Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak about the important issue of the federal government's treatment of Quebec in recent years.
I would like to start by saying that we have carefully studied the motion. We initially contacted the Bloc to discuss a possible change in the wording. I wish to apologize to our extraordinary translators as I will be stumbling back and forth between the two versions of the motion. The French version states:
Que, de l’avis de la Chambre, le gouvernement a fait la démonstration dans son discours du Trône et dans son budget que le fédéralisme ne répond pas aux aspirations et aux besoins du Québec en ne s’engageant pas [...]
I would have automatically translated the French terms aspirations et besoins by “hopes and needs”. Thus, we were very surprised to see that they were rendered by fairly different terms, “goals and requirements”. It was as though the reader would be required to espouse the ultimate goal of the Parti québécois, Quebec's sovereignty. The English does not render the sense of the French term “besoins” but instead chooses to use the term “requirements”, in the sense of something that has to be done.
We are all aware of past differences in translation in Canada. A Quebec government, in referring to equality or independence, once drafted a list of what Quebec wanted, which was unfortunately translated by “Quebec demands”.
We know what happened; it caused quite a controversy. Having taught translation for a number of years, I can tell you that this example is used in first year translation courses to show the importance of word choice.
We contacted the Bloc to determine if it would be possible to change the translation. The Bloc refused outright, which was an indication that this was about playing a political game rather than pointing out that Quebec had not been given its fair share. With the Bloc, it is all about strategy and tactics.
It is often said that the Conservative government and the Prime Minister are always looking for an angle. When the Bloc refused such a simple request, we began to worry.
Never giving up hope, however, the leader of the New Democratic Party, the member for Toronto—Danforth, contacted the leader of the Bloc Québécois to propose an amendment. He told the leader of the Bloc that, if his real aim was to blame the government for its behaviour with regard to Quebec and not to say that the problems set out here are the product of federalism pure and simple, he agreed with him. I am not proposing an amendment at the moment, but will do so later.
He suggested the following minor change. After the word “federalism”, the words “as practised by the Conservatives, among others” would be added. The words, “among others”, refer to the bits of hypocrisy heard today from the Liberals. I give you the example of the Liberal finance critic, who rose earlier to express long and loud his disagreement with the Conservatives' refusal to give Quebec $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing its sales tax and the GST.
When I appeared on Larocque Lapierre with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, I had the opportunity to point out that it was the Liberals who first refused to compensate Quebec for harmonization.
Quebec was the first province to harmonize its sales tax with the federal government's. When the Maritimes, just by chance on the eve of a federal election, were compensated hugely, Bernard Landry rightly hit the roof saying there was a problem. He wondered why these provinces had been compensated but not Quebec. That was when he established Quebec's share.
The Liberals wanted nothing to do with it. No doubt about it. Nothing.
The hon. member for Markham-Unionville, the Liberal finance critic, rose earlier in the House to criticize the fact that the federal government is not compensating Quebec for harmonization, while, for years and years, the Liberals refused to do so.
We said that, with this change and the wording proposed, the text would allow for the inclusion of such behaviour. We were talking about federalism as practised by the Conservatives, among others.
With this amendment, it would have been very easy to agree with the Bloc's proposal, because this is divisive federalism. Federalism of exclusion, as practised by the Conservatives today and the Liberals before them, is at the source of the problem.
The NDP advocates federalism of inclusion, which recognizes differences, since, in fact, only one province—Quebec—has a francophone majority. This is why it has a bill on the table focusing on better protection of the French fact in order, for example, to broaden the concept of the right to a collective agreement in French and to communication with the employer in French in workplaces under federal jurisdiction.
If, for example, someone works for a cellphone company, that person comes under federal jurisdiction. This means that, as things stand, this individual's linguistic labour rights are not protected. We want to extend this protection. The Bloc Quebecois has supported our child care legislation. There is a very explicit clause regarding Quebec's exclusion. The Bloc supported this bill. Therefore, it is possible, if there is a will to do so, to build a country that takes this difference into consideration and that nourishes it, instead of constantly ostracizing people and making them feel excluded.
When the Bloc rejected this amicable change proposed by the NDP leader, we realized what was happening. We realized that, as usual, the Bloc was choosing to withdraw and stick to its ideology, because it was all too pleased to be able to play the same game as the Liberals. I will always remember the member for Beaches—East York who, two years ago, introduced a motion in the House in which, at the beginning, she was referring to women's rights. Let us not forget that it is this same Liberal Party which, last year, voted with the Conservatives to deprive women of their right to equal pay for work of equal value.
So, the member made a short speech on the rights of women and, at the end of her motion, she lashed out at the other opposition parties. To no one's surprise, people voted against her motion. So what did she do? She took the original text and she deleted the end. She then included it in an infamous ten percenter, these despicable mailouts that are distributed in a dishonest fashion by people like her. The member sent this mailout, in which she said: “You see, the other parties voted against women's rights.”
We see the same pattern with the Conservatives. I remember a situation involving the Bloc. It was a matter of principle. I did not share the Bloc's view. I thought that the legislation was sending a clear message that we were firmly opposed to the whole issue of child abduction. For legal and ideological reasons, Bloc members voted against the bill. I fully respect their point of view, even though I do not share it.
The Conservatives attacked them with ten percenters, which is what we call those little pamphlets that are sent out. The word “pamphlet” is used deliberately. They almost accused the Bloc members of being pedophiles and child abusers. This is unacceptable. I was the first to criticize the Conservatives and defend the Bloc even if I did not agree with the way the Bloc was voting in this case.
However, we are now seeing the Bloc at its worst, not willing to work with anyone to try and get results. We do not have to look far, Mr. Speaker. In La Presse today, Vincent Brousseau-Pouliot wrote about how Quebec and Ontario are both losing out in the federal economic recovery plan. That was in today's La Presse. It answers the question of whether or not Quebec is receiving its fair share of the infrastructure spending that is part of federal government's economic recovery plan.
The answer is that Quebec is being underfunded by 2% relative to its population. There is a gap of two percentage points, since we received 21.2% of the funding although we represent 23.2% of the population. We are losing out on what represents approximately 10% of our total expenditures because 2% of 20% is 10%. So, two percentage points out of 20% is equal to 10%.
That is the problem with the Bloc. Instead of making an honest and clear effort to get favourable results for Quebec, the Bloc members are like children in an elementary school play with their wooden swords and hats made from folded newspaper, trying to say that they are real warriors. It is pure fantasy, nothing but make-believe.
When we hear the Liberals say things like what came out of the mouth of the member for Hull—Aylmer, we are at a loss for words and realize that the New Democratic Party and its leader are the only real alternative to the years of squabbling in Canada, just as often the fault of the Conservatives as the Liberals.
His statement is one for the record. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse questioned him about one of his remarks regarding expenses. It will be in the transcripts, also known as Hansard, and will be easy to check. The Liberal addressed the Conservative and said the following: “I can hear some federalists opposite voicing their objections even though they are supposed to be with us against the Bloc.” I am quoting verbatim the member for Hull—Aylmer, who just spoke. That is mind-boggling.
Therefore, by definition, no matter what the Bloc Québécois says, the Liberal Party of Canada will oppose it because the Liberals are federalists and Bloc Québécois members are sovereignists. It was quite something. It is not something that can be made up and it will be in black and white. Furthermore, even if they try to change the words, at least the audio recording will be available so that people can verify that what I just said is true.
I cannot believe the point we have reached. But the Bloc will continue to claim that it represents Quebec's interests while forgetting that a good number of its positions are not good for Quebec.
The environment is one of the subjects brought up by the Bloc in the House today. I am in a position to talk about this issue because I was the Quebec environment minister when the federal member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who was the leader of the Liberal Party until recently, was my federal counterpart.
I can say, and that is in the record as well, that it was not fun. Members will recall that Eddie Goldenberg, the former chief of staff to Jean Chrétien, admitted that the Liberals had signed the Kyoto protocol “to galvanize public opinion”.
Signing the Kyoto protocol was a public relations stunt for the Liberals. That is why Canada had the worst record of all the signatories to the Kyoto protocol when the Liberals were in power. There has been no change under the Conservatives. However, the largest increase in greenhouse gases of all the countries that signed the Kyoto protocol was recorded under the Liberal watch. That is understandable. Mr. Goldenberg admitted that there was no plan to meet the Kyoto objectives, no real intention of respecting them. That is always the way with the Liberals: theatrics, diversions, a tendency to tell people what they think they want to hear in order to be elected. That is the record of the Liberal Party of Canada.
NDP proposes to be more constructive. Interested people can go to our website and read the Sherbrooke declaration adopted by our party, which offers a new vision of our great country, a vision where Quebec would be allowed to manage its own affairs within Canada.
People should take interest in that declaration.
But let us go back to today's motion and see whether the Bloc members are sincere. On the environment front, there is no greater mistake than oil sands development as it stands. If we do not internalize the environmental costs of the oil sands, we are importing an artificially high number of American dollars. Environmental costs must be taken into account, whatever the item produced. Thus, market prices must reflect the internalization of these costs.
Since they have been there, they have developed Keystone, Southern Lights, Alberta Clipper, Keystone II and another pipeline for exports to China. According to an independent analysis, Keystone alone represents the export of 18,000 jobs. That also represents the bulk export of a Canadian resource, just as we used to export untreated logs to the United States were value was added before the finished product, furniture, would be exported to Canada. It was a brilliant strategy. Canada has always acted that way and continues to do so.
The Bloc cannot fight for Canada's future energy security since it does not believe in Canada. As regards the environment, Bloc members believe that sovereignty is the solution, as if pollution stops at the border. Actually, there is a movie on this subject that has just started to run. Quebec was one of the first jurisdictions to ban the use of some pesticides for cosmetic purposes. Ontario followed suit. We wanted to extend this to all of Canada, but the Bloc voted against our proposal, saying that pollution is a provincial matter, as if they could stop pollution by putting a fence around Quebec. After six years, the Bloc has still not taken a stand against the Rabaska project. All of the environmentalists in Quebec have called upon the Bloc to stand against this project, but it still refuses to do so.
The Parti Québécois was in favour of reconstructing the Gentilly-2 nuclear power station, but it has now revised its position. We expected the Bloc to follow suit. However, this is out of the question. According to the leader of the Bloc Québécois, nuclear matters are a provincial concern. So the Bloc will not join ranks with progressive Canadians who are fighting against nuclear power because it is not sustainable and not a solution for the future. The Bloc refuses to take a stand against the reconstruction of the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant. This is what it means to have an ideology that prevents you from contributing to progress.
Today, the NDP got all the answers it needed. We could have worked with the Bloc had it been willing to amend its motion to say that the goal is constructive criticism for the future. Conservatives are being blamed, which does not preclude possible criticism of the Liberals, mainly for their stand on harmonization, but the Bloc would not listen.
In order for this to remain in the public domain, I wish to move an amendment.
I move, seconded by the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior, that the motion be amended by adding, after the word “federalism”, the following: “as practised mainly by the Conservatives”.