fight to have it extended, as our new colleague from Rivière-du-Loup would like. I assure members that we will continue our fight until April 10. I hope that the NDP and the Liberals will support us.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to wish a happy birthday to Jean-Phillipe Soucy, my parliamentary assistant, who works with me on the Hill.

When the voters in my constituency elected me, they entrusted me with the duty to represent them with dignity in the House and to tirelessly defend their interests.

I rise today to denounce the empty Conservative measures that not only fail to show respect for the interests of Quebec and of the citizens of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, but also often go contrary to those interests.

Last December 31, the Prime Minister told us, through his press secretary, that he was padlocking the doors of Parliament. I was outraged, but the public was also scandalized to see the regard in which the Conservatives held democracy and continue to hold it.

If the Conservatives had used that time, as the Bloc, our leader, our finance critic and all our members did, to meet members of the public, decision-makers and organizations and to listen to their needs, prorogation would not have resulted in a Speech from the Throne and a budget that completely fail to address the aspirations of Quebec. This proves once more that federalism is not viable for Quebec.

But do they know that, by abandoning Quebec, the Conservatives are also abandoning the families, the workers, the industries and the regions of our province?

In my constituency, a number of organizations and individuals will suffer as a result of the actions of the Conservatives. As an example, the CFDCs are still waiting for a decision on the renewal of their five-year agreement with CED Canada, which is due to expire next March 31. Despite the announcements of an increased budget for CED, we have no details that allow us to see if real investment in the CFDCs will be confirmed.

In the depths of this period of economic instability, the situation is a concern to senior managers who cannot make their plans for next year. It leaves highly trained and qualified employees insecure, not knowing whether the organization will still have the means to pay them.

The regions served by the CFDCs are the most disadvantaged. If the funding is not continued, the entire economy of the region will suffer. In his speech, my colleague, the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques spoke at length about the importance of implementing measures for disadvantaged regions.

With relatively modest resources, the CFDCs are able to support a number of local initiatives. The government and its ministers know this very well because they have in their hands the annual reports from these organizations.

The agreement between the CFDCs and CED Canada must therefore be renewed and its budgets indexed so that these organizations can help to create jobs and to stimulate economic recovery in our regions.

Moreover, if this envelope is not renewed quickly, we will be depriving all those who need the financial support of the CFDCs.

The Canadian Textiles Program, CANtex, is also coming to an end next March 31. This program allows textile companies to develop value added products. In our area, through the Centre des technologies textiles at the Saint-Hyacinthe Cegep, this program allows for the development of innovative textiles that are used in the aerospace industry, among others. These are promising jobs with a future, in specialized, high technology areas.

Especially in this period of somewhat fragile fledgling economic recovery, many businesses and jobs are depending on the renewal of this agreement for a five-year period. What is the government waiting for?

There is also nothing for the most disadvantaged among us, the elderly. In spite of the beautiful promises made by the minister and member for Jonquière—Alma during the last election campaign to bring back the program to assist elderly workers—he even came with great pomp and ceremony on the occasion of our byelection to announce that this program would be renewed in the near future—yet nothing has been done.

Last spring I was honoured to table my very first motion in the House. In it I asked that the guaranteed income supplement that is given to the most disadvantaged seniors be increased.

In addition to not having indexed old age pensions during the past two years, the government has severely penalized the recipients of the guaranteed income supplement. The direct consequence of the indexing of the Quebec Pension Plan was a decrease in GIC benefits. Here again, we see the Conservative government pilfering what elderly persons are entitled to. We must not forget that those who receive the guaranteed income supplement are the most vulnerable among us.

My colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant has also done admirable work on this file and I want to take this opportunity to thank her. Our seniors built Quebec as we know it today, and our young people will build the Quebec of tomorrow, but it is our responsibility to create an equitable transition.

Once again, the nation of Quebec will have to pay for the Conservative government's injustices. It has invested massively in the automotive industry in Ontario but gave only crumbs to Quebec and the forest industry; it wants to establish a single securities commission; it refuses to harmonize the sales tax for Quebec.

In the final analysis, the government will have saved money by stealing from seniors who saw their guaranteed income supplement benefits reduced when their Quebec pension plan premiums were indexed, as opposed to their pensions; by announcing that it will continue to pilfer from the employment insurance fund in the years to come; and by not improving access to employment insurance for claimants.

And yet, the Bloc Québécois had proposed some very concrete solutions. The government could have saved money in the following ways: by eliminating tax havens and by increasing tax revenues in this way; by introducing an additional 1% tax on individuals with incomes of more than $150,000; by the fair taxation of large oil companies; by imposing a tax on the mind-boggling bonuses paid to executives; by limiting the exorbitant expenditures in maintenance contracts; and by appointing fewer senators.

But the Conservatives are not very concerned about any of this, preferring to help Alberta by granting tax cuts to the large oil companies, and preferring to assist the automotive industry, mostly concentrated in Ontario, rather than helping industries in crisis overall.

Through their lack of openness, the Conservatives have once again demonstrated that their help is for the rich. It is important to say that through these measures, the government is once again transferring the tax burden to the nation of Quebec.

And I will conclude with this: the government has completely ignored those who are the most affected by this crisis, that is to say the most disadvantaged members of our society.

I want my colleagues to know that we at the Bloc Québécois will continue to advocate for the most disadvantaged among us. Quebec's interests will be well taken care of when we are masters in our own house and when Quebec at long last becomes a sovereign nation.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech. She painted a pretty complete picture of the situation and, despite the 450 kilometres separating our two ridings, I can see that we share some of the same problems.

I know that my colleague is very moved by the situation of older people, and rightly so. In my riding, I have the pleasure of meeting groups of seniors and of visiting them in their retirement residences. The rate of poverty among the elderly is high, it is true. It is embarrassing for a society and a government to be not even able to raise the guaranteed income supplement. That said, even with a number of improvements, seniors would still live below the poverty line.

My colleague spoke of the CFDCs, which are also very important in my region. We are still waiting to hear from the Conservatives in this regard.

In closing, there is a lot of talk in my riding of high speed Internet. In her riding, which is closer to major centres, is there also a problem of access to high speed Internet?

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, although our respective ridings are far apart, I really like the riding of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, which is located in a beautiful area.

My colleague said that some seniors were not getting their fair share of the guaranteed income supplement. I must also point out that it is mostly women who rely on these services and programs. Women continue to be penalized by this government.

My colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques spoke very well of the importance of high speed Internet to the regions. We need it there if we want to have young people move to the country. We must have high speed Internet access or the youth will leave the regions. My colleague from Laurentides—Labelle and our colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord put forward a tax credit measure to encourage young people to settle in the regions. But it serves no point to give young people a tax credit to settle in the regions if we do not offer them the conditions that will encourage them to do so, such as high speed Internet. The Conservative government has invested paltry sums to connect Canada, but they are far from adequate.

High speed Internet has become vital not only to enable young people to chat and to access Facebook or Twitter but also for matters of importance. Our farmers need access to this means of communication. The Conservatives must come into the Internet age and give the people in the regions the same advantages as those in the major centres.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today in this House to speak to the motion by my colleague from the Bloc and explain why I will be voting against it. My colleague from the Bloc has quite correctly noted that the Conservative government has not responded to the needs of Quebec. I will come back to this again in a few moments. But where my colleague from the Bloc is mistaken is in attributing the cause of this failure to federalism, when in reality the cause is this Conservative government.

Let us examine the issues in question, starting with the harmonized tax. The Conservative government ought to have known perfectly well last year, when it was negotiating an agreement on the harmonized tax with the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia—an agreement which included financial compensation for those two provinces to help them make the transition—that Quebec would demand a similar agreement, having itself made the transition to a harmonized tax many years before.

Yet, instead of including Quebec in this process, this Conservative government clearly treated Quebec as a special case which would not be treated the same way as the other provinces. Here is a first example of this Conservative government’s lack of respect for a province, in this case, Quebec.

I am sure that it is quite clear that the problem has nothing to do with federalism. After all, the Conservative government found a way to come to an arrangement with Ontario and British Columbia. The real problem is this Conservative government which is treating Quebec disrespectfully in this matter. That is the true cause of the problem.

Let us take another issue, the forestry industry. Last year, when the forestry industry was in the worst of the economic crisis and imploring the Conservative government to grant it loan guarantees and facilitate its access to credit, this Conservative government turned a deaf ear to those appeals. My party heard those appeals very clearly, and also supported the demands of the forestry industry. In fact, the Liberal government of Paul Martin clearly recognized the need to address problems in the forestry industry in 2005, and included in its budget $1.5 billion over five years to allow the achievement of a number of objectives linked to a true national strategy for that industry.

My party understood four years ago the need to make certain changes in the forestry industry to make it more competitive. Here we have more evidence that federalism can work very well if the government takes time to listen to the provinces and territories and acts accordingly.

Federalism is a partnership based on respect and the desire to make this country work well. Federalism does not work when it is based on confrontation, as is presently the case between this Conservative government and Quebec.

Let us take another example, the environment. Here the differences are profound. We all know very well that the Conservative government has been dragging its feet for four years on the environment. After four years and three environment ministers, this government’s record on the measures that need to be taken is far from brilliant. Criticized not only by Quebec but also by other provinces—not to mention the condemnation by the international community—the Conservative government continues to drag its feet. Not only is it doing very little, but it takes the opportunity to lecture Quebec when Quebec decides to embark upon an important environmental initiative.

Is this a problem with federalism? Of course not. The problem is with this Conservative government that does not listen and has no respect.

That brings me to the needs of our rural areas. We are all familiar with them. There is, of course, the forestry sector, to which I have referred, but there are other major industries such as agriculture and, in certain areas, fishing. Access to high speed Internet or to waves for cellphones is an issue just about everywhere. As well, a large number of communities are concerned about the need to diversify their region's economy, so as to avoid being dependent on a single industry.

Wherever I go in Quebec, the message is clear: people want us to help them stay in their regions. They do not want to be forced to leave to live elsewhere. Did the Conservative government get the message? Based on the importance that it is giving to Canada Economic Development, we must conclude that it did not. Instead, this government is relying on a laissez-faire attitude, which consists in helping people a bit every now and then but, other than that, let them fend for themselves. The government has no strategy, no vision and no long-term plan. It is using a piecemeal approach when the time comes to make nice political announcements. They love these announcements.

Let us talk about poverty. What does this government do to deal with social housing needs? What does it do about homelessness, which is a serious issue in my riding? We must put a lot of pressure on the Conservative government simply to get it to renew existing programs for which funds have already been earmarked. Is this leadership? Of course not. Are we to blame federalism, as our Bloc Quebecois colleagues always do? Of course not. The issue has nothing to do with federalism, but it has everything to do with this Conservative government, which does not understand Quebec and which wants to impose its will on the province, rather than work constructively with it.

Let us talk about culture. During the 2008 campaign, the Conservative government showed very clearly that it failed to understand the importance of culture for Quebec, and that cost them dearly. This total lack of understanding is typical of the ruling Conservative Party. It is not typical of my party, the Liberal Party, which recognizes very clearly the importance of culture for the Quebec identity. My party has committed to doubling the funding for the Canada Council for the Arts when it will be back in power. My party has committed to securing the future of CBC/Radio-Canada through stable and predictable funding. My party recognizes the importance of culture for Quebec and all of our country. My party recognizes the importance of promoting our culture abroad.

The Conservative government refuses to support loan guarantees for Quebec's forest industry. The government has no intention of taking any action on climate change, after four years in power. I have to admit I sat incredulous as the Minister of the Environment announced that the decision not to fund the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences was final because enough science had been done.

It is not federalism that is failing Quebec. It is the Conservative government that is failing Quebec. Liberals know how to make the federation work. A federal Liberal government would work closely with the Government of Quebec to address the challenges facing the province.

The reason why Quebec does not click with the Conservative government is because Quebeckers do not share the Conservatives' values. That is the problem. No matter how often the Bloc Québécois repeats it, after hearing the same tune for nearly 20 years, many Quebeckers are getting tired of it. The reality is that the Bloc Québécois's message concerning federalism is really getting old, especially coming from a party that does nothing but criticize and can do nothing more.

I would like to say to my colleague from Joliette, for whom I have great respect, that he is right when he says that Quebec is not well served. However, he is mistaken as to the cause. The cause is straight in front of us, him and me, and it is called the Conservative government.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, to begin with, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska.

It is with great disappointment for Quebec that I address this House today. After the reading of the Speech from the Throne and the budget, I am not surprised to see that this government has, once again, abandoned the Quebec nation. Once again, we must face the facts: federalism does not benefit Quebec.

The Reform Conservatives do not even bother anymore to try to meet Quebec's demands. Quebeckers are, once again, well aware of the fact that freedom and independence are the only solutions and that Quebec does not belong in a federation that does just ignores it.

Ten minutes is a very short time to list all the measures that cannot be found in the budget. There is nothing for the most vulnerable classes of society. There is nothing for the transfer of amounts to which Quebec is fully entitled. There is nothing either for the environment, women, culture, nor for the forestry and aerospace industries in Quebec.

The main characteristics of this budget are the gifts, the nice surprises and the goodies for western oil companies and Ontario's automobile industry. In other words, we are trying to rob Quebec to pay Ontario and western Canada. It is as though the federal government had organized a big party only for Ontario and a few western provinces. Quebec, in particular, is simply tossed aside.

As you know, British Columbia has received 1.6 billion dollars to harmonize its sales tax with the GST. As for Ontario, it has received 4.3 billion dollars, almost three times as much.

At the other end, neither the Speech from the Throne nor the budget mention any compensation for harmonizing Quebec's sales tax with the GST and this has been the case since 1997. Along with the Government of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois has been demanding for a while that the federal government give Quebec the 2.2 billion dollars that are rightfully his. In fact, 2.2 billion dollars is slightly above the amount offered to British Columbia, but half as high as that offered to Ontario. Another gift for Ontario and western Canada; and nothing at all for Quebec.

A few weeks before the recession, the Minister of Finance et the Prime Minister were highly optimistic when they said that Canada would not experience an economic crisis. However, reality has quickly caught up with them and they were forced to face the facts.

The forestry sector in Quebec has been particularly affected by this crisis. In my constituency of Compton—Stanstead alone, a number of sawmills have gone out of business. Among other mills, I might mention Labranche and Paul Vallée. These two major employers in St-Isidore-de-Clifton have had to close their doors. The economy of that small town has been significantly affected.

For several years, the Bloc Québécois has constantly proposed appropriate and specific measures to assist the forestry industry. In May 2009, for example, we were proud to put forward a series of concrete proposals that the federal government could easily have embraced. I could specifically mention the creation of a credit facility for the forest industry, a one-stop shop that would have provided loans and loan guarantees to companies in the sector. I could also mention the bill granting tax credits to young graduates settling in a resource region. But naturally, these measures were dismissed out of hand by these Conservative Reformers who prefer to put industries in a pecking order where only those who can offer them the most political capital are treated with generosity.

I would remind the House, for instance, that the Ontario automotive industry received $9.7 billion during the economic crisis. The oil industry in Alberta was granted major tax cuts with no conditions whatsoever. By comparison, the Quebec forestry industry received peanuts, only $170 million. That is about 60 times less than Ontario received for its automobile companies. Sixty times less, it is absurd. It means 11,329 people laid off in Quebec. Is this what open federalism is all about?

As deputy critic, I feel compelled to point out the budget's shortcomings in agriculture and agri-food.

In 2007, that industry generated $18.9 billion in added value for Quebec, a total of 6% of Quebec's GDP. That same year, almost 175,000 jobs were created as the result of agricultural production and the processing of agricultural products.

In the regions of Quebec, agriculture is a vital part of the economy. Abandoning it would be a disaster for our rural areas. For the umpteenth time, the government is showing that it does not care.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture declared that it was “disappointed at the lack of new money and initiatives announced for the agri-food sector in the federal budget“. According to the Union des producteurs agricoles, the real needs of producers across Canada are in the order of $1 billion annually, yet a mere $500 million over five years are allocated to the sector. That boils down to $100 million instead of $1 billion a year. With the exception of this timid, miserly initiative and a sprinkling of photo-ops here and there, agriculture once again is the victim of the Conservatives' draconian measures. But, of course, the Ontario automotive industry and big oil, they do just fine.

The list is impressive and I could keep going for hours. We need only think of the billions of dollars associated with the changes to the equalization formula and the transfer payments that were unilaterally cut in the past. We can also think about the more than $400 million that has still not been refunded to Hydro-Québec by the federal government after the ice storm disaster in 1998.

And I am not talking about the needs of seniors, who are once again completely shut out by the Reform Conservatives. In addition to announcing a review of the pension system in the spring, they are simply ignoring the need to improve employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, in spite of the fact that there has been a unanimous motion of the National Assembly calling for this. Once again, these fine Reform Conservatives are turning a blind eye to a measure on which there is consensus in Quebec. This government obviously prefers to preserve the banks and tax havens rather than respond to the crying needs of seniors. The same is true for the homeless and social housing. The Prime Minister prefers to act as if those problems did not exist; his conscience is clearer that way.

The Conservative government is still refusing to pay Quebeckers the money that is owing to them. There is nothing in the Speech from the Throne or the budget that persuades us otherwise.

The evidence is unequivocal. In a recent survey, a large majority of Quebeckers said they were dissatisfied with the last federal budget. This is hardly surprising. In fact, there is only one thing in the budget for Quebec: business as usual.

In the same survey, two thirds of Quebeckers said that prorogation was unjustified. Imagine, to bring forth this budget, the economic bright lights in the government had to close down Parliament for two months, two months during which the Conservative reformers promised anyone who would listen that they would be coming back with new ideas, with a plan, with concrete actions to benefit the people of Quebec. The people who are still hoping for something from this government were disappointed to learn that there was nothing.

To conclude, I cannot help but think about victims of crime and their families. These Conservative reformers keep hammering at the message that they care about victims. In fact, they are too busy trying to fill our prisons with underage children to think about supporting the families of victims.

All the Conservatives have for victims is $6.6 million over two years. That is $3.3 million that Quebeckers and the residents of the provinces of Canada will have to fight over every year.

The government also says that it wants to facilitate access to special benefits for workers who have lost a family member. They are already entitled to those benefits. So again, there is nothing new, and nothing concrete. There are only false promises and old stuff.

The budget and the throne speech very definitely confirm that the Quebec nation will always be the loser as long as it is part of the Canadian federation. Only sovereignty for Quebec can get us out of this stagnation. I therefore invite everyone in this House to vote for the Bloc Québécois motion.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I think it is the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead who is letting Quebeckers down with her faulty arguments and her refusal to support Canada’s economic action plan, which is good for Quebec.

I only need to mention the support the last budget is getting in Quebec, for example from the Fédération des municipalités du Québec, the Union des municipalités du Québec and the Conseil des recteurs et des doyens des universités du Québec. Many organizations are supporting the budget, but, lo and behold, some members of Parliament will oppose it because, of course, the hon. member’s separatist ideology is deemed more important than the interests of Quebec.

We only have to think about record federal transfers. Canada is now negotiating the harmonization of the sales tax with the Quebec government. People can count on a government which not only corrected the fiscal imbalance, but will also transfer this year a record amount of $19.3 billion to maintain quality health care for seniors and high quality education for young Quebeckers. This is $6.8 billion more than the amount that was transferred when the Liberals were in office and Bloc members were in opposition, where they still are today.

Why would anybody vote against a $1 billion commitment for social housing, and more particularly against the fact that tens of thousands of Quebeckers will disappear from the tax roll, because we have reduced the tax burden so that Canadians pay less tax?

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I have been here since 10:00 this morning, and I keep hearing the same old thing.

I will repeat something else. First, affordable housing is for people who do not have money. In addition, the federal government never gave the $3 billion to our seniors. I am talking about the guaranteed income supplement. They have selective memory.

The Bloc Québécois proposed an end to tax avoidance, but the government prefers to turn a blind eye to help banks. Tax avoidance is all over.

In this budget, there is absolutely nothing for women. In regards to court challenges to help women defend themselves, there was a recent debate with a union representing women, and now the union will be penalized $50,000 per day if it goes to court to fight for equality.

Of the 12 committees on status of women, 10 have been shut down. The government would have us believe that Quebec is benefiting here. That would surprise me.

It is rather difficult for some people here to defend the Quebec nation. When the Conservatives talk about defending a united Canada, I would say that it is a Canada united against the Quebec nation.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to this important motion from the Bloc Québécois, tabled this morning by the member for Joliette.

We note that the Speech from the Throne and the budget do not meet the needs of Quebec. We heard several speeches today both from members of the Bloc Québécois and members of the other opposition parties, outlining the deficiencies of the throne speech and budget.

When the members of the party in power cite a few quotes on a few points that may have seemed positive to some, it is always the same thing: one can never say that a budget is entirely bad, just as one can never say that a budget is entirely good. However, the Conservative Party has puts its blinders on and is pretending that everything is just fine. But that is far from the case.

Some have been forgotten in the throne speech and budget who desperately needed attention. When we rise in the House, it is not to talk about things we have pulled out of thin air. We consult people and we meet with them, and they are probably the same people that our colleagues from the Conservative Party meet with, but they do not necessarily hear the same things as we do concerning the demands made by certain groups.

Like my colleague from Compton—Stanstead who sits with me on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, I think that we could have expected much more sweeping measures in the last budget to come to the assistance of the agricultural sector.

Even before tabling the previous budget, the minister had announced with great pomp and ceremony the setting up of a real program, AgriFlex. As its name implies, this was a program designed to be flexible in order to meet the needs of Quebec and the provinces. But the government had set a little trap.

When we read the budget and saw exactly what the AgriFlex program announced by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food contained, we realized that they had left out income support. And there is the rub. In the final analysis it appears they set up a program that is strictly window dressing. It was not at all what the agricultural sector had asked for.

So we always have to be careful. It is not because the government says it will do something that it will introduce a measure that truly meets the needs of people in a real and concrete way.

The government quoted someone as saying that this or that was great or wonderful. I, too, found some statements about agriculture. These ones demonstrate that neither the Speech from the Throne nor the budget respond to Quebec's agriculture needs.

In a press release most likely sent out the day after the budget, Quebec's farmers' union, the Union des producteurs agricoles, said:

Time will tell if the new budget contained anything useful for the agriculture sector. During Minister Flaherty's pre-budget consultations, the UPA had spoken with him about specific requests, which the federal budget has not currently addressed. Quebec's agriculture sector is disappointed.

They are cautious, and they have every reason to be. One only has to think about the AgriFlex program that I mentioned earlier to remember that you cannot count your chickens before they hatch.

This press release spoke specifically about private woodlots, which my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques spoke of. The UPA stated:

The same goes for the lack of a registered silvicultural savings and investment plan for the 425,00 woodlot owners in Canada. There are 130,000 in Quebec and 35,000 of them are forestry producers. There is nothing in the budget about this. The automobile industry got help and the oil industry as well, but the hundreds of thousands of forestry producers who have endured years of crisis are still waiting...

The UPA is also disappointed that there was no follow-up to the request for funding it put forth in partnership with the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to go ahead with development plans for various sectors of Quebec's agricultural production.

Pierre Lemieux, senior vice-president of UPA, was quoted in the press release, not the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture. I do not think that the latter would have had such sensible things to say about agriculture.

We cannot say that the government has satisfied all the requests, which were totally reasonable in this period of economic recovery, to help a sector that creates thousands and thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars both in Quebec and in Canada.

The UPA fears cuts. The UPA has grave concerns about the intentions of the federal Minister of Finance who is looking to reduce program spending by $1.3 billion in order to balance the budget within the next five years. “It would be sad to see the agricultural sector take another hit”, warns the union, which also pointed to the structured nature and the importance of agricultural investment, especially for regional economies.

A number of requests were made by the Union des producteurs agricoles and the various agricultural sectors in Quebec when the government launched its prebudget consultations. We do not rely on the government's prebudget consultations alone. We hit the ground to meet with people and talk to them about their concerns.

I had the honour of welcoming the hon. member for Hochelaga in my riding. We talked to people not only from the agricultural sector, but also from the community, business and municipal sectors. This is the same approach I used throughout Quebec with my colleague, the finance critic, in order to understand precisely what people wanted. Three recommendations from the agricultural sector had already been made to the federal government, and the government has not acted on them.

As I was saying earlier, there was a request for an AgriFlex program worthy of the name to allow Quebec to use money allocated to the AgriFlex program to finance its own income security programs.

A second recommendation had to do with improving the AgriRecovery program to have it cover losses on a specific basis in the short, medium and long terms and to allow the recovery of businesses affected by crises like the golden nematode crisis in Saint-Amable. My colleague from that riding and I have worked hard on that issue in order to get the government to listen to reason. The government completely abandoned potato farmers who were dealing with golden nematode a few years ago.

Finally, there was a recommendation on assistance for the meat sector. In the budget, monies were allocated to help slaughterhouses. That is not new money. The money will be taken from existing programs.

If we just look at what is written in the budget, we might think that there is good news. We have to give credit where credit is due. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is the matter of AgriFlex. We must read between the lines and know the exact details of this program to ensure that American producers and Quebec producers are placed on a level playing field. Quebec producers have to respect Canadian rules regarding specified risk materials. However, American producers do not, giving them the advantage. There is a difference of almost $32 per head, which means that, for one year, $24 million are needed to deal with this problem in Canada. An amount of money was allocated in the budget. We have to see whether the criteria will enable our slaughterhouses—especially the Levinoff-Colbex facility in Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover, which is very close to my riding—to access the program and help them to survive. It is a question of survival.

I will continue by sharing the reactions to the budget of others in the agriculture sector. Here is one from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. This time, the Conservatives cannot accuse the evil sovereignists of speaking against the budget. The title is quite eloquent and telling: “Not much new for Canadian Agriculture in Federal Budget”. That is the title. I will read from the press release. “Dubbed a ‘Jobs and Growth Budget,’ we had hoped the budget would show increased investment in the agri-food sector--a sector which was recognized in the Speech from the Throne as an industry that is the foundation for Canada’s prosperity and supports thousands of communities, both rural and urban, and provides one out of every eight jobs in 2008—”

Laurent Pellerin, CFA president, said: “We had hoped to see some initiatives that would encourage and assist new entrants to provide the needed growth and increased stability within the sector.”

These types of comments are an indication that the budget does not have unanimous approval of the agriculture sector. The CFA was also surprised.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have five minutes for questions and comments after question period.

2010 Power Smart Manitoba Winter GamesStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, this past week, the city of Portage la Prairie proudly hosted the 2010 Power Smart Manitoba Winter Games, opening its doors to 1,400 athletes, 960 volunteers, as well as coaches and spectators.

It was a tremendous opportunity for the city and municipality to showcase the just completed PCU Centre, a remarkable state of the art recreational facility.

The Manitoba games showed that the dedication and success of Canada's Olympic team is continuing to inspire young Manitoban athletes to follow in their footsteps.

I give special thanks to co-chairs, Ferdi Nelissen and Jim Malenchak, and their team of volunteers, people like Marion Switzer who was in charge of the food venue. She went the extra mile every day to make athletes feel welcome and well fed.

May the memory of the 2010 Manitoba Winter Games live on in the community and inspire young Manitobans to strive for excellence in all that they do.

Crimes Against HumanityStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, 22 years ago, in the early evening of March 16, 1988, seven or eight planes conducted up to 14 poisonous gas bombing runs on the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq.

The attack, which was ordered by Sadam Hussein, lasted five hours and when it was over 5,000 people were dead, almost 10,000 were injured and, since then, thousands have died from complications.

In 2009, I had the opportunity to visit the predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq, referred to as Iraqi Kurdistan. While there, I visited the town of Halabja and the Monument of Halabja Martyrs, which is staffed exclusively by survivors of the gas attack. I was struck by the strength of the survivors and their resilience.

Today, I asked the House for unanimous support of a motion recognizing this attack and other atrocities against the Kurdish people as a crime against humanity.

On behalf of the Canadian Kurdish community, I want to thank all members of the House for their support.

La Tribune NewspaperStatements by Members

2 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, La Tribune, which was founded by Jacob Nicol in 1910, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. That is 100 years of quality articles, faithfully covering the news in the Eastern Townships and Centre-du-Québec region.

To celebrate this occasion, management of the newspaper organized a major event at the Université de Sherbrooke cultural centre with 1,300 invited guests. I would like to congratulate Maurice Cloutier, editor, Louise Boisvert, president and editor, all of the journalists who were named ambassadors of the Mérite estrien, as well as everyone who helped make this evening a historic event.

The secret of La Tribune is that it has always operated with the same passion. The journalists and employees care about developing the community and about the well-being of the people who live there.

Happy anniversary to La Tribune. I wish it continued success.

Infrastructure FundingStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, according to representatives from the non-profit sector, only one in twelve non-profit infrastructure stimulus applications were approved by Infrastructure Canada.

In London, two very worthy projects, the Spriet Centre for the safe storage and display of artifacts at Fanshawe Pioneer Village and the Arctic Gallery Project at the Children's Museum of London, which works to educate our children about Canada's north, were among those denied any federal funding.

Both of those organizations have done extensive fundraising and received funds from the municipality but they cannot complete their projects without federal help. Both projects are shovel ready.

These initiatives would support existing jobs, create short term jobs through infrastructure upgrades and establish long-term opportunities by boosting London's tourism sector.

Museums and science centres are asking the government to establish a $200 million dedicated fund to keep these facilities up to date and to educate and inspire our children.

I support Canada's museums and science centres and I call upon the government to do the same.

Violence Awareness and Random Acts of Kindness WeekStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, sometimes, as we all know, things can get a tad contentious here in the House of Commons during question period as we battle and debate in wars of words over bills and partisan disagreements.

So, it is always refreshing to see a community come together to put aside personal differences and partisanship to reach out to help other folks in their communities.

Last week in Belleville, the community participated in Violence Awareness and Random Acts of Kindness Week. Everyone wore blue ribbons and went out of their way to take a little extra time to help their fellow citizens.

I wish to extend congratulations to the founders and the organizers of this event, the kindness crew and to everyone in Belleville and area who participated. I am sure many lives were enriched and I hope everyone will remember to carry the sentiments of kindness to others with them every week of the year.

The poet, William Woodsworth, said, “The best portion of a good man's life are his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love”.

I ask all my colleagues to remember to show a little kindness.

Francophonie WeekStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Lise Zarac Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow night, March 17, the Club Richelieu LaSalle will celebrate our French language and culture with its presentation of the 2010 night of the Francophonie. This is, after all, the de la Francophonie Week.

Once again, the organizers will crown la Francophonie's Richelieu LaSalle personality of the year. The fourth person to receive this award will be singer Marie-Élaine Thibert, one of the discoveries from Star Académie's television first season.

This talented artist has had successful albums since her arrival on the scene in 2003. She rubs shoulders with the who's-who in Quebec music. Marie-Élaine Thibert is involved with the Children's Wish Foundation as a sponsor and spokesperson. I, along with my constituents in LaSalle—Émard, would like to offer her our most sincere congratulations for this well-deserved honour.

2010 Winter OlympicsStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, for two weeks in February, my wife and I had the incredible experience of being volunteers at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Together with our friends, Fran and Roger Hohm, we travelled from southern Alberta to Vancouver to help out at the curling venue.

Our new friends, Ken and Hiroko Yoshihara, took us under their wing and made our stay in their home very special.

The curling competition, under the leadership of sports manager Neil Houston and his team of Kyla, Laura and Russian understudy Olga, ran the on-ice competition with focus and expertise. Our sports liaison co-workers, Ken and Gail Damberger, were great partners.

What an unforgettable experience to be part of the thousands of volunteers, the blue jackets, who helped make the 2010 Winter Olympics the best games ever, and to witness first-hand the tidal wave of national pride that rose up and swept across our great nation. Winning a silver and gold in curling was icing on the cake.

This week, the Paralympians continue carrying the Olympic spirit for us all.

Some things in life turn out to be far better than expected and this experience was one of them.

Community TelevisionStatements by Members

March 16th, 2010 / 2:05 p.m.


Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is holding hearings in April to address the demands of community television stations, which are trying to emphasize the need to increase their revenues as well as their capitalization, which are affected by current regulations.

Community television stations have an important regional base and convey information in their respective regions. The creation of a Canada-wide community channel would go against the very notion of local television. In order to ensure the survival of community television, the CRTC should, among other things, continue to compel cable television companies to offer the local community channel as part of their basic service. The CRTC should also allow them to relax the rules around advertising so that community television stations can increase their revenues.

At the regional or local level, community television is what allows people to access quality information about what is happening where they live and in the surrounding area. That is one of the many reasons why the Bloc Québécois supports their demands.