Mr. Speaker, this being my first formal speech in the House, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my campaign volunteers, who worked so hard to get one more Bloc Québécois MP in this place. I am so grateful to them.
I am also very pleased to thank the members of my hard-working election committee, without whom it would have been hard to win this election, because the Liberal candidate was a tough opponent, I have to say.
I also want to thank my friends, who have always been there for me and who nudged me into politics and political life in the first place. It feels so good to know I have their support, and I am grateful to them for that.
Obviously, I also want to thank my family, namely my wife, without whom nothing would be possible, and my children, who were willing to share their father with Quebec politics. I am very happy that they support what I am doing, and I really appreciate it.
Lastly, I want to thank the people of La Prairie for their trust, though I have no illusions that it was just about me. The reason people put their trust in me is that they trust the Bloc Québécois and my leader. They voted for Alain Therrien, for the leader and for the party. I will work hard to represent them.
When the people in my riding do great things, that is worth celebrating. I want to salute the two hockey teams in my region. Over the weekend, they put up an amazing showing at a tournament. Since hockey is a national sport, I could not let these achievements pass without a mention.
The Étoiles du Richelieu Atom BB team won the provincial tournament in Blainville with an overtime goal. This was tough for the people of Candiac. I want to congratulate these hard-working kids, who were masterfully led by coaches Nicolas Leclerc and Martin Tétrault. There are no words to describe the parents' joy as they watched these boys hoist the cup.
I also want to congratulate the Étoiles du St-Laurent Atom AA team for making it to the finals. The team's ranking cannot overshadow its exceptional talent, energy and journey.
To wrap up my tribute to these kids, I just want to say, “Go Étoiles!”
My father always told me that if I wanted to understand reality, politics or the economy, I had to know my history. It is from history that we are able to understand and even predict future events. I would say that the throne speech is no exception to my father's advice.
The creation of Canada dates back to 1867. We need to understand why and how Canada was created to understand how it works today. Canada was not created by a mass movement or a revolution. It was not created by people taking to the streets and saying that they wanted to come together as one nation. The reason Canada was created is simple. It was a matter of economics.
In 1840, our main trading partner was Great Britain, which decided in the early 1840s to start looking to Europe to do trade. In a way, Great Britain abandoned Canada.
Discouraged at not being able to export to what some of us here would consider the motherland, Canada decided to turn to the United States. In 1854, it signed a reciprocity treaty that made it possible for Montrealers and local producers from Canada, which had not yet become Canada, to export to the United States, achieve some economies of scale and make a lot of profit.
The reciprocity treaty they signed was in place from 1854 to 1864. This treaty would not be renewed because the American Civil War broke out and Great Britain made the regrettable decision to support the South. In retaliation, the Americans told their neighbours to the north that all trade between them was at an end.
Seized with panic, the Fathers of Confederation decided the most important thing was to protect the wealthy and provide a market where they could sell their goods. These people created that market artificially. That is what Canada is today. It was created to make rich people happy back in 1867. That was the Fathers of Confederation's only motivation.
The new Canadian federation needed a strong central government. I can already hear the NDP and Liberal Party members clapping. They are descended directly from those founding fathers. To establish a strong government and avoid a civil war like the one to the south, which was a bad experiment if ever there was one, it was decided that all of the powers would be given to the federal government and the provinces would get the crumbs. That is what these people did.
With regard to spending, the government held on to marine transportation, customs and borders, and rail transportation. The provinces were left with a pittance: health and education. It was a pittance at the time because the clergy took care of those things. The state was not yet secular. Maybe my colleagues will infer something from that.
To ensure a strong central government, customs and excise duties were given to the federal government. The provinces were given income tax revenues, which were not very significant at the time. It was almost nothing.
Those are the foundations of Canada, our country, or rather that of my colleagues opposite. How we operate is based on those foundations. The fundamental problem is that the Fathers of Confederation could not have foreseen what was to come.
In the 1960s, health and education became the primary expenses in Canada. It is what was most important at the time. Today, half of all of Quebec's spending goes to health. The federal government is not there. The same goes for education. What was thought to be negligible at first became extremely significant. The only reason the federal government can intervene is because during Confederation in 1867, the federal government put the Canadian provinces in a position where they had to beg. Their revenues were so weak that they depended on federal transfers. They were under the control of the federal government.
In 1954, following successive attacks by the federal government to control provincial income tax, the provinces finally caved. Only one province decided to take back control because it felt it was important for its people to have a financial tool to allow it to achieve its dreams and objectives. Only Maurice Duplessis, in 1954, said he wanted to keep that system. That is another reality.
What does this mean? The throne speech mentions health, but that is not the government's concern. Health expenditures are the responsibility of the provincial governments and of Quebec. When the government starts saying that it would like to have this and that, it is not their business. What is important is for it to give the provinces and Quebec the money they need to fund their services and serve the people, who keep saying that health is their absolute priority. The government must respond to this appropriately and not in the way it did in the throne speech. That is important.
According to the Thomson report tabled in 2014, maintaining health services for Canadians in light of inflation, aging and the increase in the population, as well as progress in health technologies, required a 5.6% annual increase. However, Harper and his gang started capping the increase at 3%. That is scandalous. The provinces are asking the government for an increase of at least 5.6%. That is what it needs to give them to maintain provincial health systems. That is why it is important to increase provincial transfers and to listen to Quebec and the provinces.