Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
We are at third reading of Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill. The Bloc Québécois voted against this Conservative bill at second reading because, in addition to not meeting Quebec's needs, it undermines Quebec's economic development, against the wishes of Quebec's National Assembly.
We obviously supported the NDP amendments at report stage that would have deleted parts of the bill.
Although it has been shown that this bill is unacceptable for Quebec, it has still made it to the final stage, thanks to the complicity of the Liberal opposition, which arranged that the bill would receive enough support through all the stages.
In their speeches, the Liberals—and we just heard an example—make some pro forma criticisms of the bill but when it comes time to vote there are enough absentees to allow the bill to pass, because it is a confidence vote.
This so-called official opposition does not want to defeat the government. In order to make themselves understood, they even announced in advance what they would do, supposedly because the voters do not want an election. It was very easy, therefore, for the Conservative government to introduce major changes to other bills in six parts of this one in order to quietly slip them through.
The Conservatives also took advantage of the opportunity to trample all over the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces by creating a Canada-wide securities commission in Toronto.
I like to think that the ideal would be a good government that is concerned about the well-being of the population, old people and our fragile environment and, insofar as Quebeckers are concerned, considers us a nation, as it did officially acknowledge. But that is not what this Conservative government elected in the fall of 2008 is doing.
We should all remember that this is a minority government and the opposition parties exist precisely to express their opinions, say why they disagree, and oppose when necessary.
A general election is obviously a major undertaking for the various parties and there are necessarily costs involved, but the social and monetary costs of more years of Conservative rule are much more onerous, especially for Quebec.
I would like to speak now about my riding of Alfred-Pellan. A Liberal candidate was chosen about a year ago and he seems to have been campaigning ever since, in case there is an election. It just goes to show how indecisive and inconsistent the Liberals are.
It is only natural for a candidate to work hard for success during an election campaign, but perhaps this one should be reminded that his party does not even want an election. In any case, I would like to know what kind of alternative a Liberal candidate would currently offer.
Today is the last chance for all the members from Quebec to oppose this bill.
It contradicts two unanimous votes in the Quebec National Assembly, and it is simply unacceptable for members from Quebec to be complicit in it, given that the Quebec nation was officially recognized in this House.
There was a unanimous request from Quebec that the government provide $2.2 billion in financial compensation for the harmonization of the sales tax. Still the government refuses, despite the agreements that were signed with five other provinces for a total of $6.8 billion.
On March 31, 2009—more than a year ago—the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a motion asking the federal government to treat Quebec fairly and equitably by providing compensation comparable to what Ontario is receiving for harmonizing its sales tax.
Despite the repeated pleas of the Government of Quebec and all the attempts of the Bloc Québécois to correct this injustice, the Conservative government is still refusing Quebec’s requests.
What was possible with five other provinces does not seem to be possible with the one that is in fact recognized as a nation. That is unacceptable to Quebec.
What can we say now about the government’s intention of trampling the powers of the provinces and of Quebec by creating its national securities commission, again in spite of a unanimous vote against it by Quebec?
The entire economic community of Quebec is mobilizing against this coup. The editorial writer in La Presse, a newspaper owned by Power Corporation that is in fact dedicated to defending federalism in Quebec, says, and I quote: “The expression ‘predatory federalism’ is overused, but that is what this comes down to.”
In addition, the editorial writer in Le Devoir says, in an editorial entitled “Perverse process”, that if the government wins in the Supreme Court, it would be a flat-out intrusion into a provincial field of jurisdiction, another step toward centralization of the country.
He goes on to say that the trap lies in the provinces’ freedom to join in the process. The three recalcitrant provinces, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, will not be able to resist the pressure from the market.
We are looking at a poorly disguised attempt at constitutional fraud. Once it has its foot in the securities field, the federal government will find it easy to expand its sphere of activity, while Quebec’s will shrink, against its will. The members from Quebec must not take part in this attack on the Quebec nation.
This negation of Quebec in the bill was not enough. Taking advantage of the Liberals’ acknowledged servility, the government has introduced very significant amendments to other statutes in this bill that it does not have the courage to put forward and defend by introducing separate bills, as our democratic parliamentary rules require.
In the few minutes available to them, witnesses we heard in committee expressed their confusion in the face of the lack of consideration given to subjects as important as the exclusive privilege of the Canada Post Corporation, the privatization of Atomic Energy Canada, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Employment Insurance Act.
I would like to speak specifically about part 24 of the bill, which amends the Employment Insurance Act. The Bloc Québécois called for substantial improvements to the scheme. Instead, the bill hands us the following measures: the 2010 budget closes the employment insurance account and creates a new account, the employment insurance operating account; and the accumulated employment insurance surpluses are eliminated finally and permanently, with retroactive effect to January 1, 2009.
The employment insurance surplus, amounting to more than $57 billion on March 31, 2009, will disappear for good.
That was not enough. Lifting the freeze on premium rates in 2011 as set out in the bill will not even improve the system. The government will help itself to surpluses estimated at $19 billion between 2011 and 2015. It is appalling that they will penalize the workers of Quebec and Canada like this.
Out of respect for the people of my riding of Alfred-Pellan, I will vote against this budget, which clearly does not meet their needs and in fact works against their development and progress. In fact, I would like to see all members of this House from Quebec show some solidarity at this crucial moment and oppose this bill.