Madam Speaker, speaking to this bill at third reading is a problem, because we get the feeling the government is going to roll right over us—you will excuse the expression—unless everyone who is really opposed to this bill is here this evening when you call for the vote, so that we can defeat this awful bill.
I would remind the House that the lockout that occurred just before the budget was brought down was announced by the Prime Minister's director of communications, Mr. Soudas, who today has become invisible, like a ghost, but who was everywhere back then. When this shadowy figure from the Prime Minister's Office locked us out, we used the time to tour Quebec, and I have a clear memory of giving a copy of the Bloc Québécois' budget document, Saisir l'occasion pour le Québec, to the Minister of Finance, his parliamentary secretary and his office.
During our tour, which lasted over a month, we sat down with 317 different organizations and nearly 400 people and we covered nearly 10,000 km all over Quebec, in the middle of winter, to ask people their opinions and find out what they wanted to see in the budget of the Government of Canada, which they support with half their tax dollars.
We suggested a number of possibilities, but we do not see any of them in Bill C-9. It would therefore be worthwhile to remind the government and other hon. members what Quebeckers want from the budget.
We divided our work into several parts. First we wanted to ensure a lasting recovery by spending $10 billion, or $9.8 billion to be more precise. At the time, we knew that Quebec was not recovering at the same pace as everywhere else and that we needed to pay attention to this type of thing. A few months later, we are still not sure that the recovery is secure and that we will not end up back in a recession or with economic woes if the slightest problem crops up.
Of that $9.8 billion, $4.2 billion was for promoting the economic development of Quebec. Indeed, we thought that if national programs could be applied across Canada, and applied specifically to Quebec, it would cost $4.2 billion, not including what we had already proposed and is still on the table, namely, loan guarantees for forestry companies.
When it comes to the budget, comparing what has been granted to one industry to what has been granted or not to another industry shows clearly that Canada is very uneven and very unfair. Almost $10 billion was invested in the automobile industry. That is in the budget documents and no one is against it. The Government of Canada is entitled to pay out that kind of money to help an industry, as former governments of Canada were entitled to create an industrial policy to develop the oil sands and develop the west. But why stop there? Why help out one sector and not another?
No policy on loans or loan guarantees for the forestry industry has materialized. There is nothing. Forestry in Canada, and particularly in Quebec, is being ignored. There is a forestry sector out west also. It is being left to fend for itself, which is unfortunate.
There were also some programs—for example, the AgriFlex program—designed to increase the income farmers should be receiving. Nothing happened. We had also recommended $5.6 billion to help people and foster lasting economic recovery.
It is very important—and a real pleasure—for MPs to return to their ridings, meet their constituents and see what problems their constituents have.
We proposed that part of the $5.6 billion be used for an updated, comprehensive employment insurance program. We recommended, for example, that coverage be increased to 60% and that there be a single, 360-hour eligibility criterion. What is happening at present is not right. Two people working for the same company may be treated differently because they do not live in exactly the same municipality. That does not make sense.
We also asked for the waiting period to be abolished. Why is there still a waiting period? I can understand that, in other times, when information was not necessarily available instantly, they had to wait two weeks to verify that the person was who they claimed to be. Now that all information is available instantly, it no longer takes two weeks or more to verify the information. Why have a waiting period? In general, people apply for employment insurance benefits because they need the money. They need money to pay the rent and buy food. For two weeks, we pretend that the person does not exist. It is still being enforced.
We also made significant proposals with regard to the guaranteed income supplement. We want it to be automatic, retroactive and increased. There is still nothing.
We also proposed a modest $65 million to help the homeless. Unfortunately, anything can happen these days. Accueil Bonneau, a residence and outreach centre in the south end of Montreal, is closed. I was a member of the board of directors for six years, and president for four years, just before I made my first foray into politics in the 1990s. Accueil Bonneau has been helping homeless people for over 100 years, without asking any questions, not even for a name, and without telling the person they will give him or her some food in two weeks, the way the government does with employment insurance. Accueil Bonneau serves 800 meals a day. The centre is closed today, in a symbolic gesture. It is the first time Accueil Bonneau has ever closed. They have been through some real storms. They survived the ice storm and snowstorms. Accueil Bonneau even blew up about 15 years ago. There was an explosion in the basement and yet, the very next day, people were serving meals. But today it is closed. Silent. And for the government across the floor, it is also total silence. Nothing. Zero.
We also asked for funding for caregivers. We also asked for funding for housing. We asked for a total of $5.6 billion to help people, and we obtained nothing.
We also proposed that the Government of Canada stop harassing the Government of Quebec. In March 2010, as part of its budget, the Quebec government included an appendix, appendix E, that tallied up what the Government of Canada owes Quebec on a regular basis. This includes the harmonization of sales taxes between Quebec City and Ottawa, for instance.
The bill before us completes the transactions involving the harmonizations requested by the provinces and compensates those provinces, including Ontario.
The Quebec sales tax has been harmonized since 1992. Six or seven successive finance ministers in Quebec have always asked for $2.2 billion. When Bill C-9 was being reviewed in committee, we asked the officials from the Department of Finance some questions. They replied that those funds had been politically blocked and were not yet available. When parties negotiate, they must be on equal footing. At present, the one with his hand on the purse strings is the Minister of Finance, the former Ontario finance minister who, along with wanting to get his hands on the Autorité des marchés financiers, is also bleeding the Government of Quebec by cutting funding.
I have another example that has to do with Hydro-Québec and Ontario's Hydro One. Are there two other companies in Canada that are more similar than these two, which both produce hydroelectricity, transport the electricity using towers and distribute the electricity using wires? Electricity is distributed from waterfalls to houses, businesses and even here. Both corporations belong to their provincial governments, that is, Ontario and Quebec. However, because of legal intricacies whereby one was divided into two entities and the other into three subsidiaries, this has cost Quebec $250 million a year since 2008.
Government officials are talking. I have a great deal of respect for them, for I have been one myself. People can talk for a long time when their mandate is not to resolve a problem. People sitting around me here today have had long careers in the union movement and know very well that when people are given the mandate to resolve an issue, they solve it. However, when their mandate is to talk, they talk. Government officials do not have the mandate to resolve the issue of the $250 million at this time.
The government put a cap on equalization. During the election campaign in 2008 in Quebec, with a stroke of the federal pen, without any consultation with the provincial governments, the government drew a line that is costing the Government of Quebec $357 million a year. There is no mention of this in the budget speech.
There is protection money, a certain insurance policy invented in 2006. Quebec was the first province to see its revenues drop. The Government of Canada said that Quebec had received too much money in recent years and therefore demanded the $2.38 billion overpayment, in installments of $238 million a year for 10 years.
The following year, other provinces found themselves in the same situation. The Government of Canada decided to include a form of protection in the equalization formula to keep payments from decreasing. Quebec went through that, paved the way for the other provinces and then asked what the Government of Canada would do for it. The government asked for $238 million. It could tell Quebec to stop paying that $238 million per year. However, the Government of Canada subtracts it from the payments it makes each year. So there are no cheques.
Since 1991, there has been a dispute between the governments of Canada and Quebec. They went to an administrative tribunal. They went to the court of appeal. The federal government lost. That represents $137 million since 1991. The Government of Canada did not go to the Supreme Court.
In Quebec, everyone said that they would accept the decisions of the administrative tribunal and the court of appeal. The deadline for going to the Supreme Court has passed and the Government of Canada is not paying. It amounts to $137 million since 1991.
During our tour, we said that the Government of Quebec should be respected. We proposed additional spending of $16.8 billion, but, at the same time, additional revenues of $18.9 billion, meaning an additional $2 billion for the government so as not to increase the deficit.
Where was this money going to come from? We had a very logical principle: ask those who have more to pay more. For example, we proposed that anyone with a taxable income of more than $150,000, which is a lot of money, pay up for a while and contribute as well. But Canada's current Minister of Finance—Ontario's former finance minister, refused and chose to protect those people.
We spoke about tax havens and banks. We know that the minister does not want to go after his banking buddies and the friends of the member for Markham—Unionville on principle. Others have weighed in however. With all due respect to our friend, I looked at what the Royal Bank of Canada had to say. In its annual report, on page 122, it says that international earnings of certain subsidiaries would be taxed only upon their repatriation to Canada. Since there will be no repatriation, there are no taxes. It also mentions that if all foreign subsidiaries’ accumulated unremitted earnings were repatriated, they would be estimated at $821 million in 2009, $920 million in 2008, and $843 million in 2007, just for Royal Bank. I did not look at what the other banks had to say. We are telling the Minister of Finance that we must go after that money—it is written here—but he does not want to.
We did the tour and made some proposals to the government, thinking this could improve things, but the government completely ignored us.
Coming back to the matter at hand, it is one thing for a 17-page budget speech to become a 451-page document, acceptably long, with all the details, the tax measures, annexes, and ways and means motions. That is the right way to do things; it makes sense. But what the government has presented us with is an 872-page bill that has 2,208 clauses, and that talks about privatizing the AECL and Canada Post, among other things. Those kinds of things would usually be found in several bills.
In conclusion, I hope that the opposition members who sit with me on the Standing Committee on Finance, the member for Markham—Unionville, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, and our good friend, who is regularly invited, the member for Willowdale, will be strong enough to urge all of their Liberal colleagues to join us in voting against this bill.