In the 2010 budget, the demands of our constituents have been completely ignored or perhaps deliberately undervalued. That is completely unacceptable. For several years, we have been doing our job and have told the government that it needed to help Quebeckers. It needed to come up with a plan to help workers in the hardest hit sectors in Quebec.
We presented measures in good faith to help businesses make it through the economic crisis and to help people. The Bloc Québécois told the federal government that it could take this opportunity to settle a number of compensation claims with Quebec.
We proposed ways to combat the sophisticated schemes that enable the extremely wealthy to avoid paying taxes on their income. We proposed a 1% tax on individuals with a yearly income of over $150,000.
What is even more appalling is that the government ignored our proposal to eliminate the tax breaks given to the oil industry. We asked the government to treat Quebec's forestry and manufacturing industries fairly and equitably, by giving the Quebec industries the same breaks it gave to Ontario.
What does the government propose? It is maintaining the increases in military spending and completely ignoring the reality facing our forestry industry, investing very little in Quebec. It is completely ignoring sectors that have been suffering harshly for far too long.
In Bill C-290, the Bloc Québécois proposed a measure to help thousands of retirees who have been cheated. Over 20,000 workers and retirees will see their pension plans cut by about 30% following an Ontario Superior Court decision to reject an agreement between Nortel and its pensioners. The Conservative government is doing nothing to help them, and yet there are solutions.
The question asked by my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles is clear. Will the government support the Bloc Québécois' bill to help the Nortel, Atlas and Jeffrey mine workers whose pension plans have been cut off?
The Prime Minister wants to review Canada's retirement income system. If the past is any indication and we remember what the government did to the employment insurance system, we have every reason to fear the worst: we will find ourselves with a program that does not meet the needs of retirees.
The Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that the federal government recognizes that we must make major changes to better protect salaries and pensions. However, these measures do not allay the Bloc Québécois' concerns about declining securities values that, in times of economic crisis, lower the value of pension funds.
If a company goes bankrupt, its pension fund will be unable to fulfill its obligation to beneficiaries, but not because the company fails to make its regular contributions to the pension fund.
The Bloc Québécois wants the federal government to put pension plans set up by companies under federal jurisdiction in trust. That is what Quebec does to prevent companies from liquidating pension funds when the securities market is at a low point. The Bloc Québécois also wants disabled workers insured through self-insurance plans to have preferred creditor status.
The proposal in the budget is not good enough. It does not meet people's needs.
Let us turn now to seniors, who have been largely forgotten in the federal budget. How can the government claim to defend people's interests? For over nine years now, we have been calling for improvements to the guaranteed income supplement. In December 2001, we learned that over 270,000 Canadian seniors, including over 68,000 in Quebec, who were eligible for the guaranteed income supplement were not receiving it. They were entitled to that money. Our poorest seniors are suffering as a result. They are the ones bearing the burden of this government's spending.
Last week, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé rose in the House to criticize the rising rate of poverty among seniors. He cited a Conference Board of Canada study showing that between 1995 and 2005, the poverty rate among seniors doubled.
In an effort to promote equality and social justice, the Bloc Québécois has proposed simple, realistic measures to solve this problem and fight poverty among society's poorest.
Nowhere does Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill, propose ways to decrease the poverty rate among seniors. The bill says nothing about this, and that is unacceptable. Improving benefits and paying seniors money that is owing them would prevent an increase in poverty.
The government should start by increasing by $100 a month the guaranteed income supplement that people currently receive. It should also consider the poverty in which many seniors live. Given the cost of urban housing—we can all do this exercise in our own ridings—and the fact that this cost and many utility charges are rising, the amount seniors currently receive is not enough. It should be increased, but neither budget 2010 nor the minister's Bill C-9 provides for an increase.
The program should also include individuals aged 65 and over who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement. The government says that it cannot locate these people. It needs to make an effort to find them, even if it tries just once.
One reason why people do not receive the guaranteed income supplement is that they are not aware of the program. Administrative delays are also to blame. The result is that people do not get everything they are entitled to.
The Conservative government should introduce a measure to pay the guaranteed income supplement retroactively. People have been hurt. The solution is simple: make retroactive payments. But Bill C-9 contains no such measure.
The measures in Bill C-9 are not enough and do not meet people's needs.
We also proposed that the government keep paying old age security and the guaranteed income supplement for at least six months after the recipient's death, to help his or her survivor through that difficult time. Again, there is nothing in the bill to meet these expressed needs, such as an amendment to the Income Tax Act or changes to other programs.
Bill C-9, however, contains measures that were not in the budget, for instance, amendments to the Employment Insurance Act and the creation of an employment insurance operating account. There is no mention of a need for reform.
Among the measures not included in the budget which are included in Bill C-9, there is the liberalization of one of Canada Post's business lines. In the last session and previous ones, the government tried to pass Bill C-44 without much success in the House. With this bill now, it is trying to put something in place that the members of this House did not agree with.
To sum up the first part of my speech, I would say that the government did not listen to the various associations that support what I just said, associations like the Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens, also known as FADOQ. The government is also ignoring the motion passed unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly calling on the federal government to compensate those seniors who have been shortchanged. It was asking that seniors be refunded. Despite all this support, the federal government simply failed to act.
Allow me to pass on what the seniors with whom I met in February told me. They are asking that the public sign their petition. They are currently campaigning to raise public awareness of what is not in the budget.
I think that the government's message is pretty simple, and the campaign slogan pretty clear. I am mentioning it here because these people need the government to hear their slogan at least one. Their slogan is: “The alarm is sounding. React!” That is what seniors want the government to do.