Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to congratulate you on reading the motion entirely in French. Bravo. If the position of Auditor General is still available, I am sure you would meet the bilingualism criterion. Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.
I listened to my NDP and Conservative friends speak. I have been here for 15 years and everyone naturally tries to take some credit: because of me, it was me, my government is better than yours, the mean provincial governments led by opposing parties, it is terrible. In reality, Canadians, Quebeckers and people in Montreal, in my riding, need infrastructure renewal. That is the reality.
I could have said that in 1993, when the Liberals came to power and inherited a $42 billion deficit from the Conservatives, we decided to invest heavily and create what is now known as the infrastructure program. I could have spoken about that, but I want to look to the future. I do not want to look to the past.
We have clearly always wanted investment in infrastructure. I think that in 2007, there was a minority government. Yes, that is right. A majority was needed, and the Conservative Party did not have enough elected members. So I imagine that all parliamentarians—at any rate, those in the Liberal Party—voted with the government because it was important to invest in infrastructure for the people.
However, this is 2011. We are now faced with a certain reality. Every time we have gone through a recession, infrastructure has been the basic economic building block, not only to improve people's quality of life, but also to create jobs. It is a vital partnership program. While respecting all jurisdictions, we must ensure that the Canadian government acts as a facilitator, taking the needs of municipalities and provincial control into account, and that it invests the money needed to meet the needs of Canadians.
We are in favour of this motion. Of course, we have been talking about the Champlain Bridge for quite some time. I have been talking about it for quite some time. We talked about it during the last election campaign. The announcement has finally come. I do not know who will cut the ribbon, but we need a new Champlain Bridge. In the meantime, along with the original announcement, we also definitely need to know what will happen to the existing bridge. The government has always refused to hand over the inspection reports. If you talk to engineers, read the studies and follow the news, you know that the bridge is in bad shape. When engineers tell me not to drive at the edge when crossing the Champlain Bridge, but rather to stay in the middle, that is serious. I would really like to believe that a bridge will be built within the next 10 years, but that means we have to continue using the existing bridge for nearly 10 years. We therefore need to have the straight goods on the condition of the bridge.
Clearly, we need to find a new way of doing things. As a Montrealer, I think the municipalities are the key to the future of this country. So we need to have a new partnership.
We need a new deal with municipalities, a deal that will have a balanced approach with the rural and the urban, a deal where we will be able to ensure that we have a true diversity for those who have a car, or for those who have a bicycle, or for public transit. Public transit does not just mean buses; it also means trains. We need a rail policy between the cities.
We can talk about HSR in the Quebec-Windsor corridor. We can talk about basic infrastructure, whether interprovincial or between Canada and the United States. But very definitely, infrastructure is the future. The basic policy of a government, both for the economy and for quality of life, depends on its infrastructure. We have to protect the existing infrastructure while ensuring that we are able to build more. And this motion meets that need well. What we like about this motion is that it is all about diversity. It does not talk only about rural and urban, it also talks about aboriginal communities, the first nations, the Inuit and the Métis.
I am a former minister of sport. I remember that when we created the infrastructure program, there were three components. Component 3 was particularly important, to my mind, because it was a way of being able to invest in sports or recreation and tourism infrastructure. Infrastructure also serves as a prevention and development tool. An arena was built in Iqaluit, where there were young people with problems. The sports infrastructure improved the young people’s self-esteem, with the result that people like Joé Juneau in Kuujjuaq are creating programs for youth. This infrastructure means that we can restore young people’s dignity.
That is good both for the environment and for the quality of life in municipalities. It is an important development tool for our own people. We have a motion and we have a Conservative government. The member for LaSalle—Émard is going to be a bit disappointed, because she got a little handshake from the Conservative member opposite who said the blues were going to vote against it. But it is important that we keep talking about it. Yesterday, we talked with the member for Trinity—Spadina about her private member’s bill on public transit.
Today, we are talking about infrastructure. At the transport committee, we are doing a study of a national public transit strategy. Except now, we can no longer separate a national public transit strategy from infrastructure. We have to have a strategy that includes both these aspects. In terms of governance and funding, it is essential that any public policy take both these aspects into account; one will not work without the other.
We agree with the funding measures. Mr. Martin, who was the prime minister at the time, is the one who first put forward, in cooperation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the idea of putting a tax on gasoline that would be given to the municipalities for funding. The current government made this gas funding permanent. We must look at new funding methods. If the municipalities are telling us that this tax is no longer sufficient, we must find more money. If this money currently serves only to maintain existing infrastructure and we want to build more infrastructure, we will have to find money somewhere else.
We must look at indexing and see if we can find additional funds in the current gasoline excise tax. An additional tax does not mean an additional tax for the Canadian public. It means that we will take an additional amount and send it to the municipalities. We will no longer have any choice, and we all agree that such is the case.
First, a public-private partnership is imperative if we have smart regulations and the right type of support. It is not additional bureaucracy. Our role is to ensure that people have a decent quality of life and, as a result, it is up to us to provide the framework. Second, the Liberal Party has always advocated for a fund devoted to infrastructure. We therefore need an amount of money that is stable in the long term. Given the fragile state of the world economy and our fairly high level of debt, we must immediately start investing more in infrastructure. It is basic economics. Thus, we must set up a fund devoted to infrastructure.
And so, we will support this motion. This is an important debate. We do not agree with what the government has said. We recognize that investments have been made thanks to the efforts of all parliamentarians, but now we must move forward. We support the motion of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.