Mr. Speaker, in Animal Farm, which is an allegory for dictatorship, George Orwell said that all of the animals were equal but that some were more equal than others. It is the same thing in the House of Commons. All Canadians and the members who represent them are equal, but some of them are more equal than others.
I therefore find myself relegated to 34th place in the speaking order with only 10 minutes to speak about a mammoth bill that is 308 pages long. This will be the only opportunity the Bloc Québécois has to speak since the government has imposed a gag order. My colleague from the Green Party wanted to speak, but she will not be allowed to do so. All of this is because the rules were designed to serve a two-party system that has not existed for a long time. Under the circumstances, I will not be able to address all the issues.
As always, before the budget was tabled, the Bloc Québécois held consultations to identify Quebec's needs. I met with about 50 groups, including unions, students, municipal officials, environmental groups, community organizations, and people from the business community in both urban and rural areas. We clearly identified Quebec's expectations.
I informed the minister and his parliamentary secretary of these expectations two months ago today. As always, they were very pleased and interested, and as always they did not take any of this into account. Under the Liberals, consultations do not accomplish much. We saw this with electoral reform as well. When we moved from the Conservatives to the Liberals, we traded “shut up” for “keep talking”.
Just look at the health and education transfers. If there is one thing that everyone agreed on during our tour it was that we must preserve our public services. With the aging population, health care costs are rising and Quebec is under pressure. Starting this year, the transfers will no longer track the rising costs. In the end, it is clear that this will no longer balance. We are heading for permanent austerity where our most essential health or education services will be at risk of imploding.
However, the government chose not to listen. Quebec's health network currently costs roughly $90 million a day. Bill C-44 provides $69 million in funding for that network, or less than the cost of one day of operation. We are on our own for the rest of the year. Lucky thing it is not a leap year. Obviously we will not be voting in favour of this bill.
In addition, when it comes to infrastructure, the government pats itself on the back and announces huge amounts. In its “sunny” press releases, life is beautiful and the future is bright. In real life, things are not as much fun.
The federal government owns only 2% of public infrastructure. It is no expert at this. Cities, municipalities, and the government of Quebec are the experts. The only federal infrastructure program that might be effective is a program that transfers the money to the ones who are the experts and know how to manage it. The gas tax model works well that way. However, that is not what the government is doing.
Last year, the government announced more than $13 billion. It wrote lovely press releases and smiley face tweets. Life is beautiful. Earlier this year, however, the cat was let out of the bag. The parliamentary budget officer, the same one the government has muzzled with Bill C-44, informed us that only a third of the money had been spent.
Since Ottawa wants to stick its nose in everywhere and approve the projects one by one, everything has been frozen. Two-thirds of the money has stayed in Ottawa, and things are twice as bad and twice as slow in Quebec as elsewhere. Quebec has received only 12% of the money. What point is there in announcing amounts like that? That is half of what we were entitled to.
I would have expected the budget this year to resolve this situation, but no. With Bill C-44, the government is continuing its ineffective approach, and, even worse, it is adding fuel to the fire with its infrastructure privatization bank. That is another good reason to vote against this bill.
In their platform, the Liberals said that the government was going to offer municipalities its line of credit so they could borrow money at better rates. There is a little catch, however: their financial guarantee is being offered to the bankers. Bill C-44 is nothing but a tool for privatizing infrastructure. It is a goldmine for the Toronto financiers.
If the infrastructure projects show a loss, they are going to be able to draw on the guarantee of $80 billion of public funds. If they make a profit, they are the ones who will pocket it. In every case, whether we are talking about money from taxes paid by taxpayers, money that comes from tolls, or both, the money will land on Bay Street.
Bill C-44 socializes losses and privatizes profits and sends them to Toronto. When the government takes from the poor and gives to the financiers of Bay Street, we are not talking about Robin Hood; we are talking about the sheriff of Nottingham. No, we will not vote for that.
Bill C-44 disappoints me, particularly because there is so much about Quebec that is attractive. We are at the forefront of the green economy. The technological engine of Canada is in Quebec. We embody creativity. We represent the future.
Ottawa is holding us back. As recently as yesterday, this is what the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal had to say: “When it comes to the major strategic and economic issues, who is the voice of Quebec in Ottawa? For the moment, no one”. That was not the Bloc Québécois speaking; it was the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.
We will not vote for that. In fact, I wonder how the 40 Liberal members from Quebec, the 40 ghosts, will be able to justify their decision to support it. I doubt that a sunny press release and a smiley face will suffice this time.
Let us talk about the green economy for a moment. What does the budget offer in this regard? The government is cutting the $2 billion announced last year for “decarbonizing” the economy, including $750 million of it this year. What does the carbon tax in Bill C-44 look like? It is just as absent as the 40 Liberal members from Quebec.
When the government does something, it is to prevent Quebec from benefiting from its competitive advantages. An example is Muskrat Falls, which is now competing with us, and is a monumental $10-billion fiasco. It is a joke that is not even remotely funny, in addition to being very expensive.
When I say that Quebec is the technological engine of Canada, I am not exaggerating. Depending on the year, between 40% and 45% of Canada’s technology exports come from Quebec. At the forefront, of course, is the aeronautics industry. With the C Series, Quebec has joined the very select club of airliner manufacturers. This is a large project that is so ambitious that the development costs almost put the company into bankruptcy. When we needed Ottawa, it was missing in action. When it decided to do something, it came up with a pittance, and, even worse, it found a way to put two-thirds of its money into a project for Toronto. When Quebec is good at something, Ottawa tries to develop the same thing somewhere else in Canada, with our money.
In 1995, in the middle of the referendum campaign, Bombardier CEO Laurent Beaudoin wrote to his employees to tell them to vote no to Quebec independence. At the time, he said that Quebec was too small and a world-class company like Bombardier needed Canada’s support to expand. Times have changed considerably. We built the C Series ourselves, with no federal government help. In Ottawa, Quebec simply no longer exists. We therefore got to work and we succeeded, when we had only half a government to count on. Imagine what we could do with a real one.
However, there is not just aerospace. Canada has an economy of American subsidiaries. It is no surprise to see Bill C-44 raise the threshold for foreign investment review to $1 billion, since it wants more subsidiaries. Protecting head offices is not a Canadian priority. There is little innovation done by subsidiaries.
Whereas Canada has one of the least innovative economies in the OECD, Quebec innovates, invents, develops and creates. Our R and D intensity is almost twice that of the rest of Canada. There are lots of start-ups, with 2,500 young technology companies operating on the island of Montréal alone. Video games, information technology—there is plenty of creativity in Quebec. One might call it our modern version of the Mr. Fixit spirit.
There is also the whole field of artificial intelligence. The greatest genius in the Americas in this field is located in Montréal. Since he has trained many young people, a whole ecosystem of innovation is developing in this sector of the future. The big players like Google and Microsoft have realized that things are happening in Quebec, and so have opened offices there.
We are preparing to join the major leagues. We are close to being able to compete with Silicon Valley, so what does Ottawa do? It announces a pan-Canadian strategy to ensure that artificial intelligence develops elsewhere in Canada.
When the Ontario automotive industry was in need of a huge hand up in 2009, Ottawa did not develop a pan-Canadian super-strategy to bring back the industry in Quebec. It sent all the money to Ontario. However, when it comes to Quebec, things are done differently. When we want to develop our industries, Ottawa treats us like crybabies and talks to us about equalization. We do not want charity, we just want development.
The industries of the future are in Quebec, not in oil or in subsidiaries that do not innovate. For us, the future is in Quebec, not in Bill C-44. In fact, I am more convinced than ever that our future quite simply is not in Canada.