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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebeckers.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker Ms. Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

moved:

That this House acknowledge that federalism cannot be renewed, since 20 years after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Quebec still does not have the power to choose three justices on the Supreme Court of Canada, or to opt out with compensation from federal programs in its areas of jurisdiction, nor does it have a real veto over constitutional amendments and its status as a nation still has not been recognized in the Canadian Constitution.

Madam Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member for Quebec, who so kindly supported this motion. I will read the motion again because I think it symbolizes the role of the Bloc Québécois in the House. As I have mentioned on many occasions, the Bloc Québécois is the only party that defends Quebec's interests and values unconditionally in the House and it cannot make any compromise when the National Assembly passes a unanimous resolution to state its position.

In this case, we have another role, that of leaders of the sovereignist movement, which is very present in all of Quebec society. As defender of Quebec's interests and values, it is also our party's responsibility to report to the House the fact that Canadian federalism cannot be renewed. A survey, which I will talk about throughout my speech, led to this conclusion.

But first, I will read the motion again:

That this House acknowledge that federalism cannot be renewed, since 20 years after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Quebec still does not have the power to choose three justices on the Supreme Court of Canada, or to opt out with compensation from federal programs in its areas of jurisdiction, nor does it have a real veto over constitutional amendments and its status as a nation still has not been recognized in the Canadian Constitution.

Those were the minimum conditions stipulated by the Government of Quebec, when Robert Bourassa was premier, during a round of negotiations launched by former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Quebec had set five conditions that many of us, particularly on the sovereignist side, found insufficient but that had been agreed to by the first ministers. Unfortunately for Mr. Bourassa, that agreement failed because certain provinces reneged on their commitments. Some technicalities also played a role in preventing the Meech Lake accord from being ratified by two provinces. So that process failed.

Twenty years later, how does public opinion in Quebec and Canada respond to those same demands? On that point, we conducted a survey, in collaboration with Intellectuels pour la souveraineté, and we asked the same questions as the terms of the Meech Lake accord.

So we started with question one. The Canadian Constitution should recognize that Quebec forms a nation. At the time, the term was distinct society. Now, the debate has evolved, and even in the House, it was recognized that Quebeckers formed a nation. I may have occasion to return to this. So the question was asked, and there was quite a difference between the answers in Canada and in Quebec.

In Quebec, 73% of Quebeckers think that the Canadian Constitution should recognize that Quebec forms a nation, and only 27% are opposed. That is practically the reverse of what we find in Canada, and even more so, since 83% of Canadians are opposed to the status of Quebec as a nation being recognized in the Canadian Constitution. So right away, we see that the first condition of the Meech Lake accord is not remotely acceptable to the Canadian public, but is still something that the Quebec nation wants.

The second point is: the Canadian Constitution should give Quebec a veto over any constitutional amendment. That also appeared in the terms of the Meech Lake accord. What is the answer? Unsurprisingly, we find that 72% of Quebeckers do believe that Quebec should have a veto over any constitutional amendment, and 28% are opposed.

Once again, the ratio is reversed when we ask Canadians the same question, because 82% of them reject the idea of Quebec having a veto over any constitutional amendment. Only 18% are in favour, representing a tiny minority of the Canadian nation.

Another condition was approved in the Meech Lake accord: the Canadian Constitution should give Quebec the right to opt out of any federal program in areas under its jurisdiction, with financial compensation. This refers to areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.

In Quebec, 70% of people agree, and in Canada, 81% of Canadians disagree. The two nations are symmetrically opposite. Once again, I am referring only to the minimum conditions agreed upon in the round of negotiations that led to the Meech Lake accord 20 years ago.

Another point in the accord is that the Canadian Constitution should give Quebec full jurisdiction over immigration to Quebec. In Quebec, 78% agree, and in Canada, 77% disagree. There again, we see that Canadian public opinion shows absolutely no openness to Quebec’s most traditional demands, its minimum demands.

Now, on the question of the division of powers, it said that the Canadian Constitution should give Quebec the power to select three justices on the Supreme Court of Canada. As we know, three justices come from Quebec, but they are not selected by the government of Quebec or the National Assembly. That was in the Meech Lake accord, and the question is being asked again. We see that 83% of Quebeckers believe that yes, the three Supreme Court judges should be appointed by Quebec, while 73% of Canadians are opposed. That is another condition of the Meech Lake accord that has become unacceptable to the Canadian nation.

More generally, Canadians and Quebeckers were asked whether another round of negotiations should be undertaken to find a satisfactory constitutional arrangement for Quebec. I remind the House that Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s unilateral repatriation of the Constitution in 1982 was without the agreement of Quebec, which has never signed the Constitution, regardless of whether its government was federalist or sovereignist. This reflects the broad consensus in Quebec that the Constitution fails miserably to meet the needs and aspirations of the Quebec nation.

Would Canada be prepared, therefore, to open another round of negotiations not only to meet the minimal demands of the Meech Lake accord but also to meet the conditions of the current Quebec government for resolving this issue? Eighty-two percent of Quebeckers think there should be another round of negotiations to meet Quebec traditional constitutional demands, while 61% of Canadians think there should not be.

It is interesting that all the answers I mentioned are always in the 70% to 80% range and really show the Quebec political nation at work. This is not just francophones, or sovereignists, or allophones, or the English Quebec minority. This is a majority of Quebeckers who say they need these additional powers, while a majority of Canadians also react as a political nation and say they are not interested in ceding them.

These results are hardly surprising. The pollster who did the survey, Pierre Drouilly, said he expected something of the kind. The problem is that we did not expect such a huge disparity in the results. There has been a real hardening of Canadian public opinion vis-à-vis Quebec’s demands, while in Quebec, a broad consensus has emerged around the powers that Quebec needs in order to develop.

We have two nations, therefore, on completely opposed paths, and even if the federalist parties in the House refuse to re-open the Constitution, it is obvious that things cannot go on like this forever. A poll of this kind shows—as the Bloc Québécois has been saying for years—that there are no longer three options for the Quebec nation to choose from, namely federalism as it currently exists and which is directed against Quebec, renewed federalism, and Quebec sovereignty. Renewed federalism is a grand illusion, in which no one in Quebec believes any more. There are therefore only two options left, either become sovereign and assume all our powers, 100% of our powers, raise 100% of our taxes, and sign 100% of our treaties, or quietly marginalize ourselves within a Canadian nation and under a federal system that is totally unresponsive to Quebec’s demands.

It is crystal clear to the Bloc Québécois that the most reasonable, most realistic, most doable option is sovereignty.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the House leader of the Bloc Québécois for his eloquent speech, which showed the two visions that exist in Canada. We have the Quebec vision, in which we would receive more powers, and the Canadian vision and the Canadian people, which are not open to the demands of Quebec.

This has been made clear in the actions Parliament has taken in recent years. When the Bloc Québécois asked that Bill 101 be applied to federal areas of jurisdiction, the answer from Ottawa was no. When Quebec wanted to withdraw from Canadian multiculturalism, we got a no from Ottawa. When we wanted the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine to be applied internationally, the answer from Ottawa was no.

Is it not true that the closed vision of the Canadian public has been harmful to Quebec in this Parliament in recent years?

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his very relevant question. It shows how important it is to have a party like the Bloc Québécois here in this House. When public opinion is so unsympathetic to the demands of Quebec, a federalist party will not be the one to speak on behalf of or defend Quebec.

If we were not here, all of the points that the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie brought up would not have been in the debate. They would have been completely ignored.

What has the response of the federal government, the Canadian government, the national government of the Canadian nation, been to the demands of Quebec? We had the sponsorship scandal, which everyone remembers, the Clarity Act, which is an attempt to stifle the democratic will of the people of Quebec, and the pseudo-recognition of the Quebec nation, but nothing ever came out of that, as the member mentioned. The last thing on this list is the desire of most parties in this House to reduce the political weight of Quebec within this federal institution.

The response could be better. Once again, this just makes it very clear that there are just two options left for Quebec: we can become sovereign, which is what we would like, or we can become marginalized and bogged down within a fossilized system.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the hon. member for Joliette for his presentation on the motion we are debating today. My question for the hon. member is the following.

He was just speaking about the reduction in political weight. This is to say that the governing party, the Conservative party, wants to make sure it has full control over Quebec by reducing its political weight. I would also like to hear his opinion on the reduction of the power Quebec has over economic levers, specifically in regard to the securities commission. We know that the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable, a fawning minion for this government, yesterday argued that the financial authority of the rest of Canada should have priority over that of Quebec. I would like to hear the hon. member's opinion on that.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker. I thank the hon. member for Chambly—Borduasfor his question.

I think he demonstrates very well that, both politically and in terms of the instruments and levers of power, Quebec needs much more, but the nation of Canada refuses to think that this is even negotiable.

Every day, the economic future of Quebec is under attack from all the federalist parties. The fiscal imbalance has yet to be resolved and I believe that it is important to point that out. The Conservative government made some transfers a few years ago, but, since then, there have been no further discussions about the so-called federal spending power.

The same goes for the Canada-wide securities commission. There is contempt for this plan in Quebec. Yesterday, we were able to see the coalition that has formed to highlight the negative impact of this idea on Quebec and on several other provinces. We can see that the economic strategy of the nation of Canada rests on two foundations: the tar sands in the west and the financial sector in Toronto. This is a strategy where Quebec has no place.

We will fight on. We can only hope that hon. members from Quebec who belong to other parties will join with us to defend Quebec's economic interests, and, in particular, the interests of Montreal as a financial centre. I would really like to see that.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, today's Bloc Québécois motion is particularly important to us. It is what we think about the likelihood or the possibility of renewing federalism. We have quite a challenge ahead of us: to prove that sovereignty alone will make Quebec economically viable and allow it to flourish culturally.

Why do we believe that federalism has not been renewed 20 years after the Meech Lake accord? It is because of the actions of the successive governing parties, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. They immediately reject any National Assembly consensus. A consensus is not reached by sovereignists alone. Federalists are also actively involved in unanimous decisions coming out of the National Assembly on numerous political issues.

First, I want to talk about Quebec's political weight. There is a bill that would add 30 ridings to those represented in Parliament, which means that Quebec's political weight would be reduced. The Constitution allows us to have 75 members. However, when it comes to political weight, 75 members out of 308 is very different from 75 members out of 338. Where are the Quebec members that have been elected to this House? They are working with the members of this Parliament who stand out because of their interest in nation building—building a centralist Canada—and because of their refusal to recognize Quebec's distinct society. The House recognized it, but that was symbolic. Truly recognizing the Quebec nation comes from small, daily political actions.

Quebec cannot opt out with full compensation, nor can it choose three Supreme Court justices. We want bilingual judges who can hear English and French arguments made by those seeking their support or a ruling. But they come up with bad excuses. For example, the Quebec Conservatives defend their party's position on the grounds that they would not want a francophone judge to be denied the opportunity to sit on the Supreme Court bench. That argument does not hold water. In addition, 71% of Quebeckers have said no to reducing Quebec's political weight. Others have weighed in on the possibility of having bilingual judges on the Supreme Court. And Quebec does not have the power to veto constitutional amendments.

Quebec's most pressing and longest-standing demands have been ignored. Quebeckers have been marginalized, and the government has refused to limit spending power even though the Conservatives made a campaign promise to do so. Every time we look at the federal government's programs, it is clear that although the government has changed, the way of doing business when it comes to Quebec has not. The Bloc Québécois and sovereignists have to prove that sovereignty is the only way for the Quebec nation to reach its full potential. In many cases, education is the key because some of these issues are complex.

Earlier, my colleagues mentioned securities and how securities management would be transferred to Toronto. Our finance critic can show that this is wrong and would strip Quebec of its economic power. Moreover, a coalition is forming in Quebec to show that this system will hurt Quebec. It is not a sovereignist that said so, but Mr. Bachand, Quebec's finance minister. He said he would mobilize businesspeople to oppose the federal bill to establish a single securities commission, which is about to be introduced in Ottawa. Mr. Bachand feels that the federal bill infringes on provincial jurisdictions and, by centralizing the securities commission in Toronto, threatens the very future of the financial sector in Montreal.

Earlier, I talked about nation building. This is exactly what the Conservatives are doing: building a centralized nation. We have nothing against that, but the government needs to prove to us that this has socio-economic benefits for Quebec. Mr. Bachand said that centralizing the securities commission in Ontario would serve Toronto's interests. All the economic players need to get behind this position and condemn the federal government for being so determined to centralize everything that is done in the other provinces, as the House Leader of the Bloc Québécois said earlier. So securities are coming to Toronto.

The Bloc conducted a survey. Twenty years after the Bloc was created, that is what led to this motion today. The figures speak for themselves. Earlier, my colleague said that there were two visions within Canada, but those two visions lead to two solitudes. Two solitudes, one of which is Quebec, which is still demanding its due. The Conservatives and the Liberals are no different in their approach. One party may be a bit more hypocritical than the other, because it announced that it would recognize the Quebec nation, yet it has done nothing to prove that it really does recognize the Quebec nation. The government's attitude is evident in its securities bill and its position on Quebec's weight in the House, on having Bill 101 apply in institutions under federal jurisdiction and on allowing their employees to be governed by Bill 101. The government even said no to that, just as it did to harmonizing the GST with the QST. Clearly, it has no desire to take real political action that would partially satisfy Quebec. That shows that this federalism cannot be renewed.

I am really disappointed. I also think it is appalling that some hon. members from Quebec are elected—whether under the banner of the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party—and rise in this House to vote against each Quebec consensus and to vote against the economic growth and the development of Quebec within this federation.

When we were informed about the recognition of Quebec as a nation, we really wanted to believe it. We told ourselves that we were going to witness many concrete actions that would result in Quebec being included in this federation. In fact, it is not a federation, it is federated centralization. That is the opposite of what we think of when we approach the subject of the Canadian federation because Quebec has no say in several of the projects that the federal government wants to see implemented, such as securities.

The Quebec lieutenant, who is from my region, rose in the House to defend that in the name of his government. This morning, the member from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, a riding close to mine, defended the securities commission project. In addition, he has risen in the House to vote against the application of Bill 101 in federal institutions and risen when we talk about reducing Quebec's weight in the House. He is under the impression that Quebec is well served by Canada's so-called federation.

But they do not rise when it is time to vote to support Quebec's forestry sector. They are on their feet to vote $10 billion budgets for Ontario and peanuts for Quebec. They have announced a grant of $100 million for one program. That is not what it means to help an ailing industry.

For five years, we have wanted to show the current government and the previous government that something had to be done to save these industries. They could have diversified and explored the means available to help them survive. Cash flow and loan guarantees would have been needed to get through the economic crisis they were thrown into. Once the industries have shut down, it is very difficult to get them up and running again.

This morning, a lot of figures were mentioned. In Quebec, 73% of people said they wanted Quebec to be recognized as a nation, with all the powers that entails and with a special status. To recognize Quebec as a nation, we need concrete actions.

The only possible reading is that federalism is not renewable and that there are two solitudes. We will show that, in fact, nothing is being done to make it beneficial to Quebec.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, my colleague made a good speech and I want to ask her a question.

Her party's motion says that the five clauses of the Meech Lake accord have not been observed. Today, the Bloc Québécois denounces the fact that the accord of 20 years ago is not being respected when, at the time, even the least sovereignists among Quebeckers were against it. If the accord in its entirety were proposed today, I guess that the Bloc would support it and that its presence in the House of Commons would not be needed anymore since the five clauses would be implemented. Is this what the motion means? Is the Bloc ready to acknowledge that if the five clauses were accepted, it would not have to be here and that everything would return to normal?

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

The question from the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles is very hypothetical. He could ask the man who was premier of Newfoundland at that time. The question would more appropriately be addressed to him rather than to us. As to the promise of renewed federalism, the Conservative government could have taken some concrete action after it recognized the Quebec nation. Then Quebec would not have to look back to see what the Bloc should have done at that time or should do today. The government could have made some changes to the way it deals with Quebec, for example by passing some Bloc Québécois bills that, according to polls and voting intentions, were strongly supported by the National Assembly and the people of Quebec. It would have then been possible to talk on a different basis. However, given the bad faith in the House, I am a little suspicious about the sincerity of my colleague's question.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Quebec for her excellent presentation. I made her acquaintance when I was a journalist and she was the member for Québec. Her particular interest was poverty. She had toured Quebec, particularly the rural regions where I worked.

In the early 1990s, after the Meech Lake accord, then prime minister Jean Chrétien and his finance minister, Paul Martin, decided to eliminate the deficit on the backs of the poor and the disadvantaged. Members will remember the cuts in provincial transfers and the pillaging of the employment insurance fund. I would like to know if, in her opinion, there has been any change. Are Quebeckers now better served by the federal system than they were at that time? We still wonder about this today. Is Quebec well served by this federation, or would it be better, in order to solve the problem of poverty, among others, for it to control the levers of power and the financial levers?

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. When I met him, he was a journalist and I was touring Quebec regions. I had written a report on the social safety net. I had noted that the social safety net created by a number of federal programs was not enough.

When there is a little bit of money, we create programs and we help a particular group with a specific mission. Then, the federal government decides that it no longer wants to support certain groups for all sorts of reasons. What is happening at present is rather worrisome. They have cut employment insurance. What is the government doing about that? It has not shown the political will to reform employment insurance in any way to help workers who have lost their jobs. My colleague from Chambly knows about that as he is the Bloc critic for these matters.

I could say a lot more about poverty. The government must take concrete action and not let its citizens down. Increasing the Canada social transfer is one of the first things the federal government should do because it would allow the provinces to better meet community needs. It has not done this. Thus, we are in about the same place as when the Liberal government was in power.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to take the floor to respond to today’s arguments by the hon. members of the Bloc, who have been enjoying the immobile comfort of eternal opposition for 20 years now.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Like the federalists.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

The Bloc members like to say that federalism does not work and will never work. Indeed, at the end of their congress or meeting last weekend, we were reminded of their prime objective, which they very often forget. It is a pleasure for me today to remind my colleagues of the defeatist and pessimistic attitude that is so typical of these members opposite, who have been wasting the political power of Quebec in Ottawa for 20 years now.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Daniel Paillé

We never forget it.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

We shall speak about securities shortly. One day they take advantage of international opinion, and the next day they reject it. This is what I usually hear in this place. With this pessimistic attitude, the Bloc members aim to stir up people’s emotions, to create feelings of anger or spite toward Canadians among citizens of the Quebec nation. It is always the same: Quebec against another province, the good guys against the bad guys, us against them—and their “us” is always very inclusive because they claim to be the only ones representing Quebeckers.

I come from a region where nationalism is very much a factor. I am very proud to be a nationalist. Indeed I was introduced as such by the Prime Minister when I entered this the House, and I will take no lessons in nationalism from anyone among the hon. members opposite. I am here for Quebec, for the regions of Quebec, and to stand up for what Quebec is. I do this while respecting the ideas of others. When others do not agree with me, I do not say that they are servile, that they are doormats, or anything like that. I enjoy debating respectful ideas that will move Canadian society forward. That is the choice I have made.

Today is forestry day in Quebec, when the use of wood has been officially recognized in Quebec, and we shall continue to work on economic files in all the regions of Quebec, and it is a pleasure for me to do so.

My Conservative colleagues and I are realists, people of action and vision, people who create results for Quebec. Of course, it is easier to carry the message when you have no objective and you do not have to manage the portfolio. We assume the difficult job of managing and directing to the best of our competence. If we had 49 members from Quebec in the government, the voice of Quebec would be that much stronger, I grant you that.

I hope that one day, to manage the country, my beautiful province will elect 40 or 50 representatives from the governing party, so that we can have even more influence. Obviously, Quebec needs an even stronger voice, and it is not by shouting from the bleachers and criticizing decisions that we will acquire it. I would prefer to sit down at the table where the decisions are made, so we can move things ahead.

Even when we recognized the Quebec nation, those people stood up and proclaimed it was a black day for Quebec. It had to be so. Whether it is a decision such as the decision to recognize the Quebec nation or the economic decisions we are making today, the members opposite vote against every element of Canada’s economic action plan, which has just proven its worth. Indeed, we are not wearing rose-coloured glasses when we say that the economy is recovering, gently and gradually. The battle has not yet been won. But we must work on the economy and on jobs, and we must build our children’s future. In my opinion, our children’s future is built by pooling our strengths, not by scattering them.

How sad it must be to always look for the negative side of things to get people worked up. Maybe it is easier, but personally I think it must be very hard to do every day. They are so short on arguments for their plan to separate that they have to resort to negative arguments like, “federalism is not working”.

On the weekend, an article by Dominique La Haye appeared in the Journal de Québec proclaiming: “Long live a sovereign Quebec!” That is the essence of what they want to represent here. So why do they bother meddling in the governance of this country every day and talk about defending prisoners who often attack our armed forces, instead of defending our armed forces?

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

It is so ridiculous.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Why do they attack all kinds of things that have nothing to do with their raison d'être? They are here for one reason and one reason alone: to destroy the very country that I want to serve.

How sad it must also be to fail to achieve any concrete results for the people of Quebec, who really need representatives who support them and help create jobs in their regions.

Twenty years ago, the Conservative government, which was open to Quebec, had a commendable goal with the Meech Lake accord.

I prefer people who are optimistic and who take action, over people who sit on the sidelines in lounge chairs to watch the parade go by and provide the commentary, saying this is wrong and that is not right, that we are making too much noise, and that we are doormats. That is very easy to do. So it was 20 years ago, which also coincides with the arrival in Ottawa of the Bloc, a party that is daily doing everything it can to destroy our country.

Generally at age 20, we take stock of that first part of our lives. We wonder what we will do in the coming years once we have grown up. We wonder what we could do differently to improve ourselves. It is important to take stock of what the Bloc has done for Quebeckers, the concrete actions it has taken and the results it has to show for those actions.

At the founding convention of the party, Lucien Bouchard said that the success of the Bloc would be measured by the brevity of its existence. He later added that the shorter their stay, the more successful their mission. That is what the Bloc's founder said.

The former Parti Québécois leader, Jacques Parizeau, said in 1993 that the more effective Bloc MPs are, the less time they will have to spend in Ottawa. In the same vein, the current Bloc leader said the following on the night he was elected in 1990:

It felt strange when I entered Parliament. I thought to myself, I must be the first person to enter this chamber hoping to leave as soon as possible.

In 1994, he added that no one elected in the Bloc wants to make a career out of it. On the eve of the 1997 election, he promised Quebeckers that if they elected the Bloc, it would not be for long.

The last time I checked, the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie is still the leader of the Bloc. He has been in the House of Commons for 20 years now.

Two decades have gone by and the Bloc is still here. I am sure the brevity of existence to which Mr. Bouchard alluded was not meant to be measured in decades. The arrival of the Bloc may have had merit in 1990. In 1990, the TV series Les filles de Caleb had just debuted and the captain of the Montreal Canadiens was Guy Carbonneau. In 2010, the Canadiens are still in the playoffs and the Bloc is still clinging to the idea that they were not going to be here for long, but they are still here.

In 20 years, Quebec has changed and grown, but the Bloc has not. Despite the fact that 63% of Quebeckers voted for a federalist party in the last election, the Bloc members believe that their outdated option of separating Quebec from Canada is still alive. Their leader can continue to dig in his heels, but that is of no help to Quebec.

Quebec's political power will not increase with more spectators, but with more MPs who can one day aspire to sit at the table where decisions are made.

I understand that the opposition has a role to play and that it is necessary, but still it must be constructive and work to build the country it claims to have been elected to defend, not to tear it down.

In fact, the Bloc has produced nothing for Quebeckers since it has held the majority of seats in Quebec. What is it doing with that majority? It has not achieved one promise, not one project. I challenge any Bloc member to rise in the House and tell us seriously, with a straight face, about a single project, a single job that has been created as a result of their work. Not only does the Bloc not deliver anything, but, and even worse, it does not prevent anything.

The fiscal imbalance started when there was a Bloc majority in Ottawa. That majority did not prevent the Liberals from robbing Canadians in the biggest political scandal in the history of Canada. We are still looking for the millions of dollars that were paid out on the backs of taxpayers. Nor did the Bloc prevent the Liberals from increasing greenhouse gas emissions by 33% above the Kyoto targets. It did not prevent the Liberals from infringing on provincial powers. Not only can the Bloc not achieve anything, it cannot prevent anything.

In September 2009, even the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin said, speaking of a Bloc member, that “everybody knows he cannot deliver”.

The Bloc members are not patting themselves on the back for having only four bills passed in the last 20 years. Four bills out of 272 that have received royal assent: three to change the names of electoral districts and one to create a commemorative holiday. During that time, in the ridings, we hear that they will be arguing for bills. Every election, they bring forth a list of bills and tell people they are going to get them passed and fix things. But in fact, after 20 years, it comes to four bills, three of which were to change the names of electoral districts, and one to create a commemorative holiday.

Nor are they patting themselves on the back for failing to keep the thousand promises they made during election campaigns and for getting over 40 people pensioned off from a system they want to destroy. In a nutshell, the only jobs the Bloc has succeeded in creating are their own.

The Bloc has become a true concrete block that is holding Quebec down, misinforming the public and looking for a fight at any cost. My colleagues opposite are the undefeated champions of whining. When we state our opinion, we are treated like less than nothing, as the many comments I hear every day attest.

Every day, we are reminded that they have been democratically elected. We have been too. If they want respect, I really think we should get some back.

They play armchair quarterback and are content to criticize, but to score goals, you have to get on the ice. By working together, we, the Conservatives members from Quebec, are promoting the interests of the Quebec nation in a united Canada. We have done more in four years than the Bloc has done in 20 years and than it will ever do. The Bloc offers sterile words and arguments. We offer results, and I am very sure we will continue to do that.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, when our colleague from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean began his speech and said it was important, I thought he was going to apologize because, since he has been here, he has done nothing for the forest industry in Quebec even though it is his responsibility. I do not know whether he is aware of the image he was projecting when he was on his feet earlier and we could see behind him a large number of Ontario MPs who did their job and delivered $20 billion to the automobile industry. He could not even manage to deliver $200 million to the forest industry. All the while, he was making a speech to discredit Quebec, to the great satisfaction of the members behind him. They have the right to make choices, to defend the interests of their economic regions, but he did not have enough backbone to defend the interests of his own economic region.

I would like to hear what he has to say on one point. He said that we are not stepping on the ice. Since he has stepped on the ice, what has he done for the French language? He voted against it. What has he done for the forest industry? He has done nothing. What has he done to maintain Quebec's political and economic weight? Not only has he not done anything, but he is constantly voting against Quebec's economic and political interests.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, this is a concrete example of the traditional and usual misinformation. It is all about politicizing and misinforming. The forestry issue has been turned into a political issue with the usual partners. Throughout this country, everybody knows the forestry issue is economic and not political. It will be turned into a governmental issue. Think about it. We are selling five times less lumber to our main economic partners, the Americans, because they are building less housing with lumber. Quebec exports 50% of its lumber, and 96% of these exports are going to the U.S. That country used to have over two million housing starts annually, but that number dropped to under 500,000 last year. You can make all sorts of political noise and talk to the media, but the truth is it is an economic issue.

In Quebec alone last year, this government announced $200 million for forest management and silviculture in order to prepare our forests for the future. That gave jobs to 8,000 forestry workers. Two weeks ago, we announced a $100 million commitment for forest communities in order to help diversify their economy for development projects. These commitments for a total of $300 million, from our department alone, are something the Bloc never managed in 20 years.

As to the automobile issues, Canada, the United States and Ontario signed an agreement in order to support an industry where all jobs would have been transferred to the U.S. At the request of the provinces and the forest industry, we signed an agreement with the Americans on the lumber trade. From 2000 to 2006, companies were paying countervailing duties of 30%. Thanks to the new agreement, duties have been lowered to 5% to 15%, depending on the choice made by the provinces. We have a signed agreement. Once again, that party is spreading false information and turning the issues into political ones.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

For hon. members who appear to have questions, I am trying to allow the same length of time for the answer as for the question. In the last case, that was two minutes for the question and two minutes for the answer.

So, questions and comments. The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine has the floor.

Opposition Motion--Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, perhaps the Conservative member's answer seemed long because it was so inadequate. I have a question for him. He claims to be defending the interests of all Quebeckers. What did he say to his colleague, the Minister of the Environment, who demolished Quebec's proactive plan to fight climate change in a speech he gave in Calgary in February 2010? Does he recall the remarks that his colleague made in public? Did he speak in public in support of Quebec's proactive plan?

How is it that the Conservatives, who claim to have the interests of all Quebeckers at heart in the economic action plan in their own budget, have no proposals for seniors, veterans, culture or any other matter that Quebeckers and all other Canadians see as important?

It is now a year since the Conservative government has been talking about reforming pensions, but not one concrete initiative was announced in the budget. There is not one cent to help people in difficulty. We are witnessing company closures in the forestry sector and in other sectors in Quebec, but there is not one penny for that.