Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Chambly—Borduas.
I would like to take this time to share with the House my comments on the budget brought down by the Conservative government.
During the prorogation imposed by the government at the end of 2009, I had the chance to take part in the Bloc Québécois' prebudget consultation tour of the various regions of Quebec with my colleague from Hochelaga, who is also the Bloc finance critic.
Quebeckers were very happy to see us and share their needs and expectations with regard to a budget they dreaded. They often told us that other political parties did not visit their region. The Bloc's closeness to Quebeckers is a key reason why the Bloc has always enjoyed the support of the majority of voters in Quebec.
Whether we are talking about forestry, aerospace, the environment or culture, Quebeckers' priorities, as expressed during our tour, are completely ignored in this budget.
By bringing down such an empty budget, the Conservative government is showing us once again that federalism simply does not benefit Quebec.
Once again, the Conservatives are missing an opportunity to properly address Quebec's economic, social, environmental and financial needs.
They have shown once again that, as far as Canada is concerned, it is as though Quebec does not exist. The Conservative government is continuing to follow the course set by its 2006 economic statement, which established policies geared to the needs of Ontario and Alberta to the detriment of the very pressing needs of Quebec.
Despite all the wonderful Conservative promises in 2006 of a new openness towards Quebec, there is nothing in the new Conservative budget to address the needs of Quebec's economy.
Like the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the Bloc Québécois is calling for loans and loan guarantees, such as those made available by Investissement Québec, an agency of the Quebec government.
Furthermore, a comprehensive policy to support and modernize the forestry industry is needed. For example—as shown so clearly in the budget where the figures are set out side-by-side—the automotive sector, which is concentrated in Ontario, has received $9.7 billion over the past two years whereas the forestry industry, which is so important to Quebec, received only $170 million for the whole country.
Investment in Ontario was 57 times greater. After the government invested so much money to save jobs in Ontario, which was legitimate, forestry workers would have expected that protecting the forestry industry and its jobs would be given consideration in this budget.
In another area, in response to the budget, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, the FRAPRU, a well-known community organization in Quebec, accused the government of creating a deficit at the expense of the poor. In fact, fighting the deficit will affect the most disadvantaged in society: those living without proper housing, the homeless and individuals and families living in poverty. During our consultation tour, people inevitably talked about the lack of social housing.
In Montreal alone, more than 23,000 households are waiting for affordable housing. In the province of Quebec, there are 35,000 households on the waiting list.
Although construction of social housing for seniors and the disabled is required because it was already in the government's action plan, the current budget does not propose to construct social housing for the poorest families. That would be housing with more than two or three bedrooms, which it makes sense to build for our society.
People from across Quebec also pointed out many flaws in the EI system. My colleague from Chambly—Borduas will surely expand on this later.
In any case, the budget does not propose any measures for unemployed workers, except for an extension of the work sharing program. This is not a new measure, since it was announced in the last budget.
There is no mention of the reforms needed in order to improve accessibility. It must be repeated over and over that less than 50% of workers have access to employment insurance. That is why a major overhaul is so important, although it has yet to be included in a budget.
Although the budget will lift the freeze that had been placed on premium rates, this will not improve the system.
What is most appalling about all of this is the fact that the government plans to pilfer a total of $19 billion from the EI fund between 2011 and 2015. Those figures are written in black and white in the budget. That money will be taken directly from the workers. Instead of helping workers improve their situation, the Conservatives are going to take more money from them.
Now what about our seniors who are living in poverty? The guaranteed income supplement paid to the most disadvantaged is keeping them below the poverty line. In addition, over 40,000 people in Quebec are still not receiving it, because they do not know it exists or because they cannot understand and complete the application form.
On June 4, 2008, Bill C-490, which I had the honour to introduce, passed second reading in the House after being supported by a majority of members, with the exception of the Conservatives. I find that shameful.
The government put an end to the bill when it called an election in September 2008, thereby preventing the bill's passage.
The bill proposed automatic registration for the guaranteed income supplement—since the government has access to people's income, and an additional $110 a month just to help them reach the low-income cutoff, which used to be called the poverty line, as well as full retroactivity for seniors who have been shortchanged and realized it when they finally applied. At present, retroactivity is limited to 11 months. The bill proposed full retroactivity, since that money was owed to them.
Now that the worst of this crisis is behind us, we could have expected the government to use this budget to correct the situation by helping people who are relatively poor and allowing our seniors to live in dignity.
I say dignity because that is the word seniors used when they spoke to us during the guaranteed income supplement consultation tour we went on when we introduced the bill. These people are not looking for charity. They just want to live in a dignified way.
Unfortunately, despite all the steps often taken by the Bloc Québécois, our seniors will again have to settle for their government's lack of consideration because there is nothing for them in this budget.
I would now like to reiterate that Quebec is the only province to have harmonized its sales tax and not receive compensation for it. The Atlantic provinces are receiving a $1 billion compensation over four years, Ontario will receive $4.3 billion and British Columbia will receive $1.6 billion.
It is very complicated for Quebec. The government has been saying for a year that it is in talks with Quebec to finalize compensation for harmonizing the tax, which has been applied in that province for 18 years now.
Quebec assessed the cost at $2.2 billion and it said officially that it needed that money in order to prepare its budget in the coming weeks. It is inconceivable that the current budget is not correcting this injustice, which has been dragging on for so many years.
Unless there are major changes, it is clear that the Bloc Québécois will vote against this budget.